Learn how to make the best dark chocolate ice cream with this easy recipe. This is a crème anglaise-based ice cream, made with both dark chocolate and Dutch-processed cocoa powder. It's churned in an ice cream maker for a deep dark chocolate flavour that is divine.
Once you make a batch of homemade chocolate ice cream, you will never want to go back to store-bought again! This might be my favourite of the ice cream recipes! It's smooth and creamy, not too sweet and with an intense chocolate flavour.
This chocolate ice cream starts with a custard base that is flavoured with dark chocolate and cocoa powder. Here's what you need to make it:
- Milk and cream, preferably 2 % fat or even 3.25 % fat whole milk and whipping cream with 35 % fat. You can play with the amount of fat in this recipe, but less fat will have an impact on the final texture and flavour. The ice cream may taste a little more watery with less fat and have more ice crystals.
- Egg yolks to make the crème anglaise, which act as an emulsifier and a thickener in this recipe, providing body, as well as colour and flavour.
- Sugar, specifically granulated sugar though brown sugar would work fine too. Don't skimp on the sugar or your ice cream may end up too icy and the texture won't be as nice.
- Fine kosher salt, which dissolves easily and provides a little depth of flavour, helping the flavours in the ice cream stand out more.
- Vanilla extract enhances the flavours in the custard base making a more complex-tasting chocolate ice cream.
- Dutch-processed cocoa powder—do not use a natural cocoa powder because the flavour is too mild! I used either Cacao Barry Extra Brute or Cacao Barry Plein Arôme cocoa.
- Chocolate, specifically 70 % dark chocolate that isn't too sweet—I used Ocoa from Cacao Barry, which is not sweet and has a strong cocoa flavour with roasted and bitter notes.
See recipe card for quantities.
There are four major parts to making this ice cream:
- Blooming the cocoa powder and melting the chocolate to make the chocolate base
- Making a crème anglaise
- Combining the chocolate base with the crème anglaise
- Chilling, churning, and hardening
Blooming the cocoa powder
Start by heating most of the cream and cocoa powder—this is called "blooming" the cocoa powder
Once the cocoa and cream are hot, you can add the dark chocolate and it will melt.
Making a crème anglaise
Please read about how to make a crème anglaise if this is your first time. Unlike pastry cream, crème anglaise is cooked low and slow for a longer period on the stove at a low heat setting.
To make the crème anglaise, you start by whisking the egg yolks with the sugar, which is a French pastry term called "blanchir" (which means to whiten or lighten").
The egg yolks should become a pale pastel yellow and the sugar should begin to dissolve.
Heat the milk until it's almost boiling, then pour it onto the whisked egg yolk mixture to temper the eggs.
After cooking the custard on the stove on low to thicken it, the crème anglaise is strained to remove any bits of cooked egg that would ruin the texture of your ice cream.
Combining the chocolate base and crème anglaise
The chocolate base of melted chocolate, cream, and cocoa powder doesn't easily combine with the crème anglaise. You have to use a stick blender to get the two components to mix properly.
Use a stick blender (electric hand blender) to combine the chocolate base and the crème anglaise.
Chill the chocolate custard in an ice bath to speed up the process. You should then chill the custard overnight in the fridge.
Chilling the custard and churning the ice cream
In order to churn the ice cream quickly before the freezer drum melts, the ice cream base has to be chilled overnight in the refrigerator. Taking the time to do so will prevent the freezer drum from heating up too quickly when you churn the ice cream. You will have more time to churn the ice cream.
Before chilling overnight in the refrigerator, the chocolate custard will have a lot of bubbles.
After chilling the chocolate custard in the fridge overnight, it will be thick like pudding.
Churn the ice cream in an ice cream maker for about 20 minutes or until it has the texture of soft serve ice cream.
Tip: Don't forget to chill the freezer drum for at least 24 hours before churning your ice cream. I usually put it in the freezer 2 days before I will make ice cream. Otherwise, the freezer drum may not be cold enough: you may not be able to churn your ice cream fully, which could lead to it melting too fast during the process. The ice cream may be dense or icy.
There aren't many ingredients in ice cream so substitutions are limited. Here are some options:
- Sugar - instead of granulated sugar, you can use a mix of it and brown sugar, which will add some really interesting molasses notes to it.
- Cream and milk - I use a combination of 35 % whipping cream and whole milk, you could consider replacing the total volume of cream and milk with something like half and half or coffee cream (that is usually around 10–20% fat) and it could work well
- Dutch-processed cocoa powder - you could try black cocoa powder, which is even darker
Remember with any variations and substitutions, I cannot guarantee the results. You may have to do a few tests and make some modifications. Take notes to learn from the experience!
This chocolate ice cream makes an amazing jumping off point for so many great flavours!
- Mint - infuse the milk for the crème anglaise with fresh mint leaves or add a few drops of mint extract before chilling the custard overnight. Checkout this mint chocolate chip ice cream recipe to find out how much mint to add.
