I’ve been buying lemons by the boxful from farmers in Spain, and despite the cold weather, have been making this lemon ice cream on rotation. It’s refreshing, a little tart, and the very slight coconut flavour plays off the citrus nicely.
Using honey instead of sugar serves more than one purpose – it tastes great, especially with the lemon, and also helps to prevent crystal formation. This results in a smoother bite, particularly important with a dairy-free ice cream.
This recipe uses eggs for a more traditional custard-based ice cream, which makes it very smooth, silky, and almost identical to a dairy-based version. If you’re looking for a fully plant-based option, try my vegan coconut ice cream, and add in some lemon juice and zest.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Coconut cream: this can be bought specifically as coconut cream, or scooped from the top of a couple cans of full-fat coconut milk. Don’t use the water. Not to be confused with creamed coconut, which comes in blocks. I use full-fat coconut milk simply because it’s easier to find in shops, but an equal amount of coconut cream will be richer. If you can get the large cans of coconut cream (usually 80% coconut) use that instead.
- Honey: this improves the texture of the ice cream by keeping it softer when frozen. Maple syrup or another liquid sweetener can work in place of honey in a pinch. I don’t recommend this, as it will be a harder ice cream when frozen.
- Lemon: try other citrus flavours – orange or blood orange are both excellent. You can also try subbing the lemon juice with grapefruit juice, or use multiple types of citrus. Bergamot is lovely and very floral if you can get it.
- Vanilla: lemon and vanilla are a stellar flavour combination, like birthday cake. I used a whole bean but extract, powder, or paste are equally good.
Step by Step
Step 1: Combine the coconut milk, honey, vanilla, and lemon zest. Cook for about five minutes.
Step 2: Whisk the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl. Add a quarter cup of the heated cream mixture to the egg yolks and whisk thoroughly.
Step 3: Add the remaining cream mixture and whisk again to combine.
Step 4: place the custard mixture back onto the heat and cook for about ten minutes.
Step 5: once the custard is ready, it will be thickened and coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Step 6: remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Let the custard cool slightly before covering and refrigerating until chilled through.
Step 7: once the custard has chilled, add it to your ice cream maker and churn according to the machine instructions. See below for how to make it without a machine.
Step 8: once the ice cream has churned, serve immediately or freeze in an airtight container.
Adding a small amount of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolks before adding the rest tempers the yolks, preventing them from scrambling. Don’t skip this step.
It will take about ten minutes to cook the custard down, as it does with any egg-based custard. Grab a stool if you need and keep stirring or you’ll get scrambled egg ice cream. See the image above to show how it coats the back of a spoon when ready – this becomes second nature in time.
I don’t recommend trying to make this vegan with starches or other substitutes. I’m afraid I have never tried to make this particular recipe vegan and can’t advise on it.
Make it Without a Machine
I haven’t tried this particular recipe without an ice cream maker, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work with one of the normal methods.
You can make a kind of granita by pouring the custard into a freezer-safe dish and stirring it with a fork every hour while it freezes. Alternatively, if you have a high-powered blender, freeze the custard in chunks (in an ice cube tray, for example), and blend once frozen to make a smooth ice cream.
- Keep stirring: this will burn and curdle if not stirred constantly, so get ready to stand over the stove for several minutes. It’s worth it.
- Warm it up before serving: thaw at room temperature for about ten minutes before serving if frozen through, just as you would for store-bought ice cream.
- Add to it: for a double lemon ice cream, try swirling in some honey lemon curd immediately before freezing fully. Other additions like raspberry jam or blueberry compote are nice too.
- Use unwaxed lemons: seek out unwaxed organic lemons for this recipe if possible as you’re using the zest. Wash with warm water beforehand.
More Dairy-Free Frozen Treats
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Honey Lemon Ice Cream
- 400 grams coconut cream scooped from the top of canned full-fat coconut milk
- 120 grams honey
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract*
- Zest of two lemons
- 3 egg yolks
- Juice of a lemon ~3 tablespoons
- Combine the coconut cream, honey, vanilla, and lemon zest in a saucepan over low-medium heat and cook for about five minutes, or until the honey is entirely incorporated into the cream.400 grams coconut cream, 120 grams honey, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract*, Zest of two lemons
- Whisk the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl. Add a quarter cup of the heated cream mixture to the egg yolks and whisk thoroughly. Add the remaining cream mixture and whisk again to combine.3 egg yolks
- Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low-medium heat, stirring constantly, for about ten minutes, or until it coats the back of a wooden spoon.
- Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Let the custard cool slightly before covering and refrigerating until chilled through, at least four hours.Juice of a lemon
- Once the custard has chilled, add it to your ice cream maker** and churn according to the machine instructions.
- Once the ice cream has churned, serve immediately or freeze in an airtight container. Thaw at room temperature for about ten minutes before serving if frozen through. Freeze for up to a month.
* For American cup measurements, please click the pink link text above the ingredient list that says ‘American’.
Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.
This post was originally published in August 2014. It has been most recently updated as of March 2021.
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