watermelon sorbet - sugar-freeOne of the trickiest things to make in the Vitamix blender is ice cream. The ingredients are typically frozen, there is very little (if any) liquid added, the friction of the blades produces heat, and the whole mixture is exposed to warm/hot outside temperatures (unless you’re making ice cream outside in the winter).

Making ice cream in an ice cream maker is quite a different story – the ingredients are already blended, the ice cream base is chilled (not frozen), and the churning happens in a controlled environment – a completely frozen freezer bowl.

So, is it possible to make Vitamix ice cream comparable to the churned version? Yes, it is! All you need to know is how different ingredients and techniques affect texture and consistency.

The Science of Ice Cream

Despite its seeming simplicity, ice cream is a prime example of some fairly complex chemistry. What affects the final product are the ingredients that go into the ice cream as well as the process of turning the liquid base into a solid state.

Ice Cream Components

On a molecular level, ice cream is made up of three basic components: ice crystals (solid), concentrated sweetened cream (liquid), and air (gas). What makes a truly memorable bowl of ice cream is a successful emulsion of these basic components:

  • Ice: the size of the ice crystals largely determines how fine or grainy the ice cream eventually turns out. It also determines the perceived temperature of ice cream – grainy ice cream will feel colder on the palate compared to a smoother mix. The main objective is therefore to keep the size of the ice crystals as small as possible. 
  • Fat: the main reason ice cream tastes so irresistibly delicious is high fat content. Fat provides structure, delivers flavor, adds richness, and improves creaminess and smoothness. It does that by standing in the way of water molecules during the churning process. The higher the fat content, the more segregated the water molecules, and the longer the churning process. Ice cream must be at least 10% fat, unless it’s labelled as low-fat, non-fat, or light. 
  • Sweeteners: in addition to adding sweetness, sweeteners improve texture and lower the ice cream freezing point, reducing the amount of ice produced in the freezing process. A low freezing point ensures that the ice cream is soft enough to scoop. On average, ice cream contains 12-20% sugar.
  • Air: tiny air cells whipped into the ice cream interrupt and weaken the matrix of ice crystals and cream, making the matrix lighter and easier to scoop. The air cells also inflate the volume of the original mix. The increase is called overrun, and in fluffy ice cream, it can be as much as 100%: that is, the final ice cream volume is half mix and half air. The lower the overrun, the denser the ice cream.
  • Add-Ins: chocolate chips, sprinkles, caramel sauce, purees, chopped nuts, mineral salts… all these ingredients add flavor and contribute to the body, texture, and smoothness of ice cream. 

sorbet in a blender

How Is Ice Cream Made

Traditional (Churned) Ice Cream

Making old-fashioned ice cream involves a few simple steps – creating a liquid ice cream base that is slowly frozen in a super-chilled container while being constantly churned. As the mixture freezes, the constant motion ensures smallest ice crystals possible.

Churned ice cream has been around since the 1800s. The first hand crank ice cream machine was first patented in 1843. Aside from using a motor in place of a hand crank, and refrigerant gas instead of ice and salt, nothing about the design has really changed. Surely there must be a better, quicker, and more efficient way to make ice cream?

It turns out there is – the Pacojet!

Pacojet Ice Cream

Pacojet ice cream works on an entirely different principle than churned ice cream.

The word ‘pacotize’ literally means to micro-purée deeply frozen food products into a homogeneous mixture. In other words, rather than starting with a liquid ice cream base, the ice cream base is frozen solid. The rock-hard block – absolutely impossible to eat – is then put through the Pacojet, which is fitted with a blade that spins at over 2,000 RPM. As the blade spins, it breaks up the ice into crystals far smaller than can be created even with the best traditional churning methods.

The entire process takes about 20 seconds (as opposed to 30 minutes that it takes to churn ice cream) and what emerges is ice cream that is smoother and creamier than any ice cream you’ve ever tasted (that is, assuming you’ve never eaten ice cream from a Pacojet).

The only downside is that Pacojet costs a little over $4000.  However, with a few modifications and a little finesse, you can replicate this process in a Vitamix blender.

