Delicious high protein ice cream recipe for friend with cancer.
July 26, 2017 3:55 PM   Subscribe

Looking for delicious high protein ice cream recipe (for home 2qt ice cream machine). I have a friend in chemo who is losing weight at a terrifying pace. I've made ice cream a couple of times & it's a hit. I don't mess around,only the most delicious recipes from cooks illustrated, david levovitz, etc. everything high protein recipe I found on google appeared to sacrifice flavor. Not what I'm after.

I'm thinking I could add some protein powder, or I'm open to high protein (& delicious) recipes that get protein from other sources. I don't really want to hear that protein won't help. This is moral support. This person is an athlete and cares about protein.

Any recommendations for recipes that can accommodate protein powder? How much? No need to sacrifice fat, sugar, or flavor. Anyone who's been through chemo (as patient or supporter) have any tips?

posted by comah to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have much ice cream making experience, but have you considered making the ice cream first and putting the protein powder into a milkshake? That might be a way to do an end-run around messing up the crystallization in the ice cream itself.
posted by deludingmyself at 4:08 PM on July 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

There are a few Reddit subs that would be good for this question: /r/fitmeals and /r/eatcheapandhealthy. The first one is probably more bodybuilder-oriented, but search the archives.

Aside from ice cream, the Balance Bar "Caramel Nut Blast" is essentially a high-protein (15g) Snickers. They're great.
posted by rhizome at 4:17 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Use a French custard ice cream base, as it uses egg yolks to add a rich, smooth texture as well as protein.
posted by briank at 4:22 PM on July 26, 2017 [16 favorites]

I don't have a recipe, but if your friend is an athlete, maybe they already have a favorite protein powder? Ask them and then add it in. Adding in nuts and/or puffed quinoa could also be a great addition to up protein, as well as using recipes that call for eggs. I'd imagine that a multi-pronged approach would yield the best flavor so that it's not overwhelmed by a single protein-rich ingredient.
posted by quince at 4:33 PM on July 26, 2017

Here to also suggest the custard base. I'm sure you can add protein powder (OR consider commercially-blended protein drink, as it is the smoothest texture you're going to get), and may want to experiment with the timing and quantity if you can't find someone who's field-tested it, but mostly you want the texture of the stuff to disappear under all the high-fat egg yolk and cream you use.

When I had a family member struggling to keep their calories up because of chemo (and chemo-related diminished sense of smell, so flavors were muted), we did a lot of smoothies with the highest-fat vanilla ice cream we could buy plus Ensure, and then each smoothie would be flavored with something we hoped would be tempting. Chocolate and caramel and the like didn't taste very good to him, so we used things like jam/preserves or concentrated frozen fruit punch/pink lemonade/orange juice or even Jello powder (sometimes you want the flavor of Extremely Fake Lime, not some fancy-ass limeade).

Depending on how your friend is feeling about flavors, you may want to make the ice cream plain bland barely-there vanilla so it can be topped when desired with a sauce or nuts or gummy bears or whatever sounds good.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:42 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't know if the custard base is a safe idea. I think uncooked/undercooked eggs are off limits during chemo.
posted by dayintoday at 4:46 PM on July 26, 2017

Peanut butter?
posted by Jubey at 4:47 PM on July 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have never made decent frozen dessert with protein powder. And I have tried very very hard. I am lazy and don't think ahead enough to make custard either. This is the easiest edible recipe I have found.

You mentioned David Lebovitz. An adaptation of his frozen yogurt recipe is very easy and high in protein.

How I do it (my machine is smaller than yours):

500 g plain Greek yogurt (This is a bit over 2 cups. Fage total this is over 40 g protein, Fage 2% would be over 50 g protein)
about 150 g sugar or sugar and corn syrup (corn syrup helps with texture)
at least 1 tsp. vanilla (in this case the no alcohol synthetic vanilla tastes better, really)
enough milk, half & half, or cream to make it come out to about 5 cups in my blender

Put it all in blender. Blend. Pour into ice cream machine and freeze.

It doesn't freeze hard from the machine, but will be about right after an hour or two in the freezer. Will be rock hard later, but can be thawed a bit before eating.

Here is the original source that I adapted from. I just found that just using 750 g of yogurt instead of a blend of yogurt and milk or cream didn't quite work for me, it didn't freeze quite as well in my machine.

Use full heavy cream for best results and calories added.
posted by monopas at 4:49 PM on July 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

In solidarity and helpfulness, I will go now and make a batch to quantify the needed amount of half and half. I'm sorry, but I don't have any cream in the house.

