You’ll love the creamy fall-forward flavor of this pumpkin chai ice cream recipe. A unique fall dessert, this is exactly the kind of dessert you want when your heart says pumpkins and the temperature says shorts!
Go pin this post immediately if you spend most of the warm weather longingly looking at the cardigans and boots in your closet! Fall is more than a season, it’s really a state of mind. The weather is usually perfect for outdoor adventures, bonfires, apple picking, pumpkin patches, and a little time to relax before the bustle of the holidays. It’s one of my three favorite seasons. Funny thing about that, is that for most of my life, I’ve lived in places where shorts and pumpkins go hand-in-hand. It either doesn’t get chilly until mid-October or later, or it never gets cold at all! So what’s a girl to do?
Naturally, the answer lies in ice cream. I feel like many questions can be answered with ice cream. Definitely this one anyway. I just know that when I catch myself fall-dreaming, I can whip up a batch of this fabulous pumpkin chai ice cream and it’s instant autumn. Not that this won’t happen even in cold weather – ice cream is also a year-round dessert.
Do I need an ice cream machine to make pumpkin chai ice cream?
I know this is probably the very first question many of you have since the recipe isn’t labeled “no churn”. If you have an ice cream machine, use it! But if you don’t, you can still make this recipe.
A girlfriend of mine asked about making my guava cheese ice cream recipe without an ice cream machine. I knew there had to be a way, and then surprise! The internet led me to this great article on The Kitchn testing a couple of different ways to make ice cream without an ice cream machine! And then I remembered how waaaaaay back when the Godfather and I were first married and didn’t do things like make ice cream, I HAD tried something similar to the food processor method and it was great. So, hooray! No ice cream maker required.
Just follow this recipe up until the churning, then follow your favorite method from the article linked to above.
Now let’s talk ice cream!
Why pumpkin chai? I’m a fan of the flavor. In fact, I have two other desserts inspired by it! You’ll definitely want to check out my pumpkin chai macarons and the always-popular pumpkin chai tiramisu. The spices in the tea blend so beautifully with the flavor of the pumpkin and take this pumpkin ice cream recipe to the next level!
The pumpkin flavor in this ice cream is all real pumpkin. You may use either homemade pumpkin puree, or canned pumpkin puree. Personally, I use the canned almost all the time for convenience. At the store, you’ll find pumpkin pie filling and pure pumpkin puree. Make sure you purchase the pure pumpkin puree because the pumpkin pie filling has spices and extra ingredients you don’t want for this recipe.
To get the fabulous chai flavor, all you’ll need is a bag of chai tea. I personally prefer using the dried tea over the liquid concentrate for two reasons. First, the liquid concentrate is usually sweetened. We don’t want the ice cream to get too sweet. And second, the little flecks of tea spices throughout the ice cream act as an indicator that there’s more than just pumpkin. Also, a good thing.
You’ll notice that the recipe calls for a few tablespoons of brandy, bourbon, or spiced rum at the end. This is optional and added to keep the ice cream from getting too hard in the freezer. Alcohol naturally lowers the freezing point of the recipe, so you won’t have to wait as long for the ice cream to soften when you are ready to serve. It also helps inhibit the formation of ice crystals. You won’t taste it in the final product, nor does it make this “boozy” in any way at all. If you don’t want to add any though, you can use a tablespoon of corn syrup instead at the same point in the recipe.
How do I store homemade ice cream?
As you can see in other homemade ice cream recipes – like this no churn apple pie ice cream – a loaf pan is perfect. If you’d prefer something more “official”, you can find ice cream containers online.
I recently purchased the one in the photos since we do make ice cream year-round and I’m currently baking more bread. It has a colorful silicone top (not pictured) that makes me happy. You’ll find a link to it in the recipe card. You can find ice cream containers at most kitchen stores too.
If you have neither a loaf pan or an ice cream container, any freezer container will work! It might even be cute to place individual servings in paper cups and freeze those. Work with what you’ve got, because this ice cream is totally worth it!
I hope you love this recipe, darlings! Don’t forget to save it if you aren’t making it right this second, then tag me in pictures when you do! Happy ice cream making!
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1 tea bag, chai tea (about 1 1/2 teaspoons loose tea)
- 2 tablespoons brandy, bourbon, or spiced rum (see notes)
- Is the bowl of your ice cream machine in the freezer? If not, place it there now so it's ready when the time comes to churn.
- Combine the pumpkin puree, milk, cream, salt, and vanilla in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring just to a boil, stirring frequently.
- While the pumpkin milk is heating, beat the egg yolks and sugars in a bowl until light in color. You may either do this with a whisk by hand, using a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed.
- When you see the first little bubbles in the pumpkin mixture, remove from the heat. Slowly drizzle half the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks and sugar, while stirring the yolk mixture constantly at a low speed. This is called tempering and will bring your egg yolks to a temperature where you can mix them into the hot milk without turning them into sugared scrambled yolks.
- Once half the milk has been incorporated into the yolks and sugar, pour the contents of the mixing bowl back into the saucepan.
- Return the saucepan to the burner over medium-low heat. Stir very frequently for about 5-10 minutes until it thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. If you are using a thermometer, you are cooking to between 170-180 Fahrenheit.
- Transfer your custard to a heat-safe bowl. A glass mixing bowl works really well. Stir in your chai tea. Allow the mixture to come to room temperature, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming.
- Press plastic wrap or a circle of parchment paper along the top of the custard and refrigerate until well chilled. This can be as little as 2 hours or as long as 2 days.
- When your custard is well chilled, it's time to churn! Follow the instructions on your ice cream maker. I use a Cuisinart, so will include the method I follow.
- Place the frozen ice cream maker container in the machine. Turn on the machine and pour the custard into the machine. Allow the machine to run for 15-18 minutes until the consistency of soft serve. If using, add the liquor in the last minute of churning.
- If you'd like to serve the ice cream soft, serve immediately. If not, transfer to your freezer container, cover, and place in the freezer another hour until firm. Let sit at room temperature a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!
- The liquor does not change the flavor of the ice cream, it just helps to keep the ice cream softer. Alternatively, you may add a tablespoon of light corn syrup. You could also add honey, but that will add a little honey flavor.
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