The $3 Ingredient That Will Instantly Upgrade Your Homemade Ice Cream

published Jul 24, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Last year, I went on a bit of a churning spree with my favorite small ice cream maker. I raided my pantry for every mix-in imaginable, and you may be surprised to hear about my absolute favorite: instant coffee. That’s right — I’m here to tell you that instant coffee is the best thing you can possibly add to homemade ice cream.

Instant coffee, for those who are unfamiliar, is regular liquid coffee that has been turned into a powder. (It’s science!) The idea is that you reconstitute it with water or your milk of choice, and there you have it: coffee … in an instant.

As for putting it in homemade ice cream, I’ve found that just a little bit (we’re talking 1/2 a teaspoon) in the batter is enough to make a transformative treat. The coffee dissolves (no gritty texture here!) and, while the resulting ice cream doesn’t taste like coffee-flavored ice cream, the powder adds a nice balance. For example, in my favorite vanilla bean ice cream with cardamom, the slight bitterness of the coffee rounds out the sweetness of the ice cream. And it does the same in chocolate ice cream.

Related: The 4 Essential Ice Cream Bases You Should Know

Credit: Heather McClees Williams

The Best Instant Coffee to Use in Ice Cream

My favorite instant coffee is a simple grocery store find: I usually pick up Nescafé Clásico, which is a mild-roast instant coffee that’s less bitter than darker options. But if I’m pinching pennies, a $3 box of Taster’s Choice is fantastic, too. (I like that it comes in little individual packets.) I’ve also tried Starbucks Via and a few organic varieties, and they’re all very good. Instant espresso is also great, but it definitely makes the ice cream base taste more like coffee than regular instant coffee does.

My point? I haven’t found an instant coffee that doesn’t work in ice cream. I’ve already got my pantry stocked for the summer and I highly suggest you try this at least once.

What’s your favorite secret ingredient that goes into your homemade ice cream?