The Kitchn's One-Ingredient Ice Cream

August 22, 2012

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

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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


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

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • AlyssaH20
  • kathy
  • Gallypop
  • M Helen
    M Helen
  • heatheranne
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."


AlyssaH20 November 21, 2020
i think i like this but it was super weird to me but now i think i am up for trying new thing thanks so muchhh :) <3
kathy April 29, 2020
I've been making these for 5 years. My 4 year old granddaughter and I do these together. I usually add some raw cocoa powder and have even added peanut butter if she so desires. I leave it up to her. Delicious!
Gallypop June 5, 2016
I made this for the first time today, what was I waiting for?? Added a little cashew milk for texture, good consistency but a slightly strange aftertaste. Topped with rhubarb and stone fruit jam and fresh blueberries. Glad I made enough to eat this everyday this week!! Next time may try yogurt instead.
M H. August 17, 2015
So if it's the pectin that makes this banana "ice cream" so successful, does that mean I can just add, say, Ball pectin to whatever I want to freeze to give it the same effect? If so, do I have to cook the pectin like I do with jams, or do I just stir it in?
AlyssaH20 November 21, 2020
idk but do what you think is besttt
heatheranne August 17, 2015
I've tried this a few times, and unfortunately I'm not a fan. There is something about the texture that I just don't like. I can't pin it down, but there you go.
Susan M. August 16, 2015
I first had this in Kauai 2-3 years ago. They use a special mixer so that the texture and consistency comes out perfect.
Jill April 23, 2015
Shelley T. August 3, 2014
I love this, especially with a little raw cacao powder! Does anyone have a problem with a bitter taste when they use this recipe?
smonfor July 26, 2013
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.
Arden B. September 19, 2012
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.
Panfusine August 29, 2012
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!
Julie Y. August 28, 2012
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)!
MOtherBones August 24, 2012
Has anyone tried making this in a Ninja Blender? The gizmo makes great smoothies and shakes.
hobbes1948 August 3, 2013
Yes it will work in the ninja
scott.finkelstein.5 August 23, 2012
Would this work with other high pectin foods like apples or cranberries?
GreenKitchen August 23, 2012
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 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 August 25, 2012
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!
jwlucas August 23, 2012
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?
Nozlee S. August 23, 2012
For all who've been asking -- our columnist Gena Hamshaw writes all about customizing one-ingredient ice cream today!
Kaphut August 22, 2012
I'm thinking a little Nutella would be just the perfect addition!
clintonhillbilly August 22, 2012
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.
Abby A. August 23, 2012
bananas have 105 calories each so they should have points.
Abby A. August 23, 2012
bananas have 105 calories each so they should have points.
s-chapstick August 22, 2012
thank you