Lemon Custard Ice Cream

Lemon Custard Ice Cream is a creamy, rich, sweet-tart ice cream flavor that you can easily make at home.

This simple French-style ice cream recipe features fresh lemons and sweet cream, and has the most amazing thick and silky, custardy texture.

Your homemade lemon custard ice cream will be gluten-free, nut-free, and made with all-natural ingredients.

homemade lemon custard ice cream in a metal pan. A yellow-handled ice cream scoop is serving it. Lemon slices are on the counter next to the container.

Lemons make the most delicious desserts! There’s just something magical about mixing the tart citrus fruit with sugar and fat (butter, cream, etc.) that makes your tastebuds dance with pleasure.

Lemon bars, lemon meringue pie, lemon crinkles cookies, and lemon chiffon cake might come to mind when you think about lemony treats, but I’m here to tell you that Lemon Custard Ice Cream is the ultimate lemon dessert.

Vanilla is added to the lemon custard to balance the flavor, but don’t be confused. This isn’t a vanilla ice cream recipe with a little bit of lemon added in. It’s a bright, flavorful lemon ice cream with fresh lemon juice and zest included.

Looking for something different? Maybe you’ll like our recipe for Lemon Sorbet, or easy Orange Popsicles instead.

It’s lovely paired with Peaches and Cream Ice Cream.

Why You’re Going to Love this Lemon Custard Ice Cream Recipe

A Unique Ice Cream Flavor: Lemon ice cream isn’t found usually on grocery store shelves, but it should be! If you’ve never tried ice cream made with lemons, you are in for a real treat.

Easy Scratch Ice Cream Recipe: This recipe uses just 6 simple, fresh ingredients. Lemon Custard ice cream comes together without any sweetened condensed milk, artificial flavors, or difficult-to-find ingredients.

Extra Creamy: We’re making this lemon ice cream recipe using a custard base that’s made from egg yolks. This makes the ice cream amazingly rich with a delightfully creamy texture.

The ingredients in lemon custard ice cream, all in separate small bowls on a marble counter top

Ingredients in Homemade Lemon Custard Ice Cream

Egg Yolks – These create the base for our lemon ice cream custard. We’ll gently heat the egg yolks to pasteurize them, but you can also purchase pasteurized eggs if you prefer.

Sugar – For sweetness and amazing ice cream texture, plain, white, granulated sugar is the perfect choice.

Whole Milk – Milk is cooked with the egg yolks and sugar to create our rich and creamy custard base.

Lemon Zest and Juice – You’ll need a few fresh lemons (I used 4) to get the amount of zest and juice you need to make lemon ice cream. Be sure to use fresh juice and not bottled lemon.

Salt – Just a bit of salt balances the sweetness and makes everything taste a bit brighter.

Heavy Cream – Making lemon custard ice cream with both heavy cream and whole milk is what gives us the best creamy texture.

Vanilla Extract– Vanilla is a must for almost all of our ice cream recipes. It elevates the simple flavors of milk, sugar, and cream. Vanilla also rounds out the lemon flavor nicely.

a collage of eight photos showing how to make lemon custard ice cream from scratch

How to Make Lemon Custard Ice Cream from Scratch

Start the day before by making sure that the bowl for your ice cream maker has at least 24 hours to freeze solid.

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and granulated sugar until smooth and pale yellow in color.
  2. In a saucepan, add the milk, lemon zest, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and remove from the heat before the mixture boils.
  3. Temper the egg yolks by adding about ½ cup of the hot milk to the egg and sugar mixture. Whisk constantly until combined.
  4. Then, add the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining hot milk. Heat the saucepan on low. Stirring constantly, heat until the base has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. This should take a few minutes.
  5. Strain the mixture into a bowl to remove any pieces of egg that may have cooked. Then add the heavy cream, lemon juice, and vanilla extract and stir to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap making sure that the plastic is touching the surface of the ice cream base. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
  6. Churn the ice cream mixture in the bowl of your ice cream machine according to your manufacturer’s instructions (mine took about 25 minutes), until it is thick and the consistency of soft-serve ice cream.
  7. Spoon the ice cream into a shallow container or a loaf pan. Press plastic wrap or wax paper to the surface of the ice cream. Freeze for at least 4 hours, or until solid.
  8. Let homemade lemon ice cream sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes before serving so that it’s easy to scoop.

