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If You Think Vanilla Is Boring, You're Eating The Wrong Vanilla

Let the pure vanilla flavor sing through in this ice cream, loud and clear.

I Melt With You is a new ice cream column from The Takeout. I'll be here all summer with new ice cream recipes, unique ingredients, equipment recommendations, and ways to make your home ice cream experience as easy and fun as possible. I am always up for a challenge, so feel free to send flavor requests to hello@thetakeout.com. If you want to see some of the flavors I have been developing for you, feel free to pop over to my IG @stacey.ballis and scroll back for some serious ice cream content.

Remember when we first started hanging out and I gave you a recipe for super basic no-churn vanilla ice cream? We've been making ice cream together for a few months now, and it's time to get serious... about vanilla.

For all of its "boring" press, vanilla continues to be the biggest seller worldwide, and for good reason: a great vanilla is a celebration of the pure essence of ice cream. There is nowhere to hide any deficiencies in flavor and texture. And while it is amazing on its own, vanilla is also the perfect partner for just about any other flavor you might want to mix in or use as a topping. From old-school hot fudge sundaes to elegant after-dinner affogato to a perfect a la mode topping for any fruit dessert, vanilla has your back.

The key to making a great vanilla ice cream is to layer in vanilla flavor in as many ways as you can. This means sourcing the highest quality vanilla products; think of it as an investment in deliciousness. Can you use plain sugar and grocery store vanilla? Of course you can, I'm not the boss of you. But you will only have that transcendent vanilla experience if you pony up and go all-in on gorgeous vanilla products. My go-to brand for everything vanilla is Nielsen-Massey, which makes a full range of vanilla products. The three-way punch of vanilla paste, vanilla sugar, and vanilla powder is what makes this vanilla ice cream the ultimate.

Milli Vanilla

Makes about 1½ quarts

I have no mix-in suggestions for this one. Instead, I strongly encourage you to enjoy the experience of pure vanilla. Despite its namesake, this is the real thing.

  • 1 cup (168 g) white chocolate chips
  • 1½ cups (360 g) heavy cream
  • ¾ cup (180 g) whole milk
  • 3 Tbsp. (60 g) Nielsen-Massey vanilla sugar or homemade vanilla sugar (see recipe below)
  • 2 Tbsp. (45 g) honey
  • 2 Tbsp. (12 g) milk powder
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 g) vodka (Note: this helps keep the ice cream from freezing too hard. If you prefer to not include any alcohol, you will want to let the frozen ice cream sit out an extra 5-10 minutes before scooping for optimal texture.)
  • 1 Tbsp. Nielsen-Massey vanilla paste or the seeds of one large fresh vanilla pod
  • 1 tsp. Nielsen-Massey vanilla powder
  • ¼ tsp. fine sea salt
  • Make a fast ganache by mixing the cream with the chocolate and heating in the microwave for about 2 minutes. Blend with immersion blender or in regular blender to perfect smoothness. Add the rest of the ice cream ingredients, and blend again. The milk powder will want to clump on you, so keep a lookout for that. Mix with the blender until well combined and smooth.


    Once the mixture is well blended, taste it to be sure you like the balance of flavors. If it doesn't feel sweet enough to you, add up to a tablespoon more vanilla sugar. If any other flavor is not coming through well, add more of what you need. The mixture should be intensely flavored because flavors mute on freezing. When it tastes right to you, pour into a sealed container and chill to cure the flavor, 6-24 hours. It should be very chilled before you start churning.

    Churn according to machine directions. Transfer ice cream to storage containers and freeze for a minimum of 8 hours or overnight for best texture.

How to make vanilla sugar

If you want to make your own vanilla sugar, scrape the seeds from one fresh vanilla pod and blitz them with a cup of granulated sugar. Or place a spent vanilla pod in a jar with a cup of sugar, then seal and let infuse for a week or so.