Rocky Road Ice Cream Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 15 min. + cooling Process: 20 min./batch + freezing

Updated: May 23, 2024

Rocky Road ice cream has been around for nearly a century and it’s still a favorite.  Forget the store-bought version, which may seem too sweet or contain too many ingredients for your liking. Our rocky road ice cream recipe is easy to make and features ingredients you may already have on hand. Feel free to mix in a little more chocolate chips or nuts to make this as chocolaty or nutty as you’d like. Don’t worry, we won’t tell.

Ingredients for Rocky Road Ice Cream

  • Whole milk: Whole milk contains fat that creates a smooth, creamy ice cream base. It also helps prevent ice crystals from forming.
  • Half and half cream: Half and half contributes to a silky smooth ice-cream texture, without being quite as rich as heavy cream.
  • Semisweet chocolate chunks: The chunky bits of semisweet chocolate melt to create the chocolaty flavor in this ice cream.
  • Sugar: Besides adding sweetness, sugar enhances the ice cream’s texture and helps keep it scoopable.
  • Miniature marshmallows: Miniature marshmallows add flavor and texture to the Rocky Road ice cream. Marshmallows are a main component of a true rocky road ice cream recipe.
  • Miniature semisweet chocolate chips: These tiny bits add a little crunch and extra chocolaty goodness to nearly every spoonful.
  • Chopped pecans: Chopped nuts are like the “rocks” in the Rocky Road ice cream; they also impart a nutty flavor that cuts through the chocolate.
  • Vanilla extract: Though subtle, vanilla extract adds a little flavor and depth to the chocolate ice cream base.

Directions

Step 1: Heat the liquids

Pour the milk and the half-and-half into a large saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat until the liquid reaches 175°F.

Step 2: Add chocolate, sugar and salt

Add the semisweet chocolate chunks, sugar and salt to the pan. Stir until the chocolate melts and the sugar completely dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat.

Step 3: Chill and add mix-ins

Quickly transfer the liquid to a large bowl and place the bowl in a pan of ice water. Stir the bowl occasionally over the next two minutes, then stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover the surface of the mixture with plastic wrap, then place the bowl in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Step 4: Fill the ice cream maker

Fill the ice cream maker 2/3 of the way with the chilled dessert, saving any leftover mixture in the refrigerator to make another batch once the first freezes. Freeze the ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Step 4: Transfer to freezable containers

Transfer the ice cream into freezable storage containers, allowing space for the ice cream to expand. Freeze the containers for two to four hours or until the ice cream is firm.

Editor’s tip: Pack the ice cream into portion-sized stackable containers for easy access and immediate eating.  

Rocky Road Ice Cream Recipe Variations

  • Use almonds instead:  If you prefer the flavor of almonds in your Rocky Road ice cream, replace the pecans with chopped almonds, or even roasted chopped almonds.  Many brand-name rocky road ice creams contain almonds.
  • Get a little salty: Add broken bits of chocolate-covered salted pretzels to the ice cream mixture before freezing. An even easier option is to sprinkle the broken pretzel bits atop the ice cream before indulging. Salty plus sweet equals fantastic!
  • Add hot caramel: Pour hot caramel or butterscotch sauce atop a bowlful of Rocky Road ice cream for an incredibly decadent treat. Can you avoid the temptation of a second bowl?

How to Freeze Rocky Road Ice Cream

The key to banishing freezer burn is to pack your ice cream properly for storage. When scooping it into a freezer storage container, press the ice cream down firmly with the back of the spoon to reduce air bubbles which contribute to ice crystals. To help keep the surface free from ice, place a sheet of wax paper, cut to the size of the container, over the ice cream before placing the lid on it.

How Long Does Rocky Road Ice Cream Last?

Homemade rocky road ice cream keeps in the freezer for up to one month, if stored properly. While some store-bought ice creams contain chemical stabilizers to make them last longer, homemade versions are much purer, so it’s best to only make as much ice cream as you plan to eat within a few weeks.

Rocky Road Ice Cream Recipe Tips

What is in Rocky Road ice cream?

Rocky Road ice cream starts with a chocolate ice cream base. Added nuts and marshmallows give it loads of texture and extra flavor. The miniature chocolate chips in this version add even more texture and chocolate flavor.

Why is it called rocky road?

Rocky Road ice cream is one of the first varieties to include mix-ins for added texture and flavor. In 1929, William Dreyer (of Dreyer’s Ice Cream fame) cut up some marshmallows with scissors and added marshmallow bits and walnuts to chocolate ice cream. At some point after the stock market crash that autumn, he swapped out the walnuts for almonds and dubbed the ice cream “rocky road,” alluding to the stock market.

Do I need an ice cream maker?

An ice cream maker saves time in the freezer, but yes, you can make this rocky road ice cream recipe without one. Simply pour the mixture into shallow freezer-worthy pans with lids; the shallower the level of ice cream and the smaller the container, the faster it freezes.

Rocky Road Ice Cream Recipe

Prep Time 15 min
Cook Time 20 min
Yield about 4-1/2 quarts

Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups half-and-half cream
  • 9 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2-3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 2-1/4 cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped pecans
  • 6 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, combine milk and half-and-half; heat to 175°. Add chocolate, sugar and salt; stir until chocolate is melted and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat.
  2. Quickly transfer to a large bowl; place bowl in a pan of ice water. Stir gently and occasionally for 2 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients. Press plastic wrap onto surface of custard. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Fill cylinder of ice cream maker two-thirds full; freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. (Refrigerate remaining mixture until ready to freeze.) Transfer ice cream to freezer containers, allowing headspace for expansion. Freeze 2-4 hours or until firm. Repeat with remaining ice cream mixture.

Nutrition Facts

1/2 cup: 340 calories, 24g fat (13g saturated fat), 67mg cholesterol, 88mg sodium, 29g carbohydrate (27g sugars, 1g fiber), 3g protein.

My daughters always want to put this rocky road ice cream in cones just like the ice cream shops do. We especially like the marshmallows, chocolate chips and chopped pecans. Sometimes we even add extra chips on top...and whipped cream, too. -Dale Langford Atwater, California
Recipe Creator