Homemade Ice Cream: Perfect Custard Base

The only ice cream recipe you’ll ever need! This rich and creamy Custard Ice Cream recipe is the perfect base for any flavors you are craving.

Homemade ice cream is a delicious treat! Handy home-appliances make homemade ice cream a breeze!

My favorite type of homemade ice cream is custard based. It is thick, creamy, rich, and a great canvas for any flavor combination you are craving. The prepwork is a bit more involved than sugar/cream mixtures, but the result is completely worth it!

I follow a basic guideline for my custard ice creams, but it is customizable to your preferences, once you understand the basic formulation.

Custard Ice Cream Formula

First, you need dairy! You need a total of 3 cups of dairy, combining heavy whipping cream and whole milk. My favorite formulation is 2 cups heavy cream + 1 cup whole milk. But you could also do the opposite – 1 cup heavy cream + 2 cups whole milk, realizing the resulting ice cream will be a bit less creamy.

Next, you need eggs! This recipe will work with 3-6 egg yolks. The more egg you use, the richer your custard ice cream will be. I go for the full 6 egg yolks. (It’s a treat, after all). But you can do as few as 3 egg yolks! It’s going to be delish either way.

The third ingredient is sugar. Use up to a cup of sugar in this recipe. But, feel free to adjust your sweetener based on the type of ice cream you are making. If you’re making Oreo ice cream, you’ll need less sugar! Give it a taste and decide what tastes best to you!

Now, a bit of salt to balance the creamy texture and enhance the rich flavor. Use the good kosher or sea salt!

Last, decide which flavor you’d like! Scroll down for a list of our favorites! If you’re using an aromatic (vanilla, mint, cinnamon, etc.) add to the ice cream base while it’s heating, allowing the flavors to steep in the warm mixture. Want a fruity ice cream? Puree the fruit with a bit of sugar and add cup of the puree to the ice cream base when you add it to the ice cream machine. Adding chunks of fruit, cookies, etc., add to the ice cream mixer in the last few minutes of mixing.

Custard Ice Cream Method

1. Heat the Dairy + Sugar + Salt

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the diary (cream + whole milk), sugar, and salt. Add aromatics at this time, if using. Heat until the mixture is warm and the sugar has dissolved.

2. Temper the Egg Yolks

While the milk is heating, gently whisk the egg yolks together. When the dairy mixture is warmed, it is time to add the eggs. But, if you dump them straight into the hot milk, they will scramble! So, we must heat (or temper) them first. It’s easy, just takes a minute.

To gently warm the egg yolks, add a spoonful of the warm milk mixture into the bowl of the yolks and stir completely. Repeat several more times, until the eggs are as warm as the milk mixture in the pan. When warmed, add the yolks into the saucepan and stir.

3. Thicken the Mixture

Leave the pan on medium or medium-low heat and stir regularly as the mixture thickens. When the mixture coats the back of the spoon. You can also use a thermometer to check the temperature. When it’s about 180 degrees, remove from the heat.

4. Strain the Mixture

Place a mesh strainer over a mixing bowl and run the ice cream base through it to remove any lumps or pieces of egg that may have cooked.

5. Cool the Mixture

If you’re hoping to make ice cream ASAP, cool the base over an ice bath. Simply fill a larger mixing bowl with ice and place the ice cream base bowl in the ice. Stir every few minutes for 30-45 minutes, until the base has cooled.

Alternatively, you can cool the mixture in the fridge for a couple of hours. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap touching the surface of the base to prevent a film from forming.

6. Make Ice Cream

When the mixture has completely cooled, it’s time to churn the ice cream. Follow the directions specific to your ice cream maker. This recipe will work in a 1.5 quart machine or larger.

If adding fruit, chocolate sauce, caramel, etc., add to the ice cream base when pouring it to the ice cream maker. If you want to add other fruit or cookie pieces, add to the ice cream during the last few minutes of churning to prevent it from becoming totally smashed during the freezing process.

If you’d like to add swirls of fruit, chocolate, caramel, etc – layer between ice cream in a separate container and freeze for a few hours to harden.

7. Eat or Harden

When mixed, eat immediately, or transfer to a freezer-safe container to fully harden in the freezer for a couple of hours, at least. Enjoy within a month for the freshest flavor!

Custard Ice Cream Recipe

Custard Ice Cream Formula

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By Candace Heward Serves: About 1 Quart

The only ice cream recipe you'll ever need! This rich and creamy Custard Ice Cream recipe is the perfect base for any flavors you are craving.


  • 3 cups dairy (combination of whole milk & heavy whipping cream - see notes)
  • 1/2 -1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3-6 large egg yolks
  • Your choice of flavorings (see chart below)



In a small saucepan, warm the diary, sugar, and salt over medium heat. Add any aromatics at this time (cinnamon, mint sugar, vanilla, citrus sugar, etc). Warm the milk mixture, whisking to incorporate any flavorings. Heat the mixture until the sugar is dissolved.


