With all the fall flavors wrapped up into a delicious ice cream flavor, this pumpkin ice cream recipe features swirls of sticky pecan pie filling.
An unexpected but delicious fall dessert, top your pumpkin pie or pecan pie for full-on flavor.
Another great fall ice cream is my butterscotch ice cream recipe, so give that a look if it sounds good to you.
For ease of browsing, here are all my ice cream recipes in one place. Thanks so much for visiting!
Why Make This Recipe?
In short, make this ice cream because it’s delicious!
Technically, this is a Sicilian gelato, which is a sweetened milk mixture thickened with cornstarch.
The addition of a touch of cream cheese increases scoopability, and is a trick I learned from Jeni of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.
This recipe doesn’t contain any eggs in the base, although the filling has an egg in it.
Since there’s no egg in the base, the pumpkin flavor really shines through. It also contains enough pumpkin pie spice and salt to really bring out the flavor.
And pecan pie filling is a no-brainer, especially if you’re looking for a frozen treat with all the fall flavors in one bite.
Take, for example, this pecan pie eclairs. Pecan pie filling is for more than just pies!
How to Make This Pumpkin Ice Cream
There are two components to this ice cream that are made separately, chilled, and then swirled together.
Ingredients and Substitutions
First, here’s what you’ll need for the ice cream base:
- half and half: You can substitute whole milk and whipping cream for the half and half. You can also use all whole milk, but in that case, I’d increase the amount of cornstarch by 1 teaspoon so the base will have enough body
- pumpkin puree: Use homemade or store-bought. Don’t substitute pumpkin pie filling. You want “solid pack” pumpkin puree
- sugar: You will notice my ice cream is not orange. That is because I used dark brown sugar in the ice cream base. If you want a more orange ice cream, use regular granulated sugar in the base, saving the dark brown sugar for the pecan pie swirl. You can also use light brown sugar to sort of split the difference.
- cornstarch: When heated and boiled, the cornstarch gels, which gives the base the body needed to churn into a creamy consistency.
- salt: Brings out the flavor in the base. It sounds like a lot of salt, but with a whole cup of what is basically pureed vegetables in the base, you really need it. You can cut back by half, but please don’t leave the salt out entirely.
- pumpkin pie spice: Store-bought or homemade pumpkin pie spice will work. You can also just substitute a mixture of cinnamon and ginger.
- cream cheese: Provides enough additional fat to keep the ice cream from freezing rock hard while adding just a slight yet irresistible tang
- vanilla: Rounds out the flavors and provides some floral notes
And here’s what you’ll need for the pecan pie swirl:
- pecans: For deepest flavor and best texture, toast them first. If you don’t like pecans, you can substitute almost any other type of nut that you do like (or aren’t allergic to). Consider substituting walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts.
- corn syrup: Use light or dark. The corn syrup keeps things nice and gooey. If you aren’t a fan of corn syrup, substitute maple syrup
- brown sugar: Dark or light
- egg: Adds richness and, more important, thickening power when cooked to 165F. To make this egg-free, leave it out and cook the minture until it comes to a boil
- butter: Adds a touch of richness. Not strictly necessary, but butter and pecans are lovely together
- instant coffee: Technically, this is an optional ingredient, so feel free to leave it out. If you’ve never had coffee and pecans together as in my coffee pecan tart, do give it a try
- salt: Brings out the flavor in the nuts
- pumpkin pie spice: Ties together the pecan and pumpkin components
To Make the Pumpkin Ice Cream Base
- Just heat everything except the vanilla together, whisking the whole time, until it comes to a boil.
- Let the pumpkin mixture boil for about a minute–keep whisking!–and then strain it into a metal bowl.
- Whisk in the vanilla.
- Cool it down and then chill until cold, at least 4 hours.
To Make the Pecan Filling
- Cook all the filling ingredients together until the mixture reaches 165F.
- If you decide not to use the egg, then bring everything to a boil.
- Either way, chill until cold.
Assembling the Ice Cream
- Churn the pumpkin base until it is the consistency of soft-serve ice cream.
- Layer pecan mixture and pumpkin ice cream mixture into your freezer-safe ice cream container.
- Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of your ice cream and freeze until firm, about 6 hours.
- Swirls happen naturally when you scoop the ice cream. Tada!
If you’re going to be making ice cream on a reasonably regular basis, it may be worth it to own an ice cream maker. I have the 2-quart model from Cuisinart as well as an extra freezer bowl for it.
If you don’t want to get an ice cream maker, see my tips below for how to “churn” the base without one.
I use loaf pans for ice cream containers, but there are also some nice double-walled ice cream containers that make it easy to scoop.
Tips for Success
To chill your base more quickly, place the metal bowl of custard into a larger bowl filled with ice and water. Stir frequently until cool and then refrigerate until cold.
For brigher pumpkin color, use granulated sugar in the base. For deeper flavor, use brown sugar or dark brown sugar. It’s up to you!
