French Vanilla Ice Cream

This French vanilla ice cream is a classic, elegant treat with a rich, creamy texture and deep, custard-like flavor. This homemade version, made with simple ingredients, is perfect to enjoy on its own or over apple crisps, cakes and brownies. No raw eggs used!

The term “French vanilla” doesn’t refer to a specific type of vanilla but rather to the traditional French method of making ice cream. This involves creating a custard base with egg yolks, cream, and sugar.

The yolks aren’t optional. The yolks also act as an emulsifier, resulting in a denser, creamier texture and a richer flavor, further enhanced by vanilla bean.

They also provide a natural yellowish hue, distinguishing it from Philadelphia-style vanilla ice cream, which typically calls for cream, milk, sugar and vanilla extract.


  • Egg yolks – these are crucial for the custard base, creating a rich and creamy texture. You can’t substitute whole eggs for egg yolks. And you can not omit these.

  • Heavy cream – this provides the rich, creamy texture of the ice cream. You can use whipping cream if you don’t have access to heavy cream, but your ice cream will be less rich.

  • Whole milk – lightens the ice cream compared to using only heavy cream. Combining whole milk with heavy cream offers balanced creaminess without making the ice cream too dense. Using only heavy cream can result in an odd mouthfeel, which some might find too heavy or cloying.

  • Sugar – you need to use granulated sugar. Liquid sweeteners would make the ice cream too runny and icy.

  • Salt – a pinch enhances the other flavors without making the ice cream salty.

Can I use all milk/cream/half-and-half?

As I said above, using all cream isn’t recommended, as most people find the texture of ice cream made with just heavy cream to be unpleasant.

Using all milk wouldn’t work. There’s not enough fat in there to create ice cream.

This recipe calls for 2 cups of heavy cream and 1 cup of whole milk, which provides 184 grams of fat. Using 3 cups of half-and-half only gives you 83 grams of fat, which is insufficient for a creamy texture.

If you’re short on heavy cream or milk, substituting some half-and-half is fine, but remember that less fat means less creamy ice cream.

Can I use low-fat or fat-free milk?

Yes, if that’s all you have, but adjust the ratio to include more heavy cream. For example, use 3/4 cup of low-fat or fat-free milk and 2 1/4 cups of cream. The extra cream will make up for the missing fat in the milk.

How to make French vanilla ice cream

The process begins by whisking egg yolks with sugar until they’re pale and creamy. This mixture is then slowly tempered with hot cream and milk, ensuring the eggs don’t curdle.

The custard is cooked until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, creating a velvety foundation for the ice cream. This technique requires just a little patience and precision but results in the BEST vanilla ice cream!

After thickening, strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve to remove any eggy bits. This results in an ultra-smooth texture.

Cooling the custard base properly before churning is also vital. You need to refrigerate it for several hours or overnight to enhance the flavor and consistency of the churned ice cream.

Why use both vanilla bean and extract?

Adding both vanilla bean and vanilla extract to French vanilla ice cream enhances the depth and complexity of the flavor.

Vanilla beans provide a pure, rich, and nuanced vanilla flavor that is often more intense and aromatic than extract alone.

The bean contains a variety of compounds that contribute to a more complex and layered vanilla profile.

And this doesn’t affect the taste, but the tiny black seeds from the vanilla bean do add a gourmet look to the ice cream. :)

So why bother adding extract? Because it amplifies the overall aroma, making the ice cream more fragrant.

I’ve made this ice cream with and without the extract, and you can definitely tell a difference.

I’ve also made it with just extract, which you can see on my Tart Cherry Pie.

I used 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. I definitely preferred it with vanilla bean + extract, but if you can’t use a bean, you’ll still have some tasty ice cream.

Where to buy vanilla beans

The last thing you want to do is buy one at the grocery store. You do not need to pay $11 for a vanilla bean! Even Walmart’s Great Value vanilla bean is $13.88.

It is organic, but still. These prices are absurd.

I usually buy around 100 beans at a time to make several liters of vanilla extract whenever I’m running low. It’s still not really a thing here in Germany, so I make my own.

I get my beans from eBay from a vanilla bean seller. I’ve been doing this for 15 years and have never had an issue.

I looked around on Amazon for the people who don’t need large amounts of vanilla beans. I had my photographer get this organic 5-pack of vanilla beans for $7.99.

That’s $1.60 each. If you get their 10-pack, it’s only $2 more. Then they’re only $1 each.

If you don’t use Amazon, there are online vanilla bean shops where you can get better prices than the grocery store when you buy in bulk. But I’m looking at Beanilla, and the cheapest I’m seeing for a non-organic single bean is $9.22. 5 beans for $16.43.

I think once you try this French vanilla ice cream recipe, you’ll definitely want to make it again. So buying 5 or 10 vanilla beans and freezing them isn’t so crazy.

Vanilla beans can be frozen for up to 6 months without losing their flavor or aroma. It’s best to store them in an airtight container or a vacuum-sealed bag to prevent freezer burn. When you’re ready to use them, thaw them in the refrigerator or on the countertop for 10-20 minutes.

Serving suggestions

French vanilla ice cream is incredibly versatile and pairs beautifully with a variety of desserts.

