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How to Make Ice Cream Without an Ice Cream Maker

No ice cream maker? No problem. All you need are four ingredients and a little time to make delicious homemade ice cream.

By Nicole Doster, Digital Associate Editor and Peggy Woodward, Food Editor

ice cream sitting on top a slice of pound cake with blueberry sauce poured over both

Ice cream is one of life's simple pleasures. Its cool, custard-like sweetness and ability to pair with practically any ingredient have made it my longstanding go-to dessert. That's why I practically flipped when our Test Kitchen created this four-ingredient recipe for making homemade ice cream without an ice cream maker. Best part: There are no crazy tricks or pricey gadgets involved. It just takes your freezer and a few hours of time. Hello, new guilty pleasure.

Follow these simple steps to make vanilla ice cream from scratch:


You'll Need:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 cups half-and-half cream

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Time: 3.5 hours


Step 1: Prep Your Pan

Freeze an empty freezer-safe shallow bowl or pan. We're going to use a 13x9-inch pan, but anything stainless steel works well here. Avoid any material that might shatter.


person stirring ingredients together in a large glass bowl

Step 2: Mix It Up

In a large bowl, stir all the ingredients until the sugar is dissolved.

Test Kitchen Tip: For the smoothest texture, make sure the sugar is completely dissolved before you freeze.


person pouring it into a glass 13x9 pan fresh from the freezer then using a hand mixture on mixture in a glass 13x9 pan

Step 3: Freeze

Transfer your mixture into the cold pan and stick it back in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes. Around that time, check the ice cream. Once the edges start to freeze, take out the mixture and beat it using a hand mixer. (You're fully encouraged to sing Michael Jackson's "Beat It" at this time.) By breaking up the ice cream, you'll help make it smooth and creamy. You cannot beat the mixture too much.


person using a hand mixture that has thickened on mixture in a glass 13x9 pan

Step 4: Back to the Freezer

Return the pan to the freezer. Every 30 minutes or so, take it back out and beat the ice cream again. Repeat until it is firmly frozen, usually around four or five mixing sessions. Once it's frozen, the mixture should be smooth and creamy.

If at any time the ice cream becomes too hard, place it in the refrigerator until it becomes soft enough to beat, and then continue the process.

Store the ice cream in a covered freezer container until ready to serve. That's it!


scattered assortment of waffle cones, sprinkles and raspberries beside a pan of ice cream

Now that you know the basics, try these over-the-top, better-than-store-bought ice cream upgrades:

  • Mix in chunks of your favorite candy bars.
  • Drizzle in toppings like melted caramel, dark chocolate or toffee.
  • Layer the ice cream between two cookies for the ultimate dessert. Take it to the next level with our recipe for Candy Craze Ice Cream Sandwiches.
  • Add in unexpected flavors like chocolate and sriracha or maple syrup and fig.

Have a hankering for more? Find tons of recipes in our collection of 25 Cool Ice Cream Desserts.