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“Lemon Basil Ice Cream”

I planted Grandma P.’s herb garden and got to thinking about basil. A few years ago, when I was feeling especially experimental with food, I made lemon basil ice cream and everyone who set their lips to it said it was the best ice cream they’d ever tasted.

There’s something so intoxicating about basil. And while the latest trend to put strange flavors into dessert form has probably gone beyond the outer limits of what I think is delicious, in this case it makes complete and utter sense.

One of the things I like about making my own ice cream is knowing how simple the ingredient profile truly is. Although have you noticed now there is a certain brand of Hagen Daaz promoting just “4 simple ingredients?” Or something to that effect.

I went out to the chicken coop and grabbed a few eggs, zested a lemon, sugar, cream, milk and basil. And a pinch of salt.

Heat the milk and cream with the zest and basil along with a pinch of salt. Bring it up to a boil, then shut of the heat and let it infuse. Make sure to stir so the bottom doesn’t scorch. Let it sit and infuse until it’s no longer hot, but still warm.

Separately, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until…

…they are light in color from the air that you’ve incorporated.

Then you mix the basil milk in a blender until uniform.

Then you “temper” the yolk. That simply means you add a bit of the warm liquid to it rather than all at once. If you added all at once, you would likely cook the eggs. You mix the eggs with a bit of the warm liquid, and then add a little bit more. Keep stirring constantly, scraping down the sides to avoid scrambled eggs.

Then return it all to the sauce pan and stir it constantly over low heat until it thickens to the point where you can leave a track with your finger on  the spatula.

Like this.

Then, you run it through the ice cream maker and in about an hour, you have…

This! It was about 100 degrees outside with lots of humidity, so yours may not melt faster than you can snap a photo. But either way it’s spectacular.

I think it truly is my favorite. What’s your favorite ice cream?

“Lemon Basil Ice Cream”

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

“Lemon Basil Ice Cream”


  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt


  1. Put the ice cream container from your ice cream maker in the freezer.
  2. Heat the milk and cream with the zest and basil along with a pinch of salt. Bring it up to a gentle boil, then shut of the heat and let it infuse. Make sure to stir so the bottom doesn't scorch. Let sit and infuse until no longer hot, but still warm.
  3. Separately, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until they are light in color from the air that you've incorporated. Set aside.
  4. Mix the basil milk in a blender until uniform.
  5. Temper the yolks by adding a bit of the warm liquid to them gradually. Keep stirring constantly, scraping down the sides to avoid scrambled eggs.
  6. Return it all to the sauce pan and stir it constantly over low heat until it thickens to the point where you can leave a track with your finger on the spatula.
  7. Let it cool for 10-15 minutes, then pour the liquid into the frozen ice cream container and run it through the ice cream maker for 50-60 minutes.

Leave a Comment



  1. Wow. That looks so good!

  2. damn this sounds truely delicious! i should really try to find an ice cream maker >_<

  3. I've heard of basil in ice cream before. Basil is truly one of my favourites from the garden. I have all these ingredients in, maybe I should be making this now instead of sitting in front of my laptop LOL.

  4. That sounds divine, but really only one teaspoon of zest to a cup and a half of basil?! I bet it'd be really good with orange, too.

    • Yes just a bit of lemon zest, this is really all about the basil. In fact, I was debating whether to call it just "basil ice cream." The lemon zest, which is strong, just balances it well.

  5. Love this recipe! The flavors compliment each other so well. Reminds me of a rose ice cream recipe I made a long while back with a tiny bit of lemon balancing the floral scents. Will definitely be trying this one!

  6. Question – do you take out the basil leaves and just blend the milk, or do you leave the basil in after the infusion?

  7. ALL I've been talking about lately is Lemon & Basil. Lemon is a must-have in my fridge, and basil… well… if I could grow acres of it and lay in it daily… I'd be in heaven. I just need the ice cream maker! :( But, in better news, I'm making your cheese today. :)

  8. I never thought I'd get into funky-flavored ice creams; Neapolitan was the most exotic flavor I'd eat. But my best friend and his wife busted out some lavender ice cream on me a couple of years ago and I find myself thinking about it from time to time. I like my aromatic herbs to be in the background in sauces and salads, and I was surprised with myself for liking this ice cream since the lavender was so pronounced.

