Vanilla Ice Cream in a Bag Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep/Total Time: 15 min.
Our ice cream in a bag recipe makes creamy homemade ice cream without an ice cream maker. It's a great base recipe, so you can switch up the flavorings and mix in your favorite toppings.

Updated: Jun. 15, 2024

There’s nothing quite like homemade ice cream on a hot summer day. But do you know what’s even better? Homemade ice cream that’s easy to make without an expensive ice cream maker. This ice cream in a bag recipe uses a quick, no-churn method that can be fun for the whole family. You’ll need a couple of ingredients from the refrigerator, plus a handful of zip-top bags. And once you’ve gathered everything, it won’t be more than 10 minutes until you’re eating a delicious bowl of ice cream.

Once you know how to make homemade ice cream in a bag, you’ll look for any excuse to try it again. That’s why we’ve included some variations below to give you fun new flavor ideas.

Ingredients for Ice Cream in a Bag

  • Milk: Whole milk is best here, but 2% also works. For non-dairy or extra-rich milk swaps, see the variations below.
  • Sugar: We use granulated sugar to sweeten our ice cream in a bag recipe.
  • Evaporated milk: If you want to make no-churn ice cream, evaporated milk is the secret ingredient. It provides a freshly churned texture and prevents ice crystals from forming.
  • Vanilla extract: A teaspoon of vanilla extract acts as a flavor enhancer.
  • Ice: Crushed ice provides more surface area for the salt to make contact with, which lowers the temperature and freezes the ice cream.
  • Salt: Rock salt is best for homemade ice cream in a bag, but table salt works just fine.

Directions

Step 1: Combine the ingredients

Combine the milk, sugar, evaporated milk and vanilla extract in a small resealable bag. Press out all the air and seal the bag.

Step 2: Prepare the ice

In a large resealable bag, combine the ice and salt. Place the sealed small bag inside the large bag. Seal the large bag, then place the large bag inside a second large resealable plastic bag. Seal that one, too. The doubled-up large bags help guard against leaks.

Step 3: Shake the bag

Shake and knead everything until the cream mixture is thickened, five to seven minutes. If you’re making the ice cream with someone else, take turns shaking.

Editor’s Tip: You’ll want to wear mittens or oven mitts—or wrap the bag in a dish towel—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 seven minutes of shaking is up.

Step 4: Serve the ice cream

Remove the ice cream bag and dry it off quickly to avoid any saltwater drips. Use a spoon to scoop the ice cream into bowls immediately, or freeze the ice cream for later.

Recipe Variations

  • Use different types of milk: 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 non-dairy options to find your favorite base.
  • Enhance it with different extracts: Along with (or instead of) vanilla extract, add strawberry, pistachio, coconut or banana flavorings. If you use mint extract, try a touch of green food coloring and mini chocolate chips!
  • Stir in your favorite mix-ins: Switch things up by adding a handful of ripe berries, like in this raspberry ice cream in a bag recipe. You can also include blueberries, chunks of edible cookie dough, mini chocolate chips or chopped candy bars like Snickers bars or peanut butter cups.
  • Finish it with toppings: Once the ice cream is ready, grab your favorite bowls, spoons and any ice cream toppings you might want, like sprinkles and chocolate sauce. Use our best ice cream sundae ideas for inspiration (the all-American banana split is particularly festive!).

How to Store Ice Cream in a Bag

The beauty of homemade ice cream in a bag is that it can be stored in the container it’s made in. Make sure the bag is sealed and keep it in your freezer for up to four months.

Ice Cream in a Bag Tips

How do you keep the ice cream from getting salty?

Worried the ice cream will be too salty with all that salt in the ingredients list? Don’t fret! As long as the ingredients are kept in the bags they’re supposed to be in, the salt never comes in contact with the ice cream mixture. The salt is used as a mechanism, rather than an ingredient. You can use freezer bags for their added thickness to prevent punctures.

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: You can make it in a baking dish, too.

How does making ice cream in a bag work?

Ice cream in a bag works by using salt to lower the freezing point of water. The ice cream ingredients are combined in a resealable bag, which then goes into another bag filled with ice and salt. 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 evaporated milk and other ingredients to quickly cool down and transform into ice cream. It’s similar to how to make ice cream in a coffee can if you’ve ever tried it!

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. There is also a risk of cross-contamination between the bags, and while Epsom salt is sometimes used as a laxative (always talk to your doctor before using supplementation), it is bitter and may ruin your ice cream.

Ice Cream in a Bag

Prep Time 15 min
Yield 1 cup.

Ingredients

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

Directions

  1. In a small resealable plastic bag, combine the milk, sugar, evaporated milk and vanilla. Press out air and seal. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the ice and salt; add the sealed small bag.
  2. Seal the large bag; place in another large resealable plastic bag and seal. Shake and knead for 5-7 minutes or until cream mixture is thickened. Serve immediately or freeze.

Nutrition Facts

1/2 cup: 146 calories, 5g fat (3g saturated fat), 17mg cholesterol, 69mg sodium, 20g carbohydrate (20g sugars, 0 fiber), 5g protein.

Making homemade ice cream is an activity that can involve the whole family. Have the kids shake the bags until the liquid changes to ice cream. No one will be able to resist the taste!—Erin Hoffman, Canby, Minnesota