Splurge or Save: How Does Ninja’s $200 Ice Cream Maker Compare to Cuisinart’s $100 Alternative?

published Jul 8, 2024
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Credit: Photos: Amazon; Design: The Kitchn

Regardless of the fact that it’s summer, more and more people seem to be realizing that ice cream makers are the way to go when it comes to enjoying sweet treats at home. And by people, we don’t just mean our own staffers — though they’re certainly on the homemade ice cream bandwagon. The Ninja CREAMi, for instance, is one of the most popular countertop appliances of the year so far. As convenient as throwing a pint of ice cream in your grocery cart is, there are countless benefits of owning such an appliance once you get the hang of using it. It’s a great way to enjoy the exact flavors you want while avoiding undesirable sweeteners, preservatives, and other additives, for example. But certain models can cost as much as a nice coffee maker, and it’s hard to tell whether you should shell out the cash on a pricier machine. Luckily, our editors have tested numerous ice cream makers and have intel on the best ones. We’ll be looking at a couple of our favorites in this installment of our Splurge or Save series, which compares two editor-tested and loved products that serve the same purpose but retail for different prices.

One of the machines we’ll look at is none other than the Ninja CREAMi, which retails for $200. It’s no secret we love this ice cream maker, but it’s one of the more expensive options if you look past certain hefty compressor machines that can go for as much as $700. On the other hand, there’s the Cuisinart 2-quart ice cream maker, which, at $100, retails for just half of what the CREAMi does. Keep reading to find out whether you should splurge or save.

Credit: Photos: Amazon; Design: The Kitchn

Ninja vs. Cuisinart

As far as small kitchen appliances are concerned, you can never go wrong with either Ninja or Cuisinart. We’ve tested and come to love both brands’ coffee machines, toaster ovens, blenders, and more. Simply put, they’ve both cornered the market on versatile, mid-tier appliances that work seamlessly and last a long time. That being said, Ninja’s ice cream maker costs double that of Cuisinart’s, so it’s worth comparing the two before you spring for a particular machine.

Overview of Ninja’s CREAMi Ice Cream Maker

Perhaps the biggest reason why we recommend the Ninja CREAMi is because of how easy it is to use. With some other ice cream makers, including the Cuisinart model, you have to prechill a bowl in the freezer before placing the ingredients inside and whipping them up on the spot. But the CREAMi comes with two lidded pint containers, and you simply throw in your ingredients and freeze the containers with the mixtures inside. Whenever you’re in the mood for ice cream or another kind of frozen treat, you can take a container out and load it into the CREAMi, whether that’s the day after freezing or later in the week.

In addition to traditional ice cream, the CREAMi can also make other kinds of frozen desserts, including sorbet, milkshakes, and lite ice cream for low-fat and low-sugar recipes. The appliance has a total of five one-touch programs, so you can select the exact one you want and let the blades take over from there.

Credit: Walmart

Commerce Editor Britt loves her Ninja CREAMi and noted in her review that using it to make sorbet was easier than she could’ve imagined. “All I needed was 100% fruit juice, sugar, and water,” she wrote. “I whipped up 2 pints of lemon sorbet and followed the same recipe with pineapple juice to make a second pair of fruit-flavored pints. The liquid mixtures went into the freezer, and after waiting a full day for them to freeze, I could finally pick one to process into creamy sorbet. Taking a lemon pre-sorbet out of the freezer, I loaded it into the outer bowl of the Ninja CREAMi, locked it with a twist, then turned on the machine and pressed the ‘Sorbet’ button. It’s that simple!”

To make ice cream, you follow nearly the same process, which never takes more than 5 minutes. It’s a fun and practical appliance to own regardless of whether you have a sweet tooth, yourself, or your kids enjoy getting to customize their own treats. “Next to my electric kettle and air fryer, the Ninja CREAMi is my most-used countertop appliance,” Britt wrote.

Overview of Cuisinart’s 2-Quart Ice Cream Maker

Whereas the Ninja CREAMi can make a pint of ice cream at a time (unless you have more frozen pint containers ready to go), the Cuisinart ice cream maker can make 2 whole quarts in one go. This feature also makes it great for large families or gatherings. Unlike the Ninja model, this one does come with a double-insulated bowl that you pre-chill in the freezer. Once you’re ready to make ice cream, just take the bowl out, fill it with milk, eggs, sugar, fruit, and other ingredients of your choice, and turn the machine on. There’s only one button, which is convenient for people who don’t want to mess with different settings or programs.

Once on, the ice cream maker churns the mixer by itself, while the bowl makes the ingredients icy. Trained chef and The Kitchn contributor Lizzy noted in her review that she loves not having to babysit the Cuisinart appliance as it works. She also found that this product makes some of the creamiest dessert imaginable. “I prefer ice cream made with a custard base that’s chock-full of as many egg yolks as possible for the most luscious texture,” she wrote. “The great thing about the Cuisinart bowl is that it’s so cold that it can turn room-temperature custard into spoonable ice cream in about half an hour.”

Credit: amazon.com

Indeed, this ice cream maker takes a good while longer to finish a batch of ice cream than the Ninja model, but shoppers agree that the results are well worth the wait. And, if you should want to make more than 2 quarts of ice cream at a time, you can always invest in a second bowl, as Lizzy did. While the machine mixes and churns, you can prepare dinner or complete other tasks, so it’s really no hassle.

Although this ice cream maker only has one setting, there’s nothing stopping you from trying out lots of delicious varieties, made exactly to your liking. “Over the years that I’ve been using my Cuisinart, I’ve tried recipes from dozens of cookbooks, blogs, and recipe developers,” Lizzy added. “No matter the flavor, though, I’ll be using my beloved machine for all of them.”

The Verdict

If you’re after the more convenient option, go with the Ninja CREAMi. It’ll likely take a few tries to make your ice cream or sorbet exactly how you like it, but once you get your favorite recipes down pat, you can enjoy them in as little as 30 seconds. If you’re making dessert for just yourself and potentially one other person, you’ll also love the included pint containers, which ensure that no ice cream goes to waste.

But even if you don’t want to spend $200 full price for the CREAMi, the Cuisinart model will still allow you to make countless ice cream recipes, and it has less of a learning curve. With its single setting and straightforward recipes, you’ll be able to enjoy ice cream that tastes better than store-bought from the get-go. And, even though it makes larger batches than the CREAMi, the Cuisinart weighs less and also takes up less counter space.

You can’t go wrong no matter which product you choose, but our editors are ultimately bigger fans of the CREAMi. The experimentation and fun to be had with this machine are unmatched, and you can frequently find it on sale at retailers like Walmart and Amazon. It’ll serve you well all summer — and beyond.

Buy: Ninja CREAMi Ice Cream Maker, $169 (normally $199)
Buy: Cuisinart 2-Quart Ice Cream Maker, $99.94