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2 ingredient vanilla ice cream - made with only condensed milk and whipped cream

How to Make 2-Ingredient Ice Cream (Only 3 Steps!)

Ice cream made with just 2 ingredients, made without using an ice cream maker, or even a stove? Real ice cream? Yes, you can make ice cream using only cream and sweetened condensed milk, in just 3 simple steps.

Since this method is so simple, it is the perfect vehicle to explain the science of ice cream. As such, we’ll be doing a deep dive into the role of cream and sweetened condensed milk. We’ll have a look at how they can take over the role of so many other ingredients!

What is ice cream again (from a scientist’s perspective)?

In this article, we’re talking about ice cream that you can scoop into a ball. You know, the one you can place on top of a cone. We’ll also focus on ice cream that contains fat. There are many others types of ice cream, such as soft serve, sorbets, and popsicles, but to keep things simple we’ll focus on the former.

From a scientist’s perspective, this ice cream consists of 4 components:

  • Air bubbles: air bubbles are important to make your ice cream scoopable and light. It’s a challenge to capture air bubbles into your ice cream!
  • Water ice crystals: water freezes and hardens the ice cream. You want crystals for the ice cream to be sturdy, but not too much or it will become rock solid. The ice crystals should be small enough to prevent graininess (we discuss crystal size in more detail here).
  • Sugar syrup: not all water in your ice cream freezes. Due to the freezing point depression some of it remains liquid as part of the sugar syrup. This ensures your ice cream doesn’t turn into an ice cube
  • Fat crystals: all fats in ice cream are solid crystals. This is due to the low temperature. Fat adds creaminess to ice cream.

In a successful ice cream, you need enough of each component to balance the ice cream. They also need to be dispersed and mixed well.

2 ingredient vanilla ice cream - top view
2-ingredient ice cream: even though you can’t see all the different phases, it contains ice crystals, sugar syrup, solid fats, and plenty of air bubbles.

3 steps to make 2-ingredient ice cream

When making ice cream, you’re creating and balancing the 4 phases. Often, you’d use a range of ingredients and process steps to do so. In this 2-ingredient ice cream, we only use 2 ingredients and 3 simple process steps. So, we have to be efficient! But how?

Our vanilla ice cream is made with 4 ingredients (milk, cream, egg yolks, and sugar) and way more than 3 process steps. Our olive oil ice cream needs 6 ingredients (milk, cream, sugar, honey, egg yolks, and olive oil). Even though both aren’t very complicated, they are a lot more complex than our 2-ingredient ice cream.

We’re not counting ingredients purely added for flavor.

Step 1: Aeration

When you’re incorporating air into a liquid, as we’re doing when making ice cream, you’re actually making a foam. You can incorporate air by vigorously whisking the liquid: the air will get trapped within. However, foams are notoriously unstable. The air wants to escape from the foam. So, you have to find a way to make sure the air cannot escape the ice cream.

Traditionally, when using an ice cream maker you incorporate air while freezing the ice cream mixture. At the start, the mixture will be fluid enough to incorporate new air. While cooling down the mixture turns solid. As a result, it becomes harder to incorporate more air, but, the air that has been incorporated won’t be able to escape anymore.

In this 2-ingredient ice cream, we use a different trick: whipping up the cream! Cream with a high fat content is good at holding onto air. The fat globules in the cream stabilize the air bubbles that are whipped in. It’s not stable for long, after a few hours, whipped cream will have collapsed noticeably. However, for this recipe, we don’t need it to be stable for long, just long enough to make the mixture. Once frozen, the increased firmness will stabilize the air bubbles!

Air plays a crucial role in ice cream. It ensures you can scoop the ice cream and it will taste lighter, and melt a bit more easily. We discuss the role of air in more detail here.

Attention: do NOT boil the cream!

It is important that the cream you use is not boiled or heated – apart from well-controlled pasteurization processes. Additional heating of the cream destabilizes the cream. It’s very hard to whip the cream without it turning into butter!

Step 2: Mixing

Once you’ve incorporated air into the cream, all you need to do is mix in the sweetened condensed milk. It’s important to mix carefully. You don’t want to lose all those air bubbles you created in the first step!

Sweetened condensed milk is made by boiling down milk, to remove water, and adding plenty of sugar. It’s a thick liquid, but still fluid enough to easily mix through a whipped cream.

It is important to choose the ratio of cream : sweetened condensed milk well. Too much sugar will make for a very sweet ice cream. Too little will make the ice cream bland and hard.

You’re skipping several steps!

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In ‘regular’ ice cream recipes you have to dissolve sugar. Also, you’d have to thicken the sugar + milk mix, often by making a custard (with or without eggs). By using sweetened condensed milk you can skip both these steps.