No ice cream maker? No problem. Place the bowl of custard in the freezer and whisk it well every 30 minutes until it is the consistency of soft-serve ice cream.
Pumpkin Ice Cream Q & A
OF course not. Leave it out and just make it a pure pumpkin ice cream. You can also leave out the pecans, add a tablespoon of cocoa powder to the swirl, and make a pumpkin chocolate swirl ice cream.
As written, yes it’s gluten-free. Be especially careful that none of your other ingredients are packaged or processed on shared equipment to eliminate cross-contamination issues.
Yes. Leave out the egg, make sure you’re using vegan sugar, and switch out the half and half for a plant-based milk that will not curdle when boiled. You can substitute vegan cream cheese and plant-based butter for the cream cheese and butter. Note that I have not done this myself, but these are the substitutions I’d make if I needed to make a vegan pumpkin ice cream.
For best texture and flavor, eat your ice cream within 7 days. Any longer than that, and it could start developing larger ice crystals, becoming a little grainy.
This ice cream stands on its own as a delicious fall dessert, but here are some ideas for upping the wow-factor:
- Top with some hand-whipped cream. Flavor it with a little pumpkin pie spice.
- Add a scoop of this ice cream to your pecan pie, pumpkin pie, or even apple pie.
- Make a chocolate variation by adding a tablespoon of cocoa powder to the pecan pie swirl (you can even leave out the nuts entirely) and then top it with hot fudge sauce.
If you have questions about this post or recipe, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can leave a comment on the post and I will get back to you within about 24 hours.
If your question is more urgent, please shoot me an email, and I will respond within 4 hours, unless I’m asleep.
A Note About Measurements
NOTE: Most of my recipes are written by weight and not volume, even the liquids.
Even though I try to provide you with volume measurements as well, I encourage you to buy a kitchen scale for ease of measuring, accuracy, and consistency.
This is the scale I use, love, and recommend. If you’re unsure, please read my post about how to use a food scale.
Don't let its small price and small size fool you. The Escali Primo is an accurate and easy-to-use food scale that I have used for years. It's easy to store, easy to use, has a tare function, and easily switches between grams and ounces/pounds for accurate measurements.
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Pumpkin Ice Cream with Pecan Swirl
Rich, creamy, mildly spiced pumpkin custard ice cream with swirls of coffee-scented pecan pie filling. It's everything you love about fall wrapped up into one fantastic ice cream!
Makes about 1 1/2 quarts of ice cream.
For the Pumpkin Custard
- 24 oz (3 cups) half and half
- 9 oz (about 1 cup) roasted and pureed pumpkin (I used homemade. Use what you have)
- 9 oz (about 1 1/4 cups) sugar
- 3 1/2 Tablespoons (3 Tablespoons, 1 1/2 teaspoons) corn starch
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4-1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mix
- 2 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
For the Pecan Pie Swirl
- 3 oz (about 3/4 cup) pecan halves, toasted and chopped
- 4 oz light or dark corn syrup
- 4 oz dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 oz (2 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons espresso powder or freeze-dried coffee
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mix
For the Pumpkin Custard
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the half and half, pumpkin puree, sugar, corn starch, salt and pumpkin pie spice.
- Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Allow mixture to boil for about a minute.
- Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl with the cream cheese and vanilla.
- Whisk until completely smooth.
- Cool and then chill to no more than 40F.
For the Pecan Pie Swirl
- Combine pecans, corn syrup, sugar, egg, butter, espresso powder, salt and spice mix.
- Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture is steaming and the temperature is 165F-170F.
- Remove from the heat, pour into a small bowl and cool. Chill in the fridge until ready to use.
Putting it Together
- Churn the custard according to manufacturer's instructions.
- Spread about 1/3 of the pecan pie mixture in the bottom of your container.
- Spread 1/3 of the custard on top. Continue layering--you may not use all the pecan pie swirl. Save it as a treat for later.
- Take a knife and swirl it through the ice cream.
- Press plastic wrap on the surface of the custard and freeze until firm and scoopable.
- Enjoy the autumnal goodness!
Nutrition InformationYield 8 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 153Total Fat 5gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 34mgSodium 345mgCarbohydrates 27gFiber 0gSugar 26gProtein 2g
The stated nutritional information is provided as a courtesy. It is calculated through third party software and is intended as a guideline only.
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What Others Are Saying...
Maria Miteva-Christou says
Hi. The ice crem look’s perfect!!!
I like to know what is mean “half and half”? It’s something we need for the pumkin custard.
Jennifer Field says
Hi, Maria! Glad you like the look of the ice cream. If you can’t get half and half where you live, it’s just a mixture of half whole milk and half heavy cream, so as close to that as you can get would work just fine.
Melinda Luckay says
2 years later and I finally tried it and WOW!. It does taste like fall. I am currently having my own pumpkin-palooza in an effort to convert my pumpkin-hating husband. I think this might do the trick. Thanks!
Jennifer Field says
Oh, this makes me so happy, Melinda!! If this won’t help convert him, nothing will! lol