Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 5 min. Process: 20 min. + freezing
Our vanilla ice cream recipe is perfect for those who have never made ice cream in their life, as well as ice cream aficionados looking for a go-to, tried-and-true recipe to keep in their back pocket.

Updated: Jul. 02, 2024

Vanilla ice cream is one of life’s simple pleasures. It has a cool, custard-like sweetness and the ability to pair with practically any sweet topping you can think of. That’s why we practically flipped when our Test Kitchen created this homemade vanilla ice cream recipe that only needs four ingredients. No eggs or tricky tempering required!

Knowing how to make ice cream at home is such an asset to making every day feel special. Keep your ice cream insert in the freezer when it’s not in use so you can whip up this delicate, silky and ultra-rich vanilla ice cream recipe whenever your heart desires.

Vanilla Ice Cream Ingredients

  • Heavy whipping cream: Be mindful of anything labeled only as “whipping cream” at the store. Heavy whipping cream and whipping cream are not the same product. Whipping cream has a lower fat percentage and won’t produce as rich of an ice cream.
  • Half-and-half: To ensure your homemade ice cream recipe will turn out creamy, do not substitute half-and-half for milk. If the ice cream is made with a lower percentage of milk fat, it has the potential to become icy.
  • Sugar: Granulated sugar sweetens the homemade ice cream recipe. Don’t substitute brown sugar as it will discolor the ice cream and impart a deep, caramel-like sweetness that overpowers vanilla’s delicacy.
  • Vanilla extract: Buy the best vanilla extract at the store. Since there are so few ingredients in this recipe, the quality of each one matters, especially the vanilla extract as that’s where we’ll get most of the flavor. Personally, I gravitate towards vanilla paste because I love the look of the beautiful vanilla flecks in my homemade ice cream recipes.

How to Make Ice Cream

We’ll show you step-by-step how to make ice cream at home so you can have a big container of rich, creamy vanilla ice cream in your freezer whenever the craving strikes.


Step 1: Mix the ice cream base

In a large bowl, whisk together the heavy whipping cream, half-and-half, sugar and vanilla extract until the sugar is dissolved.

Step 2: Churn

Fill the cylinder insert of your ice cream maker no more than two-thirds full. Freeze the ice cream according to the manufacturer’s directions. Refrigerate any remaining ice cream base until your ice cream cylinder is cleaned and refrozen.

Step 3: Serve or freeze

Serve the ice cream immediately or transfer it to freezer containers, allowing a few inches of headspace for expansion. Freeze the ice cream until it’s firm, two to four hours.

Editor’s Tip: Once you first remove the ice cream from the ice cream maker, the ice cream will have a soft-serve consistency. If that’s your vibe, go ahead and dig in. If you want it to have a firm ice cream consistency, freeze the ice cream for the extra two to four hours.

Recipe Variations

  • Mix in chunks of your favorite candy bars: Adding mix-ins to this homemade ice cream recipe is easy-peasy. Break up your favorite candy bar(s) into bite-sized or smaller pieces. Once the ice cream maker is on its final minute of churning, drop the candy pieces in so they evenly disperse throughout the ice cream.
  • Layer in jams or curds: Spoon in 1/4 of the ice cream in the freezer container, dot a few tablespoons of your favorite jams or curds and swirl with a butter knife. Repeat with the rest of the ice cream. My favorite combo is raspberry jam, lemon curd and a sprinkling of chopped-up, crispy vanilla cookies for some texture.
  • Drizzle in toppings: During the last few minutes of churning, slowly pour in melted chocolate. The chocolate will immediately freeze and break into chips, which is how Italian stracciatella gelato is made. You could also layer salted caramel sauce in while filling the freezer container with the ice cream, and scatter bits of toffee in for crunch.
  • Make raspberry or strawberry ice cream: Substitute 2 cups of fresh or frozen berries for 1 cup of half-and-half. Puree the berries in a blender or food processor, then stir the berries into the other ingredients before freezing.

Homemade Ice Cream Topping Ideas

Whether you’re going for a simple scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream or building an elaborate ice cream sundae bar, there are so many classic ice cream toppings to choose from, like chocolate syrup, hot fudge, chocolate or rainbow sprinkles, fresh fruit, chopped peanuts, whipped cream and maraschino cherries. If you ask us, crushed Oreos, mini M&M’s, chunks of edible cookie dough and a drizzle of salted caramel sauce are some of the best ice cream toppings.

How to Store Vanilla Ice Cream

Store homemade ice cream in the freezer in an airtight container with a piece of storage wrap or waxed paper pressed directly onto the surface. This will prevent ice crystals from forming. I like to keep my ice cream (whether homemade or store-bought) towards the front of the freezer where it’s a little bit warmer than the back. It’s so much easier to scoop!

How long does vanilla ice cream last?

Homemade vanilla ice cream will last in the freezer for up to two months. Write the date on a piece of tape and stick it on the container to help you remember.

Vanilla Ice Cream Tips

How do you make ice cream without an ice cream maker?

No ice cream maker? No problem! To make ice cream without an ice cream maker, pour the ice cream mixture into a shallow container (glass or metal works best) that you’ve previously popped in the freezer for a few hours to get nice and chilled. Store the container full of the ice cream mixture in the coldest part of your freezer until almost firm, but still soft enough to be stirred. For the next three hours, check the ice cream every 30 minutes and stir or mix with a hand mixer to keep it aerated and creamy. You can also make ice cream in a coffee can or in a bag!

How do you make homemade vanilla ice cream thicker?

Thicker ice creams usually involve the addition of egg yolks or cornstarch as stabilizers or thickeners. The ice cream “base” is a cooked custard that, when chilled very well, spins up into a creamy, but firmer ice cream. Try our vanilla custard ice cream or old-time custard ice cream if you’re aiming for ice cream with some thickness to it.

What are the best ice cream makers to buy for homemade ice cream?

If you’re making ice cream regularly, it’ll be worth it to pick up an ice cream maker. These machines were recommended by our Test Kitchen experts, so you know they’re worth their price tag. Here are some more ice cream products and tools you’ll want to add to your cart, too.

What do you serve with homemade vanilla ice cream?

Any of the classic dessert recipes with ice cream—AKA “a la mode”—are best. A warm, fudgy brownie, a slice of apple pie and a fruit-filled cobbler are all made better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Or, use homemade ice cream to make ice cream sandwiches.

Watch how to Make Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe

Prep Time 5 min
Cook Time 20 min
Yield 1-1/4 quarts


  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups half-and-half cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients; stir until sugar is dissolved. Fill cylinder of ice cream maker no more than two-thirds full; freeze according to manufacturer's directions. (Refrigerate any remaining mixture until ready to freeze.)
  2. Serve immediately or transfer to freezer containers allowing headspace for expansion. Freeze until firm, 2-4 hours.

Nutrition Facts

1/2 cup: 308 calories, 22g fat (14g saturated fat), 78mg cholesterol, 37mg sodium, 23g carbohydrate (23g sugars, 0 fiber), 3g protein.

We don't want to brag, but as far as vanilla ice cream recipes go, this one is the best. And with only four ingredients, it just might be the easiest, too. No ice cream maker? No problem. Just follow the directions below to learn how to make homemade ice cream by hand. It's the perfect base for our best ice cream sundae ideas, too. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
Recipe Creator