My ice cream maker is a Cuisinart ICE-21, so up to 1.5 qt.
posted by monopas at 4:52 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't know if the custard base is a safe idea. I think uncooked/undercooked eggs are off limits during chemo.

Pasturized eggs are 1) a thing easily found, and 2) relatively easily made.

Ice cream recipe calculators exist. That might help?

This also sounds like the perfect kind of question for the folks over at the Cooking Issues podcast, finding a contact person is hard, you'll want to email If anyone on this planet can give you an answer, its them.

Frozen yogurt, or yogurt as an adjunct would also increase protein levels.

This sidesteps the question a little bit but still gets to the same goal; if it's an option in your state, a little bird told me that cannabis in ice cream is a thing. It is supposed to be quite a nice vehicle for the desired hunger inducing tendencies.
posted by furnace.heart at 4:53 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't know if the custard base is a safe idea. I think uncooked/undercooked eggs are off limits during chemo.

If this is a concern, you can purchase pasteurized eggs that are safe to eat even if undercooked. I did this with runny eggs, carbonara, and custard based ice creams while pregnant.
posted by terilou at 4:53 PM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Frozen yogurt should be right on point, but I also like that peanut butter idea. Can you make a regular ice cream (with eggs if it's safe for chemo) and a heavy mix-in ribbon of peanut butter and chopped up pecans? Or you could also mix in chunks of any high protein cookie - you can buy these or make them with protein powder.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:54 PM on July 26, 2017

Also, if you have access to a sous vide rig, just doing the whole custard base in sous vide can pasteurize the whole shebang. Really, getting a sous vide rig was a total revelation when it came to ice cream making. Precise temperature control produces insanely awesome results. Much less fuss, and the price of them has come down pretty steeply in the past few years.
posted by furnace.heart at 4:59 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Gelato (Italian ice cream) is supposed to be "less rich" because it doesn't use as much cream. But there's a custard with a LOT of egg yolks. Here's a good recipe (the Italian one) which I've tried:

6-8 egg yolks! These are added to hot milk/cream/sugar and taken to a boil, so I don't think there's much danger involved at that point.
It says to use a vanilla bean, but I just put in half a tsp of vanilla extract, and it was fine.

Also you could add in a few TB of malt (Carnation has chocolate malt powder) and that will add a few grams of protein, and it gives the gelato an even richer taste.
You're a good friend!
posted by my-sharona at 5:13 PM on July 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm in maintenance chemo now. When I was on regular chemo, only citrus desserts tasted good to me. Creamy desserts would not have tasted good. I didn't even like chocolate. I just looked at the book The Cancer Fighting Kitchen, and the author suggests adding lemon juice for every chemo taste issue except "too sour." So I'm wondering if you've looked into your friend's taste issues. I would have wanted something like an orange creamsicle smoothie (which doesn't help you with the high protein I realize).

Does your friend have nausea? That's something to think about too.

The Cancer Fighting Kitchen has lots of suggestions for various food issues that come up with cancer, including losing too much weight, so it might be worth trying to find a copy. My only issue with it was I didn't have the energy to cook the sometimes complicated recipes.

It's great that you're doing this.
posted by FencingGal at 5:21 PM on July 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

It came out to just about 2 cups of half and half, using 500 g yogurt and 150 g sugar. I use superfine/caster sugar because it dissolves more easily. Cream would make for better texture when frozen.

5 liquid cups in my blender is the most my ice cream maker handles without overflowing.

I don't think you can add enough protein with eggs and not have it taste like egg. Whole eggs only have about 7 grams of protein each.

Protein powder always tastes like protein powder, if you use enough to make it worth adding.

Serious Eats has a simple peanut butter ice cream base recipe masquerading under three overly elaborate ones.

The base for 1 quart is: 2 3/4 cups half and half, 1 cup no-stir creamy peanut butter (258 g, has about 57 g protein per USDA nutrient database), 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp kosher salt. Once again, blend, chill, and freeze.
posted by monopas at 5:27 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

When my grandfather was undergoing various cancer treatments we used this protein powder. He liked the vanilla the most and we also bought the unflavored one, which truly was unflavored so we could hide it in anything. I never made ice cream with it but I've made creamsicle pops from their recipe section on the website. Also I've just bought really good vanilla ice cream and blended that with the powder and a banana. He liked that too.
posted by inevitability at 5:28 PM on July 26, 2017

One more and I'll probably shut up.

An easy way to flavor the frozen yogurt recipe, if something citrus or fruity is attractive and you are in need of a quick and dirty fix, is to use a water enhancer like MIO. It is one of the only ways to get flavoring that is intense enough to overcome all of the dairy and freezing. You add and blend and taste until it is a bit more intense than you think it should be.

