An infinitely adaptable recipe to make ice cream for one (or two if you are feeling generous) in a 1 pint jar. This mason jar ice cream base is simple and easy and the flavor options are limitless.
The idea behind homemade 1 pint ice cream
Like many of you, my daughter had been attending school via Zoom for the past couple of months. It was nice to be involved in this part of her life; to see her teachers interact with her and her interact with them. I got to do some fun projects and experiments with her and see how she applies what she has learned to our daily life. One of the things she did was make butter. Butter! Yes my 3yo made butter.
Before class her teacher had us prep some heavy cream and a small tight-lidded jar. The kids then spent 10 minutes singing and shaking the jar over and over, until they had butter. The way I understood this was in baker’s terms: the cream was whipped past the stiff peaks point until the fat separated from the liquid (butter, and buttermilk according to her teacher although idk about the latter because it was not like the buttermilk I buy and use). My thoughts immediately turned to desserts we could make with this method.
The Wonder of a No Churn Ice Cream
I made a brown butter pb no churn not long before her lesson and had been brainstorming other flavors since. Then I saw this and knew exactly why it worked and that I had to try it. Ten minutes after seeing the Delish recipe, I was shaking up some hc in a mason jar (careful not to make butter, lol). The next day I found that it wasn’t very creamy and when I began adding flavorings to other trial batches, it was harder to get them well-distributed by simply shaking.
The texture issue shouldn’t have been a surprise; essentially that recipe is ‘frozen whipped cream’ which isn’t really the same as ‘ice cream’ which is normally churned. It’s hard to replicate the churning at home without a machine, but whipping the cream helps. And, in my Brown Butter PB Ice Cream post I talked more about what makes the ice cream soft besides the churning; the fat. This post by David Lebovitz talks more about what makes ice cream soft (fats, sugar, alcohol, etc.).
Note: the Delish recipe is from June 2017 and theirs is the earliest I’ve found, although many other sites have published similar recipes since. Most recently, (shortly after I started writing this actually), the NYT published a recipe identical to Delish’s. So this mason jar ice cream idea isn’t novel, but my recipe lends you a creamier, custard-like result that is closer to real ice cream. Instead of shaking it in a jar, I opted for a bowl, a hand mixer and, get creative with the fats and sugars.
Essentially, I aimed for us to scoop out a spoonful and come up with the creamiest stuff ever; so I developed a specific formula to follow. My hope is that you will say, well I won’t be buying a tub of ice cream or going out to the local parlor now, I can make it myself. Whoop!
A basic recipe for 1 pint mason jar ice cream
At the bottom of this page you’ll find a recipe for plain ol’ reliable vanilla ice cream. This is the base recipe for what you’ll work with when you choose your flavor journey. But before you get creative in your own kitchen, read through the ingredients/substitutions and steps so you are armed with the right knowledge to make your own, tailored to you, 1 pint dreams come true.
How to get soft, creamy ice cream:
- Whipped Heavy Cream: heavy cream/heavy whipping cream are the same thing. Once beat to medium peaks, this is the basis of a no churn.
- A combination of ‘fat’ contributing ingredients:
- Sweetened Condensed Milk: this comes in a small can and is made by cooking together milk and sugar to remove the water. It stands in for the ‘custard’ part of our ice cream which is usually milk and egg yolks and does a surprisingly good job.
- Whipped Cream Cheese: This is cream cheese that has been beaten to make it airy and fluffy. It’s creamy and tangy and helps balance the sweetness.
- If you decide to add a nut butter and you don’t have cream cheese, you may skip it.
Ingredients for mason jar ice cream
Sugar: I use light brown but dark would be a fine substitute. I’m sure you could use granulated but it lacks the added moisture and the lovely caramel taste. Honey or maple syrup could work too but remember both are sweeter than sugar so use less.
Heavy Cream: or heavy whipping cream, either will do.
Sweetened condensed milk: Just like you’d use it in a no churn ice cream, this gives flavor and keeps the ice cream creamy.
Cream cheese: Makes our ice cream smooth and ‘scoopable’ and provides a nice tang to the sweetness. You can skip this, the ice cream will be slightly less tangy and less creamy.
