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Lemon Ice Cream {Lemon Gelato}

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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.

Pan filled with creamy lemon gelato ice cream with scoop and three scoops on top of the pan with lemons and blue tea towel behind.

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)
Lemon Gelato recipe in a yellow ice cream waffle dish with lemon slice and wafer cookies.

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.

Lemon Gelato Ice Cream Ingredients L-R whole milk, cane sugar, heavy cream, lemon zest and lemon juice.
  • 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!

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.
Lemon Gelato Ice Cream pouring whole milk into sugar and heavy cream.
  • Next whisk in the fresh lemon juice slowly and lastly, add the fresh lemon zest.
Adding lemon juice and lemon zest to cream, milk and sugar mixture for lemon gelato recipe.
  • 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.

Lemon Ice Cream Process shots of cream and lemon zest mixture and then the sugar that is not dissolved sitting at the bottom of a bowl.

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.
Lemon Ice Cream process shots left is ice cream batter in freezer drum and second image is of drum and paddle in ice cream maker starting to freeze.

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.
Creamy Lemon gelato ice cream in a loaf pan with an ice cream scoop and lemons behind.


  • 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

Is homemade ice cream better with eggs?

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.

How do you make ice cream soft and fluffy?

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.

Do you need eggs to make ice cream?

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 Recipes

You 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.

More ice cream recipes you will love!

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Kathleen Pope, The Fresh Cooky.

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.

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  1. 1 star
    Surprised most people gave a high rating. We all thought this recipe was very milky tasting, a bit sweet, without enough lemon flavor.

    1. Hi Eve,
      I’m sorry to hear that, never have I thought it has a milky taste and there’s a lot of lemon (or my family, friends and recipe testers), but everyone’s taste is different. I do hate it when someone makes something using expensive ingredients and it doesn’t work out. Sorry for that!

  2. Okay I’m officially obsessed. This gelato was so good and creamy and the flavor was a perfect balance of sweet and sharp. I think next time I’ll top it with some blueberry sauce and marshmallow sauce for a sundae!

  3. How fun! I didn’t know the difference between gelato and ice cream in the process sense before. Thanks for sharing!