It’s a classic companion for warm apple pie or apple crumble, complements the tartness of berry cobblers, and adds creaminess to a slice of rich chocolate cake.

For a simple yet elegant presentation, serve it in a bowl with a sprinkle of fresh berries or a drizzle of caramel sauce. Or try the homemade chocolate sauce found in my Iced Mocha Latte!

When churning, you can also swirl in some Peach Jam or Strawberry Preserves for a fruity twist.

How to store

Make sure your container is freezer-safe. Transfer the ice cream into it, and cover the surface of the ice cream with plastic wrap before closing the container.

This minimizes ice crystal formation. Store the container in the back of the freezer, where the temperature is most stable. That way, when someone (me) didn’t quite get the freezer door closed all the way and nobody knows about it until hours later when the freezer alarm is going off, your ice cream won’t be melted. I know this from experience. ;)

The typical shelf life of ice cream is about 2-4 months when stored correctly. For best quality, you’ll probably want to eat it within one month. But, I seriously doubt it’ll last more than a few days.


This was lightly adapted from a recipe in David Lebovitz’s book, The Perfect Scoop.

I bought this book back in 2008 after checking it out at the library, and all of the recipes have been incredible. If you like rich ice cream, this is the book for you!

I adapted my Green Ice Cream recipe from the same recipe because it’s really just so perfect. I can not imagine a better, creamier ice cream!

I hope you’ll enjoy the ice cream if you try it out! If you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts. :) Thanks!

French Vanilla Ice Cream

Rated 5.0 by 7 readers
French Vanilla Ice Cream
  • Prep Time:
  • Cook Time:
  • Ready in:
  • Yield: 1 quart (1 liter)


  • 1 cup (236 ml) whole milk
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar, divided
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (473 ml) heavy cream


  1. The day before: prepare your ice cream bowl according to the manufacturer’s instructions by chilling it for 24 hours beforehand or however long is recommended. If you have the option to change the freezer’s temperature, it should be at least -18 C or -.4 F.
  2. Into a medium saucepan, add the milk, 1/2 cup (100 grams) of sugar and salt.
  3. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise using a sharp knife. Scrape out the seeds from inside the bean with the back of the knife and add them, along with the pod, directly to the milk mixture.
  4. Heat the milk over medium heat until it starts to steam. Avoid bringing it to a boil, as this can cause the milk to scald.
  5. Once the milk is steaming, cover the saucepan and remove it from the heat. Allow the vanilla bean to steep in the milk mixture for 1 hour.
  6. Pour the heavy cream into a large mixing bowl. Set a fine-mesh sieve over the mixing bowl.
  7. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup (50 grams) of sugar until the mixture is well combined and a bit lighter.
  8. If your milk is no longer warm, rewarm it. It just needs to be warm, not hot and steamy.
  9. Gradually pour in all of the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks - the vanilla bean can stay in the saucepan - while whisking continuously, and then pour this mixture back into the saucepan.
  10. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until it coats the back of the spoon and registers about 170 °F (77 °C) on an instant-read thermometer. This will take about 3-7 minutes. Be careful not to boil the mixture. The coagulation temperature is about 180 °C, so keep an eye on it. My mixture had some tiny eggy bits, but they were removed when straining later on.)
  11. Strain the ice cream into the heavy cream. This will do away with any eggy bits.
  12. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  13. Refrigerate the mixture (including the vanilla bean) for 8 hours or overnight so that it’s thoroughly chilled.
  14. Pour into the totally frozen ice cream bowl and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The ice cream will be like soft-serve straight from the machine.
  15. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for 4-8+ hours to help it firm up. I could still easily scoop it after it had been in the freezer overnight.
  16. Can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Adapted from vanilla ice cream in The Perfect Scoop

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7 comments on “French Vanilla Ice Cream” — Add one!

5 comments are awaiting moderation!

  • Jamie
    July 8, 2024 @ 8:22 am

    I love the simple ingredients in this french vanilla ice cream! It turned out so creamy and smooth. My family loves it with chocolate syrup!

  • Jacqueline Debono
    July 7, 2024 @ 1:23 pm

    This is how vanilla ice cream should taste, rich and creamy. This ice cream was perfect on its own and with the apple crumble I made yesterday!

  • Kathryn
    July 7, 2024 @ 12:42 am

    We are hooked on this ice cream!! Vanilla is our favorite flavor and it doesn’t get any better than this. SOO GOOD with the real vanilla beans.

  • Adriana
    July 6, 2024 @ 12:12 am

    I love homemade ice cream; nobody beats that. I added raspberries to the vanilla ice cream, which came out delightful.

  • Mikayla
    July 3, 2024 @ 9:34 pm

    The hardest part of this recipe was putting it in the freezer and waiting until the next day to enjoy it.. oh and sharing it! Great creamy rich flavor, fresh vanilla bean is the best!

  • Leslie
    July 3, 2024 @ 5:15 pm

    There is just nothing better than a classic, homemade vanilla ice cream recipe! This is perfection!

  • veenaazmanov
    July 3, 2024 @ 4:42 am

    Thanks for this creamy rich simple vanilla ice cream. Your detailed instructions will surely help to get the best results to making this delicious Vanilla ice cream treat for my next family get together.


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