Vitamix Ice Cream

The process of making Vitamix ice cream is very similar to that of Pacojet – frozen ingredients are pulverized in a Vitamix container with a stainless-steel blade that spins at 28,500 RPM. The blade powers through the frozen ingredients in seconds, producing ice crystals that are far smaller than those made with any other ice cream maker. At the end of the blending process, the container can be tipped 180 degrees without anything falling out.

What’s great about Vitamix ice cream is that it’s possible to make ice cream that has less sugar and fat, but still comes out with a perfect texture. 

chocolate ice cream

Vitamix Ice Cream

With a Vitamix blender, it’s easier than ever to make ice cream, sorbets, or frozen yogurt in seconds with the push of a button. Here are a few tips to ensure your ice cream turns out perfect every time.

Start with Frozen Ingredients

Since Vitamix blenders don’t have any cooling or freezing mechanism, the ice cream ingredients or ice cream base, whichever you choose to work with, needs to be already frozen. The colder the ingredients, the better.

So, use frozen fruit, make ice cubes from coffee, freeze fresh coconut meat or coconut yogurt ahead of time, chill any liquids you might want to use … or prepare your favorite ice cream base in advance, and freeze it in a sealable bag (or an airtight container) before running it through the blender.

Layer the Ingredients in the Right Order

Making a really good ice cream is more than just piling ingredients into the blender. Layering foods properly helps the blades move everything around and thoroughly emulsify all the ingredients to get the smoothest, most cohesive blend.

All liquids, including extracts and alcohol, should go into the blender first. With the blades submerged in liquid, the blender creates a vortex that pulls solids down into the blade. Fresh produce, nut butters, yogurt, superfood powders, and sweeteners go immediately after the liquids. Hard and frozen ingredients should go on the very top to push all the ingredients down and prevent cavitation. 

Note: if you have the 20-oz personal cup or the 8-oz bowl, reverse the order since you will be inverting the container onto the motor base.

vanilla ice cream in a Vitamix blender

Quantity Matters

Vitamix blenders need a minimum volume of ingredients to blend well. A good rule of thumb is to use enough food to at least cover the blades otherwise the blades will just splat those ingredients to the outside of the container. A larger batch also means more weight to help the ice cream sink closer to the blades at the bottom.

Note: the 64-oz low-profile container has a difficulty achieving single servings of ice cream. The tall 64-oz container as well as the smaller Vitamix containers can easily make even single servings of ice cream and other thicker blends.

Blend on High

You almost always get the best results when you start the Vitamix on low but then quickly ramp up the speed to high. Blending for too long at too low a speed will overheat the motor and cause the Automatic Overload Protection to turn the blender off. When you blend on high, the motor stays cool because the cooling fan is maximized.

That being said, a quick blend is all you need when making ice cream. The longer you blend, the more heat the blades generate, and the quicker the ice cream melts. This is why making ice cream in the Vitamix is a matter of seconds.

Use Vitamix Accessories

For thick frozen blends, there are two Vitamix accessories I use all the time – the tamper and the under-blade scraper.

The tamper is an indispensable tool because it continuously moves the ingredients while breaking up air pockets that form around the blade. Simply rotate the tamper around the four corners of the container until a vortex begins to form and the blend is moving freely.

The under-blade scraper is really helpful for getting ice cream out of the Vitamix container. It’s designed like a squeegee for the sides of the container and gets under the blades easily, so you get the most from each blend.

Ice Cream Recipes

Vitamix ice cream
5 from 1 vote

Vanilla Ice Cream

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 8 (1/2-cup) servings
This is the perfect ice cream to make when you want basic non-dairy vanilla ice cream. It's simple, coconut-y. and infused with a vanilla flavor.

Ingredients
 

Instructions
 

  • Blend. Add the coconut milk, cashews, maple syrup, and vanilla into a high-speed blender and blend on high until smooth. Use the tamper to push all the ingredients down into the blade. Do not over-blend or melting will occur.
  • Taste and adjust the flavor, adding more maple syrup for sweetness and vanilla for vanilla flavor.
  • Freeze. Add the ice cream base into a freezer-safe container and freeze. Once every hour, remove from the freezer and stir /whisk to incorporate air. Repeat until mostly firm, 6-8 hours.
    You can also completely freeze the ice cream base (the thinner the layer, the better), break it into chunks, and then re-blend it either in the Vitamix or a food processor until fluffy.
  • Serve. Remove the ice cream from the freezer 10 minutes before serving (or until soft enough to scoop).

