Apricot Pit Ice Cream

August 11, 2015
2 Ratings
Photo by Alpha Smoot
  • Makes one quart
Author Notes

I first had the ice cream at Blue Hill in Greenwich Village. The chefs, Dan Barber and Alex Urena, got the idea from Pierre Reboul, pastry chef at Vong in Midtown. Their version is milky and light. Mr. Reboul's is custardy. Both are unforgettable.

Mr. Reboul tried it after recalling how a single kernel gave his mother's apricot jam a perceptible scent when he was a child in France. Infusing cream, milk and eggs with kernels brought out the flavor even more.

At Vong, the apricot pit ice cream is called bitter almond ice cream so customers are not wary. Fruit pits contain cyanide.

''It's the plant's way of protecting its young, making the seeds poisonous to animals, so the animals don't choose it as a tasty snack,'' said Shirley O. Corriher, a biochemist and the author of ''Cookwise'' (William Morrow, 1997). But she said that using the kernels as an aromatic is much less risky, and that it would take a lot of kernels to harm an adult. (A derivative of bitter apricot kernels called laetrile was actually once touted as a curative for cancer, but was proved useless.)

Apricot pit ice cream is not a flavor children would appreciate. It is best served in small amounts. The ice cream is powerful but one-dimensional and comes to life only with other flavors. Ms. Shere serves it with lemon ice cream, berries, fruit pies and chocolate or caramel desserts.

The recipe seems ridiculous at first. It calls for about 45 apricots. But you can mix apricot pits with those from plums, nectarines, and peaches. And you can save them in the refrigerator or freezer until you have enough.

This recipe is adapted from Vong, and was originally published in the New York Times: Hesser

What You'll Need
  • 45 to 50 apricot pits (4 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 7 egg yolks
  1. Wrap apricot pits in a heavy dish towel. On the floor or on a sturdy cutting board, crack pits open using a hammer or a meat mallet, exposing kernels. Watch your fingers.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine apricot kernels and shells with milk and heavy cream. Bring to a boil; turn off heat and let cool. Chill overnight in refrigerator.
  3. The next day, bring the milk mixture to a boil again and strain through a fine sieve. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and the yolks until light and fluffy. Whisk about 1/2 cup hot milk into the egg mixture, and then whisk the egg mixture into the milk. Pour into a large saucepan, place over medium-low heat and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook until thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Remove from heat immediately. Let cool, and then strain.
  4. Pour into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Amanda Hesser
    Amanda Hesser
  • Mariano Resendiz
    Mariano Resendiz
  • Bonita
  • Karen
Amanda Hesser

Recipe by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.

8 Reviews

Bonita September 15, 2023
🤦🏽‍♀️ after researching, eating no more than 1-2 raw Apricot kernels is recommended!
I have used three (3) "Apricot kernels" as an anti-cancer protocol!
Going fwd, I will use one (1) kernel.
I was interested in how I can use the Apricot aroma in a raw plant-based dish. Will only use the flesh.
Meanwhile, this is controversial.
Many have passed globally.
As well as many, globally, have enjoyed desserts and healing .
Trust your own individual body/self & God 1st.
Karen July 31, 2016
Amanda, I really wish you had withdrawn the recipe --and so advised your readers -- rather than defended it. As Mariano the plant biologist wrote, this recipe is probably not safe, particularly if children eat it. Better safe than sorry, I feel.
Karen July 27, 2016
WebMD says: "Apricot kernel contains a toxic chemical known as amygdalin. In the body this chemical is converted to cyanide, which is poisonous. There was interest in using apricot kernel to fight cancer because it was thought that amygdalin was taken up first by cancer cells and converted to cyanide. It was hoped that the cyanide would harm only the tumor. But research has shown that this is not true. The amygdalin is actually converted to cyanide in the stomach. The cyanide then goes throughout the body, where it can cause serious harm, including death."
Amanda H. July 27, 2016
Hi Karen, thanks for your note and concern -- I spoke with a food scientist about this and they're not harmful in this amount.
Mariano R. July 28, 2016
Hi Amanda,
Please ask your food scientist to cite what convinced him to make this decision. Stephen Krashen of USC wrote a paper about pit toxicity and it's my opinion that the number of almond pits used comes dangerously close to the lethal doses. If a person using this recipe gives a particular amount to a child under 100lbs it can be lethal in small doses. Cyanide blocks aerobic metabolism and starves cells of oxygen which make the body shift into anaerobic metabolism and lactic acid buildup (the burn in exercising.) When too much of this acid accumulates it arrests the central nervous system and leads to death.

Aside from this, your article states that it's fine to use the milk that the pits were cooked in. However, it's not right to allow the reader to assume that this allows the elimination of cyanide. Cyanide stays leeched in the milk used for the ice cream.

Mariano Resendiz
Plant Biologist & Aspiring Biochemist
Amanda H. July 30, 2016
Thanks Mariano -- I appreciate you weighing in.
Amanda H. July 31, 2016
As I understand it, since the ice cream is made with infused milk rather than the whole pits, and because one eats a serving of the ice cream not the whole batch, this use of the pits is well within safe limits.
Ines August 23, 2015
Great recipe! I didn't get when I need to add the cream, could you help me out please? Thanks!