Here’s How to Make Ice Cream in a Bag This Summer

You can have creamy, delicious homemade ice cream without an ice cream maker! Here's how to make ice cream in a bag.

There’s nothing quite like homemade ice cream on a hot summer day. Even better? Homemade ice cream that’s easy to make—no fancy equipment needed. This quick method will show you how to make ice cream in a bag. You’ll need a couple of ingredients from the refrigerator, plus a handful of resealable bags. And once you’ve gathered those items, it won’t be more than 10 minutes until you’re eating a delicious bowl of ice cream.

Talk about the perfect pairing for a sunny day!

Does Making Ice Cream in a Bag Work?

It does! The ingredients are combined in a resealable bag, and that bag goes into another bag filled with ice and salt. This combo is what really does the trick. Because salt lowers the freezing point of water, when the salt comes into contact with the water on the ice cubes, it allows that water to become colder than 32°F. The bag will feel much colder than regular ice, and that’s what you want. Together, the salt and ice cause the liquid ingredients to quickly cool down and transform into ice cream.

This method is similar to how to make ice cream in a coffee can.

How to Make Ice Cream in a Bag

This recipe makes about 1 cup of ice cream.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups coarsely crushed ice
  • 3/4 cup salt

Tools

You’ll need four resealable plastic bags: two quart-size bags and two gallon-size bags.

Instructions

Step 1: Combine the ingredients

Measure and pour the milk, evaporated milk, sugar and vanilla extract into a quart-size resealable bag.

Press out all the air and seal the bag. Put it inside the second quart-size bag, press out the air and seal.

Editor’s Tip: You can add extras to the bag, too, like chocolate syrup, 1/2 cup of berries, crushed candy cane pieces or mini chocolate chips.

Step 2: Prepare the ice

Put the crushed ice and salt into a gallon-size bag and shake to mix it up. Place the ice cream bag inside of the ice bag. Then, press the air out and seal the bag. Place this inside the second gallon-size bag, press out the air and seal it. (The doubled-up bags help guard against leaks during the next step.)

Step 3: Shake, shake, shake!

It’s time to shake and squeeze the bags so that the ice and water move all around the ice cream bag. If you’re making the ice cream with someone else, take turns shaking. It takes about 7 minutes of shaking and squeezing to create the ice cream.

You’ll want to wear mittens or oven mitts because the ice water gets really cold. Periodically feel the ice cream bag to see if it’s firming up. It’s also helpful to set a timer so you know exactly when the 7 minutes of shaking is up.

Step 4: Serve the ice cream

Once the ice cream is ready, grab your favorite bowls, spoons and any ice cream toppings you might want, like sprinkles and chocolate sauce–here are some of our best ice cream sundae ideas for inspiration. Take the ice cream bag out of the ice water and dry the outside of the bag quickly so you won’t have any saltwater drips. Use a spoon to scoop the ice cream into bowls, add toppings and enjoy.

Tips for Making Ice Cream in a Bag

How do you keep the ice cream from being salty?

Worried the ice cream will be too salty with all of that salt in the mix? Not to fret! As long as ingredients are kept in the bags they’re supposed to be in, the salt never comes in contact with the ice cream mixture to impart flavor. The salt is used as a mechanism, rather than an ingredient.

If you have issues with keeping the bags sealed tight, there’s more than one way to make ice cream without an ice cream maker.

Can you use different types of milks to make ice cream in a bag?

Yes! Replace the dairy milk with soy milk, almond milk or coconut milk (here’s more on milk substitutes for cooking and baking). For super-rich ice cream, use heavy cream or half-and-half. Have fun and experiment with a variety of dairy and nondairy options to find your favorite base.

Can you make other ice cream flavors in a bag?

No need to stick with plain ice cream here! Include vanilla extract to make vanilla ice cream in a bag or switch things up by adding a handful of ripe berries, like in this raspberry ice cream in a bag recipe. You can also consider including blueberries, chunks of edible cookie dough, or mint extract and chocolate chips.

Can you use regular salt to make ice cream in a bag?

Rock salt works best for making ice cream in a bag because of its larger surface area. However, there’s no need for special ingredients. Using regular table salt does the trick too.

Can you use Epsom salt to make ice cream in a bag?

While Epsom salt is wonderful for many things, it’s best not to use it for this project. Regular table salt, which is made up of sodium and chlorine, does not have the same makeup as Epsom salt. Epsom salt is made up of magnesium, sulfur and oxygen, and that combination may produce a different result.

Psst! For a more-hands off way to make ice cream (using an ice cream maker!), this four-ingredient Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream recipe is our favorite.

Stay Cool with Homemade Ice Cream
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Molly Allen
Molly Allen is a previous bakery owner and former event planner. Now, a freelance writer and editor focused on food and beverage, lifestyle, travel and parties, she brings her years of experience and industry knowledge to readers across a variety of platforms.