Genius Recipes

The Kitchn's One-Ingredient Ice Cream

By • August 22, 2012 • 79 Comments

Every week -- often with your help --  FOOD52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: It's Ice Cream Week! Nathan Myhrvold explains the magic behind the one-ingredient "ice cream" that's taken the internet by storm.

banana soft serve

It's one ingredient. It's creamy. It's frosty. It's vegan. It's raw. It's ice cream? It's bananas!

No really, it's bananas. This might sound like a riddle, but it's actually a wonder of food science -- specifically fruit science.

bananas

Making one-ingredient ice cream is as simple as this: Cut up bananas. Freeze them. Whir them in a food processor. Eat quickly, or refreeze and blend again. You don't really need a recipe for this.

It comes out like the frozen bananas you ate at the boardwalk as a kid, except it whips up like Marshmallow Fluff, instead of the gluey puree you might be picturing.

bananas

Vegan and raw foodists have long known this trick, but a few years ago, The Kitchn published a photo tutorial and one-ingredient ice cream went mainstream. Bloggers spread the gospel and suddenly it wasn't just a workaround for ice cream, but an exciting dessert in its own right, regardless of its pure reputation.

cut bananas

Now there's even a machine built specifically for making banana ice cream, and one of the most talked about stands at Brooklyn's Smorgasburg sells only raw banana ice cream, plus toppings -- they're called Rob & Anna's (say it out loud!).

But what no one's dug into yet is this: How do the bananas do this? Why doesn't a frozen avocado or mango or pint of berries behave this way under the crush of the food processor's blade? (And they don't, trust me.)

banana ice cream

The internet and various food science manuals didn't have the banana-as-ice-cream coverage I was hoping they would, so I wrote to Nathan Myhrvold, author of Modernist Cuisine and the forthcoming Modernist Cuisine at Home (which we're thrilled to be offering in the FOOD52 Shop at an exclusive discount October 8th!). 

"I am pretty sure the reason is that bananas are very high in pectin." Myhrvold wrote. "So much so that if you add them to strawberry jam, you can omit the pectin you would otherwise need to add."

banana ice cream

Pectin lives in the walls of plant cells, just waiting to bond together to form sturdy gels. Its most notable achievements are in jams and jellies, but it even works behind the scenes in this creamy vegan cauliflower soup.

Here, as the blades slice through the frozen bananas, pectin chains form and the banana churns up into the spitting image of soft serve ice cream, with the most intense banana flavor this side of Chunky Monkey.

According to Myhrvold, exploiting pectin this way can work for mango after all, making an ultrastable mousse that won't even melt at room temperature -- if you own a Pacojet.

But until one of you fine people donates your Pacojet to the FOOD52 test kitchen, we're sticking with our one-ingredient food processor treat, and lots of it.

banana soft serve

The Kitchn's One-Ingredient Ice Cream

From TheKitchn.com

Serves 4-6 (or save the leftovers, freeze, and process again)

1 bunch bananas

See the full recipe (and save and print it here).

banana soft serve

Check back tomorrow, when our New Veganism columnist Gena Hamshaw will show you what else one-ingredient ice cream can do.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by James Ransom

Jump to Comments (79)

Tags: genius, The Kitchn, ice cream, vegetarian, vegan, raw, summer, kids, tricks and tips, ice cream week, special diets

Comments (79)

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Stringio

26 days ago Shelley Christie Tucker

I love this, especially with a little raw cacao powder! Does anyone have a problem with a bitter taste when they use this recipe?

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about 1 year ago smonfor

Wow, was amazed at how sweet and creamy this was! After initial tasting, I added powdered milk and vanilla. It was even better, a bit more depth of flavor.

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almost 2 years ago Arden Bercovitz

Valuable FACTOID for Low Carb afficianados:
Green bananas are metabolically considered a "resistant starch."
Resistance to digestion in the stomach means and lower glycemic index and less problems for diabetics or Atkins adherents. I propose an experimental two ingredient variation of this recipe, adding a sugar substitute, would deliver the same mouth feel in fewer carbs.

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about 2 years ago Panfusine

This was a Brilliant, simply awesome dessert to try. I made a version with saffron & candied ginger with a touch of heavy cream (It was for a blog post related to South Indian wedding traditions).. I've already got responses from South Indian girls telling me how they would simply love to have versionfor their wedding!
http://www.panfusine.com...

