You guys are going to love this easy and refreshing lemon ice cream recipe, I can almost guarantee it.

You will turn to this recipe over and over again, I hope, because lemons are so readily available, and it’s difficult if not impossible to find lemon ice cream in the stores, at least here in the US.

I’ll show you how to make this no-cook, egg-free base and how to churn it without the need of an electric churn. If you have one, that’s great and of course you can use it, but if you don’t, I’ll show you how to end up with ice cream every bit as creamy, no fancy machine needed.

If lemon is your thing, stick with me. You may enjoy my indulgent lemon pudding recipe or maybe my sunshiny lemon bars. And for another sweet-tart ice cream, try my passion fruit ice cream.

For ease of browsing, you can find all my ice cream recipes in one place. Thanks for being here. Let’s get to it.

Two scoops of lemon ice cream in a pale blue bowl with a carton of heavy cream in the background and a cut lemon in the foreground.

Watch my best lemon ice cream recipe web story here.

Simply put, I was sad to see the bottom of the container! This ice cream was smooth, tangy, not overly sweet and full of flavor. Pure sunshine!!

Reader Carol

Why You Need to Make This Recipe

This lemon ice cream is a winner, friends. Here’s why you’ll love it:

In a Nutshell:
✅Nice balance of tart to sweet to creamy
✅Scoopable straight from the freezer
✅No mixer or ice cream maker necessary
✅Customizable

Holy grail of lemon ice cream! Tried this recipe yesterday and WOW! That is the best lemon ice cream I’ve ever had! I own a vegetable farm and I shared it with my crew at the end of a hot day. They literally licked their bowls clean!

Reader Jill

I really do hope you give this recipe a try, my friends.

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One of the nicest things about it, apart from the flavor and texture, is that it’s very easy to make.

No cooked base.

No high-speed whipping in a stand mixer like a traditional no-churn ice cream.

No need to use an ice cream maker.

So How Does It Freeze and Get Creamy?

Fair question.

To make this ice cream, once you make the base, put it in a bowl and put it in the freezer.

Every 45 minutes or so, whisk it really well, making sure to scrape the more frozen bits from the sides of the bowl into the center and whisking until the mixture is smooth.

Over time, the mixture will get thicker and more frozen until it is the same texture it would be if you used an ice cream maker.

A spoon of freshly churned vanilla ice cream held over the ice cream maker to show the texture.

At that point, just press plastic wrap on the surface of the ice cream and allow it to finish freezing.

With an ice cream maker, the dasher (the mixer blade for the machine) keeps scraping the colder bits along the sides of the metal container into the center. Since it happens continuously, the mixture gets to the soft-serve stage in about 20-25 minutes.

For this ice cream, your whisk performs the same job, but it takes longer since you can’t sit in the freezer and whisk continuously!

How to Make It

A container of ice cream with an ice cream scoop in it. ON the counter are a carton of heavy cream, lemon slices, a spoonful of powdered sugar, and a can of sweetened condensed milk.

This will go pretty quickly because this is a very easy process. If you’d like to skip straight to the recipe, though, you can here.

Ingredients and Substitutions

Here’s what you’ll need to make this ice cream. I will provide substitutions where applicable.

Images of all the ingredients needed to make lemon ice cream, labeled and on a white background. The ingredients are cream cheese, powdered sugar, sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream, half and half, salt, lemon zest, lemon juice, and turmeric for color, which is optional.
  • cream cheese: Cream cheese adds a little tang and body, and it contributes to the “scoopability” of straight out of the freezer
  • powdered sugar: You can also use granulated sugar. In that case, I’d stir it into the lemon juice until it is completely dissolved. If you want a slightly less-sweet dessert that is much firmer straight out of the freezer, you may omit this.
  • sweetened condensed milk: Adds the bulk of the sweetness and some volume without adding a lot of extra water, so it also contributes to the creamy mouthfeel
  • heavy cream: Adds enough butterfat to make the texture nice and creamy
  • half and half: Adds a little more fat, but since half and half is half cream and half whole milk, you also get more water which ultimately contributes to how firmly the ice cream sets. If you want an even firmer texture, you may substitute whole milk for the half and half
  • salt: Brings all the flavors into focus and counteracts any bitterness you may get from the lemons
  • lemon zest: Adds the floral and sweet lemon notes and rounds out the lemon flavor profile
  • lemon juice: Adds more volume, more water, and the sour tanginess you expect from lemons. Using either zest or juice will not result in a well-rounded lemon flavor. You need both
  • turmeric: This is optional to add a slightly creamy yellow color. You only need a very little bit, so add judiciously unless you want to taste the astringent, earthy flavor of the turmeric. You can also use a drop of yellow food coloring or just leave the coloring out entirely

Procedure

This is a very easy ice cream base to put together. No stand mixer. No stove. No straining.