Prepare a straining and cooling station by placing a mixing bowl inside a larger bowl filled with ice. Set a strainer over the small mixing bowl.


Now, you'll temper the egg yolks. Start by whisking the egg yolks together in a small mixing bowl. Slowly warm the egg yolks by adding a spoonful of the warm milk mixture, then stirring together. Continue adding a little milk, followed by a good stir until the egg is as warm as the milk mixture. Then pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the remaining dairy mixture.


Heat the egg and dairy mixture over medium heat, stirring and scraping the bottom as your stir. Heat until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. You should be able to run your finger across the back of the spoon and the mixture will not run. (about 180° F on an instant-read thermometer).


Pour the custard through the strainer into the prepared mixing bowls set up as a cooling station. Discard items left in the strainer.


Stir the custard occasionally, until it has chilled. You can also place the mixture in the fridge for a couple hours to chill.


Process ice cream according to manufacturer's instructions. Add chunks of fruit or cookies or other flavorings during the last few minutes of the mixing process.


Serve immediately for soft serve ice cream or freeze overnight for scoop able ice cream.


DAIRY- You need three cups of dairy. Use a combination of heavy whipping cream and whole milk, at least one cup of each. Then, decide which one to use for the third cup. You can also use half of each. It's delicious any way, but it will be richer and creamier with 2 cups of cream + 1 cup of whole milk.

Custard Ice Cream Flavors

Slice 2 vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Alternatively, use 2 Tablespoons vanilla bean paste. Add the seeds and pods to the custard while it is still warm. Let custard steep for at least 30 minutes before straining.
In a food processor, pulse together 1 cup clean mint leaves with 2/3 cup sugar until pulverized and bright green. Use this herb sugar to make the custard base. Let custard steep off the heat for 30 minutes before straining.
Add 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon to the milk and sugar mixture, before you prepare the custard.
In a food processor, pulse zest of 3 lemons or lime with 2/3 cup granulated sugar until smooth and brightly colored. Use citrus sugar instead of plain sugar to make the custard base. Let custard steep for 30 minutes before straining. After straining, add fresh lime juice and zest from one lime!
In a blender, puree one pound of strawberries, 3 Tablespoons sugar, 1/2 tsp lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Taste. Add more sugar or lemon if necessary. Make ice cream base, withholding one cup of whole milk. Stir in the fruit puree before chilling.
Pit and dice 3 pounds peaches. In a saucepan over medium heat, gently simmer fruit with 1/2 cup sugar until tender, about 10 minutes. Puree in a food process or blender. Make the base without 1 cup of whole milk. Stir 1/2 cup buttermilk and the fruit puree to the base. Add a few drops of almond extract, if desired.
Simmer 6 cups pitted cherries (about 2 pounds) with 1/3 cup sugar, until cherries are very soft. Puree in a food processor or blender. Make base without 1 cup of milk. Stir 1/2 cup buttermilk and cherry puree into warm custard base.
In a saucepan, bring 3/4 cup cream and 3 Tablespoons Extra Brute cocoa powder to a simmer. Put 1 cup chopped semisweet chocolate into a mixing bowl. Pour hot cocoa & cream mixture over the chocolate to melt. Stir until smooth. Make base using 1 1/2 cups milk, 3/4 cup sugar, and no more cream. Stir chocolate mixture, 3/4 cup sour cream, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract into prepared custard base. Strain & chill.
Salted Caramel:
Melt 1 cup Peter’s Caramel in a microwave safe bowl. Prepare custard base, withholding the sugar. Add 2 Tablespoons of prepared custard base and stir until smooth. Add caramel mixture to the custard base and stir until smooth. Strain and chill. Add 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt to the base during the last 2 minutes of churning.
Peanut Butter:
Make the base using 2 cups milk and 1 cup cream. Whisk 1 cup peanut butter and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract into warm, strained base. Chill.
Recipe variations from New York Times and Simply Recipes.

Looking for a good ice cream machine? Check out the machines we recommend.

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  • Reply
    April 22, 2020 at 9:22 am

    Great ice cream. I would use as a base all the time. The picture shows the custard ice cream base as white, when really it is a soft yellow. I added in 4 yolks.

  • Reply
    Rika Cooking
    May 17, 2021 at 12:56 am

    Looks very delicious

  • Reply
    Margaret Nutley
    November 23, 2021 at 9:37 pm

    Can I make this recipe without an ice cream maker?

  • Reply
    February 18, 2022 at 7:45 pm

    Could you use a fruit preserve instead of fresh fruit in this? How would you do that?
    I’ve made the caramel version and it’s incredible!

  • Leave a Reply