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about 2 years ago Julie Yefsi

I have been doing this banana ice cream for years and nobody believed me! I like to add flavours to it as well (add to processor after the bananas start to puree). Such as fresh strawberries, vanilla, cocoa, coffee, peanut butter (that I make from scratch)!

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about 2 years ago MOtherBones

Has anyone tried making this in a Ninja Blender? The gizmo makes great smoothies and shakes.

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about 1 year ago hobbes1948

Yes it will work in the ninja

Open-uri.8133

about 2 years ago scott.finkelstein.5

Would this work with other high pectin foods like apples or cranberries?

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about 2 years ago GreenKitchen

Ok. Really. Converted.
My kids make fun of me because I love peanut butter and I love bananas but only in their original form. No banana pie, peanut butter cookies, no Reeses, no banana smoothies....so I tried this with, well, just bananas and for some reason the overpowering banana flavor is subdued in its frozen form. Only sad i had no unsweetened chocolate to add. Very nicely done!

Lorigoldsby

about 2 years ago lorigoldsby

The riper the bananas...the more pronounced the flavor is...if you go with almost still green bananas you will get a more neutral " soft serve" flavor....then add other components to change up the flavor!

Jwl_001

about 2 years ago jwlucas

We make this all the time and it can be tweaked with virtually any added ingredient. We especially like a spoonful of chunky peanut butter.
I am intrigued by Nathan Myhrvold's suggestion about bananas and jam. I've been developing a terrific banana coconut jam but have been warned by some people that bananas cannot be safely canned due to their density. My recipe includes plenty of lemon juice and seems no more dense than a lot of other contents that can be safely canned - or at least pressure canned. Might he be willing to respond to this?

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about 2 years ago nzle

For all who've been asking -- our columnist Gena Hamshaw writes all about customizing one-ingredient ice cream today!

http://www.food52.com/blog...

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about 2 years ago Kaphut

I'm thinking a little Nutella would be just the perfect addition!

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about 2 years ago clintonhillbilly

I've been doing this since I started on Weight Watchers -- fruit has no points! It's great with a little peanut butter & chocolate on top.

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about 2 years ago Abby A

bananas have 105 calories each so they should have points.

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about 2 years ago Abby A

bananas have 105 calories each so they should have points.

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about 2 years ago s-chapstick

thank you

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about 2 years ago wizarddrummer

Stuff like this makes me really, really mad!

I've been doing (EXACTLY) that for many, many years and I didn't start a freaking internet sensation or some chic NYC location.

I've even added some reduced strawberries.

I don't get it. Some people can (to use an expression) boil an egg and another person, when they do that, it's Magic!

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about 2 years ago daisybrain

Boiling an egg is magic and even the simplest kitchen trick can cause a sensation if people haven't done it before. No need to get upset. This is new to me and I'm looking forward to trying it. If this were how to boil an egg (which Food52 has probably covered) I might be excited to do that too.

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about 2 years ago Deeae

WizardDrummer, your sentiments are felt by many - I've been canning and making preserves for decades, as did my mother and her mother and her mother - and never have had the results of thier ingenuity, skill and efforts advertised internationally as "genius". But all women ... and men ... and children .... knew they were, ate and appreciated, and went on living quiet lives. It was a humbler time - only movie stars and politicians (and criminals) were in the spotlight. Personally, I would like to encourage you to take heart: those who don't need to be in the spotlight, lauded by others for what they are (or what they tout themselves to be) and do are infinitely more secure at a deep level. You're missing nothing that has any lasting value. Live wealthy: love and be loved and do what you love. All is well. :)

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about 2 years ago TXExpatInBKK

I don't think the people at Food52 are doing it for glory. I think they genuinely want to share the good ideas they have discovered or come up with. No harm in that.... I thank them for it because, while you may have known about this idea for years, I haven't. So thanks for sharing, Food52! And keep up the good work.

Me

about 2 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

I agree. And if any of you have any great examples of the same kind of ingenuity you'd like to have shared here, send the ideas to Kristen at Food52. I'm willing to bet she'd be happy to share them too. And we'll all eagerly gobble them up :-) I had no idea about this banana idea, and can't wait to try it.

