French Vanilla Ice Cream

This homemade vanilla ice cream is made with a custard base, sugar, cream, and real vanilla beans. So classic, and so good!

  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Chilling, Churning, & Freezing time: 4 to 5 hours
  • Yield: Makes 1 1/2 quarts

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream (separated into 1 1/2 cups and 1 cup)
  • 2 vanilla beans, split in half lengthwise
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Special equipment:

Method

1 Infuse the milk and cream with vanilla: Put the milk and 1 1/2 cups of the cream, half of the sugar, and the salt into a saucepan on medium heat. Use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape out the tiny seeds from the vanilla beans, and stir both the seeds and the pods into the milk cream mixture.

Heat until steamy, but not simmering. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand while the vanilla infuses, about 20 to 30 minutes.

French Vanilla Ice Cream Ingredients add the vanilla

2 Beat egg yolks with half of the sugar: In a medium bowl, beat together the yolks and the remaining half of the sugar. You can use a hand mixer or beat by hand using a whisk. Beat until velvety smooth and creamy.

Best French Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe whisk the eggs and sugar

3 Prepare a bowl over an ice bath: Fill a large bowl half way with ice and cold water. Set a smaller metal bowl inside of it, and place the remaining cup of cream inside to chill. Place a strainer over the smaller bowl. Set aside.

4 Temper the eggs: Reheat the milk/cream mixture until it is just barely steamy (not boiling!). Vigorously whisk the eggs while you slowly dribble half of the milk/cream mixture into it. Pour the egg mixture into the pot with the remaining cream and milk.

French Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe temper the custard

5 Cook custard until thickened: Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of your spoon (about 180°F on an instant read thermometer). You can run your finger in a line over the back of the coated spoon. If the mixture doesn't run, but stays in place on the spoon, it should be thick enough.

Homemade French Vanilla Ice Cream checking the consistency on the back of a spoon

6 Strain the custard: Remove from heat and immediately pour the custard through the the strainer you've placed over the bowl with cream in the ice bath. This will strain out the vanilla beans, and quickly lower the temp of the custard to stop it from cooking further.

Best French Vanilla Ice Cream straining the vanilla

7 Chill the custard: Let the custard cool completely, stirring to help chill it quickly. Put into the refrigerator and let chill for at least an hour, preferably several hours.

8 Process in ice cream maker: Freeze custard in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. (Take care not to over churn the ice cream or it will get a grainy texture.)

9 Freeze: If you serve the ice cream immediately, it will have the consistency of soft serve ice cream. Freeze it for at least an hour in an airtight plastic container to have a firmer texture. 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 before serving it.

Serve with caramel sauce.