Banana ice cream, also called nice cream, is a 1-ingredient no-churn ice cream. It’s quick, easy, and healthier than most ice cream recipes out there (since the only ingredient is bananas!). Banana nice cream is naturally vegan (egg-free, dairy-free), grain-free (gluten-free), soy-free, nut-free, and refined sugar-free.
Homemade ice cream is great, but not everyone has the space or the budget for a machine. Fortunately, you can do your own ice cream at home without an ice cream machine.
Churned vs No-Churn Ice Cream
Anyone who has ventured down the ice-cream aisle at the grocery store has probably noticed the prevalence of ice cream advertised as churned or slow-churned or double-churned or xtreme-churned… So, what exactly does churning do?
When an ice cream machine churns ice cream, it’s achieving three main things:
- It incorporates air into the mixture to achieve that “fluffiness” that you associate with a fabulous ice cream. Ice cream that is neither too dense nor too fluffy, you have to get just the right amount of air in.
- It speeds up the process of freezing ice cream, thus preventing (or significantly reducing) the number of ice crystals forming. The faster ice cream mix freezes, the smoother and creamier it will be.
- It breaks up ice crystals that do form as the mixture freezes. The smaller the ice crystals, the less cold and icy the ice cream feels on the palate.
Any successful no-churn ice cream recipe needs to mimic the effects of churning.
Since no-churn ice cream doesn’t rely on motion to reduce the amount and size of ice crystals that develop during the freezing process, the trick is to use ingredients that contain the right amount of water to begin with.
No-Churn Ice Cream Ingredients
The three most popular ingredients for making no-churn ice cream base are:
- Condensed milk
- Whipped cream
- High-pectin/high-fiber fruit
The third method is where banana ice cream comes in.
Banana Ice Cream
Water content in fruit is particularly critical in ice cream formulation. Fruit ice cream flavors are extremely challenging because fruit contains a lot of water. For context, here’s the water content in various fruits:
- Watermelon: 92%
- Papaya: 91%
- Strawberry: 91%
- Grapefruit: 91%
- Orange: 90%
- Peach: 89%
- Blackberry: 88%
- Pineapple: 86%
- Raspberry: 86%
- Blueberry: 84%
The two exceptions are:
- Banana: 74%
- Date: 26%
So, taking a banana ice cream and trying to repurpose it for an orange creamsicle will easily result in an ice storm. However, you can blend other fruits into the nice cream base to change up flavors. The best fruit, again, is with a relatively low water content, including:
- Cherry: 81%
- Mango: 81%
- Persimmon: 80%
While experimenting should be part of the fun of homemade nice cream, it’s important to know your ingredients and the role of each before diving in.
The Science Behind Banana Ice Cream
Bananas are a magical ingredient not only because they are low in water, but also because they are high in sugar and pectin (fiber).
Sugar (added or naturally occurring) is an essential ingredient in ice cream making. Sugar attracts water, lowering the temperature at which ice forms and thus reducing the presence of ice crystals. Too much sugar and your ice cream will be liquid; too little and it will be rock hard. Bananas contain up to 13% sugar, which is one of the highest in terms of fruit. However, the sugar content is not so high that bananas wouldn’t freeze.
Pectin is a type of fiber found in the walls of cells, waiting to bond together to form sturdy gels. So much so that if you add bananas to strawberry jam, you can omit the pectin you would otherwise need to add. As the blades slice through the frozen bananas, pectin chains form and get in the way of otherwise growing ice crystals. The result is lusciously creamy soft serve ice cream.
All together combined – low water content, high sugar content, and high pectin content – is why bananas are a bit of a magical ingredient. No other fruit behaves the same under the crush of a blender blade.
Tips for Making Nice Cream
- Bananas: the only ingredient required to make banana ice cream is bananas. Look for bananas that are ripe and spotty. If your bananas are green or yellow, leave them out until they begin to turn brown. Not-ripe bananas will have somewhat of an earthy, bitter taste as opposed to the more sweet, caramelized flavor they develop as they turn brown. That being said, overripe bananas have a very distinct, strong banana flavor and aroma. So, if you’re trying to mask the banana flavor, just ripe bananas are a better choice.
- Sweetener (optional): banana ice cream is plenty sweet, especially if you start with over-ripe bananas. However, if you’re used to traditional ice cream or typically use sweeteners, you may want to add a little bit of liquid sweetener of choice.
How to Make Nice Cream
No ice cream is truly instant (well, unless you have your own liquid nitrogen), but no-churn ice cream is about as fast as it gets. To make banana nice cream, all you need are a couple of frozen bananas and a food processor/high-speed blender. Here is the step-by-step process for making nice cream:
- Cut the bananas. Peel the bananas and cut them into pieces. (I typically cut the bananas into 1-inch/2.5-cm thick slices). The smaller the pieces, the faster they will break down during blending.
- Freeze the bananas. Arrange the sliced bananas in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, so they don’t stick together or to the baking sheet. Freeze until completely firm. Once frozen, transfer the bananas into an air-tight container, so they don’t pick up the tastes or smells from your freezer.
- Blend. Add the frozen bananas into a food processor or a high-speed blender and blend on high until you achieve a soft-serve consistency. Blending breaks up the ice crystals that formed during freezing and helps to add air to the mixture, just like churning. It’s not as perfect a system as breaking up those crystals as they form, but it’s a close second. You don’t have to add anything else, but you may need to stop and scrape the machine down once or twice to make sure everything keeps moving and blending. If your blender is having trouble processing the bananas, let the bananas thaw for a few minutes, so they soften and become easier to blend. Avoid adding any liquid as it will make the nice cream runnier. Also, do not over-blend the ice cream or it will start to melt.