The lemonade one is works very well, the orange flavor made by Crush is excellent, and the one by Kool-Aid is ok but rather flat. The non-citrus fruit flavors are an acquired taste probably best left alone.

Nobody likes Hawaiian Punch flavored frozen yogurt. Those are not complementary flavors. Trust me.
posted by monopas at 5:48 PM on July 26, 2017

Sorry you're going through this. What about the old 6 pack of frozen yogurt and popsicle stick recipe? Stick in the freezer and it might taste halfway good.
posted by benadryl at 5:51 PM on July 26, 2017

Consider substituting powdered peanut butter for protein powder, and/or using a custard base which is like a gazillion egg yolks.
posted by honeybee413 at 7:03 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

As an ice cream making person, I would suggest the following:

1. Look for high-protein mix-ins like nuts.
2. Of all the protein powders I have tried, Muscle Milk is the one that has the best texture and flavor IMO. You can buy a small container of it at Target.
3. It's not ice cream, but protein powder mixes really well in Jell-O pudding! Make it in a blender or food processor for superior smoothness.
4. Try using the protein powder as a mix-in. Try blending it with a little milk first to make a syrup of sorts, then add it about 5 minutes before your batch is done churning (typical mix-in addition stage). It will blend thoroughly with the ice cream, but you won't have to worry about trying to make it work in cooking the custard.

I also second the milk shake factor, since it's a hell of a lot easier to make protein powder palatable *with* ice cream than it may be to try it *in* ice cream.

David Lebovitz's book is the superior ice cream source, but there is a recipe in "The Ultimate Ice Cream Book" by Bruce Weinstein for "extra-rich vanilla". It calls for 7 egg yolks per quart, so for your typical 2-qt machine, that's 14 yolks! I add in a vanilla bean to the custard in addition to the required vanilla, and thus my version is called "killer vanilla" because it's a fucking heart attack in a cone. (And it's amazing with Lebovitz's recipe for salted caramel.) If you want protein in your ice cream, that one will certainly do the trick.
posted by Autumnheart at 7:03 PM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

If I were going to experiment in this direction, I'd try gelatin powder.
posted by bunderful at 7:13 PM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Btw, the eggs are cooked in a custard base, so theoretically that shouldn't be an issue if anyone's worried about germs. Personally, I find that overcooking my custard just a bit makes for a very rich, smooth ice cream. The ideal point is where you strain the custard into the bowl with the rest of the milk and cream, and the bottom of the pan has some eggy lumps on it. Way better and easier to spot than "does it properly coat the spatula".
posted by Autumnheart at 7:13 PM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Could you use the protein powder to make some kind of fudgey, paste-like concoction- for instance a mixture of peanut butter + protein powder + cocoa, maybe with some condensed milk for moisture- then chop that up and stir it into the ice cream?

Also maybe try adding some skim milk powder (pretty high in protein) or evaporated milk (decent protein) into your liquid ingredients?

Bacon crumbles, or lightly candied pumpkin seeds, are high protein and are probably pretty good sprinkled over some ice cream flavours.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:06 PM on July 26, 2017

I would absolutely use egg white protein powder for this. Here's a recipe.
posted by ananci at 8:11 PM on July 26, 2017

If you can ignore all the over-the-top Bulletproof branding and backstory on this recipe, it is amost psychedelically satisfying and delicious.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 3:32 AM on July 27, 2017

I don't know a lot about the making of ice cream, but I'm wondering if what I do for popsicles could be adapted to ice cream? I put bananas, greek yogurt, coconut milk (the thick kind in a can), crushed pineapple and this protein powder together in the blender, then poured into popsicle molds, or small cups. I've added cilantro before too based on a recipe I found in a magazine.

Sometimes I have to thin it out a little bit with almond milk to get it to the right pourable state.

And now that I'm looking at this, I guess my answer really boils down to "make a smoothie and freeze it."

That Vega protein & greens powder comes in several good, ice cream appropriate flavors. It is rather sweet though, so beware of that.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 8:14 AM on July 27, 2017

Others have chimed in with recipe ideas, but I have a protein powder suggestion if you choose to include one. Optimum Nutrition makes a "cinnamon bun" protein powder that dissolves completely into almond milk or iced coffee (no grainy feeling). It also has great reviews on Amazon - lots of people say that they use it in baked goods. I've never liked most protein powders but I actually like the flavor of this one.
posted by cp311 at 2:51 AM on July 28, 2017

As someone who drinks protein shakes every day, I found using milk to dissolve them is more effective than using water. Can you use the powder mixed with milk (or cream) to make the ice cream itself?
posted by kathrynm at 9:25 AM on July 28, 2017

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