Chai Ice Cream

According to historian Lizzie Collingham in her terrific Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors, the English popularized tea drinking in India in the early 1900s as a way to expand the market for the tea they were growing there. To the great distress of the British marketers of the time, the locals insisted on adding way more sugar and milk than would be considered proper by English standards and, adding insult to injury, spicing it up a bit with cardamom, pepper, cinnamon. All I can say is Thank Goodness. Spicy, milky, sweet chai is one of my favorite ways to drink black tea. Here are all those wonderful chai tea spices infused in ice cream.

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Chai Ice Cream Recipe

  • Yield: Makes 1 quart.

Ingredients

  • 1 star anise star
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 10 whole allspice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 whole white peppercorns
  • 2 cardamom pods, opened to seeds
  • 1/4 cup full-bodied black tea (Ceylon or English Breakfast)
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream (divided, 1 cup and 1 cup)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 6 egg yolks (see how to separate eggs)

Method

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1 Into a heavy saucepan put the 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of the cream and the chai spices - star anise, cloves, allspice, cinnamon sticks, white peppercorns, and cardamom pods, and a pinch of salt. Heat the mixture until steamy (not boiling) and hot to the touch. Lower the heat to warm, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.

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2 Reheat the mixture until steamy hot again (again not boiling), add the black tea leaves, remove from the heat, stir in the tea and let seep for 10 minutes. Use a fine mesh strainer to strain out the tea and spices, pouring the infused milk cream mixture into a separate bowl. Return the milk cream mixture back to the heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the sugar to the milk cream mixture and heat, stirring, until the sugar is fully dissolved.

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3 While the tea is infusing in step 2, prepare the remaining 1 cup of cream over an ice bath. Pour the cream into a medium size metal bowl, set in ice water (with lots of ice) over a larger bowl. Set a mesh strainer on top of the bowls. Set aside.

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4 Whisk the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl. Slowly pour the heated milk cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly so that the egg yolks are tempered by the warm mixture, but not cooked by it. Scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

5 Return the saucepan to the stove, stirring the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon so that you can run your finger across the coating and have the coating not run. This can take about 10 minutes. The minute this happens the mixture should be removed from heat immediately, and poured through the sieve over the ice bath to stop the cooking (step 6).

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If the custard base doesn't coat the back of the spoon, it's not ready.

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The custard base coats the back of the spoon.

6 Pour the custard through the strainer (from step 2) and stir into the cold cream to stop the cooking.

7 Once initially chilled in the ice bath, chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator (at least a couple of hours). Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

8 Store in an airtight container in your freezer for several hours before eating. Note that the ice cream will be quite soft coming out of the ice cream maker. It will continue harden in your freezer. If stored for more than a day, you may need to let it sit for a few minutes to soften before attempting to scoop it.

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16 Comments

  1. Alanna Kellogg

    The ‘real’ reason to invest in an ice cream freezer is not to make ice cream, per se, but to make ice creams that just can’t be found elsewhere. Your chai ice cream is lovely — AK

  2. roopa

    Thank you for making chai the proper way and not adding vanilla to it!!!

  3. Preyanka

    Yummmm! Interestingly, most Indians do not drink heavily spiced “masala chai” all the time. Most chai (which just means tea) consumed everyday is just tea and milk, and perhaps a bit of ginger. What Westerners call “chai” is actually called “masala chai” in India (which means “spiced tea”).

  4. Mercedes

    This is wonderful, I love that the chai flavor comes from real spices, not just chai tea bags. Much more authentic, and I can imagine tastier as well.

  5. emily

    I would love to try this– I already have a lot of chai tea lying around. Can I use that somehow instead of buying all the spices?

    Yes, if you have the chai tea mixtures already, just use those. ~Elise

  6. Gayle

    I think this would work with vanilla soy milk!

  7. Chandra

    I made this yesterday – using fresh ginger instead of star anise, and decaf earl grey for the tea, which added a nice light citrus note. A great recipe that I can make caffeine-free!

  8. Stephanie G.

    I made this using chai tea bags (I just tripled the number to make it strong enough) and it was just wonderful. It reminded me of chai and pumpkin, but very refreshing and unique. Thanks for the recipe!

  9. Smiles

    I’ve been eye-ing this recipe for a while and (finally) made it this weekend…it is like nothing else I’ve ever had– rich and incredibly creamy and the most beautiful color! The only modifications I made were that I used raw whole milk and cream and that I added about 4 slices of raw ginger to the milk and cream mixture. THANK YOU for sharing this recipe!

  10. nina

    This recipe is perfect!

    I made it tonight and it tastes almost like caramel (but not too sweet). I think it’s worth it to procure the actual fresh spices as indicated.

  11. Simone

    I made this today and WOW!!! It is phenomenal!!!!
    Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  12. RustyShackleford

    I’ve made this recipe several times, and it’s always been a big hit, but I add a little coriander, fennel, and rose water.

    It’s delicious either way, though.

  13. penandra

    I made this a few weeks ago (substituting the spices that I use for my masala chai) and using condensed milk instead of the sugar (seems to give a richer mouth feel to the finished product). It was superb (like eating a chai latte in a bowl). I used an assam tea (which is the same tea that I use for my masala chai). Delicious!

  14. chocolatecoveredeverything

    I LOVE Chai Ice Cream! I have a recipe of my own, but do not have Star Anise in mine and think that is a great idea! I will try that next time!

    Thanks for the recipe!

  15. Jen

    I finally got around to making this ice cream this weekend. It’s amazing! Its probably the best chai flavor i’ve ever had (most of my chai experiences come from teabags). It’s delicious and creamy and my house smelt fantastic while making it.

    I did substitute heavy cream with fat free half and half. I’m sure it loses a bit of the flavor but when you’re making icecream regularly, there is a limit :)

    I love the ice cream recipes on this site. I think next up is your chocolate!

  16. Sandra

    This sounds amazing, I love chai tea! However, I do not own an ice cream maker, so how would I make this without one?

    Here is one way to do it from David Lebovitz:
    “>How to make ice cream without a machine. ~Elise

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