Butter Pecan Ice Cream

Homemade butter pecan ice cream, made with a custard base, browned butter, and toasted pecans.

  • Yield: Makes 1 1/2 quarts


Ice cream base:

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • Pinch of salt

Special equipment:

  • Ice cream maker


1 Whisk egg yolks: In a medium sized heat-safe bowl (metal, ceramic, or glass), whisk together the egg yolks until well blended. Set aside.

2 Set cream in bowl over ice, with a sieve on top: Pour the cream into a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and set a medium-mesh sieve on top. Set aside.


3 Brown the butter, add brown sugar and salt: In a medium thick-bottomed saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter cook it, stirring constantly, until it just begins to brown.

Add the brown sugar and salt. Stir until the sugar completely melts.

4 Add milk slowly, dissolve sugar: Slowly add the milk, stirring to incorporate. It will foam up initially, so make sure you are using a pan with high enough sides. Heat until all of the sugar is completely dissolved. Do not let boil or the mixture may curdle.

5 Temper the eggs: Whisk in hand, slowly pour half of the milk and sugar mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly to incorporate.

Then add the warmed egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk sugar mixture.

6 Stir until custard base thickens: Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden or heatproof rubber spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula, about 5-7 minutes.

7 Pour the custard through the sieve and stir it into the cream. Add vanilla and stir until cool over the ice bath.

8 Chill mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator.

9 Toast the pecans: While the mixture is chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F. Melt 1 Tbsp of butter. Toss with pecans and a pinch of salt.

Spread pecans out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 10 minutes, until the pecans are lightly toasted. Set aside to cool.

Once cool, roughly chop the pecans and set aside.

10 Process in your ice cream maker: Once the ice cream mixture is thoroughly chilled, process in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

11 Fold in chopped toasted pecans: Once the ice cream has been formed in the ice cream maker, it will be fairly soft. Fold in the chopped pecans.

12 Freeze: Put in an airtight plastic container and place in the freezer for at least an hour, preferably several hours.

If it has been frozen for more than a day, you may need to let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften it before serving.

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  • Belinda Marcel

    So fantastic!!!


  • Felicia



  • Angie

    Amazing! I used 1% milk, so I had to freeze longer, but otherwise delicious. I heated the milk before adding to the sugar mixture and it worked great! Thanks Elise


  • brenda @ afarmgirlsdabbles.com

    Oh my goodness! This is SO GOOD! My kitchen smelled amazing through the whole process, like a dreamy caramel factory. This was the most rigorous ice cream recipe I’ve ever made, and also the BEST one I’ve ever made. Yum!


  • Libby

    Hi! I made this today for father’s day–it’s my father-in-law’s favorite ice cream flavor.

    I got the butter nice and brown but when I added the brown sugar, I didn’t cook it until it was quite melted because it started to stick to the bottom of the pan (it all dissolved when I added the milk). I added an ounce of bourbon with the vanilla.

    I toasted the pecans on the stove with 2T of butter and about 1/4-1/2 t of salt for about 10 minutes on medium-low, stirring often.

    It was pretty soft when I put it in the freezer and took a while to freeze solid. It was also a little darker colored than yours.

    It tastes delicious! The flavor is outstanding and the nuts are so crunchy and amazing! Everyone loved it. Thanks for the wonderful recipe.


  • Luke

    Great idea to brown the butter! With respect, I suggest the sugar go into the yolks rather than into the butter. The milk should really be scalded without sugar to avoid curdling. The concept, however, is lovely. Can’t wait to try the batch I’ve got freezing right now!

  • melissa

    My husband has been asking me for butter pecan ice cream since I got my kitchenaid ice cream maker a year ago. I finally made this this weekend, and it was delicious. What a perfect recipe! My husband declared it The Best Ice Cream Ever Made By Humans Ever. I am thinking about using the butter, with white sugar instead of brown, as a base for other flavors. I’ve had trouble with homemade custard-based ice cream getting icy/grainy quickly, and/or turning rock hard after a day. Seems to me this would be the chemistry necessary to keep it nice and creamy! Thank you for a great recipe!

  • Sarah

    Hi Elise,
    I tried this out and blogged about it. Though I didnt have brown sugar and hence caramelised the sugar with butter. It resulted in a nice butterscotch flavour. thanks for the recipe.

  • Jessica

    This looks downright sinful. And here I am attempting to diet.

    A question about the nuts though. My Mom grew up near a small convince store that sold black walnut ice cream. Most recipes I read for it though just call for a vanilla base and to just chuck the nuts in during the churning process. Could this recipe be done with a nut change or would the taste be too off?

    Black walnuts are delicious. You could easily swap out the pecans for other nuts like walnuts. ~Elise

  • Phanes

    After chilling the ice cream mixture, add a tablespoon of rum for each quart of ice cream and it shouldn’t require “sitting for a few minutes” before dipping after it’s frozen. And the rum will add a nice flavor. I’ve never made this particular ice cream, but adding rum certainly works well for vanilla ice cream.

