Make Ahead

Lemon Basil Sherbet or Sorbet

August 23, 2009
5 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves about 1 quart
Author Notes

This is the first year that slugs did not devour my basil plants, leaving me with a surplus to play around with. Lighter than ice cream and creamier than sorbet, this lemon sherbet is tangy and bright, and the basil is a surprising complement to the fresh lemon. David Lebovitz's Lemon Sherbet recipe was my original inspiration for this slightly more indulgent incarnation, which incorporates cream, honey, and fresh basil. - Sandy Smith —Sandy Smith

Test Kitchen Notes

This sherbet is everything we want in a refreshing frozen treat. It's light and airy yet indulgent, with just the right balance of tart and sweet, and a hint of cream to round out the flavors. As if this weren't enough, Sandy Smith includes an inspired detail: she infuses the sherbet base with fresh basil leaves and then adds chopped basil before freezing the mixture. The results are subtle and bewitching. As Sandy notes in her recipe, the sherbet is best after a couple of hours in the freezer, as it emerges from the ice cream maker a bit soft. - A&M —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup half-and-half or light cream
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, divided
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Juice of 3 lemons, chilled
  • Pinch fine sea salt
  1. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the half-and-half, sugar, honey, and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and add 4 whole basil leaves. Using the back of a large spoon or ladle, bruise the basil leaves against the bottom of the pot. Cover and let steep 15 minutes.
  2. Remove the basil leaves and discard, then whisk in the milk. Place the mixture in an ice-water bath or refrigerate until completely chilled.
  3. Slice the remaining 4 basil leaves in very thin strips. Whisk the lemon juice into the chilled sherbet base, add the sea salt, and stir in the sliced basil. Taste for sweetness; adjust by adding an additional tablespoon or two of honey, if needed.
  4. Freeze the sherbet mixture in an ice-cream maker, following manufacturer's instructions. For optimal flavor and texture, freeze sherbet for a couple of hours before serving.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Priscilla Brandimore
    Priscilla Brandimore
  • Vera Kern
    Vera Kern
  • thirdchild
  • DaniMama
  • mdm

13 Reviews

nayanna November 19, 2019
This recipe is insane! The perfect balance of sweet and tart with the surprise of the basil. The texture was so luscious. I’ve been craving it since I ran out. Can’t wait to make again. Had no problems with the recipe. Everything worked.
Priscilla B. August 24, 2019
Do you need an ice cream maker? Or just pour and freeze?
Sandy S. September 6, 2019
Yes, this requires an ice cream maker.
Vera K. May 27, 2017
The half and half curdled for me when I added the lemon zest. I ran it through a sieve and it was fine. The basil didn't come through, though. Still a good palate cleanser, thanks.
Sherre July 28, 2015
Delicious and refreshing! I will make this again.
Sue June 20, 2015
I'm very excited to try making this for my husband on Father's Day. The lemons I purchased are rather gigantic. Is there an estimate as to how much liquid makes up the juice of three lemons? This is my first attempt with my new ice cream maker, and I didn't know if differences in liquid would keep it from setting correctly. I can't wait to try it!
neighome June 23, 2012
Love this recipe! So lemony and fresh! I sherbet is the perfect balance between creamy and refreshing. There wasn't as much basil flavor as I would like, though, so I'll add more next time. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
HoustonHeat August 28, 2011
I've made this twice now and intend on making it regularly - it's the perfect balance between citrus tang and sweetness. I just used regular lemons, but will experiment with meyer lemons next. I don't have an ice cream maker, so followed DaniMama's suggestion of blending the ice hard frozen mixture in a blender (I don't have a food processor either). After blending, I let it freeze for another few hours, and then it truly became the texture of sherbet or sorbet. Great tip!
thirdchild August 3, 2011
Just the right amount of tanginess and basil flavour, not vegetal-tasting, but supremely good. I served it with wild blueberry pie, and it was the perfect complement. Highly recommended, and thanks for the great recipe!
DaniMama July 13, 2011
Made this without an ice-cream maker and it still came out great! I used meyer lemons and I added about an extra meyer lemon's worth of juice to the recipe. After allowing it to chill in the fridge for an hour or so, I froze it in an air tight container over night. I then carved out a serving into the food processor and blended it until it was nice and smooth. I liked this, too, because it kind of cut up the basil into even smaller pieces! Will make again!
qwickone June 16, 2011
Mmm, mmm, MMM! The only thing I did differently was added more lemon juice until I was happy. I used it as a palate cleanser and it was FANtastic! Thanks for the recipe!
mdm July 11, 2010
Delicious! I made this for my family and we all love it! Do you think this technique would work for other herbs? I'd like to make lavender ice cream, for example.
Sandy S. August 6, 2010
Yes! This technique works great for all manner of herbs and spices, and teas too. If you're using a dried herb, though, you'll only need about 1/3 as much. If you want to see how this would work with a tea, you might want to check out my blog post featuring my recipe for Earl Grey ice cream with crystallized ginger: