5-Step Homemade Ice Cream On the Cheap (No Churning Required)

Scoop of homemade ice cream in a ceramic bowl.
Photo by Brooke Bischoff

When the sun is shining, there is only one treat that truly beats the heat: ice cream. It is a time-honored summer tradition and might just be the ultimate comfort food. There is just nothing like an ice cream cone to close out a sweaty summer day.

In fact, I consider ice cream to be a practically mandatory summer meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner, ice cream. Vanilla, chocolate, neapolitan… I’ll take it all, preferably a double scoop.  But my ice cream habit could easily put a dent in my savings.

Unfortunately, ice-cream shops charge anywhere from $2 to $8 per serving! Buying ice cream by the pint can be cheaper per serving, but it can still cost between $4 and $10.

Fortunately, there is an easy and cheap way to indulge your summer ice-cream craving all season long — without even leaving your house. We have the absolute easiest, cheapest way to make delicious ice cream with basic ingredients. I am addicted to this sweet and creamy vanilla ice cream that comes together with just a few simple steps. It is perfect alone and even better when you add in your favorite toppings.

First, let’s get one thing out of the way: You do not need an ice-cream maker to make this delicious creamy treat. In fact, if you’re a Penny Hoarder (and aren’t we all here?) I would argue that you shouldn’t buy an ice-cream maker. They’re just not worth it when you can make ice cream in a snap without one.

Even a mid-range ice-cream maker can cost between $40 and $100. As a single use appliance, it will spend most of its life taking up space in your kitchen and little else. Additionally, most usually have fiddly parts to mess with and clean. Fortunately, you likely already have all the tools you need to make a delicious homemade ice cream.

When I first heard about making ice cream at home, I had flashbacks to elementary school where, as an end-of-the-year treat, we would make our own ice cream by shaking baggies filled with ice cream base inside freezer bags full of rock salt and ice cubes. I promise you, this ice cream is not only a million times less work than that, it is way more delicious.

This recipe is super-duper simple and has infinite variations.

Cream and sugar mixture in a white bowl.

Photo by Brooke Bischoff

How to Make No-Churn Ice Cream

Note: all prices are from Albertson’s in Texas.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups half-and-half: $1.69
  • 2 cups heavy cream: $2.34
  • ¾ cup sugar: $18 cents
  • 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla: 99 cents

That. Is. All. With these four ingredients, you’ll never need to go out for ice cream again. You’ll also need a glass or metal pan (I used a shallow metal pot), a large bowl and a hand mixer or whisk. This recipe makes about 5 cups, which means each serving costs only 52 cents!

1. Start Cold

You’ll first need to freeze the metal or glass container you’re going to make the ice cream in so it is cold. Starting with a cold container will help your ice cream set up quickly. It only takes about 15 minutes in the freezer to get your container cold enough.

2. Mix Up Your Base

While your container is chilling, mix together all the ingredients in a large bowl. Stir the mixture gently with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved. If the sugar isn’t completely dissolved, the ice cream can get kind of gritty.

3. Chill and Chill Some More

Take your chilled container out of the freezer and gently pour your mixture in it. Give the mixture a final stir and stick it in the freezer. Allow the mixture to sit in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes or until the edges are solid.

cream and sugar mixture being mixed with a hand mixer.

Photo by Brooke Bischoff

4. Mix it Up

This is definitely the most important step. Use your electric mixer (or whisk and arm muscles!) to whip your mixture until frothy. You cannot overmix this ice cream, so feel free to get your anger out as you beat away. Mixing the ice cream is what will give it its creamy smoothness.

5. Repeat and Repeat

Put your ice cream back in the freezer for another 30 minutes. Remove the mixture and mix it again, returning it to the freezer when you’re done. Mix your ice cream about every half hour for 2 hours, returning it to the freezer after each mix. This is a very low-maintenance recipe, so don’t worry about being precise. If you forget to mix your ice cream, just let it soften for a few minutes and then go to town with the mixer.

After four to five mixing sessions your ice cream should be perfectly creamy and delicious. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe storage container and allow to fully freeze.

Toppings and Mix-Ins

Cherry pieces and chocolate chips are mixed into the ice cream.

Photo by Brooke Bischoff

The best part of making homemade ice cream might be that you can add any toppings you like to make a customized delicacy.

Here are some of my favorites:

Chocolate Chips and Fresh Cherries

This is my all-time favorite ice-cream add-in. It’s also the combo when I shot the pictures for this post. For one batch, use a ½ cup of chocolate chips and a ½ cup of chopped and pitted fresh cherries. Stir in the toppings during your last mix so they don’t sink to the bottom. The sweet and tart combo takes this already delicious ice cream over the top.

Chopped Oreos and Mini Marshmallows

If you’ve got a major sweet tooth, this is the combo for you. Simply add a cup of Oreos or store-brand sandwich cookies — you can’t tell the difference once they’re in the ice cream, anyway — to a gallon-size freezer bag and crush the cookies with a rolling pin. Stir in the Oreos and ½ cup of mini marshmallows before the final freeze, and you’re on your way to sugar bliss

Chocolate Syrup and Peanut Butter Cups

Have you guys figured out I am bonkers for anything chocolate, yet? For this sweet-and-salty flavor combo, finely chop six large peanut butter cups and stir them in before the final freeze. Cover the ice cream with chocolate sauce right before serving.

Pomegranate Seeds and Balsamic Syrup

If you’re looking for a more grown-up ice cream, you have to try this sweet-and-savory combo: tart pomegranate seeds and sweet balsamic syrup.

Cut a pomegranate in half and deseed it by tapping the outside of the fruit until the seeds fall into a bowl. You can buy just the seeds, but it’s typically cheaper to buy a whole pomegranate and deseed it yourself. Once you have a ½ cup of seeds, stir them into your ice cream base before it’s final freeze.

Top the ice cream with the balsamic syrup when you’re ready to serve. To save money, make your own balsamic syrup by boiling 1 cup of cheap balsamic vinegar on the stove with a pinch or two of sugar until it reduces to about a ½ cup. The result is a thick, sweet and tart topping for your grown-up sundae.

Homemade ice cream is easy, delicious and infinitely customizable. If you’re like me and consider ice cream a mandatory meal in the summer, save some money by trying this recipe.

What toppings will you think up to add in?

Brooke Bischoff is a writer living in Texas with her cat and coupons. She tweets @bea_bisch.