This chocolate caramel ice cream is the best chocolate ice cream you’ll ever have. The caramel base adds a lot of complexity without taking over. I took the “easy” way out and made dulce de leche by boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk. You can also make your own dulce de leche on the stovetop.
I add a fig swirl using homemade fig jam here, and you can do the same. You can also leave out the swirl entirely, use your favorite jam, or even add in chopped candy bars and/or coarse cookie crumbs. Make it your own, and enjoy!
For ease of browsing, you can find all my ice cream recipes in one place. Thanks so much for visiting!
Why You Should Make This Ice Cream
At its heart, this very fancy sounding ice cream is chocolate caramel ice cream.
Chocolate ice cream made with a caramel base.
Just like with the best hot fudge sauce in the world, caramelizing the base lends tons of complexity you just can’t get with a neutral or vanilla base. .
We discovered this at the restaurant when I was playing around with ice cream bases one day. That was one of the best days ever, because the chocolate caramel ice cream turned out to be everyone’s favorite.
So if you are the kind of person who says “Chocolate ice cream is great, but I wish it could be even better,” then this chocolate caramel number is for you!
Making A No-Churn Caramel Base
Starting with a caramel base for no-churn ice cream is easy.
All you do is caramelize your can of sweetened condensed milk by submerging it in a pot of water and letting it boil for 1 1/2 hours.
This amount of time yields a light caramel that is still pourable, and that’s exactly what I wanted.
If you boil it for too long, it gets really dark and complex and so thick you can scoop it like butter.
The downside of that is you have to add more liquid to make sure the ice cream sets up. At an hour and a half, you’ve developed some complex flavors but haven’t gotten rid of so much liquid that the ice cream won’t freeze. Lovely!
Why a Fig Swirl?
I fancied up my chocolate caramel ice cream by layering in some lovely fig spread I found at the store.
You could also use homemade fig jam.
Since figs are friends with both chocolate and caramel, it is a match made in heaven.
Breaking up the rich smooth texture with the occasional fig seed adds just a hint of crunch without being in your face. I think it is just about perfect.
To Swirl or Not to Swirl
If you are not a fan of figs, swirl in almost anything your heart desires.
The key to making a swirl in ice cream isn’t actually swirling anything. It’s about layering the base with whatever you’re swirling. I usually do four layers of base interspersed with 3 layers of swirl.
Once I’m finished, I might do a quick swirl with a knife, but you don’t even really have to do that.
When you scoop your ice cream, you’ll get swirls and stripes of your jam or whatever you’re using. Nice!
Making the Ice Cream
There are a few steps to making this chocolate caramel ice cream, but it is no churn and only has 6 ingredients. It is definitely worth the little bit of extra work to make this gorgeous ice cream.
- heavy cream: The cream allows you to whip air into the base so it thickens and sets properly without being as hard as a rock
- sweetened condensed milk: You’ll be boiling one can of sweetened condensed milk, submerged in water by at least an inch, for about 1 1/2 hours. This is enough to make sure the milk is lightly caramelized without being so thick that you can’t pour it. Boiling the milk gives you the subtle but complex caramel flavors that make this ice cream so incredibly good. Do not substitute store-bought dulce de leche. It has a very artificial flavor that will come through in the finished ice cream.
- cocoa powder: Adds lots of chocolate flavor with a minimal amount of fat (this ice cream has enough fat in it, thanks to the heavy cream)
- semi-sweet chocolate: Further emphasizes the chocolate flavor. You can also use bittersweet chocolate here. Feel free to use good-quality chocolate chips. You can also use your favorite dark “eating chocolate” and chop it up.
- vanilla: Rounds out the flavors.
- salt: Brings out all the flavors and counteracts any bitterness from the cocoa powder.
- fig jam: This is optional, but fig and chocolate is fantastic together. Feel free to substitute your favorite jam, or leave it out entirely.
In making regular no-churn ice cream, you’d simply combine a can of sweetened condensed milk (I like to refrigerate mine overnight so it’s already cold) and a pint of heavy whipping cream.
Here’s how that procedure differs for caramel chocolate goodness:
- Boil the sealed can of sweetened condensed milk for 1 1/2 hours to caramelize it, turning it into a light dulce de leche.
- Chop chocolate and put into a bowl.
- Heat heavy cream and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan, whisking all the while, until it comes to a high simmer.
- Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate, allow it to sit for a minute to melt the chocolate, and then whisk until smooth.
- Combine the can of boiled sweetened condensed milk with the heavy cream/chocolate, cover, and chill until cold, at least a few hours or up to overnight.
Once you have the base prepared, the rest is easy:
- Pour the ice cream base into your mixer bowl (or if you’re using a hand mixer, leave it in the bowl you used to refrigerate it).
