Easy Homemade Lemon Ice Cream

This Easy Homemade Lemon Ice Cream is a simple and refreshing dessert that's made with just 4 simple ingredients. It's lighter than custard style ice cream and way easier to make because there are no eggs. Bursting with sweet, tangy goodness and ready to freeze in 30 minutes. 

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Close up of a scoop of lemon ice cream in an ice cream cone garnished with lemon zest.

Homemade ice cream is one of the most delicious treats to enjoy in the summer, but it doesn't have to be a big project. This simple recipe for homemade lemon ice cream is made Philadelphia style, which means it only requires cream, sugar and flavorings. Traditionally, most ice creams are made with a custard base, which can be a finicky and laborious process. This homemade ice cream recipe doesn't require any eggs or egg yolks, so it's a bit lighter and a gazillion times easier to make. 

This homemade lemon ice cream recipe has just the right amount of lemon for the perfect balance of sweetness and pucker that's bursting with fresh lemon flavor. It's one of those genius recipes that combines just a few fresh ingredients to make a tasty sweet treat that will become your new summer tradition. If it's your first time, this easy recipe is the best ice cream to try because it's practically fool-proof.  It's an amazing recipe that the whole family will enjoy - especially the lemon lovers!

If you'd like to try a custard style ice cream, give my Rosemary Brown Butter Pecan Ice Cream a try, or go Italian with my Ricotta Gelato with Pistachio an Fig. No ice cream maker? Try a homemade ice cream cake or ice cream sandwiches made with store-bought ice cream instead! 

Why this recipe works

  • Made Philadelphia-style, without eggs, so it's lighter, fresher and way easier to make.
  • Requires no cooking at all - just whisk, chill and churn!
  • Only 4 ingredients!
Ingredients for homemade lemon ice cream.

Ingredient Notes

  • Heavy cream - Also called “heavy whipping cream,” this has 38% milk fat content which is essential for getting the creamy texture of the ice cream just right. Do not substitute whole milk or light cream, or you will not be able to achieve a creamy lemon ice cream. 
  • Fresh Lemons - It's absolutely essential to use fresh lemon juice and zest for this recipe - the bottled juice will not cut it. The lemon zest gives the ice cream base a deep lemon flavor and lovely bits of texture. When selecting lemons, choose those that are heavy for their size - that means they contain more juice.

Helpful Equipment

  • Ice cream maker - This is NOT a no churn ice cream - you will need an ice cream machine. They all work differently, so use it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If your ice cream maker requires a freezer bowl insert, make sure you freeze it for at least 24 hours prior to churning.
  • Microplane grater - This is an essential tool in my kitchen. A microplane grater makes it easier to zest your lemons!

Step by step instructions

A bowl with heavy cream, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest.
An ice cream maker churning lemon ice cream.
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, sugar and salt, then place in the refrigerator while you zest and juice the lemons. Remove from the fridge and whisk a bit more until the sugar is fully dissolved. Add the lemon zest and juice, then whisk to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and chill the ice cream mixture until it's very cold - at least an hour in the refrigerator, or about 20 minutes in the freezer.
  2. Churn in an ice cream maker by following the manufacturer's instructions. When it reaches the thick, creamy texture of ice cream, transfer it to an airtight container, and freeze until hard. This will take several hours, or best to do it overnight. That being said, it's hard to resist fresh lemon ice cream, so enjoy it as you please.
A clear glass filled with 3 scoops of lemon ice cream with fresh lemons and zest to garnish.

Tips for success

  • Use cold ingredients to reduce the initial chilling time. You can place them in the freezer an hour before you start. It is also advisable to use a chilled bowl and whisk to mix the ingredients.
  • It's best to freeze the ice cream overnight so that it's hard enough to scoop. However, you can enjoy it right out  of the ice cream maker for more of a soft serve ice cream texture. 
  • Important tip - Do not over-fill your ice cream maker. Fill it a third of the way to allow the machine to aerate the milk mixture as it churns so it does not overflow. 
  • To avoid ice crystals and maintain a creamy ice cream, do not melt and refreeze. Keep the ice cream frozen at all times to keep the texture smooth and creamy for longer.
  • Allow the ice cream to sit out for about 10 minutes at room temperature for easier scooping.

Variations and Substitutions 

  • Use other types of citrus, like Meyer lemons, limes, yuzu or sour oranges. 
  • Try replacing the lemon juice and zest with fresh strawberries, peaches, blueberries or other seasonal fruits.
  • Make a simple Philadelphia style vanilla ice cream by replacing the lemon with a few teaspoons of vanilla extract or a vanilla bean.
  • You can make a dairy free version by using coconut cream instead of the heavy cream, but note it will also have a coconut flavor. 
A clear glass holding an ice cream cone with another glass filled with ice cream and lemons to garnish.

How Serve

Try this easy lemon ice cream scooped into into ice cream cones or on a slice of blueberry pie for some a la mode action! Pile it on top of buttermilk waffles for a decadent brunch or dessert or use it in place of the cream filling in these Meyer lemon and pistachio cookies.

