Nigella's No-Churn Ice Cream Is a Genius Way to Chill Out

August  5, 2020
Photo by James Ransom

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook. Today: 4 ingredients. 1 step. No cooking. No churning. Ice cream!

Not having an ice cream maker never stopped us before. We've done all kinds of weird stuff in the name of doing it for ourselves. We've nested coffee cans and shaken (or kicked) them; we've returned obsessively to the freezer to stir; we may or may not have purchased this ball.

I am so impressed with us for doing all of that! We did a really good job of making ice cream, against all odds. But instead of doing any of it, you can glide over to your cupboard like you're Nigella Lawson, find four ingredients, whip them into a cloud, then freeze—they will become ice cream while you go on with your day. 

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Nigella Lawson's One-Step, No Churn Ice CreamNigella Lawson's One-Step, No-Churn Ice CreamNigella Lawson's One-Step, No-Churn Ice Cream

It's really as simple as that—there's no egg to deal with, nothing to heat or temper or ice bath or strain. Just cream and sweetened condensed milk, flavored with espresso powder and liqueur. The sugar and booze keep it from getting hard and icy; the whipped cream provides air (and, yes, cream); the thick condensed milk helps do the work of a custard. 

"When I was a child, I used to make an ice cream with my great aunt that required no special equipment (save a freezer) and was the work of moments and a trio of ingredients: condensed milk, heavy cream, and vanilla," Lawson wrote to me. "Needless to say, it was sickly sweet, but more latterly it occurred to me that by adding bitterness or sharpness—coffee, bourbon, and salted caramel, the fixings for a margarita, the combined juices of pomegranate and lime—this effortless ice cream could make life subtly sweeter in the grown-up world.”

More: Serve it with another genius Nigella dessert: Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake.

Nigella's One-Step, No-Churn Ice Cream

The ice cream will have a creamy, almost buttery smoothness. The first time, I whipped it a bit too far and it had a more noticeably buttery quality—not the worst problem, but an avoidable one. The sweet spot is just when the whisk leaves trails in the bowl (I was trying to be proper and hold a soft peak when I lifted the whisk out—no need). 

You can try all kinds of variations—Lawson has worked out at least six others for us. Food52er mrslarkin has this to add: "I loved this recipe so much that I made a mint chip version, using gin, mint extract, and grated chocolate, which was very delicious." Definitely make a no-churn ice cream cake

Or, like Lawson, "You could (and I often do) serve it with a chocolate sauce but my absolute favourite way of eating this is by squidging it into little brioches, like sweet burger buns, as they do in the south of Italy."

Nigella Lawson's One-Step, No-Churn Ice Cream   Nigella Lawson's One-Step, No-Churn Ice CreamNigella Lawson's One-Step, No-Churn Ice Cream

Nigella Lawson's One-Step, No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream

Adapted slightly from Nigellissima (Clarkson Potter, 2013)

Makes 1 pint

1 1/4 cup (300 milliliters) heavy or double cream, well-chilled
2/3 cup (175 grams) sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons espresso liqueur

More Genius Frozen Treats

Dori Sanders’ No-Churn Fresh Lemon Ice Cream

Very much like Nigella's ice cream, this sunny, summery wonder from Southern cooking legend Dori Sanders requires no complex custard-making or churning. Just cream, whole milk, a good bit of sugar, and a ripe lemon (zest and juice, please). The genius here is in that very lemon, which, in addition to adding flavor to the mix, encourages creaminess. The acid in the juice thickens the mixture without whipping or, really, fussing at all. Just pick up a whisk and get to it.

Meera Sodha’s Cardamom & Rose Water Kulfi

Kulfi, a cousin to ice cream beloved in the Indian Subcontinent, typically requires a lot of love, care, and dedicated stirring (one of the reasons it's so good!). Luckily for us, cookbook author Meera Sodha found a way to replicate kulfi's signature creaminess without all that (literal!) pot-watching, using a few notable milk tricks: She heats canned evaporated milk and fresh cream together with fragrant rose water and cardamom, pours it into ice-pop molds, then cools it all the way down. That's it! An utterly creamy, kulfi-like treat awaits.

The Kitchn's One-Ingredient Ice Cream

This recipe showed us that just about anything can become ice cream if you dream big enough. Even—especially!—a humble frozen banana. Because of its high pectin content, the fruit whips up like marshmallow fluff in your food processor. The deep freeze also mellows the straight-on banana flavor, opening up the "recipe" for lots of mix-ins, riffs, and toppings.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]—thanks to Food52ers mrslarkin and Ina-Janine for this one!

