No-Churn Chocolate Ice Cream – Experimental Recipe

No-Churn Ice Cream
No-churn chocolate ice-cream

I love my ice cream maker, but we have a problem. It is the type that doesn't have its own cooling system. Instead, you have to pre-freeze the bowl for 24 hours. I just don't have enough room to keep it in the freezer all the time, so in order to use it, I have to plan ahead, and that doesn't always happen.

The other day I was reading Linda's post about jelly ice cream. This was a bit of improvisation she did on a catering job after forgetting to pack her grape ice cream. She made ice cream on the spot using grape jelly. With no churn available, she realized that the pectin in the jelly would prevent large ice crystals from forming, and it gave a brilliant result. Why?

The primary purpose for churning ice cream is to keep it moving while it is freezing so that the ice crystals stay small. This is aided by freezing the base as quickly as possible. The secondary purpose is to introduce some air into the mix. Pectin solves the first problem a different way. It creates a light but fine gel matrix, limiting the size to which the ice crystals can grow. 

I was fascinated by Linda's discovery because it immediately reminded me of Alex and Aki's sliced chocolate (recipe at PopSci), which I've made quite a few times. Could I use powdered pectin to set ice cream that didn't have pectin built it the way Linda's grape jelly did? 

The answer is yes… the ice cream you see above was made with absolutely no churning. I simply melted the chocolate in the cream and milk, blended in the remaining ingredients and poured them in a shallow pan in the freezer. A couple of hours later: creamy, rice chocolate ice cream without any hint of ice crystals.

This was actually my second try. On the first attempt, I used 1% pectin by weight, figuring that the sliced chocolate recipe was 2% and I didn't want that heavy of a set. It was pretty terrible! Very gummy in the mouth, with a weak flavor and poor melt. Then I remembered that when I've done the sliced chocolate with milk chocolate before, I've had to reduce the pectin level a lot. LM pectin sets in the presence of calcium, and guess what dairy products have a lot of? (This is different than "traditional" HM pectin which sets in the presence of sugar.)

This second batch I cut that down to about 0.23% by weight and it was drastically better. There is still a hint of pudding-pop about it, but everyone enjoyed it greatly.

Now I've only made this twice, and I've got a whole bunch of questions that will be answered with future batches:

  1. How long will this keep in the freezer? Possibly longer than normal ice cream since the pectin will reduce synerisis (water separating when thawed and frozen).
  2. Can I reduce the pectin even further without ice crystals forming? I'm pretty sure the answer will be yes, since this batch was completely creamy.
  3. If so, will it help to stir it occasionally in the freezer? That might incorporate a bit of air, too, which is nice in small doses.
  4. Will I need more pectin if I use a higher cream to milk ratio (since there is less calcium in cream)?
  5. How well it work with other flavors besides chocolate?
  6. Are there any issues with making a larger amount instead of a pint if I still freeze in the same size container? (Meaning it will freeze more slowly).

No-Churn Ice Cream
Gluten-free / Yields 1 pint + /  15 minutes active time

  • 20 grams (3 tablespoons) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 80 grams (7 tablespoons) granulated sugar
  • 1 gram (1 big pinch) salt 
  • 1.6 grams Pomona-brand LM pectin (about 0.23 % by weight of mix)
  • 234 grams (1 cup) heavy cream
  • 234 grams (1 cup) whole milk
  • 120 grams (4 ounces) dark chocolate (70%), roughly chopped
  • 1 gram (1/4 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and pectin. Place a 9×13" casserole pan or other shallow pan in the freezer to chill.
  2. Put the cream, milk and chopped chocolate in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, whisking frequently, until it reaches a bare simmer (190 F.)
  3. Remove the pan from the heat. Carefully use an immersion blender at high speed to form a vortex in the liquid. Slowly pour the dry mixture into the vortex and move the blender around until it is fully incorporated. Continue to blend for 1 full minute more. (You can also do this in a regular blender as long as you know the method for blending hot liquids safely).
  4. Pour the ice cream base through a sieve into the chilled pan. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until ready to serve. Remove from freezer at least 10 minutes before serving to allow it to soften slightly.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, January 31st, 2011 in Desserts, Experiments, Gluten-Free or modifiable, Recipes.

34 Responses to “No-Churn Chocolate Ice Cream – Experimental Recipe”

  1. January 31, 2011 at 7:23 am #

    This is fascinating! The ice cream in the photo looks like it has an amazing mouthfeel. I’d like to see how this would work with a non-dairy coconut milk base, though by the time I have time to work out a formula and try it, I’ll probably (hopefully) be able to eat dairy again. I’ll let you know if I have any luck.

  2. Michael Natkin
    January 31, 2011 at 7:30 am #

    Oh, right, add that to the list of questions! I think the answer will be, it should work fine as long as you add calcium as needed. The Pomona brand pectin comes with a little package of calcium that you can mix in when there isn't any already present. The only challenge will be to work out the right amount. This should be great with a coconut-milk base.

  3. January 31, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    I have the same ice cream maker and have always wondered if there are ways to make ice cream without churning… looks like it turned out really well!