As good as this simple lemon ice cream is on its own, adding a little bit of fun toppings never hurts. Here are some ideas:

  • Candied lemons or lemon zest.
  • Nuts like almonds, pistachio or macadamia.
  • Fresh berries like raspberries, blueberries and cherries.
  • Meyer Lemon Marmalade, jams or other fruit syrups.
  • Whipped cream.
  • Sprinkles! 

FAQ About Homemade Lemon Ice Cream

Why is my ice cream hard and icy instead of creamy and smooth?

There can be a lot of factors as to why the texture is not as it should be. First, make sure you are using heavy cream. Creams or milk with less fat content on them will not yield the same result. Second, it can be because you over-churned it.

How long will homemade ice cream keep in the freezer?

You can store this homemade lemon ice cream for up to 3 months in the freezer, but it's best to enjoy fresh. The longer it stays in the freezer, it can become less creamy.

A clear glass holding an ice cream cone of lemon ice cream.

Did you LOVE this recipe? Please leave a star ⭐️ rating and comment to let other readers know! I absolutely love hearing from you and do my best to answer all questions and comments. I love seeing your creations so please tag me on Instagram @ColeyCooks!

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A glass holding an ice cream cone with lemon ice cream.
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Easy Homemade Lemon Ice Cream

This Easy Homemade Lemon Ice Cream is a simple and refreshing dessert that's made with just 4 simple ingredients. It's lighter than custard style ice cream and way easier to make because there are no eggs. Bursting with sweet, tangy goodness and ready to freeze in 30 minutes. 
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 1 quart
Calories: 2415kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest from about 2 large lemons
  • ½ cup (plus 2 tablespoons) freshly squeezed lemon juice from about 3-4 large lemons

Instructions

  1. Whisk together the heavy cream, sugar and salt, then place in the refrigerator while you zest and juice the lemons. Remove from the fridge and whisk a bit more until the sugar is fully dissolved.
  2. Add the lemon zest and juice and whisk to combine. Cover and chill the mixture until it's very cold - at least an hour in the refrigerator, or about 20 minutes in the freezer.
  3. Churn in an ice cream maker by following the manufacturer's instructions. When it's thick like soft serve, scrape into a container, cover, and freeze until solid - this will take several hours or over night.
  4. Scoop and serve!

Notes

  • Use cold ingredients to reduce the initial chilling time. You can place them in the freezer an hour before you start. It is also advisable to use a chilled bowl and whisk to mix the ingredients.
  • It's best to freeze the ice cream overnight so that it's hard enough to scoop. However, you can enjoy it right out  of the ice cream maker for more of a soft serve ice cream texture.
  • Important tip - Do not over-fill your ice cream maker. Fill it a third of the way to allow the machine to aerate the milk mixture as it churns so it does not overflow.
  • To avoid ice crystals and maintain a creamy ice cream, do not melt and refreeze. Keep the ice cream frozen at all times to keep the texture smooth and creamy for longer.
  • Allow the ice cream to sit out for about 10 minutes at room temperature for easier scooping.

Nutrition

Calories: 2415kcal | Carbohydrates: 221g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 173g | Saturated Fat: 110g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 43g | Cholesterol: 538mg | Sodium: 132mg | Potassium: 582mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 217g | Vitamin A: 7005IU | Vitamin C: 50mg | Calcium: 323mg | Iron: 1mg
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8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    OMG! This was the most delicious ice cream I've made thus far--and we've been making a ton of them after the Blue Bell apocalypse. I love lemon desserts, and this one did not disappoint. My die-hard chocolate fan of a husband even raved about it. It paired perfectly with a warm blueberry pie. And in a total accident, I had created a stellar purple and gold (really just a faint yellow, but work with me) dessert for our LSU CWS viewing party (not that it helped us for that game, but we've still got a chance). Thanks for the recipe and keep 'em coming!

  2. 5 stars
    I am SOOOO making this when the weather stays a little warmer! We have something called an "ice cream ball" where kids can roll it around or toss it to each other and 10-15 minutes later... voila! Ice Cream!!!
    I think the best thing about home made ice cream is you KNOW what's in it... no preservatives or artificial ingredients... thanks again for another wonderful recipe, Coley!

    1. love the ice cream ball! But I'm too lazy for that, hehe. I love this ice cream, it's simple and perfect!

  3. 5 stars
    Have I ever told you how much I love lemon?!!!
    I'm making this for our anniversary dessert. So excited
    Happy Summer!

    1. Happy Anniversary!!!!!! And Happy Summer! I look forward to seeing all the Librone ladies at the farmers markets this summer. Hope you enjoyed the ice cream!

  4. 5 stars
    I'm such a sucker for anything lemon, and this ice cream looks amazing! I'm alllll about it!

    1. Thank you!! It's so light and refreshing but still indulgent. I hope you make it! Your blog is adorable btw 🙂