Making no-sugar-added ice cream at home
July 10, 2016 5:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recipes for ice cream without added sugar—recipes you've made and can vouch for, preferably. The ones I've tried haven't been that great and I want to try again. Any flavor, any base ingredient (dairy-based creams and milks, almond milk, coconut milk, etc.), and any kind of sweetener (sucralose, xylitol, erythritol, stevia, etc.). What's the stabilizer or thickener in store-bought no-sugar-added ice cream that gives it the texture of real ice cream? Xanthan gum? Guar gum? Alcohol?

(I do realize that sugar is what makes ice cream not solid as a rock.)
posted by jroybal to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Ha, I have just been experimenting with the same thing. Unfortunately haven't gotten quite to the texture I want, but the closest so far has been this recipe, which uses gelatine and vodka or MCT for texture. I just made a batch of this yesterday (with heavy cream not coconut milk and with vodka). Immediately out of the ice cream maker it had a texture like soft serve, but it definitely hardened up in the fridge. However, once it softened a bit it was still creamy, not icy, like most no sugar added ice cream. I think the MCT might help even more.

If you're up for a project, this recipe from the blog All Day I Dream about Food promises perfect ice cream texture. It seems to be a couple day project though as you would need to make your own "condensed milk" first.

I have also made this ice cream recipe (though with maple and walnuts instead of caramel and pecans). The taste was amazing but the texture was off, particularly since I forgot to add the vodka.

Let me know if you find the holy grail!
posted by peacheater at 6:18 PM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Frozen banana, pureed = banana ice cream.
posted by zippy at 6:18 PM on July 10, 2016 [9 favorites]

Are fruit sugars a go? Because a purée of good fresh fruit + heavy cream sent through an ice cream maker is a simple, eat ASAP thing, but delicious. I don't have a ratio for this; I just go by taste in the food processor. A wee hit of salt can help bring out certain flavours.

One thing to know about sweeteners in ice cream is that freezing makes things taste less sweet -- part of why ice cream and milkshakes are good but few people enjoy drinking glasses of melted ice cream -- so your base of fruit purée should be something made from very in-season, ripe fruit. It's a thing to do with good dark red pick-your-own strawberries rather than supermarket pears.

If a sorbet would do, the equivalent stupid-simple sorbet is puréed fruit with enough booze to keep it from freezing into a rock. (This can be quite boozy indeed, mind how you go if you need to drive somewhere later...)
posted by kmennie at 6:48 PM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

"No added sugar" is kind of a weird thing. You can make a strawberry sorbet with just strawberry puree--but there is sugar already in the strawberries. Likewise with bananas. I guess it depends on whether you want no sugar at all, or no added sugar beyond what would normally be there in fruits, milk, etc. Or, whether you want to avoid refined sugar/sucrose or HFCS, but other sugars are okay.

Banana with a coconut milk base can be very nice. My recipe uses sugar, so I'm not posting it here, but that might be a good starting point for experimentation.

I've experimented with sucralose ("Splenda" in the U.S.) in ice cream. Results were not good, usually dry and crumbly.

I've experimented with xanthan gum. A small amount of xanthan gum made the ice cream unpleasantly gummy. It might help, but only in very small amounts (maybe try 1/16 of a teaspoon).

There are sorbet recipes that call for beaten egg whites, raw. I've tried some of these recipes, I don't like the consistency, but they're out there. (Raw eggs are problematic on their own, of course.)

Many home ice creams use a cooked custard base with egg yolks.
posted by gimonca at 8:35 PM on July 10, 2016

*Fat* is what makes ice cream be not as solid as a rock. And/or alcohol.
posted by jessicapierce at 9:05 PM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've made ice cream with Splenda a few times for a diabetic aunt. Unfortunately, I sort of made it up and rarely write down recipes, but here's what I remember:

Stronger flavors work better. Coffee ice cream or strawberry ice cream instead of vanilla or something delicate. I used more fat than I would normally use (more cream vs milk than usual), and more vodka than I would normally use. A bit more salt than I would normally use. Then enough Splenda that it would taste just a bit too sweet before running it through the ice cream maker. I usually did just milk plus cream instead of an egg custard base, but I can't remember why.

My Splenda ice creams froze far more solid than ice cream with sugar, so when it came time to eat it, we would stick the container in the microwave for a little bit to soften it. After that the texture was pretty similar to regular ice cream.
posted by loulou718 at 10:12 PM on July 10, 2016

N'ice Cream is a cookbook with only ice cream recipes that are refined sugar, gluten & dairy free (and still, apparently kick-ass). The author also has a beautifully done instagram account where she occasionally posts recipes for free. My bud thats a nutty foodie is pretty stoked about everything shes tried so far (from this ladys books) and we are planning to make some of these magical icy things happen in the very near future
posted by speakeasy at 11:53 PM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been working on this issue for years. There is no perfect substitute for sugar in a frozen dessert. Commercial versions have ingredients at their disposal that are impossible to source for a consumer. Homemade, like the premium brands, will generally freeze pretty solid, no matter what you do. There are a few tricks, as few combinations that help.

The absolute best texurizer for no sugar ice cream is polydextrose. It is a pain to use in a liquid, as it must be dissolved in hot liquid or it gets sludgy and clumpy. It is not very sweet on its own. I use roughly 1/4 - 1/2 cup per 16 oz of liquid for ice cream. It can cause digestive issues. It is cheap and worth the trouble if texture is paramount. It adds a "chewy" mouthfeel that no other ingredient can (except real sugar). All kinds of recipes and anecdotes about PolyD. Same forum, a thread with links to others about ice cream.

