Chai Ice Cream (No Ice Cream Maker Required!)

[Smooth, creamy. . . and oh so easy!]

I’m so glad it’s ice cream season again, aren’t you?  Not because it coincides with climbing temperatures (though the 25C (78F) and sunny days are certainly welcome).  Not because it means the HH and I can bring The Girls down to the Beaches for lakeside walks (“We love that about summer, Mum!”).  Not because I can spend the entire weekend wearing nothing more than my bathing suit. (Kidding.  Like that’s going to happen).

No, I’m glad it’s ice cream season because. . . well, I get to eat ice cream more often, silly!

When I was a child, the only ice cream we ever had in our home came in square cardboard cartons.  I loved it when my mom bought Chocolate Ripple or Chocolate Chip or (later) Heavenly Hash, but when she catered to my father’s tastes and brought home a brick of Neapolitan, well, a little ingenuity was required to work around the dreaded strawberry stripe (which was my dad’s favorite). With the precision of a surgeon, I’d scrape around and under the pink section to snare more chocolate and vanilla while ensuring that, on the surface, all three flavors still appeared in equal proportions.  (Now if only I’d applied that same concentration to my geography class. . . ).

Apart from the shrinking blocks of ice cream at home, my favorite dairy-based treats appeared when our family moved to the country for the summer months.  To my sisters and me, living in a wooden shack without a TV, electric stove or reliable hot water was a true adventure (I can only imagine, these days, how my mom managed with three young children).

We girls would spend the daylight hours entirely outdoors, playing hide-and-seek with the neighbors’ kids in the nearby woods, carving our names into the dirt by the side of the road with sticks, selecting perfect stones from those that washed up on the beach or helping Mom with the laundry by first drenching our clothes in the lake, then peeling them off before tossing them into the ringer washer that stood like a totem on the wooden porch. By the end of August, the grey dust from the side of the road had worked its way permanently into the creases in the back of my neck, my tank top was traced in reverse by tan lines, and my hair, stringy from being drenched repeatedly in sandy beach water, was two or three shades lighter than it had been at the beginning of the season.

One of the highlights of our days was hearing the distinctive jangling melody of the ice cream truck. Like church bells on helium, the clanging sounds to tunes like “Ring Around the Rosie” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” drew children out from behind bushes, from beaches, from within wooden cottages or away from frolicking with beloved pets.  We came running from all corners of the street, coins clasped tightly in our fists, to swarm around the tiny trucks like paparazzi surrounding Brad and Angelina.  Then came the negotiations:

“A lime Sno-cone, please.”

“I’ll have a small chocolate soft serve.”

“Medium vanilla cone, dipped.”

[Or, for really special occasions]: “Banana Split.”

The man behind the sliding window would reach down and magically withdraw whatever it was we’d ordered.

I always chose a vanilla-chocolate twist, dipped. This was a combination of soft-serve vanilla and chocolate ice creams intertwined in a spiral, the top of which ended in a curved peak.  The ice-cream man inverted it into a vat of warm, melted chocolate (or what would be called “chocolatey coating” today), turned it back upright, and let it sit for just a few seconds for the chocolate to set before proffering it to the salivating customer.  My tactic was to begin at the tip, eating the barely-solid coating right away before it firmed up, moving down to where it met the cone (at which point the chocolate was entirely solid and would split into brown shards, which I caught eagerly with my tongue before licking up any spills of melted ice cream beneath it).

Whichever type of cone we got that day, whether flat-bottomed or pointed, we’d poke a hole in the bottom and suck the softened ice cream through it before consuming the remainder of the treat.

Funny how the lens of childhood seems to paint items like ice cream trucks or soft-serve cones just a little more brightly, with colors a little more intense, than they appear in adulthood. When we moved to our current neighborhood, I was delighted to discover that a similar truck began to make its rounds through the streets in late May, summoning local crowds of children from the area. When we first heard it, the HH and I sauntered over, waited amid the group of children, and each ordered a cone.  Somehow, my usual medium twist, dipped, had lost its allure; the ice cream was flavorless as frozen glue, the coating a sheen of dark brown wax.  I came home disappointed, the memory of childhood shattered like the hardened chocolate on the cone.

These days, I’d much prefer a bowl of this dairy-free, sugar-free, low glycemic Chai Ice cream that I’m sharing today.  I whipped up a batch the other night, and we’ve enjoyed it twice more since then (the last time with a homemade chocolate shell that far outshone the chocolatey coating of my youth).  And even though I do own an ice cream maker, I always tend to use my processor method, which to me seems quicker and easier.

Nowadays, when we hear the distinctive chimes making their way along the street, Elsie runs to the front door and peers out the window with her hackles up, emitting a low, stifled growl from the back of her throat.

I like to imagine that she’s assessing the quality of the treats in that truck.

Good Girl, I say.

Yes, Mum, I’m what you’d call a connoisseur of treats.  And if you’d kindly let me lick that bowl of ice cream once you’re done, I promise to keep growling at strange men in trucks for you.”

