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Vanilla ice cream

Updated: Tue, 28 November, 2023

Vanilla ice cream is the best according to official UK surveys, and this recipe is unbeatable both for vanilla flavoured ice cream or as a base for other flavours.

vanilla ice cream

Ice cream: vanilla or ketchup?

I don’t quite know where the derogatory use of the word as an adjective comes from – ‘vanilla’ meaning insipid, bland and ordinary. Vanilla after all is the second most expensive spice in the world in the close company of saffron and perhaps gold leaf.

And what do you think of all those weird, funky and downright outlandish ice cream flavours popping up?

We’ve gone a long way from Heston Blumenthal’s bacon ice cream; now we have black walnut and pickled mango, reasonably tame, alongside Guiness, lobster and caviar! Grocery brands joined The Ice Cream Project in London last summer, to create Kikkoman soy sauce, Birds Eye pea and Branston pickle flavours. I don’t know about that!

They might all be exciting, but would you have a scoop of ketchup ice cream with your apple pie? Sweet chilli with sticky toffee? I thought not. That’s where vanilla is unbeatable.

Even though the less wacky but unusual flavours like basil, tahini or maple and pecan are exciting to try, but would you pick them as your all-time best? Not a chance. Vanilla is the firm favourite, and it’s official.

heston blumenthal's ice cream

Prized ingredient

Vanilla is really expensive at the moment but there’s no question that no extract matches up to the genuine article. If you can’t afford to purchase such a whacking amount of vanilla (that will be 5 pods if you double the amount, which is not too much if you have a family of ice cream lovers), use the very best, natural bean paste.

This recipe is eggless. I am pretty impartial when it comes to the choice between custard-based ice cream vs. milky-creamy, Italian gelato style. I like both kinds though admittedly the eggless mix is lighter, both on the palate and on the waist.

Eggs stabilise the mix though, so it’s a little trickier with milk-based ice. If you can get hold of ice cream stabiliser, add half a teaspoon to the sugar used in the recipe. It will make the ice cream smoother and the churning process quicker. Otherwise it will take a longer while to churn, so make sure you chill the mix for as long as possible.

This is a fool proof recipe I found absolute ages ago in a magazine or a weekend supplement. Fuss free and so good – perhaps no wonder as its author is Heston Blumenthal.

gelato style vanilla ice cream

How to make the ice cream base?

All it takes is heating up a mix of double cream and full fat milk plus sugar and the vanilla pods or paste. When it reaches 90C/194F, just before the boiling point, it’s done.

cooking ice cream base

Even if you don’t have a food thermometer, it is easy to recognise when to take the pan off the heat: when small bubbles start appearing around the surface of the liquid, and it steams like mad.

If you’re using those precious vanilla pods, leave them in throughout the chilling process, to let the cream base absorb every little bit of the flavour. Once out of the fridge, you can strain the mix before churning, as your machine instructions advise.

no eggs ice cream

More ice cream recipes

Summer berry ice cream, made in a blender, churned in an ice cream maker. The base contains no eggs but a balanced mix of dairy and natural emulsifiers.

Very chocolate ice cream recipe, easily made at home. Eggless recipe for rich chocolate ice cream made with an ice cream maker and good quality milk chocolate.

Recipe for mango ice cream made in a blender. Smooth mango ice cream without eggs, churned in an ice cream maker. Blitz the ingredients in a blender and use the ice cream churner to freeze.

More vanilla flavoured dessert recipes

Vanilla and chocolate cupcakes with meringue buttercream frosting. These fluffy cupcakes are frosted with Swiss meringue buttercream made without icing sugar. The best buttercream piped on cupcakes filled with chocolate ganache.

Classic creamy panna cotta, the simple and exquisite Italian dessert. Vanilla flavoured, with whole milk and cream and only enough gelatine to keep it set, served with passion fruit puree.

Lemon whoopie pies with vanilla buttercream – the classic whoopie pies invented in New England, remade in old England with a recipe from an Aussie. Those cookies travel, eh?

the best vanilla ice cream

vanilla ice cream

Servings: makes 2 pintsTime: 30 minutes plus chilling and freezing


  • 2–2½ whole vanilla pods
  • 180g whole milk
  • 86g caster sugar
  • 420g double cream


1. Split the pods and scrape out the seeds. Place them together with the pods in a saucepan with the milk, cream and sugar.

2. Heat the mix slowly to 90C/194F over medium heat.

3. If you don’t have a thermometer, take it off the heat just before it boils. Cool down completely, chill in the fridge overnight, and strain it only after chilling to maximise vanilla steeping.

4. Churn in the ice cream maker according to the appliance instructions.

5. Scrape the ice cream into a tub and freeze for at least two hours before serving. Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before scooping.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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