Filed under: Brown butter / Frozen
June 16, 2023

Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Ice Cream

Homemade vanilla bean brown butter ice cream made from a custard base and filled with chunks of edible chocolate chip cookie dough.

5 from 4 votes
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Sometimes I start out with a very simple idea: oh, I have x egg yolks leftover from making a rainbow cake, maybe I’ll make some ice cream? But wait, this beloved brown butter cheesecake pops into my mind, and… well, what if I added brown butter bits to make a brown butter ice cream?? Ohh and what about some chocolate chip cookie dough bits??! Because you know, brown butter chocolate chip cookies??!! 


So here we are. Funnily enough, the very first iteration of this didn’t have any cookie dough bits because I ran out of time. The second was made without egg yolks because I didn’t want to crack eggs for the sake of it. But the final? Well that one was perfect, and that’s what you see here: 


Creamy vanilla ice cream flavored with freshly toasted brown butter bits. Along the way you stumble into chunks of yummy chocolate chip cookie dough (made with a special ingredient to keep them chewy even when frozen!) 


Recipe Ingredients 

Butter: Just one stick, which will give us a good 2 tablespoons of toasted milk solids (brown butter bits). We’re not using the rest of the liquid (I tried using it to make the cookie dough nuggets but they’d come out hard as a rock =( )  but you can save it and use it as a spread for toast!

Heavy Cream: or heavy whipping cream (the fat difference between these two is minimal). 

Buttermilk: or whole milk. Buttermilk makes it creamier, and adds some tang and a richer, more complex taste. You can use whole milk instead if you don’t like the idea of buttermilk. 

Vanilla bean: mine are currently small and a bit dry so I use two for this ice cream. I like to slice open the beans, scrape out the caviar and add both to the custard. I keep the beans in overnight as the custard chills, so the ice cream gets very flavorful. 

If you don’t have/don’t want to use vanilla beans, you can use pure extract instead: add it after the custard has cooked, and use a full tablespoon of it. 

Egg yolks: I have a range given for yolks; you’ll use more if you’re using whole milk and less if using buttermilk. If you wanted to make this egg-free, it’s not *as* creamy and delicious but it’s doable: mix ¼ cup additional milk (not buttermilk) with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to make a slurry. Once the sugar has dissolved and the base is hot, add the slurry and cook until the base is slightly thickened. Proceed as directed (you won’t need to sieve out any egg bits in this case). 

Sugar: Brown sugar, light or dark. You’ll use some for the ice cream base and some for the cookie dough bits. 

Chocolate chips: Use semi-sweet mini chocolate chips so they’ll be easy to eat when frozen (I use the 365 brand). 

Sweetened condensed milk: I use this in the cookie dough bits because it keeps them from freezing solid. Some recipes use corn syrup instead, I personally don’t love that flavor. 

Flour: All purpose flour. We’re going to heat treat it to make it safe to eat as dough. 


How to make brown butter ice cream 


Brown the butter

If you’re new to the process, I have a video here which shows how you brown butter (and with a vanilla bean in it!). Basically you’ll have the butter in a frying pan and set over medium low heat as it melts then the bits start to appear. 


Don’t: try to rush this by turning up the heat, you’ll end up burning the milk solids. Do stay over it, stirring to ensure an even browning. Don’t: stop too soon, we want as many bits as we can get! Don’t: leave the butter in the pan to cool – it will most definitely burn from the residual heat of the pan. Do, immediately transfer it to a bowl to stop it cooking. 


Once the butter has settled, with lots of brown bits at the bottom, you can separate it. We mostly need just the brown butter bits but some of the liquid in here is good too (just not too much so the custard doesn’t become oily). See the video for reference. 


Make the custard

You’ll add all of the ingredients into a pot (but not the buttermilk if that’s what you’re using) and whisk to combine, then cook over medium low heat until the base is slightly thick. It’s best to use a thermometer which will tell you when it has reached 165 F (this is when eggs are safe to eat). It will thicken first on the bottom, stir it often to evenly cook. 