Step 2b: Mixing in cookies (optional)

You can upgrade your 2-ingredient ice cream to a 3-ingredient version by also folding in cookies pieces. Cookies don’t dissolve so aren’t part of your ice cream base. Instead, they add a separate “cookie phase”, alongside your other 4 phases. This adds extra flavor, and a little extra crunch – though the cookies will turn softer due to water migration.

Bastognekoeken ice cream with just 3 ingredients
3-ingredient ice cream, made with cookie pieces

Step 3: Freezing

All the hard work has finished! Now you only have to freeze the ice cream. Ideally you freeze it down to at least -18°C (0°F). In the freezer, some of the water freezes into ice crystals, the remainder will remain a liquid sugar solution. The low temperatures also solidify the fats, e.g. those in cream. This stabilizes your ice cream. It ensures that the air you incorporated doesn’t get lost.

Faster is better

To create a smooth, less grainy ice cream, it is best to freeze ice cream as quickly as possible. Manufacturers have special equipment to do so. Some ice cream shops use liquid nitrogen to freeze ice cream very rapidly. At home, ensuring your freezer works well and freezing several smaller batches instead of one large one can help.

By freezing faster you create more small ice crystals, instead of a few very large ones. A lot of small crystals give a smoother experience.

Why use cream and sweetened condensed milk?

Our ice cream consists of 4 components: air bubbles, water ice crystals, sugar solution and fat crystals. Since we only use 2 ingredients in this ice cream, each ingredient fulfills several roles.

Cream

Cream is made of milk and consists of two main ingredients: water and milk fat. Cream plays a role for the formation of 3 out of the 4 phases of our ice cream: air bubbles, fat crystals, and water ice crystals.

Stabilizing air bubbles

In this ice cream, the cream has to hold onto air. Not every cream can do so, only those with a high fat content of at least 30%. The fat particles in the cream are what stabilize and hold onto the bubbles.

Naming conventions for cream vary by country! In some areas high-fat creams may be referred to as ‘whipping cream’, ‘heavy cream’ or ‘heavy whipping cream’. If you’re unsure, it’s best to check the fat content on the nutritional label directly.

Smoothness

The fat in the cream has another important role. Aside from stabilizing air bubbles, it creates a rich, creamy texture. Fat melting on your tongue gives the ice cream a decadent feel. Just compare the experience of eating a popsicle versus a gelato!

Ice crystals

Lastly, the water in cream will partially freeze, forming ice crystals. Upon eating ice cream, you can feel ice crystals melt on your tongue. It’s an important part of the ice cream eating experience.

sweetened condensed milk
A can of sweetened condensed milk

Sweetened condensed milk

Recall that sweetened condensed milk is made by boiling down milk – thus evaporating moisture – and adding sugar. The high sugar and lower water content make it very shelf stable. The production process also gives it a characteristic dairy flavor.

Flavor

If you’ve ever eaten pure whipped cream, you’ll know it tastes quite bland. Sweetened condensed milk adds flavor to the ice cream, both dairy flavors, as well as sweetness.

Sugar solution

The sugar ensures that not all the water freezes, remember the freezing point depression? As a result, your ice cream will contain both pure ice crystals, as well as a liquid sugar solution.

If all that ice cream science has made you feel like ice cream, why not give the 2-ingredient ice cream a try yourself? You will see all that you learned come to life!

2 ingredient vanilla ice cream - made with only condensed milk and whipped cream

2-Ingredient Ice Cream

Yield: 10 portions
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Makes a simple, delicious ice cream using just heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk!

You can play around with the sweetness by increasing or decreasing the sweetened condensed milk content, however, keep in mind that decreasing it by too much will also impact the texture!

Ingredients

Regular version

  • 230g heavy whipping cream (non sweetened, at least 30% fat)
  • 150g sweetened condensed milk

Optional inclusions

  • 5-6 cookies (crispy dry cookies, e.g. ginger snaps) - leave out 25g of the sweetened condensed milk to make up for the added sweetness
  • 50g peanut butter
  • 1 tsp of spices (e.g. cardamom)
  • few drops of color or flavor
  • roasted nuts

Instructions

Regular version

  1. Whip the cream in a stand mixer until a firm foam has formed (if you'd turn the bowl upside down it would remain inside).
  2. Optional: mix the peanut butter and sweetened condensed milk if making the peanut butter version. By pre-mixing it's easier to fold it into the cream below.
  3. Pour in the condensed milk.
  4. Turn the mixer on high again to whip in the sweetened condensed milk. The cream will first collapse a little, before firming up again.
  5. Optional: add in other additional ingredients e.g. flavors.
  6. Whisk or fold these through shortly.
  7. Pour the mixture into a container suitable for freezing and leave it in the freezer (-18C/0F) for at least 8 hours (overnight) to harden out.
  8. Enjoy!

