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Thomas Jefferson’s Vanilla Ice Cream

The third U.S. president is credited with jotting down the first American recipe for this treat. No vanilla bean on hand? Substitute 1 tablespoon vanilla extract for the vanilla bean. Just stir the extract into the cream mixture after the ice-water bath. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
  • Total Time
    Prep: 15 min. + chilling Process: 20 min./batch + freezing
  • Makes
    2-1/4 quarts


  • 2 quarts heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 6 large egg yolks


  • In a large heavy saucepan, combine cream and sugar. Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise. With a sharp knife, scrape seeds into pan; add bean. Heat cream mixture over medium heat until bubbles form around sides of pan, stirring to dissolve sugar.
  • In a small bowl, whisk a small amount of the hot mixture into the egg yolks; return all to the pan, whisking constantly.
  • Cook over low heat until mixture is just thick enough to coat a metal spoon and temperature reaches 160°, stirring constantly. Do not allow to boil. Immediately transfer to a bowl.
  • Place bowl in a pan of ice water. Stir gently and occasionally for 2 minutes; discard vanilla bean. Press waxed paper onto surface of custard. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
  • Fill cylinder of ice cream freezer two-thirds full; freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. (Refrigerate remaining mixture until ready to freeze.) Transfer ice cream to a freezer container; freeze for 4-6 hours or until firm. Repeat with remaining mixture.
Nutrition Facts
1/2 cup: 424 calories, 40g fat (25g saturated fat), 182mg cholesterol, 32mg sodium, 14g carbohydrate (14g sugars, 0 fiber), 4g protein.

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Average Rating:
  • pattiejean
    Aug 11, 2019

    Absolutely delicious-creamy and rich! I used vanilla extract in place of vanilla bean, and churned in 2 batches. So fun to make a recipe credited to Thomas Jefferson!

  • spiersch
    Jul 5, 2019

    My husband declared this to be the best vanilla ice cream recipe ever. I have to agree. It's so creamy and luscious on the tongue however I believe this should be called frozen custard instead of vanilla ice cream. Either way it's wonderful

  • amsm
    Jun 19, 2019

    Delicious ice cream, but was time consuming for me to make. I had to divide this into thirds and make the ice cream in three batches since my ice cream maker is small. It was worth it!

  • aug2295
    Dec 30, 2014

    I cut the recipe down to 1/4 based on the size of my ice cream freezer and the amount of cream I had on hand. I used two full egg yolks. Recipe came out great. It looks like there are a lot of steps but they are really not that much work.

  • romance1982
    Jul 22, 2014

    Great recipe! Very rich and creamy...and surprisingly easy. This is a keeper.

  • brady525sarah
    May 28, 2013

    No comment left

  • Taryn-chan
    Oct 30, 2012

    No comment left

  • karenury
    Jul 7, 2012

    No comment left

  • strattonbride
    Jun 21, 2012

    Great rich flavor for such an easy recipe. It has little black specks and rolls when dipped just like the expensive store ice creams. Be sure you seive the custard before you put it in the ice cream freezer as you don't want little egg bits in your ice cream. This ice cream kept well, too (nearly 2 weeks) in the freezer.