This recipe is being shared with Allergy Friendly Fridays and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

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Other Ice Creams and Creamy Desserts on DDD:

© Ricki Heller

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  1. It’s so funny how, as children, we’re so methodical in our ice cream adventures 🙂 I could totally relate to this – I avoided the vanilla stripe in favour of chocolate and strawberry! I love your method for making ice cream, so inventive Ricki! I have an ice cream maker – woo hoo – so I don’t need to try it. However, I would like to give your method a whirl (pardon the pun). Chai ice cream sounds heavenly. Mmmm.

    • Thanks, Maggie! I actually have an ice cream maker, too, but I prefer this method as it feel easier! And the ice cream is always the perfect texture when you eat it. . . no worries about it getting too hard in the freezer. 🙂

  2. i love home-made ice-creams like this tasty & fabulous one! I just bought a vitamix ! It is the perfect machine to make this luscious ice-cream in!

  3. Ice cream must be on everyone’s brain lately! I just made some yesterday and have spent (way too much) time drooling over Kelly’s new book. 🙂

  4. Wow, my memories are so much like yours! Childhood memories really are dripping with summer ice cream. I also painstakingly worked around that strawberry stripe (yuck!) and we did the poke the hole in the cone thing to avoid losing a precious drop 🙂

  5. I love this Ricki, thank you so much for this recipe! I just went dairy free, so you better believe I will be making this pronto! 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Jane! Ever since I discovered the “food processor method,” I’ve been making ice creams all summer long. . . now that my mint is growing again, can’t wait for the Mint Chip one. But we loved this Chai ice cream, too–especially with a little chocolate sauce 😉 Hope you like it! 🙂

  6. Ricki, this look perfect! Where did you find herbal chai tea? I can no longer have black tea and sure do miss my chai! Thank you for sharing. xo

    • Hi Sunny, I linked to the Celestial Seasonsings equivalent in my recipe. I’ve also used President’s Choice “Chocolate Chai Herbal” with great results! 🙂

  7. Sadie Miller says

    Some of my favorite childhood memories involve ice cream :). This recipe looks really good, however do you think lite coconut milk will work?

    • Sadie, I’m guessing lite wouldn’t work as well–it would probably be less creamy and crystallize more. However, if you’re willing to risk it–go for it! 😉

  8. ooooh i love chai and i dont have an ice cream maker.. too many appliances already on my tiny countertop.. this is just perfect.. i have my chai spice blend all fresh and ready to use with the daily assam tea. pears are an interesting addition!

    • I know what you mean about full countertops! That’s probably one of the main reasons I tend not to use my ice cream maker, either. The pears are a great way to add sweetness and texture! 🙂

  9. Brilliant, Ricki! Love it…and LOVE the flavor. Mouth. Is. Watering!!! (it’s 95 degrees here…arg).

    Have a great rest of your Sunday,

    • Thanks so much, Amber! I’m a huge fan of these flavors on their own, not so much in the tea! But it worked for ice cream. 🙂 Enjoy the warmth!

  10. I’m a big Chai tea fan, and love this creative use of pears in this dairy-free ice cream!

    • Thanks, Jeanette! They work really well to add some extra sweetness. . . I tend to use pear puree in all my ice creams. 🙂

  11. Love “The Beaches” and wish I could walk there too. One of my favorite neighborhoods in Toronto. Feels kind of like home (the west coast). Today would have been the perfect day to venture east, stroll down the boardwalk and do some serious people (and dog) watching!

    Your ice cream idea sounds great too 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Laurel! A friend of mine said the same thing–Beaches felt like West Coast (and then she moved to Vancouver!). It was lovely, though I must say it gets more crowded every time we go. The Girls had a blast, though. 😉

  12. This is so brilliantly inventive that I think I might actually clap. Pear. No ice-cream maker. Chai. ALL THINGS GOOD. Despite the fact that in Canberra, I’m already wearing thermal socks to bed and turning on the heater so my nose doesn’t freeze overnight, I want this.

    P.S. I just wrote pretty much the exact same story about avoiding the awful pink stripe in Neapolitan ice cream for a chocolate review (but will likely have to edit it out for length). But still, anti-fake-strawberry ladies unite!

    • Hannah, you’re such a riot! All things good! I do love the chai spices in this (and pear is a staple in my ice creams)–mmm! And I am just chuffed to read that you are also a strawberry-avoider! 😀

  13. This ice cream sounds amazing, and I love that you don’t need an ice cream maker to enjoy it! That’s funny about how you avoided the strawberry layer in neapolitan ice cream…for me, I did my best to get as little of the chocolate stripe as possible! Actually, when I was in India I bought a box of neapolitan ice cream that had vanilla, strawberry and pistachio – for once, I could enjoy all three flavours equally!