  • Gabby

    I tried this today. Mine turned out more like caramel ice cream with toasted pecans. It was also a little more icey, less creamy (but I didn’t use all the eggs. I will next time. I was just afraid of the too eggy affect that can happen). Hmmm…. I think I’ll try doing the half brown half white sugar??? Gosh, this sounds so good. I must keep trying until I get it right!

  • jeanette

    I used this recipe to break in my new Cuisinart ice cream maker. It was do delicious and put a smile on my father’s face (it is his favorite). Homemade ice cream is waayyyyy better than store bought. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Wilma Jane

    This is one of the best recipes for Butter Pecan Ice Cream on the web.

    Respectfully I offer a few suggestions based on extensive experience making Butter Pecan Ice Cream.

    1) Reduce the amount of brown sugar by half and replace that half with granulated cane sugar.
    All brown sugar makes for an over powering taste and a color too dark.

    2) Slowly add the cane sugar portion while whisking the eggs yolks, whisk until yolks lighten in color.(I beat to the ribbon stage)
    This method helps protect the egg yolks from cooking when tempering in the hot dairy.

    3) When making the browned butter, make extra, combine with some salt, liberally coat the pecans prior to roasting on a sheet pan.

  • Diane

    I made this today and it is delicious. I doubled the caramel portion and divided it before adding the cream. I added the 2nd half with the pecans and had a ribbon of caramel throughout the ice cream, it was DELICIOUS!!!

  • Nichelle


    Okay so a few weeks ago, I was hellbent on making this ice cream. I did not have an ice cream maker but let me tell you, it was phenomenal.

    What I did encounter was that I too had problems with the brown sugar dissolving in the milk. As a matter of fact, when I added the milk, it reacted badly and started to splatter! (My flame was too high). Plus, this combination of ingredients actually makes homemade caramel sauce, which is what my ice cream tasted like. No complaints though because it was all gone!

    Would you suggest mixing the milk and the butter and then adding the brown sugar? I plan on trying this recipe again really soon because I just purchased a second hand ice cream maker and I’d love to break it in with this recipe!

    You might try heating the milk in a separate pan before adding to the sugar. ~Elise

  • Jenn Perryman

    First attempt at homemade ice cream, using a KitchenAid mixer and ice cream attachment. This is so worth the effort. The ice cream is to DIE for. Just the right balance between the creamy, sweet, buttery flavor and the crunch of the salty pecans. I may have to hide it in the freezer.

  • Genine

    What type of brown sugar did you use? When you stirred the sugar til it melted, it did not crystalized?

    Either light brown or dark brown will work. Adding milk and heating it until all the sugar melts gets rid of any sugar crystallization. ~Elise

  • Catie

    I wonder if you have to use a ice cream maker?

    Note from Elise: See David Lebovitz’s Making Ice Cream without a Machine.

  • Christina

    Made it this past weekend- although I forgot to freeze our ice cream container- drats!

    It was fabulous- I don’t think I browned my butter long enough- yours looks a bit different than mine, but still, it was (and still is) quite DELISH!

    Thanks- I’m posting it on my blog today.

  • Elise Bauer

    Hi Shuna,

    Great question. I guess this is the difference between “buttered pecan” and “butter pecan”. With this recipe, the ice cream itself is flavored with the butter. Cooking the brown sugar with the butter and salt and then adding milk gives a butterscotch flavor to the base. In many other recipes I’ve seen, the pecans are mixed in with melted butter, salted, and then baked, and mixed in with essentially a vanilla ice cream base.

    To really take this ice cream over the top, I would butter and salt the pecans before roasting them (may make a note of that to the recipe, thanks for the reminder). Mom, dad and I discussed whether or not to do this with the recipe, but decided that there was enough butter flavor in the ice cream base itself. I think it is just a matter of preference.

  • shuna fish lydon

    But wait! Where are the “buttered pecans”? And why do you cook the brown sugar with the butter? To what taste effect?

  • COCO

    YEAH! This looks really, really yummy. I consider myself to be a Butter Pecan ice cream afficionado…but this recipe looks like it will take me over the rainbow!!!

  • Christina

    What perfect timing, Elise!

    My mom’s birthday is this weekend and she LOVES butter pecan. Your recipe sounds fabulous and I do believe I’ll have to give it a go.

    Cannot wait! thanks so much for posting.

  • David Lebovitz

    Your ice cream is magnificent-looking. Anything with butterscotch and pecans is tops in my book. Try it with few flecks of coarse salt, like kosher salt or fleur de sel, sprinkled on top for a real treat!

  • Rasa Malaysia

    Wow, you made this ice cream from scatch…amazing! Now I need to buy an ice cream maker!

  • jonathan

    We have an ice cream kinship, Elise. Butter Pecan is also one of my favorites. I made it for the first time Summer ’06 from a Williams-Sonoma recipe that involved sugar glazing the pecans. It also used brown sugar in the custard base (a must) as opposed to plain ‘ol white. While good, it didn’t have the depth of flavor I was looking for. I think this browned butter version will do the trick. A well-calculated risk, given the accolades I received for your peppermint ice cream recipe that I made for Christmas dinner dessert!