    Now I need an ice cream maker. It will be the first use for that cinnamon basil I was telling you about earlier this week. :^)

  9. On a separate note, why does a different pic for me pop up every time I post a comment? lol

    • Haha, that happens because you must be logging in a different way? This Intense Debate system has taken some getting used to for me, but basically it lets you log in from any of your various accounts, and will use whatever picture is associated with that account.

  10. I didn't know you had a chicken coup outside! Wait – you must not be back in Berkeley yet. Well, I just came back from the east coast myself and I was delighted to see that the farmer's markets are overflowing with bunches of absolutely gorgeous basil.

    I haven't pulled out my gelato maker yet, and I have to admit that I have always been a little scared of making actually ice cream (we always just put in fruit puree and make gelato), but your pictures have encouraged me to give it another shot.

    And my favorite is the mexican chocolate sorbet I came up with last summer. Totally lactose free (a must for several of my regular dinner guests) but incredibly creamy tasting!

    • That sounds amazing!

    • I got back to Berkeley for a day and now am in L.A. I look forward to sitting still for a minute one day very soon.

      • That reminds me! Have you been to that amazing ice cream place in Berkley – ici? My cousin took me the other day because she loves all things French, and that seems like a great place to get some flavor inspiration.

        Also, an interesting challenge – everyone is very into donut flavored cupcakes these days. Would it be possible to make a donut flavored ice cream? Double decadent.

  11. This was just the good excuse I needed to buy an ice cream maker, yum! I love herbs like basil and rosemary in sweet deserts, like my rosemary lemon scones. Can't wait to make this!

  12. Caitlin says:

    Oooh, I love lemon basil! Specifically , lemon basil gelato — had it in Rome and I was hooked! I will be making this after my basil sprouts up enough, plus it's a good excuse to finally try that ice cream maker I got last year . Any idea what type of basil you used?

  13. So fantastic! Just made it with my three-year-old. It is all I can do not eat whole pint.

  14. Hi! I made this tonight but kind of messed it up because I got impatient waiting for it to thicken on the stove. I turned the heat up and ended up with cooked eggs! How long did it take for yours to thicken up on low heat? I had it going for 30 minutes before I turned up the heat. Also, did you use whole milk? Thanks!

  15. gpellegrini says:

    Just good 'ol regular run of the mill basil.

  16. gpellegrini says:

    Definitely whole milk. And it took me about 15 minutes. It thickens just to the point that you can run a track through it with your finger but not really thick like a pudding would be.

  17. Can't wait to try this combo as soon as my basil catches back up a bit.

  18. This looks amazing. I have been lightin' up my ice cream maker all summer long, so this will definitely be my next frozen confection.

  19. This basil ice cream looks amazing! I found your blog through tasty kitchen and love it so far.

  20. Yumm, I really do need to dust off my ice cream maker and put the bowl in the freezer before this hot weather leaves us.

  21. I just made this recipe and unfortunately mine turned out too basily I think. Next time I would probably take out about half of the basil before blending it, if not more. It's kind of a Shrek green! I did also add about another teaspoon of lemon zest as I poured it into the ice cream maker and I also added a bit of lemon extract right before tempering it.

  22. Sorry, doesn’t work for me. Too much and egg and basil, and I tried it with twice as much lemon zest as you suggested. I guess it comes down to personal taste though.

    I will try it again, although with the zest of two lemons and only two eggs.

  23. Thomas X. Sayles says:

    I first experienced this wonderful dessert in Budapest, Hungary. I am going to suggest that you make a warm strawberry sauce that is not sweetened and ladle it over the ice cream, you will find this recipe is even better. Although the sweeter the strawberries the better.

  24. Artemesia says:

    We made this and it is beautiful. I did put more lemon zest in and also a couple of tablespoons of fresh lemon juice which I beat into the egg and sugar mixture. It is barely lemony enough with these additions. As written the recipe will be very basily with only a hint of lemon — a bit more zest and it balances better. It looks gorgeous.