As a kid, orange sherbet was my go-to ice cream order. I wasn't interested in the super-sweet rainbow version — nope, the bracing sweet-tart bite of orange sherbet was the only flavor for me. Once I mastered my favorite grown-up ice cream flavor (coffee), classic sherbet had to be next on the list.
As it turns out, making a really good sherbet at home is a little more complex than making ice cream. With a high water content, homemade sherbet can be icy if not prepared properly. I've discovered how one special ingredient can make all the difference in ensuring your sherbet is just as tangy and creamy as the stuff you ate growing up.
What's the Deal with Sherbet Anyway?
Technically, sherbet is not ice cream but rather a frozen dessert. Consider it a cross between fruity sorbet and creamy ice cream, even though the creamy component in sherbet can be anything from cream to egg whites. Since it relies heavily on fruit juice to both sweeten and flavor it, it needs a creamy component to keep it supple in the freezer.
BTW It's Sherbet, Not Sherbert
You are going to feel sort of awkward when you stop pronouncing the non-existent second "r" in sherbet, but sure-bit is the correct pronunciation of the word.
The Ideal Tastes and Texture for Orange Sherbet
The best orange sherbet tastes likes a really good Orange Julius — that mixture of orange juice with a robust, creamy vanilla finish. It shouldn't be icy like sorbet, but rather creamy like ice cream. It's important to highlight a few ingredients here and how they work to achieve that sherbet flavor and texture.
- Orange juice: Make sure it's fresh-squeezed and not the concentrate, which contains more sugar than our recipe needs. And leave out the orange zest — it comes across as bitter in the frozen dessert.
- Lemon juice: Without this the orange juice and base comes across as too sweet. The lemon juice also adds some dimension to the sherbet so it doesn't just taste sweet.
- Buttermilk: I consider this the secret ingredient to really excellent sherbet. It won't taste like buttermilk on the tongue, but it makes the half-and-half taste more milky and the orange more vibrant.
- Corn syrup: Corn syrup is a medium invert sugar, which is a fancy way of saying that it's equal parts glucose and fructose and will remain fluid when frozen. This not only helps keep frozen desserts from becoming icy, but it also helps stabilize the base, which equals slower melting on the cone.
Do I Need an Ice Cream Maker for Sherbet?
For creamy sherbet, an ice cream maker is best. Unlike other fruit-based frozen treats, orange sherbet needs an ice cream maker to help it develop the smaller ice crystals that keep sherbets, sorbets, and ice creams smooth. That being said, there are a few hacks you can try for making ice creams and sherbets without an ice cream maker.
How To Make Classic Orange Sherbet
What You Need
1 1/2 cups orange juice
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Measuring cups and spoons
Ice cream maker
Wax paper, parchment paper, or plastic wrap
- Chill the ice cream bowl, if needed. If your ice cream machine has a bowl that needs to be frozen before churning, put it in the freezer the night before you plan to make ice cream. (If you forget, you can make the base and refrigerate it overnight while the bowl is freezing, and churn the sherbet the next day.)
- Blend everything until smooth. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, about 3 minutes.
- Chill the base overnight or churn immediately. Transfer the sherbet base to an airtight container. Refrigerate overnight for more flavor, or churn immediately.
- Churn the sherbet. Transfer the sherbet base to the bowl of your ice cream machine. Churn until the base has thickened to a consistency somewhere between a very thick milkshake and soft-serve ice cream. In most ice cream makers, this takes about 20 minutes — check the instructions for your particular machine.
Freeze until hardened, about 2 hours. Transfer the thickened sherbet to a freezer container. Press a piece of wax paper, parchment paper, or plastic wrap against the surface of the ice cream to prevent ice crystals from forming and freeze until solid, at least 4 hours. The sherbet will keep in the freezer for about 2 weeks before becoming icy.
- Storage: Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.