Browned Butter Pecan Ice Cream Recipe on Food52 (2024)

Make Ahead

by: MrsMehitabel



4 Ratings

  • Makes about 1 quart

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Author Notes

This is the ice cream that made us forget our evening plans.
It is a better-than-classic butter pecan ice cream, made with browned butter, brown sugar, and roasted pecans. It is based on Jeni's Splendid Blank Canvas, although I have altered it a bit. I didn't have cream cheese on hand; hence the sour cream. I also reduced the cream for a less-fatty mouth feel, after reading that David Lebovitz had accidentally used only 1/4 cup in the Milkiest Chocolate flavor, and liked it better. I have also added instructions to whisk the base over low heat for a moment after adding the starch -- I find I can still taste starch in the finished ice cream if it's added after turning off the heat.
I cooked the base at about 2:00 and it was ready to chill by about 4:00 in the afternoon. After letting it harden in the freezer, we scooped it into cones and took a walk in the late L.A. sunlight. It was creamy and rich, with a perfect, deep butter flavor. The next morning, my husband said, "Didn't we have plans with friends last night?"
I should make them a batch of this ice cream to make up for it. —MrsMehitabel

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: MrsMehitabel is new to the Finalist circle, and with this ice cream, we're wondering where she's been all our lives.
WHAT: The butter pecan ice cream of our dreams.
HOW: Brown some butter, then make a quick, non-custard base. Get yourself some cones somewhere during this process.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Browning the butter makes butter pecan ice cream grow up, and fast. The flavor is rich, deeply nutty, and a big step up from the ice-cream-stand butter pecan of summer vacations past. Our base looked just slightly grainy before it went into the machine; if yours does too, don't worry about a thing -- this will churn into the creamiest, smoothest ice cream you've had in a while. —The Editors

  • Test Kitchen-Approved
  • Your Best Frozen Dessert Contest Winner

What You'll Need

  • 1 cup(2 sticks) salted butter
  • 2 cupswhole milk
  • 1/2 cupheavy cream
  • 2/3 cuppacked brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoonstapioca syrup or light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoonplus 1 teaspoon tapioca starch or cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoonssour cream
  • 1/2 cupto 1 cup roasted pecans or pecan pieces
  1. If you have a cylinder-type ice cream maker, have the cylinder completely frozen.
  2. Brown the butter in a medium or large saucepan, and reserve the clarified butter for another use. Keep the solids in the saucepan. (I found the easiest way to do this was to pour the browned butter into a clear glass 2-cup measure, let it settle a bit, pour off the clarified butter, and return the solids to the pan.)
  3. Combine the starch with 2 tablespoons of the milk in a little prep bowl and place nearby.
  4. Add the rest of the milk, heavy cream, brown sugar, and syrup to the solids in the saucepan.
  5. Bring to a boil and boil, stirring, for exactly 4 minutes.
  6. Whisk in the starch-milk slurry, and continue cooking over low heat for just a moment, until the mixture no longer tastes of raw starch.
  7. Remove from heat, and whisk in the sour cream.
  8. Let the mixture cool, then chill. (An ice bath will speed this up!)
  9. Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions.
  10. Pack into a container, adding the pecans, and put it in the freezer for a few hours, or until it has hardened enough to scoop.


  • Frozen Dessert
  • Ice Cream/Frozen Desserts
  • American
  • Pecan
  • Milk/Cream
  • Sour Cream
  • Butter
  • Make Ahead
  • Summer
  • Memorial Day
  • Father's Day
  • Mother's Day
Contest Entries
  • Your Best Frozen Dessert

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Emily Love

  • Smaug

  • Allison Conant

  • Señora Hughes

  • Tara Roberts

Popular on Food52

53 Reviews

Emily L. July 29, 2019

I made this over the past weekend and agree with the other reviews, the flavor is amazing but the mouthfeel isn't as creamy as your typical homemade ice cream.

Smaug July 6, 2019

This was really good- A for flavor, maybe an (A-) for texture- like other egg free ice creams I've made, it has a little elasticity (for want of a better word) that's not really offensive, but not ice cream like. I thought the reduced cream was an excellent call. This set up really fast, about 12 minutes, but I was using a new churn which probably helped. Fairly easy and inexpensive to make, though it does leave you with a bunch of clarified butter to use elsewhere. Pretty messy, but not bad as ice creams go ( I still have nightmares about some cranberry ice cream I made years ago). If you like butter pecan, definitely give this one a try.

MrsMehitabel July 7, 2019

Aw, man, thanks, Smaug! Such great comments. Maybe hollandaise with the butter?

Linda June 1, 2016

Is it really sour cream or should it say cream cheese

Smaug July 6, 2019

As the author mentioned in the notes, the sour cream was for lack of cream cheese, but it works pretty much the same and the flavor is good.

Allison C. March 24, 2016

Could this mixture be refrigerated overnight before making the ice cream?

Chocolate B. March 24, 2016

Definitely! You want your custard mixture as cold as possible before you churn it. I make ice cream twice a week, year around, and I always make the mixture the day before and refrigerate it so it's really cold before I pour it into the churn.

Smaug July 6, 2019

By all means, but the mixture (which is not a custard, by the way) will thicken to the point that it may be difficult to pour- be sure to stir it up thoroughly.

Bebewatson September 9, 2015

yes it's delicious but only made 3/4 qt

Pam G. June 23, 2014

Yes you definitely need an ice cream maker (They are worth the price--get one!).I think it would be fine for a cake if you freeze it in the desired form.

Joy June 23, 2014

Do I have to have an Ice cream maker to make this recipe? My daughters birthday is this weekend and she is wanting Ice cream cake. I also was reading the comments and a some of them were saying it turns out to be soft, will it work for an Ice cream cake?