How to Serve Nice Cream
Since banana ice cream is no-churn and doesn’t contain any added fat or sugar, it hardens as it freezes.
You can freeze it for an hour or two for a firmer, scoopable consistency, but anything longer will yield a rock-solid ice cream. So, serve nice cream right away, ideally straight out of the blender.
If you made too much and would like to save the leftovers, you can put the nice cream in the freezer for later. However, you will need to break it up and blend it again when you want to serve it. It will be just like soft serve as soon as it’s blended.
Banana Ice Cream Recipes & Flavors
Once you’ve got the basics down, there’s no end to the nice cream combinations you can whip up. Keep in mind that the measurements below are just suggestions, so be sure to taste the nice cream as you go and adjust the flavoring until it tastes perfect to you.
20 Banana Ice Cream Flavors
There are a multiple ways to add flavor directly to the banana base – fruit, nut butters, extracts, superfoods, alcohol, spices, etc. Here are 20 popular flavor ideas you can try to mix things up.
- Vanilla Bean Banana Ice Cream: add 1/4 tsp. vanilla bean paste per 1 frozen banana.
- Strawberry Banana Ice Cream: add 1/2 cup frozen strawberries + 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract per 1 frozen banana.
- Blueberry Banana Ice Cream: add 1/2 cup frozen blueberries + 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract per 1 frozen banana.
- Very Berry Banana Ice Cream: add 1/2 cup mixed frozen berries + 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract per 1 frozen banana.
- Chery Banana Ice Cream: add 1/2 cup frozen cherries + 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract per 1 frozen banana.
- Mango Banana Ice Cream: add 1/2 cup frozen mango + 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract per 1 frozen banana.
- Tropical Banana Ice Cream: add 1/2 cup frozen pineapple + 1 Tbsp. coconut cream + 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract per 1 frozen banana.
- Kiwi Banana Ice Cream: add 1/2 cup frozen kiwi per 1 frozen banana.
- Acai Banana Ice Cream: add 1 Tbsp. acai powder per 1 frozen banana.
- Chocolate Banana Ice Cream: add 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder + 1 Tbsp. maple syrup + pinch sea salt per 1 frozen banana.
- Chocolate Almond Butter Banana Ice Cream: add 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder + 1 Tbsp. natural almond butter + 1 Tbsp. + pinch sea salt per 1 frozen banana.
- Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream: add 1 Tbsp. natural peanut butter per 1 frozen banana.
- Pistachio Banana Ice Cream: add 1 Tbsp. natural pistachio butter + 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract per 1 frozen banana.
- Mint Chocolate Chip Banana Ice Cream: add 1/16 tsp. peppermint extract + pinch spirulina or matcha powder (for green color) per 1 frozen banana. Once blended, stir in chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate.
- Salted Caramel Banana Ice Cream: add 2 Medjool dates + pinch sea salt per 1 frozen banana.
- Caramelized Pecan Banana Ice Cream: add 1 frozen caramelized banana per 1 frozen banana. Once blended, stir in toasted chopped pecans.
- Maple Walnut Banana Ice Cream: add 1-2 Tbsp. maple syrup per 1 frozen banana. Once blended, stir in chopped walnuts.
- Coffee Banana Ice Cream: add 1 tsp. espresso powder per 1 frozen banana. Add some cacao powder to make it mocha ice cream.
- Matcha Banana Ice Cream: add 1 tsp. matcha powder per 1 frozen banana.
- Nutella Banana Ice Cream: add 1 Tbsp. Nutella per 1 frozen banana.
Banana Ice Cream Toppings
To take banana nice cream to the next level, don’t forget to add toppings. Some of my favorite are:
- Chocolate sauce
- Caramel sauce
- Chopped nuts
- Nut butter
- Cacao nibs
More Banana Frozen Desserts
Other than ice cream, bananas are also an excellent addition in sorbets. Compared to ice cream, sorbets are are lighter, icier, and more refreshing. This watermelon sorbet contains nothing but ripe fruit, and is perhaps the quickest sorbet you can make.
Banana Ice Cream (Nice Cream)
Basic Banana Ice Cream
- 2 bananas , sliced and frozen*
- liquid sweetener (optional)
- Blend. Add the frozen bananas into a high-speed blender (or a food processor fitted with an S blade). Start the blender on low and using a tamper (if you have a Vitamix blender), push the bananas down into the blade. Once the bananas start blending, switch to high and blend until smooth. Be careful not to over-blend or the bananas will start melting. If the motor seems to be struggling, stop and pause for a moment to let the bananas thaw slightly. Don't add any liquid, if possible.
- Serve/Freeze. For a soft-serve consistency, serve the banana ice cream immediately, straight of out of the blender (food processor). For a scoopable ice cream consistency, transfer the banana ice cream into an air-tight container and freeze for 1-2 hours. Then scoop using an ice cream scoop.
- Store. Leftovers keeps well in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 1 month. The ice cream does freeze hard. Blend again to achieve soft serve consistency.
**Prep time does not include freezing the bananas (~4 hours).
***Nutrition information is approximate and may contain errors. Please, feel free to make your own calculations.