Cranberry vanilla ice cream is the ultimate dessert! It’s bright, tart, and super creamy. Who knew you could make ice cream this good at home?
Cranberry ambrosia inspired this cranberry vanilla ice cream. I’ve always been fond of the retro dessert. The light freshness makes it addictive, and this ice cream has a similar flavor profile. It starts with a vanilla custard base that consists of milk, cream, sugar, and egg yolks. Then homemade cranberry syrup transforms the vanilla base into cranberry vanilla ice cream. This recipe is a bit more labor-intensive than the others I’ve shared, but the work is well worth it. Also, I assure you that most of the preparation time entails waiting for the ice cream to chill.
Why You’ll Love Cranberry Vanilla Ice Cream
- A perfect blend of flavors – The tartness of fresh cranberries complemented by fragrant notes of citrus combined with the sweetness of vanilla creates the ultimate ice cream flavor. You get a bit of everything, making each spoonful a true delight!
- Smooth and creamy texture – Luxurious is the best way to describe the texture of this cranberry vanilla ice cream. The texture is largely due to the custard base having a fair amount of fat. Without it, the ice cream would be icy and unpleasant.
- Easy to make – There is no reason to be intimidated by homemade ice cream. Although this recipe requires more prep, cranberry vanilla ice cream isn’t difficult to make. Anyone can do it, including yourself. Yes, you!
- Ideal for any occasion – Holidays, birthdays, casual gatherings, you name it! Serve this ice cream, and people will never forget it.
Cranberry Vanilla Ice Cream Ingredients Notes
To make cranberry vanilla ice cream, you will need the following:
- Fresh cranberries: Use fresh cranberries for the best flavor and texture. Frozen berries may introduce too much moisture to the syrup, which could impact the consistency of the ice cream.
- Heavy cream: Heavy cream adds a large portion of the fat, specifically milkfat, needed in the custard base. Additionally, it adds a pleasantly rich flavor.
- Whole milk: The milk helps thin out the mixture and makes it easier to freeze. Milk also comes with milk solids that improve ice cream’s texture while enhancing its air-holding ability, which is handy when churning cranberry vanilla ice cream.
- Sugar: You’ll need sugar to sweeten the mixture and control the amount of ice formed during freezing. Ice cream soft enough to scoop is the goal, and since sugar resists freezing, it is vital.
- Vanilla: Vanilla extract and vanilla bean are used here for more vanilla flavor.
A complete ingredients list with amounts is in the recipe card below!
How to Make Cranberry Vanilla Ice Cream
- Make the syrup: Add the cranberries to a saucepan with sugar and water. Bring the mixture to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes. The syrup is ready when the cranberries are soft and release their juices. After that, leave them to cool a bit before pulsing them in a blender or food processor. You don’t want a smooth texture.
- Prepare the ice cream base: Sugar goes into warm cream and milk to dissolve. Vanilla follows, then the mixture sits for a bit to give the vanilla time to infuse. After some time, the egg yolks are tempered, and the base is heated until thickened, then strained.
- Add the syrup to the base: After orange juice and zest go into the cranberries, the cranberry mixture and custard combine, and you’re one step closer to cranberry vanilla ice cream. Once combined, set it over an ice bath to cool to room temperature.
- Chill the ice cream mixture: Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator overnight.
- Churn the ice cream: Once chilled, pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once churned, you can serve it immediately or transfer the cranberry vanilla ice cream to a container and freeze it until firm.
Variations, Substitutions, and Cooking Tips
Fine-tune temperature control – If you’re worried about accidentally overcooking the custard base, use a double boiler for more temperature control. Those who don’t have a double boiler can place a heat-safe bowl over a pot of water. Make sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
Use frozen cranberries – When fresh cranberries are unavailable, you can replace them with frozen ones. Just thaw them before using them and pat dry to reduce the extra moisture they can add.
Try vanilla bean paste – It can be used in place of the seeds from the pod if you don’t have vanilla beans.
Add nuts or chocolate – For some added texture, mix in chopped nuts or chopped chocolate/shavings before freezing the ice cream. You may want to avoid using chips since they are pretty hard when frozen.
- Cranberry Syrup
- 2 cups fresh cranberries
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- Zest of 1 orange
- Juice of 1 orange
- ¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 cups heavy cream, divided
- 1 cup whole milk
- Pinch of salt
- 1 whole vanilla bean
- 6 egg yolks
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a medium sauce pan, add the fresh cranberries, sugar and water. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes or until the cranberries are soft and tender. Remove from heat and put the mixture into a food processor and pulse about 4-5 times (the texture shouldn't be creamy smooth). Then, transfer to a bowl and place in the fridge to chill.
- In another medium-sized sauce pan, warm 1 cup of cream, the milk and the granulated sugar. Once warmed, and the sugar is dissolved and the vanilla bean (I added the inside of the bean by splitting it and scraping the inside with the back of my knife) cover with a lid and remove from the heat. Allow to sit for about 30 minutes.
- In a medium-sized bowl, add the remaining heavy cream and place a mesh strainer atop the bowl.
- In a separate bowl whisk together the egg yolk. Slowly pour the warmed cream over the egg yolks while whisking constantly, then transfer back into the sauce pan. Stir the mixture constantly over a medium heat until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Add the vanilla extract.
- Once thickened, pour the mixture through the mesh strainer.
- Add the orange zest and juice to the cranberry mixture.
- Combine the cranberry mixture with the custard and set in an ice-bath.
- Let sit until it reaches room temperature then transfer to the fridge overnight.
- Once chilled, add to your ice cream maker and churn according to its instructions.
- Serve immediately, or keep in your freezer!
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