These numbered steps match the numbered photos above and are for illustration purposes. For the complete list of ingredients and instructions for this Lemon Custard Ice Cream recipe, please see the recipe below.

a sugar cone topped with two scoops of lemon ice cream, propped up in a glass.

How to Store Lemon Custard Ice Cream

Store this homemade lemon ice cream in the freezer in an airtight container (we really like these reusable ice cream containers) with a piece of parchment paper or wax paper pressed on top for up to one month.

Tips for Making This Lemon Custard Ice Cream Recipe

Use quality ingredients – When making homemade ice cream, you’ll want to make sure you are using high-quality ingredients for the best outcome. For lemon ice cream, fresh lemon juice and zest are key to getting amazing lemon flavor.

Chill out – If possible, always start with chilled ingredients. This is important for homemade no-churn ice cream recipes and ice cream maker recipes. It’s also important to chill the ice cream base well before adding it to the ice cream maker.

Don’t skimp on the fat – High-fat milk and cream are essential when making homemade ice cream. Opting for a low-fat option often leads to icy ice creams and inconsistency in the texture.

Don’t go crazy with the add-ins – If you’re adding in additional ingredients, pick one or two and make sure they are chopped into pieces no larger than a blueberry or pea.

Don’t skimp on the sugar – Sugar not only adds sweetness to homemade ice creams, it also helps with the texture. Sugar is essential for the creamy texture of ice cream. In lemon custard ice cream, sugar is especially important to balance out the sour, tart flavor of the lemons.

Do you prefer a lighter lemon flavor? You can reduce the amount of zest in the recipe by up to half if you want to.

How to Zest a Lemon

The best tool for zesting lemons, limes, or any other citrus fruit is a Microplane grater. This rasp has small, sharp holes that will remove just the very outer layer of the lemon, leaving the bitter white pith behind.

You’ll want to wash the fruit before you zest it, and it’s important to zest the lemons before you cut them and juice them too. You’ll have a hard time removing the zest from a lemon after it’s been juiced.

The Best Way to Juice a Lemon

I prefer to use a hand juicer to ensure that I get as much juice as possible out of my lemons. You can also cut the lemons in half and squeeze them by hand, although that method isn’t quite as efficient.

Either way, be sure to remove any seeds before using your freshly squeezed lemon juice in your ice cream!

two photos of lemon custard ice cream, one in a cone, one in a pan. Text in center of image says "lemon custard ice cream, icecreamfromscratch.com"

No Churn Lemon Custard Ice Cream Directions

Any of our homemade ice cream recipes can be converted into a no-churn recipe. Here’s how:

Chill a shallow container or a loaf pan in the freezer while you mix the ingredients for the ice cream base.

Pour the ice cream mixture into the prepared pan and freeze for 3-4 hours. Stir the ice cream every 30 minutes for the first 2 hours to help add air. This will help create a creamy, smooth texture.

Lemon Custard Ice Cream Add-Ins

Ready to get creative with your homemade ice cream? Try these add-in ideas:

  • Shaved white chocolate, crushed shortbread cookies, rainbow sprinkles, or a swirl of raspberry compote or jam would be excellent mix-ins to your lemon custard ice cream.
  • For even more lemony flavor, try adding a swirl of prepared lemon curd, lemon marmalade, or lemon preserves.
  • Yellow food coloring is certainly not required, but a few drops can be added if you want to add a pastel yellow color to your ice cream.
  • Serve with cranberry lemon bars for the ultimate treat.