When it’s done, pour through a mesh sieve to remove any egg bits. Try not to use a super fine sieve so that some of the milk solids can escape. Then, stir in the buttermilk (if using) and let it come to room temperature before covering with plastic wrap and chilling. 


Chill, then churn

 The base needs to chill fully before it can be churned, at least 4 hours but preferably overnight – in this time the flavors will intensify. I like to leave my vanilla beans in the base overnight, because they’ll continue to flavor it. When it’s ready, and your ice cream maker is ready, you can churn it. 


Add the cookie dough bits last, either by dropping them into the machine as it churns or afterwards stir them into the churned ice cream. 

How to make edible cookie dough bits for ice cream 

Heat treat the flour: We’re not baking our cookie dough bits but we do need to make it safe to eat. Raw flour can have germs which lead to food poisoning. A simple 5-7 minutes in the oven at 350 F kills any dangerous germs. We’ll spread it on a small cookie sheet then toast it, give it time to cool before adding it to the dough mix. 

Mix the ingredients: If the butter is soft enough, you can do this with a whisk; simply whisk together the butter and sugar until it’s well blended, then add the sweetened condensed milk and whisk. The cooled, heat-treated flour goes in then the chocolate chips. 

Portion & freeze: You can make these as big or as small as you like, I think something between ½ – 1 teaspoon works best. Portion them onto the same pan you used to heat-treat the flour and then freeze the pan until the bits are solid. 


FAQ on brown butter ice cream 

Can I use the butter leftover from browning for the cookie dough bits? 

Gah, I wanted this to be the case so bad. It kind of hurts to have the butter on hand but then have to soften more just for the cookie dough bits. The problem I ran into was that the lack of moisture in the butter itself (which can’t be rectified by adding more butter unfortunately, butter changes quite a bit when browned and it’s not just the loss of mass) was making the cookie dough bits far too tough to bite into when frozen. 


Why is there a range on the egg yolks?

If you are using buttermilk in the ice cream, you only need three yolks. Yolks are there to make a creamier base and buttermilk is naturally creamier. So if you opt for whole milk, use more egg yolks. 


A lot of ice cream recipes use six yolks, I try to avoid this when I can because I often don’t have an immediate use for the leftover egg whites. For this recipe, which has some fat from the brown butter, you don’t need the full six. 


Why don’t you temper the eggs for the custard? 

It’s quite unorthodox to not temper eggs but I’ve found you just don’t need to if you’re adding them when everything is cold. You’ll add everything to the pot and then when you cook the custard the sugar will dissolve first then the eggs will cook and thicken the base. It’s totally fine to not temper when making ice cream bases. 


Could I just use milk powder instead of butter? 

It’s pretty popular these days to toast milk powder and use that in lieu of, or to bolster the taste of brown butter. Personally, I haven’t found it to be quite the same as brown butter bits (after all there is more in the butter than milk solids) but if this has been something you’ve enjoyed before you can add some toasted milk bits to the base. They’ll get strained out before churning, but they’ll add some flavor as the custard chills.


What should I store my ice cream in? 

When I shoot for the blog I usually put the ice cream in a loaf pan and cover it with plastic wrap (this way you get more surface area to take a photo of) but when I make ice cream just for testing or because I’m craving it/gifting it, I store it in my old pho containers. You want something that’s airtight and won’t crack in the freezer. 


How long does homemade ice cream keep? 

This is going to depend on how you store it; if kept in an airtight container it should last about a month. If however you’ve done the loaf pan method, probably not more than two weeks. 


