Here are over 8 methods you can try to make sure that your homemade low carb ice cream is soft scoop – straight from the freezer!
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Have you ever tried making a homemade ice cream that is rock hard straight out of the freezer? I notice this all the time when my family enjoys an ice cream together – their high carb version is soft enough to scoop straight away, but I have to wait ten minutes before I can get a decent scoop!
So I decided to do some research into what makes ice cream soft – and there are a surprising number of ways! In some cases a combination of methods or ingredients are successful, with others you only need to try one thing.
The methods can broadly be separated into three categories: The NON low carb methods, the professional chef methods, and the low carb home cook methods.
Let's get the first two categories out of the way first.
Non low carb methods:
Sugar (you saw that coming, right?), milk powder, evaporated or condensed milk, cornstarch, trimoline (a thick syrup made from half glucose, half fructose), fruit preserves, corn syrup, honey, glycerine
Professional chef methods:
Blast freezer / flash freezing, professional ice cream machine, liquid nitrogen, dry ice
While researching this topic, two theories came up many times: that the ice cream needs AIR – so whether that's whisking or churning, it helps keep it stay soft. My low carb almond semifreddo is more like a mousse than an ice cream, although it is frozen – but it is REALLY soft straight out of the freezer due to all the air that was whisked in before freezing.
And the second is the fat content. 100% fat doesn't freeze, so the higher the fat content in your ice cream, the softer it will be, with less ice crystals. For most people, this is an issue, but for anyone following a LCHF (low-carb-high-fat) diet or similar – it is perfect!
Methods for Making Soft Low Carb Ice Cream
Heavy cream – as mentioned above, the high fat content makes it the perfect ingredient. Try it in my “instant” raspberry ice cream!
Cream cheese – you'll have better results if you don't use the reduced fat versions. I've used cream cheese in recipes like low carb lemon ice cream, strawberry cheesecake ice cream and frozen chocolate chip balls.
Egg yolks – if you want to cut back on the fat, try egg yolks instead. The common method is to make a custard first, like in this raspberry and mascarpone ice cream recipe.
Gelatin – although not as efficient as the options above, the gelatin in Jello powder can help make a smoother ice cream. Check out these two-ingredient chocolate pudding pops!
Alcohol – alcohol can definitely keep an ice cream from freezing too hard if used in a good quantity. But that might not always be what you had in mind for a sweet treat! Also, you're better off using grain alcohol, which is 95% proof, because regular spirits contain water – and as we know, water = ice crystals.
Sweeteners – always a tricky subject! The chemical make up of sweeteners like xylitol and the newer allulose lend themselves to ice cream. Erythritol and related blends aren't so suited. I've actually had great success with allulose – in fact if you use too much the ice cream won't freeze at all! So always follow the recipe instructions (see my low carb ginger ice cream recipe)!
Extracts – flavored extracts provide flavor and alcohol but are only used in small amounts. On their own they won't produce soft ice cream, but try combining them with other ingredients that I have already suggested. In my mint chocolate ice cream I used peppermint extract and chocolate extract, but also heavy cream and allulose (see sweeteners below).
Pectin – did you notice on the list of non-low-carb methods I included fruit preserves? This is because the pectin content will help keep the ice cream soft. Most fruit preserves are off limits because of the sugar, but try adding zero-carb pectin instead. I haven't tried this yet – I'll let you know when I do!
Stabilizers and Thickeners – these can often be found in commercial ice creams and you may prefer to stay away from “chemicals”. However, they are easy to obtain. My latest discovery (and actually what prompted me writing this post) is a stabilizer called xanthan gum. I've used it before as a low carb addition to sauces, but I recently used it in my chocolate hazelnut ice cream. Along with heavy cream, it really helps to keeps the ice cream soft! A thickener called guar gum is often used, and like xanthan gum, you only need a tiny amount (like quarter of a teaspoon for three cups of liquid) otherwise the final result has a weird texture!
Now that you're really in the mood for ice cream, don't forget the toppings! Here's a list of over 25 low carb ice cream toppings for you to try!How To Make SOFT Low Carb Ice Cream - over 8 methods to try! #lowcarb Click To Tweet
Wednesday 1st of May 2019
How much xanthan gum per 4 cups of heavy cream?
Thursday 2nd of May 2019
I don't have an exact ratio for xanthan gum to heavy cream, but this recipe might help: https://stepawayfromthecarbs.com/low-carb-chocolate-hazelnut-ice-cream/
Monday 15th of April 2019
I've made my first keto ice cream but it set rock hard, which brought me to find this post. It tastes great but you need an ice pick to break it up and if I thaw it enough to chip a piece off it turns to liquid very quickly. Is it too late to add xanthan gum or thickened cream now?
Tuesday 16th of July 2019
I added the gum later...just thaw and add 1/2 tsp and mix with mixer and refreeze.
Monday 15th of April 2019
I would have thought it was too late to add them, sorry! I hope you have better success next time!
Tuesday 11th of September 2018
I’m going to try this on Thursday, heavy cream just bought the kitchen aid bowl it’s in the freezer. Wish me luck
Thursday 15th of June 2017
Awesome Georgina! I've always been afraid to try make low carb ice cream myself at home. Which of the 8 methods do you think would be easiest for a beginner to attempt?
Friday 16th of June 2017
Thank you! I would think heavy cream/cream cheese or alcohol are easiest!