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Lemon ice cream has the perfect sweet-tart ratio, that is both refreshing, cool and inviting. While not quite an authentic lemon gelato recipe, this is a close smooth, creamy cousin and is bursting with fresh lemon flavor! Only 5 everyday ingredients to this scrumptious machine churn ice cream.
I have been making this recipe for at least a decade, we have always called it Lemonsicle ice cream because it’s a fantastic lemon-y version of a creamsicle. It is fabulous by itself or served with a fresh fruit cobbler, crisp or pie!
If you are crazy about this homemade lemon ice cream, then you will love these other sweet-tart citrus recipes; Award Winning Key Lime Pie, Lemon Cream Pie, Lemon Shortbread Sandwich Cookies, and this not to miss, Old Fashioned Lemon Squares recipe.
What is the Difference between Gelato and Ice Cream?
The basic difference boiled down is air, butterfat and flavor, big differences actually between gelato and ice cream, so while this isn’t a full fledged gelato recipe, it is darn close:
- Ingredients | Both Gelato and Ice Cream contain cream, milk and sugar; but authentic gelato uses more milk than cream and a little less cream than ice cream — for my Lemon Gelato recipe, I do indeed use more whole milk than cream and a little less cream than my regular ice cream recipes.
- Temperature | Gelato is served slightly warmer than ice cream which enhances the flavors, since it doesn’t freeze your mouth when you take a bite. Usually about 10-15 degrees F warmer than American ice cream and is not scooped, instead they use an ice cream spade.
- Differences | Air, butterfat and flavor are the biggest differences. American ice cream contains at least 10 percent butterfat, typically around 14 and 25 percent. But, Italian gelato includes much less, about 4 to 9 percent fat. Gelato contains less air than American ice cream — making it more dense, fluid and creamy. (source)
While this lemon gelato recipe might not compare to what I
enjoyed devoured while visiting Roman ruins in Aquileia, Udine — in sweltering heat, I might add, with my dear friend Paola and her family, but it sure is a close second!
Five simple, everyday ingredients is all you need for this delicious churn ice cream.
- Whole Milk | I use organic Whole Milk in all of my baking and cooking, yes it is richer, but so much better for you than milks stripped of their all natural fat.
- Sugar | Organic all natural cane sugar is what I use in baking, you might have to whisk or stir a bit longer until it dissolves or incorporates, but the slightly caramelized hint adds wonderful flavor to baked goods. White sugar may be substituted.
- Whipping Cream | This is the heavy stuff, heavy whipping cream or heavy cream, I always use Organic.
- Fresh Lemon Juice | Don’t cheat on this recipe by using bottled lemon juice, it has a bit of an off flavor and you don’t want that in your lemon ice cream! Squeeze 2 medium lemons to get the amount needed.
- Lemon Zest | If you are a lemon lover, then you know that lemon zest adds so much punch and flavor! I use the zest from both lemons, but I like it tart, so if desired, you may reduce the zest but no less than 2 teaspoons.
This is a homemade ice cream recipe for an ice cream maker, so you will need an ice cream maker. If you are looking for no churn ice cream, visit my ice cream archives and enjoy several of my no churn ice cream recipes!
- Ice Cream Machine | I have the Cuisinart 2 quart ice cream maker and have had it for years, it holds up very well and is fairly compact and easy to store. But isn’t this the Queen of Ice Cream & Gelato makers?!
- Mixing Bowl | A sturdy mixing bowl that has a pour spout makes mixing this lemon ice cream batter so much easier, this is my favorite mixing bowl since it has a lid!
- Whisk | You can use any type of whisk for this recipe.
- Container | I used this simple loaf pan, but I also love using a glass container with snap lid.
- Citrus Tools | This is my all time favorite lemon squeezer/juicer and my favorite zester to make short work of any citrus zest!
How to Make Homemade Ice Cream
Step 1 | Make Lemon Gelato Batter
- Actually, before you get started be sure that your ice cream drum has been in the freezer for at least 12-24 hours, that way you get will the creamiest ice cream possible.
- In a large mixing bowl pour in cane sugar, whole milk and heavy cream.
- Next whisk in the fresh lemon juice slowly and lastly, add the fresh lemon zest.
- Whisk or mix really well until the sugar has dissolved, if you see the sugar settle on the bottom continue whisking.
TFC PRO TIP | You may let it sit in the fridge for 30 minutes, then whisk well, this will speed up the process. Or use a hand mixer with a whisk attachment and whisk for 2-3 minutes on medium-high.
Step 2 | Freezing the Ice Cream in the Machine
- Once your lemon ice cream batter is well mixed, remove the frozen ice cream maker drum from the freezer and pour the batter into the drum.
- Place the ice cream paddle inside and churn the ice cream for 25-35 minutes until thick and creamy.
Step 3 | Storing Lemon Ice Cream
- Once your ice cream is nice and thick, about 25-35 minutes, stop the ice cream machine and remove ice cream paddle, scraping off ice cream into your storage container.
- Using a sturdy spatula scrape the lemon ice cream from the drum into the container, smoothing as needed.
- Place in freezer for 4 hours for soft ice cream, 8+ hours for firm ice cream. Even straight from the ice cream maker, this lemon ice cream is cool, bursting with citrus flavor, creamy and delish!
- Ice cream will last covered for about 4 weeks, yeah right, if it lasts that long.
- Cover well with a lid, foil or plastic wrap or try these neat, reusable silicone covers BPA free.