Señora H. June 5, 2014

This is amazing! I just made it, replacing the pecans with chopped up chocolate caramel covered macadamia nuts. I am not sure if it will make it all the way till' tonight's dinner party :)

Carolina March 12, 2014

The flavour of this ice cream is fantastic. Truly delicious in every way. The texture, however, was a bit off for my palate. It lacked the creamy mouth-feel that extra cream in the recipe would give it. I found it a bit light in the loafers, so to speak. Am making it again tomorrow with adjusted cream to milk ratios in the hopes of the "Perfect" ice cream. It sure has the flavour.

Tara R. February 27, 2014

This might be the best ice cream I have ever made. I used my electric churn and it firmed up just fine.

Chocolate B. January 1, 2014

This ice cream is almost too good. I made a quart to take to a New Year's Eve party and when my husband and I tasted the mixture before it went into the churn we almost finished it off then and there, in its liquid form. We made three different ice creams: the browned butter pecan, a coconut lime from Serious Eats and David Lebovitz's chocolate sorbet. There were 7 teenagers at the party and the three quarts of ice cream were gone within 5 minutes. Yum! Thanks for this great recipe.

Karin W. October 7, 2013

Thank you for the advice on how to handle the clarified butter and the solids. Very helpful!

ChiFoodLover August 21, 2013

Thank you for this delicious recipe! My husband & I made it for my parents and it was a big hit. Just one question regarding the consistency - is it supposed to be similar to soft serve even after being in the freezer for more than 4 hours? Just wondering if it's a problem with my ice cream maker or not.

MrsMehitabel August 30, 2013

I'm so glad you liked it! Mine was pretty soft, but scoopable. The picture of the test-kitchen batch looks firmer. If I made ice cream and it stayed soft-serve concistency, I'd leave some in overnight, test it in the morning, and then maybe worry about my freezer. But maybe it was the recipe- I'm thinking yours was probably within the range of likely outcomes....?

Angel August 3, 2013

I missed the part of cooling before putting in my ice cream maker. It's ok-- it turned out fabulous. THANK YOU for this amazing recipe!

MrsMehitabel August 5, 2013

Thank you! It's great to hear that you used it with good results!

Pam G. August 2, 2013

I am making this at the moment. Why is the cream only 1/2 cup instead of Jeni's usual 1 1/4 cups? The total volume seems low. I make Jeni's wonderful recipes all the time. Will this work?

MrsMehitabel August 5, 2013

Hi, Pam! I'm so flattered that you made the recipe! This is a little late for your ice cream, but for anyone else who sees this and wonders the same thing, it definitely works. David Lebovitz featured one of Jeni's chocolate variations and said that he had accidentally used only 1/4 cup of cream the first time he made it, with good results. When I first used a Jeni's recipe, I thought it had a very fatty mouthfeel, and since this recipe already has butter solids (inevitably containing at least a tiny bit of butter), sour cream, and pecans, I felt that a reduced amount of cream was in order. It is still definitely rich and not icy.

Ileana M. July 31, 2013

Outrageous! I want this now. :)

Anita July 24, 2013

Would regular sugar (not as a syrup) work in place of corn syrup or tapioca syrup?

MrsMehitabel July 24, 2013

I'm sure you could just add a little more sugar and skip the syrup. This was inspired by the Jeni's Splendid ice cream method, and I read that her rationale for including the syrup (also the reason for the starch and cream cheese in her recipe) was to prevent ice crystals from forming and make a smoother ice cream. I'd definitely try it if I didn't have syrup- please do tell how it turns out if you make it!

Anita July 24, 2013

Hi!! Thanks for your reply! Maybe I will make a simple syrup out of the sugar I already have....hmmmmm....but if I do make it with just regular sugar I will let you know. Thanks!!!

Auros H. July 31, 2013

A simple syrup is not going to have the same anti-crystallization effects as a tapioca or corn syrup. The specific sugar molecules in the tapioca and corn syrups are different from sucrose. I think tapioca has some maltose and glucose. Corn syrup definitely is high in fructose. In any case, these non-sucrose molecules mix in with the sucrose, and because they're shaped differently, they make it much harder for the sucrose to settle into crystals.

Anita July 31, 2013

Hi Auros! Thank you for your comment! I really appreciate it!

Auros H. July 31, 2013

Happy to help! :-)

Though glancing back at the remarks from MrsMehitabel, it sounds like she was talking about ice crystals? I haven't seen the original Jeni's Splendid recipe, but I'm not sure exactly how non-sucrose sugars would affect that. Definitely ALL sugars -- and salts -- lower the freezing point of water and alter the way it crystallizes. But my guess is that the larger effect here is going to be preventing re-formation of sucrose crystals as your mixture cools, and thus preventing a gritty texture. You'll often see a small amount of Karo or other corn syrup in caramel recipes, for exactly this reason.

MrsMehitabel August 5, 2013

I probably didn't do justice to Jeni's reasoning in my comment! The Amazon page for her book, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home, allows a preview of the introduction, where she explains this more fully.

Smaug July 6, 2019

You could probably use honey (which would be interesting as far as taste) or Lyles Golden Syrup with similar effect.

Smaug July 6, 2019

Ooh, or maple syrup- I'm tempted to go try that right now. Relatively low in fructose, though, so it might not be as effective at preventing crystalization.

kzmccaff June 29, 2013

This was so good! But... super rich, so be prepared to only eat a scoop!

amber W. June 27, 2013

Congrats! This recipe looks lovely!

Browned Butter Pecan Ice Cream Recipe on Food52 (2024)


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