Here’s the order of operations:

  1. Soften cream cheese in the microwave for 30-40 seconds until very soft. Whisk it well until there are no lumps at all.
  2. Add the sugar and salt and whisk well to combine.
  3. Pour in the sweetened condensed milk, whisking well to combine.
  4. Follow by adding the cream and half and half.
  5. Once all of that is mixed until it’s very smooth, add the lemon zest and lemon juice and whisk.

Jenni Says: Your ice cream base will begin to thicken once you add the lemon juice. Worry not–just whisk it really well.

Only add turmeric or yellow food coloring if you want your ice cream to be a little lemony in color. Neither adds anything to the flavor or the creaminess of the base.

Freezing Instructions

Once you have the base made, it’s time to freeze it. The trick is to be able to freeze it and keep the creamy texture.

If you just pour it into a bowl and allow it to freeze, it would taste good, but it would be a bit too icy and not as creamy.

So, be your own ice cream maker and put the bowl of base in your freezer, whisking the mixture very well every 45 minutes or so, until it is about the texture of soft-serve.

The collage below is from my post on making butterscotch ice cream. But it’s the same procedure.

I’m sharing it here so you can get an idea of what the texture should be after whisking.

Note that the butterscotch base uses a cornstarch-thickened milk mixture and is thicker than the lemon base will be. Because it’s thinner, it will take more than 3 rounds of whisking to get the lemon ice cream to the proper texture.

A collage of 6 images showing how to whisk and freeze ice cream base if you don't have an ice cream maker.

Use the tines of the whisk to scrape the more frozen parts of the mixture into the center to evenly distribute the ice crystals and control their size (by busting them up with the whisk) as they freeze.

You’ll know you’re done when it takes a fair bit of effort to whisk the base.

Just like an ice cream maker slows down once it’s is ready, you’ll slow down too!

Tips and Tricks for Success

My favorite way of juicing lemons is by using a spoon. Just insert the spoon into the center of a cut half of a lemon and squeeze around it, wiggling the spoon back and forth to get to all the pulp.

Half a lemon on a green cutting board with the bowl of a spoon inserted in the center.

Jenni Says: After squeezing your lemons, strain the juice through a fine mesh strainer to catch any seeds or pulp. Weigh your juice after straining to get a full 5 oz of juice.

For the smoothest base, mix the thickest ingredients together first and finish with the thinner ingredients. Adding cream cheese to a very liquid base almost guarantees your base will be lumpy.

Variations

An image looking into a footed pale green glass bowl at scoops of ice cream that are swirled with cream and raspberry colored ribbons.
  • Lemon Swirl Ice Cream: After freezing and whisking until your base is at soft-serve stage, layer spoonfuls of lemon curd in with your lemon ice cream base. Use a knife to swirl the two together a bit before freezing completely.
  • Lemon Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream: Once your ice cream is at soft serve stage, remove about 1/3 of it to another bowl and whisk in 1 1/2-2 Tablespoons of freeze-dried raspberry powder. Then layer the two together, using a knife to swirl them together. You can also so this with strawberry powder, mango powder, blueberry powder.
  • Lemon Blueberry Swirl ice Cream: Rather than using freeze-dried fruit powder whisked into the base, you can also dollop spoonfuls of jam into your base and swirl to combine. Use blueberry jam, cherry jam, raspberry jam, etc.

Equipment You May Need

As I’ve said before, you don’t need any special equipment other than a fine mesh strainer, whisk and a large bowl to make this recipe.

If you don’t have a Microplane for zesting your lemons (and so many more uses), I highly recommend you pick up one or two. Very useful!

Jenni's Pick
Microplane Classic Zester Grater, Black
$14.99

What started out as a woodworking tool has come into its own in the kitchen. I have two Microplanes, and I love them.


If you've never used one before, here's what you can do with them:

  • zest citrus fruit like a dream
  • grate hard spices like nutmeg and cinnamon
  • mince garlic and ginger into a fine paste
  • shower hard grating cheese over your pasta or pizza
  • grate cocoa butter into your smoothies
  • make baby-fine shavings of chocolate
  • and more
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03/07/2024 05:23 pm GMT

Should you want to churn this in a conventional churn, you certainly may.

This is the ice cream churn I own and use:

Jenni's Pick
Ice Cream Maker by Cuisinart, 2-Qt. Double-Insulated Freezer Bowl, Silver
$79.00

This ice cream maker will churn about 6-7 cups of refrigerator-temperature ice cream base in about 20 minutes. I have two bowls so I always have one in the freezer and ready to go.

Purchase Now
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03/03/2024 06:22 pm GMT

Lemon Ice Cream Q & A

A small blue bowl with scoops of lemon ice cream in it and lemon slices on a wooden surface.
How long with this ice cream last in the freezer?

Tightly covered, it will stay fresh and lovely for about 10 days to 2 weeks.

Can I use an ice cream maker to make it?