How to Eat Lemon Custard Ice Cream

Simply scoop your ice cream into a bowl, or add it to a cone. It’s already perfect all on its own.

However, you may enjoy lemon custard ice cream in other ways too.

To tone down the lemon flavor a little bit, enjoy a scoop of lemon custard ice cream with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, or topped with sweetened whipped cream.

Serve your desserts a la mode: Lemon custard ice cream will go wonderfully with pound cake and fresh strawberries, or on top of a warm slice of blueberry pie or cherry cobbler.

Make a Lemon Pie Sundae! Try scoops of Lemon Custard Ice cream topped with crushed graham crackers and whipped cream. a drizzle of marshmallow topping or white chocolate sauce is also a great idea.

More Homemade Ice Cream Recipes

Try making more of our easy homemade ice cream recipes featuring fruit!

Our Favorite Ice Cream Making Tools:

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Did you make this Homemade Lemon Custard Ice Cream Recipe? Leave a Comment Below letting us know what you thought and if you added any additional add-ins.

homemade lemon custard ice cream in a metal pan. A yellow-handled ice cream scoop is serving it. Lemon slices are on the counter next to the container.

Lemon Custard Ice Cream

Yield: 6 Servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Lemon Custard Ice Cream is a creamy, rich, sweet-tart ice cream flavor that you can easily make at home with fresh lemons and a french-style custard base.

Ingredients

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Chill the ice cream bowl for at least 24 hours or until solid. You should not hear any water sloshing around when you shake the bowl.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and granulated sugar until smooth and pale yellow in color.
  3. Add the milk, lemon zest, and salt to a saucepan over medium heat. Bring the milk to a simmer and then remove it from the heat. Be sure not to boil. 
  4. Add about 1/2 cup of the hot milk to the egg and sugar mixture and whisk constantly until combined. 
  5. Then, add the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining hot milk. Heat the saucepan on low. Stirring constantly, heat until the base has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. This should take a few minutes. 
  6. Strain the mixture into a bowl to remove any pieces of egg that may have cooked. Then, add the heavy cream, lemon juice, and vanilla extract and stir to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap making sure to have the plastic wrap touching the surface of the ice cream base. This will help keep it from forming a skin while chilling. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
  7. Churn the ice cream mixture in the bowl of your ice cream machine according to your manufacturer’s instructions (mine took about 25 minutes), until it is thick and the consistency of soft-serve ice cream.
  8. Spoon the ice cream into a shallow container or a loaf pan. Press plastic wrap or wax paper to the surface of the ice cream. Freeze for at least 4 hours, or until solid. 
  9. Let sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • Plan ahead by making sure that your ice cream maker bowl is in the freezer at least 24 hours before making ice cream.
  • The ingredients in this recipe are all needed and required to make creamy, delicious homemade ice cream. Avoid substituting with low fat or low sugar substitutes, as this will affect the texture and flavor.
  • You'll need 3-4 fresh lemons for this recipe. Zest the lemons first before squeezing the juice. Be sure to remove any seeds.
  • Homemade ice cream can be stored in the freezer for up to one month. Keep it in an airtight container with a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper pressed to the surface of the ice cream to keep ice crystals from developing.
  • Homemade ice cream should be easy to scoop if you let it soften at room temperature for 5 minutes after removing it from the freezer.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 434Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 228mgSodium: 286mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 0gSugar: 39gProtein: 8g

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4 Comments

  1. I discovered this recipe during a global search for lemon custard ice cream. In step 6, heavy cream is added to the cooked custard along with lemon juice. What keeps the custard and cream from immediately curdling? Thanks.

    1. Hi Eric,
      The combination of the sugar, milk, lemon zest, eggs, etc. and the cooled temperature of the mixture at the time, and the constant stirring and mixing in between doesn’t create a reaction where the cream would curdle. If you were to add the lemon juice and cream while the mixture was really hot, or we didn’t have the custard to start with, it would curdle right away.

      I hope that helps.

      The Ice Cream From Scratch Team

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