Photos by James Ransom

This article was originally published in August 2014, but we're sharing it again because it's that genius. The Food52 editors also added a few more very Genius ice creams you can (and should!) make this summer.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • mrslarkin
  • Hannah
  • beaninthekitchen
  • scoot87501
  • Rachelm
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


mrslarkin August 7, 2020
An oldie but goodie!!!
mrslarkin August 7, 2020
We should totes pour some espresso over a scoop for an affogato....brb.
Hannah August 5, 2020
There is nothing better than fresh coffee ice cream, drenched in hot fudge sauce and Frangelico. Or just with many Heath bar chunks mixed in.
beaninthekitchen August 5, 2020
Our go to this summer has been cream, condensed milk, the juice on one lemon, and Madagascar vanilla. It is so creamy and good, tastes like lemon ice box or even key lime pie!
beaninthekitchen August 5, 2020
*of one lemon 🍋
scoot87501 August 5, 2020
This ice cream is wonderful!
Rachelm August 5, 2020
Do we think I could make this with homemade coffee liqueur? I happen to have quite a lot on hand...
Eat D. August 5, 2020
Of course! send me your address and I'll come help!
Rachelm August 5, 2020
Haha! Actually it is SUPER easy to make, I have started making it a month or so before the holiday season, and decanting into cute little reusable bottles for gifts...
cd1600 August 5, 2020
I’d love to have your recipe!
Rachelm August 6, 2020
I use this one -

Elizabeth I. July 23, 2017
The margarita version of this ice cream that Nigella makes is to die for... so good and lime-y
Mish V. December 22, 2016
I have been making ice-cream similar to this recipe for over a year and it is a hit in my house!
Laura F. July 19, 2015
I'd love to try this, but without alcohol. Are there alternatives?
Julio C. August 8, 2015
Yes. Leave out the alcohol.
Michele September 1, 2020
Julio; lololol! :)
tessga June 11, 2015
made a kid-friendly (sans booze) chocolate version of this yesterday and it's so good. 3 TB. cocoa powder, 4 TB. Chocolate Syrup, 1 tsp vanilla 1/2 c. mini chocolate chips. 4 year old yelled 'it's delicious!'
Suzy B. April 21, 2015
In my book of over 100 of these recipes I give directions for the right amount of alcohol and other sugary additions. Also - I always keep a jar of dried fruits covered in rum or brandy in the store cupboard. Great for adding to ice cream and also to bread pudding, apple pie and all sorts of other things.
Roberta B. April 20, 2015
I've seen a recipe on the internet (somewhere) that substituted Cool-Whip for whipping up cream.
maria April 19, 2015
Jamie Oliver, when he first came on PBS as The Naked Chef, I was a die hard recipe follower, his show and cook books brought out the joy in cooking for me!I grow my own herbs and summer veggies and make up my own dishes all the time. Cooking is a art not a anxiety producing chore for food that looks like a stylist produced it. It's all about the taste and the feelings food can impart.
maria April 19, 2015
oops, posted on the wrong post!!
Suzy B. February 12, 2015
I've done this recipe for 20 or more years as a professional chef working in the tropics. I then wrote a book giving over 100 recipes eg Salted Caramel, Honey Roasted Fig, Chocolate and Crunchy Peanut Butter Ripple, Buttered Rum & Ginger Ice Cream and so on and so forth. It it #genius but now new. I wish I was famous"
AntoniaJames August 5, 2020
Suzy, I just bought your ice cream book via Kindle. The recipes look great - I cannot wait to try them! What a beautiful "writer's voice" you have. So glad you mentioned the book here.

I found it via your website, clicked through from your profile on this site. For anyone else who is interested, here is the Amazon link: ;o)
Suzy B. August 5, 2020
Thank you so much! Enjoy your creations.
Leslieb October 18, 2014
I have done this recipe with berries and shortbread crumbles and a pumpkin version with gingersnap crust pieces, but I omit the coffee and liqueur. Always a hit whenever I have made either one.
Sandra A. October 25, 2014
Oh my you made me drool.....
Jennifer K. September 30, 2014
Hey Jacqueline ... I tried a coconut version. Not completely "vegan" I guess, because I still used the condensed milk. I did substitute with coconut cream, added toasted coconut in place of espresso powder. The taste was fabulous ... however, it definitely needs the liqueur to keep it from freezing solid. I'm thinking coconut rum maybe?
Hannah August 5, 2020
If any one wants to try a fully dairy free version, Modest Mylk is a brand name for non-dairy milk concentrates. You can pick from a couple nut milk bases or an oat milk base. Then when you need to make condensed milk, use twice as much of the base than called for in the regular recipe.
Rosalind R. September 13, 2014
I'm back. I had trouble finding this version of the recipe. The usual search goes to the plain recipe without photos and fewer comments. Here's a link to my rum raisin version. I've made it twice and it gets better each time.
Alice G. August 21, 2014
Oh. My. Gosh. This was one of those times I went home and made this straight away, and I am so glad I did. I can't believe how easy or how good this is. I used some wedding cake vodka and a bit of imitation butter flavor- Classy? Not so much. Delicious? Oh yes. Next time I'll do Nigella's salted caramel variation.
jacqueline August 20, 2014
UGH! i'm just a baby in the kitchen - not brave enough to experiment yet!
jacqueline August 20, 2014
any way to make this "vegan"? like with coconut milk and/or coconut cream?
lydia.sugarman August 20, 2014
Great thought! Why don't you experiment and get back to us with your results?
lydia.sugarman August 19, 2014
Perhaps if the raisins in the rum were gently heated, it would help them plump up and be juicier.
Rosalind R. August 19, 2014
Thanks for the suggestion. I'll try that but I will use fresher raisins too.