Throughout the summers of my childhood, around my birthday, my brother’s birthday, and the 4th of July, my family often found ourselves on the back patio, clustered around a drain. We stood in a circle, peering down at the person in the center, and watched. When that person glanced up and nodded, sometimes with an almost pleading look in their eyes, someone else squatted down beside them and laid hands on top of theirs.
Everyone took a turn churning the ice cream.
We manually cranked for almost half an hour. The handle wasn’t allowed to stop. We layered rock salt and ice into the space between the metal cylinder and wooden bucket, and we kept adding more as it melted and water trickled down the bucket’s side and into that patio drain.
With the black plastic handle rotating beneath our palms, we felt the milk mixture grow thick and stiff. When our tiny muscles couldn’t push any more, my dad crouched down and finished it off. Once he proclaimed it done and lifted the metal tub out of the salt water, we raced inside to grab bowls and spoons, eager for our first taste of the fresh, sweet, cold vanilla ice cream.
For old times’ sake, we pulled out that same antique ice cream maker last month to celebrate my brother earning his PhD. As we stood around the drain in the backyard again, we talked about how nobody sold rock salt anymore in my hometown, and we ended up substituting regular finely ground table salt instead.
A few weeks later, back in Southern California, I almost laughed aloud in the middle of the store as I spotted an end cap display.
It prominently featured gigantic bags of rock salt — plus modern ice cream makers designed to look just like the old-fashioned wooden bucket kind we owned.
It seems like we aren’t the only ones craving a taste of nostalgia and homemade ice cream…
So I thought it’d be fun to share some healthy ice cream recipes with you! Don’t worry — all of these can be made in a modern ice cream maker. No hand-cranking or antiques required!
Even better? These ice cream recipes take less than 5 minutes to prep!
THE BEST HEALTHY HOMEMADE ICE CREAM RECIPES
Healthy Chocolate Ice Cream. A true classic! It’s velvety smooth with a really rich chocolate flavor. It’s the most popular ice cream recipe I’ve shared on my blog!
Healthy Vanilla Ice Cream. Another classic! This luxurious ice cream has a lovely sweet vanilla flavor. It’s the perfect backdrop for just about any mix-ins and toppings too!
Healthier Cookies ’n Cream Ice Cream. This was one of my favorite flavors as a little kid! I’d eat all of the vanilla ice cream and save the Oreo chunks for last. (I may or may not still do that…)
Healthy Spiced Ice Cream. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it! I know that spices in ice cream might sound a little strange… But MAN. I ate spoonful after spoonful of this — and quickly went back for thirds. There’s something positively magical about those cozy spices mixed in with the sweet, thick, velvety smooth vanilla ice cream!
Side Note: This was partially inspired by the cinnamon gelato I had in Canada during my senior year of high school. It’s one of the best flavors I’ve ever had (if not THE best!), all because of that cozy spice flavor. Highly, highly recommend!
Healthy Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream. For those of us living in places where it’s too hot and doesn’t feel like fall until November, this is my idea of a great compromise! It has those same sweet and comforting flavors as your favorite pumpkin baked treats… But you don’t need to turn on the oven or heat up your house to enjoy it. 😉
Tip: I also added coffee to make it taste like a Starbucks PSL (delicious — and SO good!), but you can easily omit the coffee if you aren’t a fan!
HOW TO MAKE HEALTHY ICE CREAM
I’ve walked you through the exact steps of how to make healthy ice cream in each of the recipes linked above (including video versions for the chocolate, cookies ’n cream, and pumpkin spice flavors!), but I’ll briefly recap the key steps here as well.
Start with cold ingredients. Unlike many baking recipes, like cookies and cakes, you actually want your ingredients to be cold — not room temperature! This helps make the process faster… Which also means you get to eat ice cream that much sooner. 😉
Use an ice cream maker. Yes, it’s entirely possible to make healthy ice cream without an ice cream maker — and I’ll share more on that in a moment! However, I’ve found that an ice cream maker yields the best texture for homemade ice cream. It’s thick, creamy, and velvety smooth with an irresistible texture just like soft-serve. (Yum!)
This is the modern ice cream maker that I own. It’s affordable and really easy to use! I actually bought it in two different colors, white and teal. That’s how much I like it!
Use the “no ice cream maker” method. I’ve included how to make each of these healthy ice cream flavors without an ice cream maker in the Notes section of the recipe (located directly underneath the Instructions!). You’ll need a metal baking pan, a spatula, an arm that’s ready to stir stir stir, and some patience. (It does take a lot longer compared to using an ice cream maker!) The texture will be a little more grainy or icy, but the flavors will remain the same!
FAQS ABOUT HEALTHY ICE CREAM
Can I substitute a different milk?
You sure can! If you don’t have the exact milk provided in the ingredients list, you can always use one with a higher percentage of milk fat. (For example, if the recipe calls for 2% milk, whole milk is fine to substitute!)
For a dairy free milk option, I recommend coconut milk. It has a great thick and luxuriously creamy texture!
I don’t recommend substituting almond milk, cashew milk, and oat milk. These all have a higher water content, which will yield an icy and hard texture in your ice cream. The same is also true of dairy milk with lower fat percentages (ie 1% or nonfat milk).
Can I substitute a different sweetener?
That should be fine! I haven’t tested these ice cream recipes with different sweeteners, but other readers have and said their ice cream still turned out really well. See the Notes section of each recipe for more information!
My ice cream never got thick. Why is that?
There are two main culprits! The first is that the milk mixture wasn’t in the ice cream maker long enough. The second is that the bowl of your ice cream maker didn’t freeze all the way prior to using it. Make sure you freeze the bowl for at least 12 hours — but closer to 24 hours is even better!
My ice cream turned icy and hard when I stored it in the freezer. Is that normal?
Yup, completely normal! These healthy homemade ice creams contain less fat than traditional recipes, and they don’t contain the stabilizers that some store-bought low-calorie ice creams have either. As a result, they turn much harder when stashed in the freezer, almost like they’re rock-solid. That’s why I recommend eating your ice cream as soon as it’s made — that’s when it has the best texture and consistency! 😉
However… I have a really simple trick to solving that hard and icy issue! Just let the ice cream thaw on the counter for a bit (or briefly pop it in the microwave!). That’ll help it soften so it’s easier to scoop — and so it has a much nicer, softer, and smoother texture for eating too!
Can I share a picture of my ice cream with you?
Absolutely!! I’d LOVE that! ♡ The best way to do that is to share your picture with me on Facebook or on Instagram. If you share it with me on Instagram, remember to use #amyshealthybaking and tag @amyshealthybaking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I can’t wait to see your healthy homemade ice cream and hear what you think of it!