  4. John
    January 31, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    It’d be great if you could also add “air” by doing something with (a) a largish pressure vessel and a CO2 cartridge, or (b) seltzer. Unfortunately, the solubility of most gasses goes UP as the temperature goes down, so there’s no obvious way to get bubble to form “as it freezes.” Maybe that’s why they invented the ice-cream mixer. :(

  5. Michael Natkin
    January 31, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    I think that would work if you started by refrigerating in a cream whipper until partly thickened, then adding N2O and dispensing into the freezer bowl. Might add too much air though. CO2 would likely leave it somewhat carbonated even after frozen? Not positive. That might be interesting too :).

  6. January 31, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    Thank you for an interesting recipe!

  7. January 31, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    Great work Michael! I’m thinking of throwing my ice cream machine away ;)

  8. January 31, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Fascinating — hope you will keep us posted on future variations!

  9. January 31, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    I’m chewing on how to replace the addition of pectin with homemade jam (which has variable amounts of pectin).

    Thanks for highlighting this process- really looking forward to whipping this up tonight!

    …and maybe an apricot jam version?

  10. Michael Natkin
    January 31, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    Good question! You can look back at the link to Linda's original piece, although I don't believe she did any calculations there, so you might have to wing it a bit. Let me know how it turns out.

  11. January 31, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

    Cool! So do you think it would work pretty well with soy milk, or a combo of soy milk and coconut milk? I can’t digest the cream n stuff. I’ll give it a go. I feel your freezer space pain, btw!

  12. Michael Natkin
    January 31, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    I do think it will work, you just may need to add calcium (which comes in a packet along with the Pomona pectin at least, possibly other brands of LM pectin). Let me know how it works if you try it!

  13. January 31, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

    Awesome! When I read Linda’s post I was blown away. Nice job taking the baton and running even further with it. This kind of internet bouncing of ideas is inspiring… just like the gelatin (and later agar agar) clarification method a year or so ago.
    Can’t wait to see what you or someone else does with it next… possibly a savory ice cream without sugar.

  14. February 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    Amazing tip! I recently bought a box of pectin for molecular gastronomic uses, and this process definitely qualifies as one in my opinion!

  15. February 1, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    Is sounds too good to be true!! I don;t have that brand of pectin, maybe I should try with my standard jam pectin :-)

  16. Michael Natkin
    February 1, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    I think it will be possible to do with regular (HM, not LM) pectin, since there is plenty of sugar in ice cream – but you'll have to experiment to find the right amount to use, it won't necessarily be the same. Please do let me know if you try it!

  17. February 2, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    Fascinating post. How does it feel in the mouth? Is it smoother? Wow, you’ve got me thinking. We actually broke down and bought an ice cream maker with its own compressor. We too didn’t have enough freezer space nor did we always want to plan ahead.

  18. Michael Natkin
    February 2, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    Hey Lael – it is *very* creamy in the mouth, with just a hint of extra thickness like a pudding pop (frozen chocolate pudding). I kind of like that, but I still want to look into how low I can go with the pectin, for cases where I don't want that feel. It also has essentially no air beaten in, so in that respect it is like a super-premium ice cream. The flavor is very concentrated.

  19. February 2, 2011 at 10:25 pm #

    Wow! The ice cream look good. I would love to try this one. This is interesting.

  20. February 6, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    Whoa…what a break-through.

  21. February 6, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    This is incredibly clever! I don’t have an ice cream maker, and would love to try this!

  22. February 7, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    Interesting recipe for ice cream. I like the fact the smaller ice crystals gives the ice cream a smoother texture.

  23. February 12, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    Brilliant! As someone with a large canning habit (we ordered Pomona pectin in bulk last year) and no ice cream maker, I’m ridiculously excited about this prospect.

  24. February 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    Wow! I love the pectin experimentation! I actually have the room for my ice cream maker, and never make ice cream, but I (should I be embarrassed?) love pudding pops! And I love nerdy pectin talk, too!

  25. February 14, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    The scientist in me is geeking out! This is so cool! Intriguing enough to try.

  26. February 15, 2011 at 11:53 pm #

    Very delicious, thanks.

  27. February 16, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    It looks and enough easy to try and i dont have a churn. Can it be made with berries or fruit juice insted of chocolate too?

  28. Michael Natkin
    February 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    I've only tried it with chocolate so far. If you are doing it with berries and milk, I expect it will be fine. With fruit juice, you may need to add some of the calcium that comes in the box with the pectin.

  29. February 17, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    This sounds so delicious! I’m going to have to try this!

    Vegan Heartland – link to moreleaflessbeef.blogspot.com

  30. February 25, 2011 at 4:32 am #

    What a brilliant idea!

  31. May 31, 2011 at 2:44 am #

    brilliant! made me want to go out and buy ice cream.

  32. November 29, 2011 at 2:56 am #

    It’s so so yummy. Deliver a cup to my house please…. :)

  33. Callie
    July 10, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

    I’m so excited to try this, and lots of other recipes from your blog which I’ve just found, but I can’t do dairy. Any ideas about substituting the milk and cream with soy milk and ??? maybe coconut milk? Thanks for any ideas!

    • July 10, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

      I suspect either of those would work, but I haven’t tried them. I don’t think anything in the recipe is particularly depending on cow milk.

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