Flavorings: The sky is the limit! The beauty of this is that you can taste as you go along. Like lemon zest or juice? Add it. Or orange. Add cinnamon if you like it. You could add any nut butter you like (cashew, peanut, almond, cookie butter!). One thing to keep in mind is that once frozen the flavors are a little muted so go a bit strong here.
Mix-ins: Again, sky is the limit. Think of things that when frozen, will still be pleasurable to eat. If you want to add chocolate, instead of throwing in a handful that will be too hard when frozen, I suggest melting ⅓ cup chopped chocolate with a ½ teaspoon coconut oil, and drizzling it in to the cream once whipped. You can add baked goods too like bits of cookie dough, chopped up cake or brownies or even crushed cookies!
How to make mason jar ice cream
- Use a hand-mixer: technically you could do this with a whisk but it’s faster and easier with a machine. If you don’t have one and need to use the whisk, make sure to whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks – it might take awhile.
- Use a good ratio of fat: Without the fat the creaminess will be lost and you’ll just have hardened heavy cream.
- I know someone is going to ask this so, what do you do if you want MORE? You could, of course, double or triple this and freeze it in a loaf pan. The point of this recipe making just 1 pint is that you can get creative, make something that is truly YOU and make as many or as little as you like!
- The pint jars I use: a set of four and a larger set of 12. I use them for storing, well everything. They carry 16 oz each. And nope, they don’t break in the freezer.
1,2,3 —> Small batch Ice Cream in a Jar!
- Beat together flavorings to make a base.
- Add the heavy cream into the base and beat to to medium peaks ie. until the mix holds shape.
- Add in mix-ins and gently stir with a spatula.
- Transfer to jar and freeze!
Equipment needed to make mason jar ice cream
- A hand mixer to beat the ingredients and whip the cream. You can do this by hand with a whisk, and a bit more time/muscle.
- A tightly sealable 16oz jar, this set of 4 jars or this set of 12 are exactly the size you need.
Variations we loved for 1 pint ice cream (pictured)
Cashew butter: add 1/4 cup to the base. If you are using a nut butter, omitting the sweetened condensed milk or the cream cheese is an option (nuts have lots of good fats!)
Birthday Oreo: add 1 tsp imitation vanilla to the base and then add 3 TB sprinkles and crushed oreos once heavy cream is whipped.
Strawberry cheesecake: add ¼ cup roasted strawberries and juice of ½ lemon to cream cheese mixture. I had bits of lemon cake leftover which I chopped up and added as well.
Mason Jar Ice Cream Recipe
Chocolate Mason Jar Ice Cream Variation
To make the base chocolate rather than vanilla, make a chocolate paste:
- To a small heatproof bowl, add 2 tablespoons cocoa and 2 tablespoons hot, boiling water. Stir together and you’ll have a thick paste.
- Add this to the base, along with another tablespoon sweetened condensed milk (for a total of 3 TB). Omit the brown sugar if you don’t want it overly sweet.
1 Pint Mason Jar Ice Cream
- 1 pint mason jar
- hand mixer or immersion blender
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar can sub with granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese you can skip this, the ice cream will be slightly less creamy
- 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- pinch fine sea salt
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream or heavy cream
- 3-4 tablespoons other flavoring fruit puree, nut butter, etc. If using a nut butter, can omit cream cheese or sweetened condensed milk but not both. If using nutella skip the sugar so it's not overly sweet.
- 2 tablespoons mix-ins chocolate, cookies, cake, sprinkles, nuts, etc
- Add all the ingredients to a mason jar, except any add-ins, and beat together with a hand mixer. Alternatively add them all to a bowl and beat. It's easier if you mix the base first (without the heavy cream) and then add the heavy cream and mix until thick.
- Stop when there are no more lumps and the mixture is smooth, thick and creamy.
- Stir in mix-ins, if using.
- Transfer to jar, seal and freeze until solid, at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
- For a dairy free version, omit the cream cheese and use coconut cream in place of the heavy whipping cream and coconut condensed milk in place of the condensed milk.
- Use freezer-safe jars and leave 1" room from the top of the ice cream for it to expand.