Notes

*Soak the cashews in water for at least 8 hours (or overnight) so they soften up and are easy to blend. To quick-soak, pour boiling hot water over the cashews and soak for 1 hour. When the cashews are done soaking, drain the water and rinse the cashews thoroughly.
**Use vanilla extract that contains alcohol. Alcohol prevents big ice crystals from forming, resulting in a softer texture.
***Because the ice cream doesn't contain any emulsifiers or stabilizers, and is not technically churned, it gets harder and icier the longer it sits in the freezer. So, it's best consumed immediately or as soon as possible.

 

5 from 1 vote

Chocolate Almond Butter Ice Cream

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 4 (1/2-cup) servings
This chocolate ice cream is rich, creamy, and chocolaty with dark roasted flavors only cocoa can impart. It's sweet with the tiniest bitter notes to balance the sweetness.

Ingredients
 

Instructions
 

  • Blend. Add the bananas, cocoa powder, and almond butter into a high-speed blender. Blend on high until smooth. Use the tamper to push all the ingredients down into the blade. Do not over-blend or melting will occur.
  • Taste and adjust the flavor, adding a liquid sweetener of choice for sweetness, and cocoa powder for a more chocolaty flavor.
  • Serve the ice cream right away as a soft-serve or freeze for 1-2 hours for a scoopable consistency.

Notes

*I typically cut the bananas into 1/2-inch/1.3-cm slices because large frozen pieces can be hard to blend. Freeze the slices on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in a single layer to prevent large clumps. 
**Because the ice cream doesn't contain any emulsifiers or stabilizers, and is not churned, it gets harder and icier the longer it sits in the freezer. So, it's best consumed immediately or as soon as possible.

 

5 from 1 vote

Strawberry Ice Cream

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 8 (1/2-cup) servings
This strawberry ice cream is a delicious and refreshing summer time dessert. It's sweet, tart, and packed with a strawberry flavor.

Ingredients
 

Instructions
 

  • Blend. Add the strawberries, coconut cream, and maple syrup into a high-speed blender and blend on high until smooth. Use the tamper to push all the ingredients down into the blade. Do not over-blend or melting will occur.
  • Taste and adjust the flavor, adding more maple syrup for sweetness and vanilla extract for vanilla flavor.
  • Serve the ice cream right away as a soft-serve or freeze for 1-2 hours for a scoopable consistency.

Notes

*Use room temperature coconut cream. 
**The amount of maple syrup will depend on how sweet/tart the strawberries are. Start with less and add more as needed.
***Because the ice cream doesn't contain any emulsifiers or stabilizers, and is not technically churned, it gets harder and icier the longer it sits in the freezer. So, it's best consumed immediately or as soon as possible.

 

5 from 1 vote

Watermelon Sorbet

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 4 (1/2-cup) servings
This easy watermelon sorbet is a healthy treat that is naturally sweet and so refreshing.

Ingredients
 

  • 5 cups watermelon, , seeded, cubed, and frozen*
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice

Instructions
 

  • Blend. Add the watermelon and lime juice into a high-speed blender and bled on high until smooth. Use the tamper to push watermelon down into the blade. Do not over-blend or melting will occur.
  • Serve immediately.

Notes

*Spread the watermelon onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Freeze until completely frozen, 4-5 hours, depending on the size of the cubes. If the watermelon isn't completely frozen, the consistency will be more like a slushie.
**Because the sorbet doesn't contain any added sweetener, and is not churned, it gets harder and icier the longer it sits in the freezer. So, it's best consumed immediately or as soon as possible.
**Prep time does not include freezing the watermelon, 4-5 hours, depending on the size of the watermelon cubes.

 

This post was created in partnership with Vitamix (a brand I’ve loved and used for years) and contains affiliate links. All thoughts and opinions are my own.