Cold, delicious ice cream on a hot summer day—there’s nothing better. Think classic vanilla bean with rainbow sprinkles, butter pecan loaded up with nuts, chocolate soft serve—oh sorry, can you see us drooling? Whichever flavor hits all the spots for you, ice cream is always the answer when temps are soaring.
Even though we love store-bought cones and pints, there’s nothing more convenient and gratifying than homemade ice cream. Maybe you’re in the mood for something super specific or the thought of venturing outside to a grocery store gives you hives. The solution? Make it yourself. And as a huge bonus, many ice cream makers pull quadruple duty and can make gelato, sorbet, and custard, too.
There are so many at-home ice cream makers that we’re sure there’s a perfect one just waiting for you. Below, we rounded up our 12 favorites.
Sometimes referred to as automatic ice cream makers, these are the most common and practical. Freeze the accompanying bowl for 24 hours, add your batter when ready to mix (we have tons of recipes here!), and let the machine work anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. You’ll have to freeze the insert again when you’re ready for the next batch, which gives you enough time to finish the first.
1. Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker, $139.95
No matter what you’re craving—ice cream, gelato, sorbet, or custard—this little workhorse has you covered. It has a mixing paddle that won’t make you open it up and “scrape down the sides of the bowl” as you’ve read a million times before in recipes. It also has a super powerful motor and a double insulated freezer bowl. Both of these features mean ice cream is ready for eating in about 20 minutes.
2. Dash Everyday Ice Cream Maker, $29.99
The methodology here isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, but the affordable price tag makes this a great option for the budget-conscious. The Dash ice cream maker churns up to four cups of rocky road (or chocolate or mint chip…) in about 20 minutes. The inclusion of seven popsicle molds just sweetens the deal further. If you’re not sure what flavor combinations you might be into, it also comes with a recipe booklet—even more bang for your buck.
Don’t bother having to scoop your homemade ice cream out into an insulated container if you’re headed to the beach. After just 20 minutes of churning, pop on the lid and go—it has a convenient carrying handle so you can easily tote it around. Make a batch of your favorite sauce, grab some toppings, and you’ve got yourself a sundae station on the go.
If you’re vegan, dairy-free, or just trying to find creative ways to eat more fruit, this fun gadget turns bananas and any other fruit you crave—strawberries, mangoes, pineapples—into creamy soft-serve with the push of a button.
Just like its larger counterparts, this gadget churns ice cream with the push of a button. Unlike most of them though, it doesn’t take up much counter space, weighs only a single pound, and comes with a cute spoon for all of your mix-ins, like chocolate chips. It’s great for single servings but can also make up to 16 cups in only 30 minutes, too. Pick one up and gain instant access to tons of recipes online for any flavor combo under the sweltering sun.
Okay, so this one isn’t exactly an ice cream maker since you need a KitchenAid stand mixer in order to use it, but that doesn’t mean it should be discounted. This attachment uses the power of your KitchenAid and doesn’t require you to learn how to use any fancy new equipment if you’re already comfortable with the mixer. All you have to do is freeze the bowl, attach it to the mixer, pour in your ingredients, and let it churn for about 30 minutes.
If you’ve got the budget for 'em, compressor ice cream machines offer tons of convenience—there’s no need to freeze an insert or wait between multiple batches and they can also keep your treats cool for up to three hours. The downside is that they’ll take up more counter space than electric or manual machines, though usually not much more than a regular microwave.
1. Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker, $499.99
For serious ice cream connoisseurs only! This professional-grade ice cream maker has all the bells and whistles you could imagine, like 12 different hardness settings so everyone can have their ice cream churned to their exact preference, and a keep cool function for up to three hours. It has a compressor so it’s self-refrigerating, meaning the space it takes up on your counter is all it will ever occupy. Plus, the lid, spatula, bowl paddle, and cleaning brush are all dishwasher safe.
2. Whynter ICM-15LS Automatic Ice Cream Maker, $219.43
When an ice cream maker is built by a brand known for its air conditioners and refrigerators, you know you’re getting a cool product (sorry). This machine from Whynter doesn’t require waiting a day for the bowl to freeze or adding salt to create the texture we’re after. Instead, its quiet compressor does all the churning and freezing internally, though at a higher investment than other electric machines. The upside is that it’s instantly ready to make another batch of ice cream as soon as it’s done.
3. Cuisinart Ice Cream and Gelato Maker, $299.95
Don’t let the price tag on this one give you sticker shock. If you’re an avid at-home ice cream or gelato maker, this is the upgrade you need—and deserve. It’s fancier than other machines on this list with an automatic operation, 60-minute countdown timer, touchpad controls, LCD readout, and two paddles for gelato and ice cream. The compressor also ensures consistency and convenience without pre-freezing while the keep cool function keeps everything at the perfect temperature until you’re ready to eat.
The most budget-friendly ice cream makers are going to be manual. This means you’ll have to put in some work before you can dig in, but the results are going to be worth it.
1. Chef'n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Maker, $44.69
If you have little ones who love to get involved in the kitchen, this fun gadget is a great way to introduce them to homemade treats. Freeze the dish for 24 hours, add the batter, and then mix in toppings, a la Cold Stone Creamery. Or you can take it up a notch with rolled ice cream (which is exactly what it sounds like). The flat plate is perfect for recreating the classic Thai dessert at home—as the ice cream hardens, just use the scraper to roll the mixture.
2. Zoku Ice Cream Maker, $27.99
Since ice cream is not just for kids and not just for crowds, this little wonder is here to save the day when a single serving is all you need. It’s an adorable sundae dish (in five different colors) that you keep in the freezer whenever the moment calls for ice cream. Just pour in batter and mix by hand (it’s cute but never promised us the world). Ten minutes will get you soft serve while 30 gets you harder ice cream.
3. YayLabs! Softshell Ice Cream Ball, $47.57
This is a manual ice cream maker like the others, but the way in which you get from point A (having a pre-frozen bowl full of ingredients) to point B (having a bowl full of delicious ice cream) is truly unique. Instead of waiting around for the machine to do the job for you, you have to earn your sweet reward by tossing or kicking the ball around for about 25 minutes. Have fun!