- Double chocolate - drizzle a thin stream of melted dark chocolate to make chocolate ice cream with chocolate flecks
- Chocolate fudge brownie - fold in chopped brownies with walnuts after churning to make the best chocolate brownie ice cream!
- Lactose-free variation - if you can't have lactose, this recipe will work with lactose-free milk and cream
To make the best homemade ice cream, I highly recommend getting an ice cream machine. When you are shopping, you have three choices:
- a freezer bowl attachment that is compatible with your stand mixer, like this KitchenAid freezer bowl compatible with the Artisan stand mixers);
- an ice cream machine with a freezer bowl that has to be frozen for at least 24 hours before using the machine—this basic Cuisinart machine that has great reviews on Amazon;
- an ice cream machine with a built in compressor so you can make ice cream any time of the day and all day long if you want, without worrying about pre-freezing the bowl.
Ice cream makers with compressors are the most expensive category of ice cream makers on the market. However, if you like to make homemade ice cream, you might want to consider one to make your life easier! I would!
Cuisinart makes an ice cream machine with a compressor built into it and it has over two thousand reviews on Amazon.
I highly recommend investing in a freezer container for your ice cream. I have a Tovolo ice cream tub. It has an elongated shape, giving you ample room to drag the ice cream scoop more easily! The base is non-slip, so you have more traction when scooping and it's double walled for better storage.
Homemade ice cream freezes hard. Here's how to make serving homemade ice cream easier:
- Take it out of the freezer 10 minutes before you plan to serve it to help soften it a little.
- Dip your ice cream scoop in hot water to warm up the metal, then dry it off quickly and use the warm scoop to portion out the ice cream more easily.
- Use a disher or an ice cream scoop with a release to be able to scoop and release the scoop cleanly with the press of a button
Dark Chocolate Ice Cream
- Freeze the ice cream drum in the freezer for at least 24 hours before attempting to make ice cream.
- In a small saucepan, combine half the cream with the cocoa powder.
- Bring the mixture up to the boil, whisking constantly, then lower the heat and simmer the cocoa mixture for 1 minute.
- Add the dark chocolate to the pan and let it stand 1 minute, then stir it in to melt it completely.
- Add the rest of the cream and the vanilla, then transfer the chocolate base to a 1 L (4 cup) measuring cup or a large bowl with a pouring spout. Place a strainer over top for later. Set aside.
- Prepare an ice bath that can accommodate the measuring cup or bowl with the chocolate base.
- In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with half the sugar and the salt, until the mixture has lightened.
- In a medium saucepan, whisk the rest of the sugar with the milk and cream. Heat the mixture until it is very hot and almost comes to a boil.
- Pour the hot milk mixture over the whisked yolks to temper the eggs. Whisk continuously until the mixture is homogenous, then transfer it back to the saucepan.
- Switch to a wooden spoon and, stirring constantly, heat the mixture on the stove over medium—low heat until the custard has thickened and has reached 83 °C (181 °F). The goal is to slowly thickened the custard.
- Pour the mixture through the strainer set over the chocolate base, pressing the custard through gently, if needed.
- Use a stick blender to combine the strained custard with the chocolate base at the bottom of the bowl (or measuring cup). The mixture should be thick and homogenous.
- Cover with plastic wrap and place the bowl in the prepared ice bath to cool it down faster. Refrigerate the chocolate ice cream base for several hours to cool completely (overnight is best!).
- Place the frozen drum on the ice cream maker, and churn the custard according to instructions. It can take about 15 to 20 minutes to churn the ice cream.
- When the ice cream is the texture of soft serve, turn off the machine, disassemble, and transfer the ice cream to a container. Place in freezer for a few hours to finish chilling before serving.
Like other ice cream recipes, this chocolate ice cream is made from a crème anglaise ice cream base. The custard base is combined with bloomed cocoa powder and melted dark chocolate to create a rich, creamy pudding-like custard that you churn in an ice cream machine to freeze it, while incorporating air so that it's not too dense.
Using Dutch-processed cocoa powder is the secret to make chocolate ice cream that isn't overly sweet: cocoa powder gives a rich flavour and dark colour, without adding extra sugar.
Combining cocoa powder with bittersweet dark chocolate rounds out the flavour, making a smooth, creamy ice cream.
For the best chocolate ice cream, use Dutch-processed cocoa powder, which has a darker colour and a more pronounced, complex chocolate flavour. Natural cocoa powder is too light for this recipe and can't provide the depth of flavour needed in a frozen dessert.
You need to use enough sugar to balance out the bitterness of unsweetened cocoa powder. By combining bittersweet chocolate (which has sugar) with granulated sugar, you can balance out the bitter notes of cocoa powder so that you can enjoy a creamy chocolate ice cream that has just the right amount of bitter notes. If your chocolate ice cream is bitter, it's likely you used too much cocoa powder or that you didn't use enough sugar to compensate for it.
Also remember to add a little salt to the ice cream base. The salt will help balance the bitterness.