- Ensure that your ice cream freezer drum is frozen completely solid before making the lemon ice cream. While it will still appear frozen after making the homemade lemon ice cream, do not make another batch of ice cream without refreezing for at least 6 -8 hours — don’t ask me how I know this.
- Place the storage container in the freezer while you assemble and make the lemon gelato.
- Be sure to dissolve the sugar completely for the creamiest gelato ever!
- Use room temperature lemons to extract the most juice from the lemon, gently roll with your palm before slicing in half and squeezing. Or pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds.
- Before you juice your lemons, be sure to wash, dry and then zest the lemons, makes it much easier than doing it after you sliced them — again, don’t ask me how I know! 😉
- Get it back into the freezer as quickly as possible!
Frequently Asked Questions
I believe that is a personal opinion, gelato is not made with eggs, while many lemon custard ice creams are made with eggs. This typically requires you to heat the ice cream batter and cool before freezing. Custard ice creams made with eggs are creamier and delicious, but they take more time.
The answer lies in the amount of sugar; sugar actually lowers the freezing point of the ice cream batter, causing the end product to be softer and lighter or more fluffy. But it’s important to have the right balance, too much and it won’t freeze up, and too little will be a very soft, soft serve.
When you use eggs in ice cream, it becomes a custard ice cream, you cook the batter, although there are some recipes that call for eggs without cooking and the eggs make the ice cream, richer and more creamy, but the short answer is no, you do not need eggs to make ice cream.
- How to Choose the Best Lemons | Choose lemons that are firm, but yield to gentle pressure, with a smooth, thinner skin. The lemon should not have blemishes, be pale or have any green; this indicates unripeness. Good lemons for juicing, should be heavier relative to their size.
- How Best to Store Lemons | Lemons stored on the counter, look pretty, but dry out within a week. Lemons stored in the fridge will last longer, about a week to 10 days, lemons stored in a sealed plastic bag last up to a month!
- Zesting | It is much easier if you zest your lemons before cutting in half to juice them. Wash and dry lemons before zesting, and do not zest too far down, the white part, called the pith is bitter.
- Juicing Lemons | To get more juice from your lemon, try these ONE of these two tricks: 1) Place lemon on cutting board or counter and firmly roll with palm of hand until it starts to yield slightly, OR 2) Place lemon in microwave for about 10 seconds, then roll and squeeze.
- An average lemon contains about 2 ½ – 3 tablespoons of juice.
National Ice Cream Day RecipesYou Scream, I Scream, We All Scream For Ice Cream! Yes! What else can help us chill off the summer. We are celebrating National Ice Cream Day with #FestiveFoodies hosted by Radha from Magical Ingredients . Join us in celebrating #NationalIcecreamDay with these wonderful ice cream recipes perfect for summertime.
- Thai Tea Icecream by Magical Ingredients
- Garlic Ice Cream by That Recipe
- Homemade Peach Ice Cream by Fresh April Flours
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream by SueBee Homemaker
- Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream by Jolene’s Recipe Journal
- Cookies and Cream Ice Cream by House of Nash Eats
- No Churn Chocolate Cherry Ice Cream by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Corn Ice Cream with Caramel by Lemon Blossoms
- Vanilla Bean Ice Cream by Devour Dinner
- Fresh Mint Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Buttermilk Ice Cream by Our Good Life
- Homemade Lemon Ice Cream by The Fresh Cooky
- Dark Chocolate Ice Cream by Art of Natural Living
- No Churn Blueberry Ice Cream by Life Love and Good Food
More ice cream recipes you will love!
- Old Fashioned Chocolate Churn Ice Cream <== most popular!
- Creamy Vanilla Bean Ice Cream | nothing plain about it!
- Chocolate Brownie Fudge Ice Cream | cool, fudgy and dreamy!
- Patriotic No Churn Ice Cream | you can make this with any mix-ins, the base is a simple vanilla no churn ice cream.
- Rose Pistachio No Churn Ice Cream | an all natural pink ice cream!
- Circus Animal No Churn Ice Cream | nuff said!
- Mile High Mud Pie Ice Cream Cake | now this is the dessert that dreams are made of!
- Healthier Fried Ice Cream Cake | an ice cream cake with a yummy cinnamon Mexican crunchy twist!
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Lemon Ice Cream (Lemon Gelato)
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients until sugar dissolves. Wait 1 minute, then check bottom of glass bowl to see if sugar is really dissolved, if settlement, then continue whisking.
- Pour mixture into ice-cream maker freezer drum (frozen for at least 10 hours prior to making lemon ice cream) and process according to manufacturers instructions. Mine was about 25 minutes.
- Transfer lemon gelato to loaf pan, 2 qt glass or plastic container with lid and freeze until desired hardness, at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Keep ice cream covered with foil, plastic wrap or BPA free reusable silicone covers.
✱ Kathleen’s Tips
The Fresh Cooky is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is only an estimate. We recommend running the ingredients through an online nutritional calculator if you need to verify any information.
About Kathleen Pope
Recipe Innovator | Food Photographer | Food Writer
Hi, I’m Kathleen Pope. Here at The Fresh Cooky you will find easy, mostly from-scratch, trusted recipes for all occasions. From speedy dinners to tasty desserts, with easy step-by-step instructions. I am here to help teach you how to make mouthwatering recipes without spending hours in the kitchen. Read more about Kathleen here.