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about 2 years ago Deeae

TXExpatin BKK, I suspect you're right. If you'll notice, I did not say the people at Food52 were doing it for glory - this is a great site; making an assumption from a misunderstanding tends to lead us to jump to a conclusion that is incorrect and subsequent action that is misguided. My comment was specific to WizardDrummer - if I knew his or her address or phone number, I would have simply paid a visit or made a call to relay my thoughts and sentiment to him or her. However, the great ideas and discussions here are in the context of a forum that is in the public domain.

I can certainly see where the misunderstanding occured. It might be helpful to keep in mind that everything that is said is not meant for everyone, especially if it's directed to one individual - and things said that may pinch a bit aren't said to be derisive or derogatory but to be instructive and edifying (just as recipie or other tips are!). We're all here to learn: we know we are not perfect and our knowledge is not complete; our sharing with each other, as ChezSuzanne and many others have endorsed, helps us fill in gaps as we come across them.

My feedback, at least, is given with the intention of strengthening and encouraging the other in being true to love/heart - for life's sake. And food is a big part of many of our hearts - it's a major contributor to our joy and our caring of ourselves and others!

Long live those who are hungry for life and love - and the many little things that make it so rich! And, I'll say it again: thank you Food52 for what you do.

Peace.

Grace_marian_astra_madeline_myrtle_jean_in_new_jersey

about 2 years ago TXExpatInBKK

Just an FYI, if you want to communicate directly with someone on Food52 you can. All you have to do is click on their profile and it will allow you to send a message specifically to that person. Really easy and useful.

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about 2 years ago Deeae

Thanks, TX. Your thoughtfulness is appreciated!

If WD wants to, I'm open.

Considering the silence, though, perhaps this particular thought has played out as far as - or further than - his or her interest in it.

File0265

about 2 years ago insecureepicure

I am dairy intolerant and this recipe is great. I like to ad a spoonful of peanut butter and a little honey.

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about 2 years ago Renée (RJ Flamingo) Joslyn

Oh my goodness - we've been doing this for a couple of years now, since we discovered it on The Kitchn! Here are several variations I came up with, back then: http://flamingomusings... I used 2 bananas per batch - portion control! LOL!

My understanding is that one cup of bananas contains 1 gram of fat, and that trace amount of fat is the reason this works. Lots of things contain more pectin than bananas, such as apples (the highest amount) and citrus, and you can't do this with them. Also, the riper the bananas, the sweeter the "ice cream", so if you like it sweeter but can't wait for the bananas to get any riper, add just a tiny bit of sugar. Or chocolate. Your choice. :-)

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about 2 years ago daisybrain

Hmmmm. Although they say it won't work with avocados and they have plenty of fat. Maybe it's the fat/pectin combo.

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about 2 years ago Renée (RJ Flamingo) Joslyn

You could be right, but I think even if it did work, avocado might get ugly - it tends to oxidize pretty quickly without any acid (lime or lemon juice). Just speculating, since I never tried it.

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about 2 years ago daisybrain

I did recently have an avocado / kiwi / lime Popsicle that that was excellent.

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about 2 years ago tom OC

have to admit i was a little skeptical when i saw this posted on Kitchn, but it was truly amazing when i tried it. it really holds together with an amazing consistency and it was delicious without adding anything. (although there are some really great add-in ideas here i would like to try)

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about 2 years ago susan g

I got this 'recipe' about 40 years ago, from one of the first issues of Vegetarian Times magazine -- with carob powder.

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about 2 years ago Deeae

That's what many know: what is heralded as new ... is not, really. People have been doing it for ages (well, at least decades, even before food processors and electric mixers, even before electricity - the physical strength of homemakers was formidable - try it yourself and you'll be humbled when you imagine the workout each day required of a person!)

Still, discovery is very exciting - and everyone of us is born into this life to learn new (old) things!

I enjoy this website - and others like it - immensely, for this love of exploration and discovery, even if it's watching others engaged in the process!

Learning for the sake of learning wonderful things is sooo much fun!

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about 2 years ago Kukla

I’ve seen Claire Robinson (“5Ingredient Fix” Show on Food Network) making Banana Ice Cream last year and made it a couple times since. In my opinion it is best to use ripe bananas; the ones which just start to get some dark dots on the skin, but still hold their shape when peeled.

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about 2 years ago daisybrain

Can you add small amounts of frozen mango or avocado to this without sacrificing too much texture?

Miglore

about 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Yes, you can! You'll most likely still taste the banana, so it helps to partner it with flavors that go well with it. (I'm plotting a Chunky Monkey knock-off for my next batch.)