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The Kitchn's One-Ingredient Ice Cream

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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.


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.


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

Tags: Summer, Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw Food, Long Reads, Editors' Picks, Genius Recipes, Kids, Genius