Ice Cream/Frozen Desserts

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

All you need are four simple ingredients.

April 27, 2023
Photo by Julia Gartland

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook. Today: Four ingredients. One 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 them; we've returned obsessively to the freezer to stir; we may or may not have purchased this ball.

We did a really good job of making ice cream, against all odds. But now, instead of doing any of that, 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.

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, [or] the combined juices of pomegranate and lime—this effortless ice cream could make life subtly sweeter in the grown-up world.”

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. One Food52er 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.”

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

More Genius Frozen Treats

1. Dori Sanders’ No-Churn Fresh Lemon Ice Cream

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.

2. 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 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.

3. 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.

What’s your favorite method for making ice cream? Share in the comments!

This article was originally published in August 2014, but we love it so much that we updated it for April 2023.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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."


Smaug April 27, 2023
This is organization that wants to sell us $88 coffee cups and $200 cutting boards, it's a bit surprising that they can't up with an ice cream churn. I think I paid about $40 for a nice Cuisinart churn; it's a very simple device, and does a great job. Some no churn ice creams are pretty good, but it's really no contest.
Smaug April 28, 2023
Help, my computer is dying... "This is AN organization", "...can't COME up with..."