    • Wow, I love the idea of pistachio in neapolitan ice cream! But I’m a little confused by your comment. . . avoided. . . CHOCOLATE??? Sorry, doesn’t compute. . . !! 😉 (hee hee)

  14. It is not ice cream season here but your wonderful story makes me feel all summery and in the mood for a scoop. I also want to have your childhood holidays – they sound so idyllic (though I agree I would enjoy them more as a child than an adult – I get cross at sylvia if she wants to bite the bottom of the cone because of the mess)

    I must try your food processor method some time and I don’t have an ice cream maker and have tried a few ice creams but I am still getting my head around how to get the right consistency.

    We never really had the mr whippy van when I was a kid so recently I have been surprised to hear it nearby but it just seems odd to me that anyone would buy them in this way

    • Glad I could bring a little bit of summer your way! 🙂 I always have to laugh at comments like that, though, as my childhood was anything but idyllic! I guess things always sound better in retrospect. . . !! 😀
      I love the food processor method, because the ice cream is always the perfect texture when you eat it, no matter how hard it gets in the freezer first!

  15. three questions for you, my dear:
    – will almond milk work?
    – full fat or light coconut milk?
    – once you store it in the freezer, is it rock-hard or scoopable?


    • Hey Cara–1) almond milk should be fine, though I found it very thick with anything but rice milk; 2) full fat (always for ice cream!); 3) it gets really, really hard–which is why the food processor method is so perfect–just process and you have the perfect texture! 🙂 (I don’t know how it would be if you used an ice cream maker. . . I imagine that eventually it would harden up just as much).

  16. Okay. First off, I had to laugh because with our summer temps here, it means that we DO spend the entire weekend in nothing but our swimsuits. Literally. Not because I like to flaunt my body (in fact, that is the complete opposite of truth), but because it is out of complete necessity to be able to jump in the pool real quick when we are outside in order to cool down from the 105 temps.
    This ice cream would be another perfect way!! I love the idea of chai ice cream, since I love chai tea so much!! And I was going to ask the same as Cara about how coconut milk would work in this! Loving loving this recipe!!

    • Hmm, I might love the heat where you are, Kim, but I think I’d have to find an alternative to that swimsuit. 😉 And hope I answered your question when I answered Cara’s–coconut milk for ice cream should always be full fat (in my opinion), unless there’s another source of creaminess added as well! Particularly if you’re not using an ice cream maker, it really helps with the creamy texture. 🙂

  17. Lots of chuckles and smiles as I also remember the Ice Cream Truck Days…I have strayed away from Dairy so long now and only recently began to fall in love with the So Delicious Coconut Ice Cream as an occasional treat…BUT Homemade! It always seemed too hard a task especially without an ice cream maker. It has already gotten SOOO hot outside that Pool Time and Ice Cream time seem like the perfect Summertime Duo. To incorporate my Love for Chai Tea into an ice cream….I am drooling! Me and the kiddies will be making this next week when Summer Break Starts. Thank You for the answered questions about the milks because I would have asked too. Thanks for sharing this!!!!

    • Thanks, Christina! I had no idea those milks would prompt so many questions. . ha ha! Glad I answered yours, too. 🙂 I know what you mean about dairy-based ice cream–I probably wouldn’t even like it if I ate it now!

  18. Oh if only I were feeling some of the same heat you’re feeling, I would run right to the kitchen and whip up some of this yummy sounding ice cream. Right now I’m too chilly. Boo. I’ll file the recipe for when the sun comes out again. 🙂

  19. Ricki, I really do think you are one of the most creative bloggers I “know.” I would never think to add pear to ice cream, but this recipe sounds absolutely delicious. I can’t wait to try it!

    • Thanks, Megan. The pear in here seems to be getting quite a bit of attention–funny to me, since I’ve been putting pear in all my ice creams on the blog so far!! Guess for some reason it seems to stand out more in this recipe. You won’t really taste the pear–but it does add a nice texture when pureed. 🙂

  20. Wow…what an innovative way to make ice cream, and vegan, no less! Anything chai spiced is a winner in my book!

  21. Oh my! This recipe sounds fabulous! What a great blend of flavors!

  22. For those who truly need to be on a sugar-free diet, the pears in this recipe are a very bad idea. They have a higher (albeit)natural sugar content than almost any other fruit one can eat. Refined or not, the sugar content the pears lend can be metabolized and used for the candida growth we all want to avoid.

    • Thanks for your comment, Su. I know that pears have natural sugars in them, yes. This is NOT a recipe for the first stage of the diet as a result (it’s listed as a Stage 2 and beyond). I’m following the Whole Approach guidelines, which permit pears in Stage 2 or later. Each person who follows an anti-candida diet should be aware of the various permutations of the diet and which one(s) work for them. If pears don’t work for you, by all means, please don’t use them (and then this recipe wouldn’t suit you, either). For me, pears were fine after Stage 2.


  1. […] list of ten is great, but if you still don’t find something that sounds enticing, why not try Ricki’s Chai Ice Cream? (no ice cream maker […]

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