If you have an ice cream maker, absolutely. Just know that if you don’t have one, you can still make this ice cream successfully.

Is this ice cream gluten-free?

As written, all the ingredients are gluten-free. Check your packaging to make sure and to avoid any ingredients manufactured on shared equipment.

Serving Suggestions

Make a fruity, summertime sundae by topping your lemon ice cream with some mixed berry Chambord sauce and some hand-whipped cream.

Serve a scoop with lemon pound cake or whipping cream pound cake.

Make some delicious ice cream sandwiches by sandwiching two oatmeal cookies or ginger cookies together with some tangy goodness.

Or just enjoy it straight from the container. Although you may want to use a bowl. Portion control can be a problem!

Other Lemon Recipes to Enjoy

I could share other ice cream recipes with you, but I figure if you’re here for lemon ice cream, you may be more interested in lemon recipes than ice cream recipes.

I think you may really enjoy my crunchy and very delicious lemon cooler cookies. If you were a fan of the originals and have been sad they no longer manufacture them, this recipe is about as close to the original as you can get.

If you like to add a punch of lemon to savory dishes, you may want to try my friend Beth’s recipe for preserved lemons. It’s great in everything from vinaigrettes to hummus to poultry dishes.

For a bright, punchy lemon dessert that also is a show stopper, try my lemon meringue tart made with homemade Graham crackers and topped with poofy swirls of browned meringue.

Questions?

A Note About Measurements

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Purchase Now How & Why to Use a Kitchen Scale
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03/07/2024 05:03 pm GMT

Love This? Please Share It and Review It!

5 golden stars for rating recipes
A small bowl with scoops of ice cream in it plus lemon slices, heavy cream, and sweetened condensed milk in the background.

Lemon Ice Cream Recipe

Jennifer Field
You will love this lemon ice cream recipe. Made without an ice cream churn or a stand mixer, it has a no-cook base which makes it perfect to make any day. Flavored with fresh lemon juice and lemon zest, the sweet-tart lemon flavor is tempered by the creaminess you'd expect from a premium ice cream.
5 from 2 votes
Tried this recipe?Please give it a star rating!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Freezer Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes
Course Ice Cream Recipes
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings
Calories 440 kcal

Ingredients

  • 113 grams cream cheese 4 oz or 1/2 of an 8 oz block
  • 57 grams powdered sugar 2 oz or about 1/2 cup
  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • teaspoon kosher salt I use Morton’s
  • 226 grams heavy cream 8 oz or 1 cup
  • 226 grams half and half 8 oz or 1 cup
  • zest of 2 large lemons
  • 142 grams freshly squeezed lemon juice, measured after straining 5 oz or 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons

Instructions
 

  • In a large, microwave-safe bowl, microwave the cream cheese until very soft, about 30-40 seconds. Whisk well to make sure it is completely smooth.
  • Whisk in the powdered sugar and the sweetened condensed milk and salt, whisking well to make sure the mixture is completely combined.
  • Whisk in the cream followed by the half and half and the lemon zest.
  • Add the lemon juice and whisk thoroughly. Mixture will thicken somewhat when you add the lemon juice.
  • Place the bowl of ice cream mix in your freezer. Leave the whisk in the bowl.
  • Every 45 minutes, swing by the kitchen and give the ice cream base a thorough whisk, making sure to scrape any frozen base off the sides of the bowl and incorporate them fully into the mixture.
  • Once the mixture gets to the consistency of soft-serve ice cream, pack into a container, press plastic wrap onto the surface of the ice cream, and freeze for at least 4 more hours or, ideally, overnight.

Did You Make Any Changes?

Notes

Variations

Make a fruit swirl by whisking 1 1/2 Tablespoons (4 teaspoons), give or take, of your favorite freeze-dried fruit powder. Possibilities include raspberry, strawberry, mango, blueberry, pineapple, etc. Layer in spoonfuls of the fruit flavor with the lemon base.
Make a lemon swirl ice cream by layering spoonfuls of lemon curd in with your lemon ice cream base and then swirling the two together with a knife.
You can also layer in spoonfuls of jam. Try cherry, blueberry, strawberry, or blackberry.

Storage

Tightly covered, your ice cream will keep for 10 days to 2 weeks. For best keeping, put it back in the freezer as soon as you've scooped some to keep the remainder nice and frozen.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 440kcalCarbohydrates: 50gProtein: 8gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 16gPolyunsaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 81mgSodium: 221mgFiber: 1gSugar: 47g
Keyword homemade ice cream, ice cream, lemon ice cream, no churn lemon ice cream
Did you make this recipe?Please tell us what you loved!

Thanks so much for spending some time with me today.

I hope you enjoy this lemon ice cream recipe. I think you’ll find it really refreshing.

Take care, and have a lovely day.

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Simply put, I was sad to see the bottom of the container! This ice cream was smooth, tangy, not overly sweet and full of flavor. Pure sunshine!!

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