By Laura Mack
April 20, 2016
This low carb mint chip ice cream is everything you could want in this classic combination: rich and creamy frozen custard bursting with peppermint flavor and studded with crunchy dark chocolate chips. At less than 4 net carbs per serving, plus a good portion of healthy fats, it’s a winner of a dessert for those of us following a low carb high fat (LCHF), ketogenic way of eating.
When Deb and I were growing up, we didn’t have dessert very often in our home. From time to time, though, our parents would take us out to the local ice cream shop for a treat. We kids would study every single available flavor in order to make just the right choice. Even though I conducted a thorough survey at each and every visit, I invariably ended up choosing mint chip! I have always loved this combination of flavors, as well as the creamy-crunchy texture contrast.
While there are ‘no sugar added’ ice creams available at the grocery store, as well as at some ice cream shops. I usually find them underwhelming for several reasons. First, they often use lower-quality (cheap) sugar alcohol sweeteners that can cause more of a blood sugar spike and more digestive side effects than high-quality low carb natural sweeteners. Second, they assume that people who want ‘no sugar added’ ice cream also want it lower fat, so the end result is less creamy along with varying degrees of icy texture. Lastly, the selection of flavors is quite limited, especially at ice cream shops (vs grocery stores). My husband and I were at Disneyland a few months ago, and we stopped at the old-fashioned ice cream parlor there. While I was pleased that there was an option of no sugar added ice cream, it was available in only one flavor — and it wasn’t mint chip. Sigh. It actually tasted pretty good, though, and it was nice to have an opportunity to indulge in a dessert that wouldn’t totally throw me off plan.
When I’m at home, however, I want what I want when it comes to ice cream. There are a few steps involved in making good homemade ice cream, low carb or not. With a good ice cream maker, it’s really pretty simple, though, and totally worth a little time as well as the investment in the machine.
I purchased a Cuisinart 1.5 quart ice cream maker a couple of years ago based on a review from Cook’s Illustrated. I’ve made many batches of ice cream since then, and it always does a great job. It has a canister that needs to be frozen for several hours before use and, unless you like soft-serve, you’ll want to refreeze the ice cream for at least a few hours before serving. It’s simple to use, easy to clean, and relatively inexpensive, so I’ve been quite happy with it.
This low carb mint chip ice cream is custard-style. That refers to heated cream incorporated with egg yolks and sweetener to create what is basically a thin custard that is then churned into ice cream and frozen. There are quicker non-custard versions that don’t use egg yolks, but I think it’s worth the extra time (about 10 minutes, not including chill-time) to make a custard. Not only is the result much creamier, it is more nutritious as well. Egg yolks are among the best dietary sources of choline, which is very important for brain health.
The process of making any custard, like my Creamy Low Carb Lemon Curd, is relatively easy once you learn the technique. The basic method is to heat the cream, milk, and any other liquids to barely a simmer before gradually whisking some of the hot mixture into egg yolks to bring the temperature up slowly so that the eggs don’t scramble. This process is called “tempering,” and it sounds more complicated than it is. It’s helpful to have an instant-read thermometer, which is truly an essential kitchen tool. Seriously. I have a collection of thermometers and use them constantly. Along with a chef’s knife, an instant-read thermometer was a required tool for all students when I was in culinary school.
Once the custard reaches the correct temperature, run it through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any lumps. You’ll want to chill the strained custard in an ice bath for about 15 minutes. Don’t be intimidated by the term ice bath — it’s simply a bowl with some ice and water that you set another container inside of to help cool down hot liquids to room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator for chilling.
When using non-sugar sweeteners, ice cream can freeze quite solidly and be difficult to scoop. I learned a work-around for this from Carolyn Ketchum of All Day I Dream About Food that involves adding two unusual ingredients: vodka and xanthan gum. I know, it does sound strange, but it’s just a bit of food chemistry. Alcohol (in this case, flavorless vodka) will raise the freezing point of the liquid it’s added to, making the ice cream more “scoopable.” The xanthan gum helps emulsify the ingredients, creating a smoother texture, and also helps prevent iciness that can occur. If you don’t want to use either (or both) of these, you can certainly leave them out. The texture may be a little icy, and you’ll want to plan to leave your ice cream at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving to make it easier to scoop.
One last note about ingredients. For the chocolate pieces, I use no sugar added dark chocolate baking chips from Lily’s that are sweetened with erythritol and stevia. I find it convenient because it’s ready to go — no chopping required. The chips on their own don’t taste quite as good as 85% dark chocolate, but when they’re frozen, I can’t tell the difference. However, you could certainly chop up a bar of 85% dark chocolate if you prefer.
This low carb mint chip ice cream takes me back to my childhood every time I taste it. If you are a fan of minty chocolate confections, you’ll definitely want to give this recipe a try. Do let me know if you have any questions!
Low Carb Mint Chip Ice Cream
Author: Laura Mack
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 20 mins
Total time: 20 mins
While the preparation and cooking time for this recipe takes only about 20 minutes, the custard will take at least 4 hours to cool. Churning will take about 30 minutes to get to soft-serve consistency. For firmer ice cream, transfer to the freezer for several more hours.
16 ounces / 2 cups heavy whipping cream
8 ounces / 1 cup coconut milk (from carton), or almond milk
3.5 ounces / ½ cup xylitol or equivalent sweetener
1 pinch fine sea salt
4 large egg yolks
1 ounce / 2 tablespoons vodka (for "scoop-ability")
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons peppermint extract
½ teaspoon liquid stevia, more or less to taste
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum (for texture)
3.5 ounces dark chocolate chips (no sugar added), or 85% dark chocolate, chopped
- Prepare an ice bath by placing about 3 cups of ice in a large bowl. Set aside.
- Separate egg yolks into a 4-cup bowl or liquid measuring cup. (Save egg whites for another purpose.) Whisk yolks until smooth. Set aside.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine cream, coconut milk, xylitol, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until mixture reaches 170F on an instant-read thermometer or is barely starting to simmer. Turn heat off.
- Slowly ladle about 1 cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks while whisking. Then whisk the egg mixture back into the remaining cream mixture in the saucepan. Turn the heat back on to medium and cook until mixture registers 175-180F degrees on an instant-read thermometer, stirring constantly.
- Immediately remove pan from heat and pour custard through a fine-mesh strainer into a storage container (at least 6-cup). Place the container on top of the ice in the bowl. Add cold water to the ice slowly until it comes up about halfway up the sides of the custard. Nestle the container down in the ice bath so it doesn't tip. Let cool for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove container from the ice bath, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- When ready to churn, remove the custard mixture and stir in vodka and extracts with a whisk. Add liquid stevia to taste. While whisking, sprinkle in xanthan gum until well blended.
- Pour the custard into the container of your ice cream maker and churn according to your machine's directions. When the custard has reached the consistency of soft-serve ice cream, add the chocolate chips and let churn another couple of minutes to incorporate.
- You can serve the ice cream at this point if desired. Or transfer to a freezer-proof container, cover tightly, and let freeze until firmer, a few hours or more.
Nutritional info* per serving (about ½ cup): 264 cal, 23 g total fat (86%), 6.4 g total carbs, 2.9 g fiber, 3.5 g net carbs, and 2 g protein. Please note that I do not count the sugar alcohols from xylitol or erythritol in the total carbs or net carbs.
*I use Living Cookbook 2015, along with package information and data from www.nutritiondata.self.com, to calculate the nutritional information for my recipes. Thus, I can make no guarantees as to the accuracy.