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How to make ice cream in your food processor

This genius hack means you don't need an ice cream maker for homemade frozen treats.


Yes, this ice cream can come out of your food processor.


Don't have an ice cream maker but do have a Cuisinart (or its equivalent)? You can use your food processor to make your own ice cream -- and we don't mean by blending bananas, either.

Let's be honest: An ice cream maker is a one-trick pony. And with limited space in our kitchens, machinery for the dessert genre isn't always a top priority. Some of the more ice cream-obsessed of us (ahem) think it should be the main kitchen appliance, but most people will love finding another use for equipment you already have cluttering your cupboards. A food processor is nothing if not versatile, but we can't think of a more noble use for your trusty processor than homemade ice cream.

Read more: 7 brilliant ways to churn out ice cream without an ice cream maker

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Who knew it doubled as an ice cream maker?

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Any food processor with at least an eight cup capacity will do the job; we rated the Cuisinart FP-11SV Elemental as the best value food processor for 2019 and it will certainly work for blending your ice cream base.

Real ice cream, not 'nice cream'

You can find tons of recipes for "ice cream" made in a food processor using a base of frozen bananas instead of the classic cream, eggs and sugar base (often called nice cream in reference to its healthy vegan status and maybe also its ease of preparation). It's actually really good, but sometimes we want the real thing. Fellow sweet-cold-creamy obsessive Jeni Britton Bauer, founder of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, shares a quick, simple way to make traditional ice cream at home without an ice cream maker.

You can use our vanilla ice cream recipe as a starting point: Leave out the vanilla beans and make the base through step two, then follow the steps Britton outlines here:

How to make ice cream in your food processor

1. Follow whatever basic recipe you want to make the custard. Don't include any mix-ins yet, just the cream, eggs and sugar -- and any ingredients that are there for flavor alone (see the note below for more info).

2. Pour the custard into a Ziploc bag and press every last bit of the air out. Seal it tightly and place it flat in the freezer. Allow to freeze completely.

3. Crumble the frozen custard into your food processor and process until completely smooth. At this point, you can stir in any mix-ins or additional flavorings you want.

4. Scrape the ice cream into your storage container (which can be a reusable ice cream carton or just a regular loaf pan) and place back in the freezer. That's it!

The texture of this food processor ice cream is a bit finer, a little like gelato. But you can make it into any flavor you like, and stir in all sort of mix-ins, from chopped peanut butter cups to fresh berries.

Note: If you want more infused flavor, you can steep things like fresh mint, roughly ground espresso beans or whole cinnamon sticks in the cream for a few hours or overnight before straining it and starting the recipe outlined above. You can also mix in vanilla extract, cocoa powder and other flavor agents, but you don't want any mix-ins to go in until after the base has been frozen and blitzed -- or else they'll be completely pulverized.

The importance of air

Why can't you just make the custard, freeze it, and eat it right away? Churning air into your ice cream as it freezes is essential if you want to avoid large ice crystals and not end up with a sad, solid block. You want something creamy and luscious that coats your tongue -- not icy, crunchy ice "cream." But if churn your ice cream after the custard's frozen, that's the next best thing.

If you don't already have a food processor, you probably want one right about now, huh? It's definitely more versatile than an ice cream maker!

Read more: Best food processors of 2019

Homemade ice cream recipes

Try making these ice cream flavors in your food processor:

Caramel ice cream 


Caramel ice cream


If you like caramel and ice cream, but aren't sure about the burnt, salted or super sweet kinds, this is the version for you. Sugar, vanilla, cream, eggs and half-and-half go into this one, plus just a touch of salt to keep the rest from becoming cloying. If you're nervous, see our tips for making caramel. Get our Caramel Ice Cream recipe.

Rich chocolate ice cream


Chocolate ice cream


Nothing fancy here, just good old pure chocolate flavor and rich texture. You can mix the chocolate and cocoa powder in before freezing and processing since they're there for flavor -- but after you churn it in the food processor, feel free to add extras like chopped peanut butter cups. Get our rich chocolate ice cream recipe.

Strawberry cheesecake ice cream


Strawberry cheesecake ice cream


Homemade cookie butter or a store-bought spread like Biscoff's has the taste of a spiced graham cracker but the texture of peanut butter. It becomes like a cheesecake crust when combined with strawberry ice cream -- and the cream cheese contributes to the authentic sweet yet tangy flavor (blend it as directed with the other dairy before proceeding with the food processor method but don't stir in the strawberries or frozen cookie butter until after you process the base and are ready for the final freeze). Get our strawberry cheesecake ice cream recipe.

Roasted pistachio ice cream


Roasted pistachio ice cream


This is true pistachio ice cream. Not that artificial green stuff. Roast your nuts yourself and get going making a better version than anything at the grocery store. Reserve some roughly chopped pistachio pieces to mix in after processing if you like a chunkier ice cream. Get our Roasted Pistachio Ice Cream recipe.

Mixed berry sherbet


Mixed berry sherbet


Frozen raspberries and blackberries play well together in this dessert that has no eggs -- but does use whole milk. Sherbet isn't as rich as custard-based ice cream but it's still plenty creamy. Get our mixed berry sherbet recipe.

Toasted sesame seed and honey gelato


Toasted sesame honey gelato


Nutty toasted sesame seeds and sweet honey pair well in a sophisticated gelato. Don't fold in the toasted seeds until after the base has been blitzed in the food processor. Get our toasted sesame seed and honey gelato recipe.

Pumpkin pie ice cream


Pumpkin pie ice cream with caramel sauce


You don't have to wait until pumpkin mania rears up again in the fall and winter -- and let's be honest, it now starts in August anyway. We don't really mind, though, because pumpkin rules all year long, and so does ice cream. Get our pumpkin pie ice cream recipe.

This story was written by Amy Sowder and originally published on Chowhound.