- Whip until thickened like cake batter. You don’t want medium peaks here–at the most, go for very soft peaks so the base sort of mounds up a little before sinking in when you drop some back into the bowl.
- Scrape your base into a freezer-safe container–layering in your fig spread or whatever you’ve chosen to mix in–press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream.
- Freeze for a good 8 hours before serving.
Tips for Success
Make sure your base is very cold before whipping, otherwise it could take too long, and you could inadvertently end up making butter. Boo. Thoroughly chill the base before whipping.
When making a swirled ice cream, it’s all about layering the swirl and the ice cream together. I usually do 3 layers of swirl alternating with 4 layers of base.
Chocolate Caramel Ice Cream Q & A
No, you don’t. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a very excellent no-churn chocolate ice cream. Boiling the sweetened condensed milk until it lightly caramelizes brings added complexity to an already delicious ice cream, and the choice is yours.
I’ve already mentioned that you can either leave out the fig jam entirely or substitute a different flavor of jam. Orange marmalade would be a great choice, as would cherry or raspberry jam. Make a swirl using some quick fudge sauce or even swirl in some of my “best hot fudge sauce in the world.” Consider also adding some chopped almonds for a “Jamocha almond fudge” type version. Or mix in crumbled cookies or edible cookie dough for a chocolate cookies and cream ice cream. Lots of choices here, and there are really no wrong answers!
For best flavor and texture, you should enjoy your ridiculously delicous chocolate caramel ice cream within a week.
If you have a question/questions about this or any other post, whether recipe or technique, don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’m happy to help.
You can leave a comment on the post, and I will respond within 24 hours. If you need an answer more urgently, please email me, and I will respond within about 4 hours (unless I’m sleeping) and often much more quickly than that.
Either way, I will answer as completely as I can. That’s why I’m here!
If you make this recipe and/or have enjoyed or learned from reading this post, I’d appreciate it if you could share this!
I have Convenient share buttons that float to the left on desk top and on mobile which invite you to share on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter or Yummly.
If you make the recipe, please consider rating it a rating and a review. You can do this via the recipe card in the post.
Reviews really help sell the recipe, and negative reviews help me tune into what people really want to have explained better, so any ratings and reviews are helpful!
Also feel free to tag me on Instagram at @onlinepastrychef with #pcorecipe so I can find your creation. Thank you!
- 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 oz (1 /3 cup) cocoa powder, sifted to remove lumps
- 2 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, (chips or chopped)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Optional Swirl
- 3/4 cup fig jam or jam of choice
- Put the can of sweetened condensed milk in a large pot and fill with water so it's covered by about an inch.
- Bring to a boil, partially cover the pot, and reduce the heat to maintain a low boil.
- Boil for 1 1/2 hours.
- Remove the can from the water using tongs and let sit out at room temperature to cool until just warm.
- Place the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl.
- Combine the heavy cream and cocoa powder in a sauce pan. Over medium heat, whisk until the cocoa powder is all mixed in with the cream. Heat until steaming it reaches a bare simmer, whisking occasionally.
- Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit a minute.
- Whisk until the chocolate is melted.and smooth.
- Whisk in the caramelized sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and salt and chill until cold.
- Pour the base in your mixer bowl. Attach the whisk attachment and whisk until the base is about the consistency of thick cake batter or very soft peaks.
- Pour into your freezer-safe container. Press plastic wrap down on the surface of the ice cream and freeze for at least 8 hours before scooping and enjoying.
For the Optional Swirl
- Layer in 1/4 of the whipped base and top with about 3 tablespoons of fig jam or spread of your choice.
- Repeat with 3 more layers of whipped base and 2 more layers of jam. Run a knife through the ice cream a few times if you want. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the ice cream and freeze at least 8 hours before scooping.
Nutritionals based on 12 servings with the fig swirl included. Please use the nutritional information as a guide and not as gospel.
Nutrition InformationYield 12 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 371Total Fat 21gSaturated Fat 13gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 60mgSodium 119mgCarbohydrates 42gFiber 1gSugar 36gProtein 5g
The stated nutritional information is provided as a courtesy. It is calculated through third party software and is intended as a guideline only.
Want me to occasionally drop into your inbox? You can make that happen by signing up for my newsletter!
Whether you make this chocolate caramel ice cream plain or add in layers of jammy goodness and/or crunchies, I really hope you make it. You will be amazed at how much the caramel base boosts the chocolate. So good!
One note: while this ice cream is ridiculously good, it is also very rich. If you decide to pour sauce over it, I would not use the richest sauce in the world. It might be a little bit too much.
And there you have it. Either the best chocolate ice cream you will ever eat or the fanciest caramel chocolate ice cream you will ever eat. Either way, you can’t lose!
Thanks for spending some time with me today. Enjoy the chocolate caramel ice cream (with or without the fig swirl), and have a lovely day.