Vanilla Brown Butter Ice Cream Recipe

Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Ice Cream with Cookie Dough

Creamy homemade vanilla bean ice cream flavored with brown butter bits.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Chill Time: 8 hours
5 from 4 votes


Brown Butter

  • 113 g or ½ cup salted or unsalted butter

Brown Butter Custard

  • 480 g or 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3-4 egg yolks use four yolks if you are using whole milk and three if using buttermilk (egg yolks make for a creamier custard)
  • 130 g or ⅔ cups dark brown sugar
  • 1-2 vanilla beans if the beans are small/a little dry use two, otherwise one fresh large bean will suffice
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 240 g or 1 cup buttermilk or whole milk

Cookie Dough Bits

  • 30g or 2 tablespoons butter softened
  • 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
  • 50g or ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • 30g or ¼ cup all purpose flour toasted
  • Dash vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips


Brown the butter

  • Set the butter in a frying pan over low-medium heat. Cook as it melts, then begins to sputter. Once the butter goes silent, and is foaming, stir to brown it evenly. When you see lots of brown bits at the bottom, immediately remove from heat and pour into a bowl, scraping the brown bits into the bowl. Let cool for a bit so that the brown bits (milk solids) sink to the bottom. Once they do, you can separate the golden liquid from the brown butter bits.

To make the brown butter vanilla ice cream

  • Add the brown butter bits, brown sugar, egg yolks, heavy cream, and salt to a pot. If you are using the milk, add it now too (if you’re using buttermilk it goes in later).
  • Slice open the vanilla bean(s) and add them and the scrapings to the pot. Whisk to combine.
  • Set the pot over medium-low heat and cook, stirring often until the temperature reaches 165 F. You’ll see the custard thicken slightly at the bottom at this point.
  • Set a mesh sieve (not a very fine sieve, we want most of the brown butter to escape) over a heatproof bowl and pour the custard through it. It might catch some of the brown butter bits (that’s ok) and any egg bits that cooked too quickly (we don’t want those!).
  • Pour in the buttermilk and whisk to combine.
  • Remove the vanilla beans from the sieve and add them back to the custard.
  • Let the mix come to room temperature then cover with plastic wrap and set in the fridge overnight. If your ice cream maker requires you to freezer the bowl, set it in the freezer now too.

To make the cookie dough bits

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a small, greased cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • Spread the flour over the pan in an even layer.
  • Bake the flour for about 7 minutes. (This is done to kill any bacteria.) Let cool completely.
  • Whisk together the softened butter and sugar very well. Add the salt and vanilla and whisk to combine.
  • Add the sweetened condensed milk and whisk well.
  • Add the cooled flour (shake it to remove it all from the pan) and chocolate chips and stir to combine.
  • Scoop teaspoons of the cookie dough onto the pan that had the flour until you have lots of little bits. Set the tray in the freezer until you’re ready to churn the ice cream.
  • Churn the ice cream
  • The custard may have separated a bit as it chilled (you might see some butter at the top), give it a quick whisk to mix.
  • Pour into prepared ice cream machine and churn according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • When the ice cream is almost done churning, add the cookie dough bits. You can either let the machine work them in or use a rubber spatula to mix them in yourself. (Now's a good time to add more mini chocolate chips, if you want 😉 )
  • Store the ice cream in an airtight container and freeze. It’ll be ready to eat after freezing for about 4 hours.
  • Straight out of the freezer (after a long freeze) the ice cream might be hard to scoop, leave it at room temperature for 5 minutes and it’ll be smooth.


Makes 1 quart of ice cream

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Recipe Reviews

  1. whenever I try using browned butter in ice cream, it always separates from the base when I let it sit overnight. how do you keep it from separating and forming a disk of fat at the top?

  2. 5 stars
    This is the best vanilla ice cream I have ever made! Seriously, so good! We opted to leave the chocolate and cookie dough bites out of the ice cream as we really wanted to taste the ice cream by itself and we’re so glad we did! This ice cream isn’t cloying and is just so well balanced. Thank you for the recipe!

  3. 5 stars
    great ice cream flavor, thank you, and good tips and reminders about brown butter techniques too, plus love vanilla bean, much more than plain old vanilla!