Part science experiment, part delicious, making ice cream at home is by far one of my new favorite activities. Ready in fifteen minutes or less, you can make your own ice cream quicker than heading to the store to pick up a pint.

This past week, I rounded up a few of my closest friends, a handful of experimental toppings, and we went to town. We decided to experiment with vegan and dairy options, flavor profiles, and using honey as opposed to sugar. (Read more below in the variations and to hear about the winners!)

After hours of laughter, shaking our resealable bags, and hips, this would be high on my recommendation list of group activities. While eating or cooking out of bags may not be the menu for your wedding reception or graduation dinner (scratch that, it seriously should be, it’s super fun), this is a great way to entertain while food prepping, and can be done literally anywhere. No fancy tools required!

Want ice cream next time you go camping? No problem! Need a last-minute dessert? No brainer. After party cleanup? Less than five minutes.

Added bonus, this is a great activity for adults and kids alike! This is a fun, and tasty at-home science experiment that you could do with kids of all ages.

How does it work?

Ice cream is made up of ice crystals, fat, sugar, and air. The transition from its liquid state to the delicious we all scream for, is due to the cold and the addition of air particles.

Why do you shake it?

Shaking, or churning in a traditional ice cream maker, helps to push the movement of the air through the cream making for a smooth texture. Ice cream is technically an emulsion, meaning that the ingredients come together, but the individual molecules stay separate-- like water and oil. So this helps in the overall solidification process

So, what’s with the salt?

The salt lowers the melting temperature of the ice, so the ice becomes colder, therefore solidifying the ice cream quicker and you shake it up. Adding more salt will lower the ice’s temperature.

Supplies

carton of half and half
  • Gallon Resealable bag
  • Sandwich Resealable bag
  • 3 cups Ice
  • ? cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup Half n’ Half
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Step 1: Mix the Ingredients

ice and salt in plastic bag
Ciara Brewer

Grab one of the sandwich-sized resealable bags, and add your half n’ half, sugar, and vanilla extract.

If you’d like to flavor your ice cream, you can either add the ingredients in at this point or wait and mix them on top afterward. Adding the ingredients in before churning the cream will mix them nicely into the ice cream, spreading it throughout. Make sure ingredients are chopped fine enough to be able to mix throughout; larger chunks can result in an uneven final texture.

Once all of the ingredients are mixed together, press the extra air out of the bag and seal it closed.

Step 2: Ice & Salt

In your gallon-sized Ziploc bag, add approximately 3 cups of ice and xx kosher salt. Give the bag a couple shakes to get the salt dispersed across the ice.

Step 3: Shake, Shake, Shake

ice cream ingredients in bag
Ciara Brewer

Here comes both the most fun part, as well as the part that takes a bit of a delicate hand.

Place your sealed sandwich bag of cream and ingredients inside of the large resealable and seal it closed. Shake for 2-5 minutes until the texture of the ice cream hardens. The exact timing of how long to shake may vary based on a couple of factors: temperature of where you are and what kind of cream or half n’ half you're using (more on this below in variations).

If you continue shaking past this point, the ice cream will melt back down and become soupy. If this happens, fear not! We have you covered. Take the soupy cream bag out of the larger bag. Empty the water and salt out of the large resealable, and refill it with your ice and salt mixture. Then, you can place your soupy cream back in there and this time, just two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

Step 4: Remove and Enjoy

little boy enjoying ice cream

Take the small bag, now filled with your delectable treat, and remove it from the big ziplock. Either serve immediately, or place in the freezer.

Substitutions & Variations

Soy Ice Cream

soy ice cream
Ciara Brewer

For this variation, we used a french vanilla soy cream, and the flavor was divine! The soy cream held up very nicely and was just as creamy as the half n’ half. The shake time was a little longer, needing about 5-8 minutes to thicken up.

This variation also did well in the freezer and held it’s creamy delicious consistency.

Coconut Ice Cream

For this variation, we used a vanilla coconut creamer, and the flavor was delicious, the texture was a little less rich than the other variations. It had a different mouth feel, akin to the non-dairy ice creams you may purchase at the store. The shaking time was similar to that of the soy, clocking in at 5-8 minutes.

coconut ice cream
Ciara Brewer

Honey vs Sugar

Since honey has a viscous texture, it doesn’t work well as a direct substitute for sugar as a sweetener. Placing a full-on tablespoon of honey into your cream mix will result in a large, cold honey blob. If you’d like a more consistent texture, we have two recommendations:

  1. Use the same recipe as above, leaving out the sugar, and use honey as a drizzle on top when it has finished churning.
  2. The droplet method. When adding the honey into the cream bag, make sure to add little droplets spread out across the bag. This will produce more of a swirl throughout the cream

Ice Cream Flavor Winners

chopped pistachios
Ciara Brewer

After playing with a handful of different variations, we had a vote on which ones we liked the most, and these were our top two. Please note the ice and salt ratios were the same.

Pistachio Vanilla

Simple, salty, and sweet. This classic flavor profile is a perfect treat and chances are you have everything you need to make it in your cupboard already.

  • 1 cup Half n’ Half
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ cup of chopped Pistachios

Soy Apple Butter Coconut Ice Cream

A fun fall-inspired twist! The super creamy texture of the soy creamer in this one really compliments the warm flavors of the apple butter and toasted coconut flakes. The taste screams homemade pie while the feel is cool and velvety.

  • 1 cup Soy Vanilla Creamer
  • Granulated Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Apple Butter
  • 1 tablespoon Chopped Toasted Coconut Flakes

More Flavor Ideas

The possibilities are endless when it comes to ice cream! The best part about this recipe is that you can easily rummage through the fridge or pantry, and get creative. Here’s a list of a few variations we played with to get your creative juices flowing.

  • Nuts
  • Fruits
  • Candy pieces
  • Chocolate chips
  • Peanut butter
  • Leftover desserts
  • Cookies
  • Nutella
  • Different extracts (mint, lemon, almond, etc)
  • Jellies and jams
  • Savory Herbs
  • Sprinkles
  • Food coloring

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