I highly recommend using plain sucralose powder to sweeten. Read the reviews for conversion amounts. The maltodextrin used as the bulking agent in Splenda tastes bad, and it not good for texture in this application. Do not use sucralose as the sole sweetener for chocolate, they do not play well together and make a damn funky flavor.

Do not recommend using erythritol or most of the other sugar alcohols for ice cream. More often than not, for me anyway, it precipitates out of the solution. If you must, also use a fiber based sweetener as well. FiberYum is another, though I haven't used it yet.

Add a tablespoon of a complementary liquor too. More than that tends to be counterproductive.

Unless you are freezing 40% cream by itself, fat is not enough to keep ice cream soft. 40% cream freezes pretty solid. Premium ice cream is about 15% fat, IIRC.

For fruity flavors, use Mio or other concentrated "water enhancers" as flavor and sweetener. Strawberry Crush or Kool Aid Cherry in half & half with 1/4 cup polyD makes a nice sherbert. Do not skimp on the flavoring, it should be very strong. A few tablespoons of lemon or lime juice helps balance the flavor.

It is very hard to make the mixture too sweet. Adding a few tablespoons of Caramel flavor DaVinci sugar free syrup can improve the flavor profile to mimic the subtle flavor of real sugar.

Plain vanilla worth eating is astonishingly difficult to make. Chocolate as well. Coffee, using instant to concentrate the flavor, is excellent.

Never hurts to add a bit of xanthan gum, but glucomannan is not so good in this application for several reasons. Others have also used guar gum, glycerin, and lecithin.
posted by monopas at 12:06 AM on July 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

We used to get milk straight from a farmer, skim off the cream, and add fruit to the cream - nothing else. And not having an ice cream maker, we'd pop it in the freezer and take it out every 45 minutes or so and beat it with an electric mixer. It was wonderful. I don't remember it being hard to scoop.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:09 AM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've made ice cream with almost no sugar (I never use gums or eggs), and it did get pretty hard after being frozen for a day or so. However, it was absolutely the most delicious ice cream I've ever had in my life. The milk is pretty sweet already, and the strawberries made it plenty sweet enough.

I don't like using the texturizing gums that almost everyone else seems to be using because it really affects the flavor. Also, I think that with the ice cream being less flavorful, I tend to eat _more_ and enjoy it less. I stick to the basic recipe.

Here's how I handled the texture issue: I just let the ice cream sit on the counter a few minutes (more when the container was mostly full, less as it got emptier and the thermal mass of the ice cream decreased), then got out the portion I wanted. Sometimes I used a very sturdy butter knife or a really thick fork to cut out portions and put them into a bowl or mug. Then I usually mushed it up with a spoon. Sometimes I added milk and made a mini milkshake.

Other options:

- After the ice cream is initially frozen and is still pretty soft, put it into smaller containers so it's easier to serve later.

- Put the freshly-frozen soft ice cream into (pre-chilled) silicon molds, turning the firmness into a feature.

Everyone who tried this ice cream seemed to find it life-changingly delicious.

It's ice cream, so I think having to work a little for it is completely reasonable.
posted by amtho at 3:43 AM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Are you with eggs? When I make homemade ice cream, it is usually with a custard base. The fat from the cream and egg yolk help create the basis for great flavour and mouth feel.

The single biggest difference maker in homemade ice cream is how you mix it while freexing. You want to incorporate air, and eliminate big ice crystals.
posted by troytroy at 4:32 AM on July 11, 2016

The blog heavenly homemakers has a recipe.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 4:47 AM on July 11, 2016

Another ingredient to experiment with is avocado. I've made something like this, but with mostly cream rather than coconut milk, and frozen it. (My sweetener of choice: sucralose.) On Day 2 the container starts needing half a minute under hot water, but the texture has been remarkably decent.
posted by gnomeloaf at 5:27 AM on July 11, 2016

Here's another avocado ice cream recipe that uses heavy cream, sour cream, and Stevia. I haven't tried it yet, so I can't vouch for it.
posted by bluecore at 5:49 AM on July 11, 2016

I'll go further than the frozen banana pureed = ice cream and present a breakfast I have frequently:
1 frozen banana, cut into pieces
1/2 C frozen berries (black berries, raspberries, blueberries)
1/2-1t cinnamon
roughly 1/2 C of small fresh, juicy, fruit - for example, 1/2 mandarin orange, or 1/2 a peach, or 1/3 navel orange

Put the banana, berries and cinnamon in a food processor and process until it has the consistency of coarse meal. With the motor running, add the fresh fruit and process until smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides.

The resulting serving will have the consistency of soft serve, will contain 200 calories, no added sugars, and will better than the best berry sorbet you've likely ever had.
I imagine you could then run it through an ice cream to get it closer to ice cream texture before freezing it, otherwise it gets pretty solid.
posted by plinth at 7:14 AM on July 11, 2016

I can also vouch for the deliciousness of frozen banana soft serve.

My usual: two frozen banana halves, some milk, then either cocoa powder or berries.

It is DELICIOUS. I can't believe that it's not more popular.
posted by amicamentis at 7:46 AM on July 11, 2016

Frozen banana, handful of frozen strawberries, anywhere from 1/2 cup to 1 cup of all natural plain nonfat or fullfat yogurt (There's a good, inexpensive, all natural brand at my local Indian store). Whiz in blender.

It comes out a little tart, which I personally like, but if you don't, you can add some orange juice (or juice of your choice) to sweeten and re-whiz.

I've only consumed this right after making it, so I don't know how well it freezes. It's a favorite summer treat for me.
posted by marsha56 at 4:43 PM on July 11, 2016

« Older I want an intense brownie recipe worth skipping...   |   Pick a Protest PA system for ~500 people Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.