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18 Comments

    • Hi,
      Thanks for stopping by! I haven’t personally tried this, but a few things will happen:
      1) the ice cream will be a lot less sweet, which doesn’t have to be a problem if you like it that way
      2) since there’s less sugar in there though, more of the water will freeze in the ice cream, creating a harder, less soft ice cream
      3) sugar helps to stabilize the air so the ice cream will be less stable over time and might also collapse a bit more easily after you’ve whipped it up and before you’ve completely frozen it

      That said, if you really want it, give it a try, it’s likely nothing very horrible will happen, the main risk is that you end up with an ice cream you don’t really like or can’t save for long. Whipped cream with some sugar tends to taste good anyway!
      Good luck!

  1. This ice-cream looks soooo yummy!and delicious! Great post 🙂 x
    It’s never too late for ice cream. 😉 One of my favorite flavors!! 🙂

    • Hmm, that’s a great question! I haven’t tried it and have very little experience with using these dispensers with homemade mixtures. I would say it should be able to aerate it to some extent. It won’t be as fluffy as a regular whipped cream, but you don’t need that for making a delicious ice cream. If you give it a try, let us know how it went!

    • Hi Sana,

      There are two possibilities here:

      • You’ve overwhipped the whipped cream by itself. Unfortunately, once your whipped cream has turned into butter and lost some of that airiness, there’s nothing really you can do. It’s best to take some fresh cream and start over and not waste your condensed milk on the overwhipped cream. You could continue whipping it further to make it into butter though!
      • You’ve mixed the condensed milk + whipped cream for too long. The best way to prevent this is to use a wooden spoon or spatula to mix them together. Refrain from using an electric mixer here. If you overmix here though, all you do is remove more air. It won’t ruin your ice cream, just makes it a little less airy and light. Just freeze it and enjoy :-).
  2. I have made this before and it tasted like sweetened whipped cream. Also didn’t harden in freezer. I had to throw it out. Any tips? Maybe less cream and more condensed milk? I don’t know what I did wrong.

    • Hi Lex,

      I’m sorry to hear that! If it didn’t freeze at all you might have used too much condensed milk, you could try reducing the quantity, there’s some flexibility there. This ice cream will taste different than a custard-based ice cream of course, though personally, I really enjoy the texture and flavor. If you think it’s too much sweet whipped cream, try one of the variations of adding peanut butter or cookies. That makes the flavours a bit more complex and varied.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Are you using condensed milk, or Sweetened condensed milk? Seems like a huge difference in sugar content. If sweetened, since I’m Fructose Intolerant, could I use non-sweetened condensed milk + dextrose? If so, do I need to hear it to dissolve?

    • Hi Ender,

      We’re using sweetened condensed milk, thanks for spotting that, we clarified it in the recipe (since most condensed milk contains sugar, the sweetened version is often referred to as condensed). The sugar is important for this ice cream, both for sweetness as well as ensure the ice cream doesn’t turn into ice.
      I would expect you could use dextrose yes. However, dextrose has a slightly different sweetness value and impacts the freezing of ice cream differently so you might need to spend some time optimizing concentrations. You could start by assuming sweetened condensed milk contains 50% sugar and 50% ‘milk’. So replace half of it with dextrose and the other half with condensed milk.

      Hope that helps, good luck!

    • Hi,

      I personally do not have experience using whipping cream powder. However, if you can use your whipping cream powder to make whipped cream, it should not be a problem, you just want to create a foam!
      How to use it will depend a lot on your specific powder (a quick Google search showed me that there are a lot of different types!). As such, I would recommend you follow the recommendations of the manufacturer to make the whipping cream. Once you have the whipping cream, you should be able to follow the instructions in this recipe.

      Let us know how it goes!

  4. I make homemade sweetened condensed milk (using whipping cream, erythritol and stevia extract reduced). Do you think it would work in this recipe?

    • Hi Dee,

      In this recipe the sweetened condensed milk is the only source of sugar. Sugar is what helps ensure the ice cream doesn’t turn rock solid in the freezer (read more here). Seeing as how you’ve taken out almost all of the sugar your homemade version will give a different textured ice cream. Chances are it might turn too hard, without the softening effect of sugar (erythritol might take over some of the functionality, but not all).
      That said, you can always give it a try! It might be different, but still be tasty :-)!

      Apart from the sugar, it’s important that the milk is quite thick, like sweetened condensed milk. If it’s not thick, it won’t be able to form a stable ice cream when folding it in with the whipped cream. Something to keep in mind as well :-)!

    • Hi Harini,

      To convert weights (g) to volume (ml) you’ll need to know the density of your products. If you don’t know those (which I assume you don’t) I would suggest you use weights instead, that will also give a more accurate outcome!

      1. Weigh how much your condensed milk weighs.
      2. Calculate how much whipping cream you need using the following formula: 150g / 230g * [weight of condensed milk] = weight of whipping cream.

      That said, this recipe doesn’t have to be super exact. If you add more milk it will be sweeter and softer, less will make it a little harder and less sweet. I would recommend you start at approx. 560ml whipping cream and experiment from there. Good luck!

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