Low Carb Spiced Pumpkin Ice Cream

By Laura Mack
November 4, 2016

If you love pumpkin and spice, this rich Low Carb Spiced Pumpkin Ice Cream will rock your world. It’s loaded with rich, pumpkiny goodness for just over 4 net carbs per serving!

We’re back with another pumpkin recipe to celebrate this wonderful Autumn season. My Chai-Spiced Pumpkin Pots de Creme post of several weeks ago was essentially a baked custard. This Spiced Pumpkin Ice Cream is a frozen custard. Can you tell I’m a fan of custard (as well as pumpkin)?

Several years ago, before I transitioned to keto, I tried Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Ice Cream. It was mighty tasty. However, an equivalent portion of their pumpkin ice cream is about 28 net carbs, which is 7 times the net carbs of mine. That’s more carbs than most of us following keto consume in a day! Soooo, last Autumn, I decided to come up with a low carb spiced pumpkin ice cream. I have to say that I’m quite pleased with it.

One of the great things about custards, besides being delicious, is that they are ideal for adapting to a keto/LCHF (low carb high fat) way of eating. Regular (high carb) ice creams typically use cream and milk, so changing those out for either all heavy cream or for a combination of heavy cream and almond milk or coconut milk from the carton lowers the carbs. In this recipe, I use only heavy cream, but it is balanced out by the pumpkin puree so it is not overly creamy (yes, there is such a thing.)

The sugar is fairly easily substituted for a low carb natural sweetener. My go-to approach for low carb sweetening is a combination of xylitol and liquid stevia, which is what is used here. I also added a small quantity of blackstrap molasses in this case, which gives the flavor a brown sugar dimension. Molasses is a sugar, however, but because I use only two teaspoons here, the effect is only 0.68 additional carbs per serving. While I find the difference negligible, you could certainly leave it out if you prefer.

The last tweak that I use for low carb ice cream is the somewhat odd addition of a small amount of vodka and xanthan gum. When using non-sugar sweeteners, ice creams freeze considerably harder than when using sugar. The small amount of alcohol prevents the ice cream from freezing as hard. Have you ever put a bottle of vodka in the freezer? It doesn’t freeze. The xanthan gum is a natural emulsifier that helps with texture and reduces iciness. It is often used in mass-produced ice creams as well. The combination of vodka and xanthan gum really improves the ‘scoopability’ of low carb ice creams, without adding a noticeable flavor or booziness. Both of these ingredients can be omitted if desired. However, you’ll want to let the ice cream sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before serving to make it easier to scoop.

If you’ve never made a stove-top custard before, don’t worry. It’s quite straightforward. The recipe walks you through the steps. However, if you’d like a little more detail, just refer to my Mint Chip Ice Cream post. Do be sure to pass the custard-pumpkin mixture through a fine-mesh strainer (like these). Because pumpkin puree can still have some fibers, straining gives the ice cream a smoother texture. It also catches any larger bits of spices as well. And if you’ve slightly overcooked your custard, it will strain out any unwanted pieces of cooked egg. Press firmly on the solids with a rubber spatula to release as much of the custard as possible.

One last tip that’s really helpful is to remove some of the liquid from the pumpkin puree. This will not only concentrate the pumpkin flavor, it will help reduce iciness in the ice cream. The method I use is to place 3 layers of paper towels on a plate, spread the pumpkin puree over the paper towels, leaving at least an inch border. Place 3 more layers of paper towels on top and press gently. Let sit for 5 minutes before using. The pumpkin comes right off the paper towels. I learned this technique from Cook’s Illustrated ages ago and have used it many times.

For the ice cream maker, Deb and I both use a Cuisinart (model ICE-21) with a 1.5 quart capacity. If you already have an ice cream maker that you’re happy with, that’s great. However, if you don’t have one or are looking to upgrade, we’ve been more than satisfied with ours.

I find a digital instant-read thermometer an essential tool for making custards because the temperature is the most reliable way to know if it’s cooked enough, but not too much. Thermometers are useful for so many things; in fact, mine is one of the most-used tools in my kitchen.

This Low Carb Spiced Pumpkin Ice Cream is one of my favorite desserts this time of year. It’s great on its own, with a few pinches of cinnamon for garnish. However, I nearly always serve it with a sprinkle of toasted pecans or other nuts. I’m a fan of the creamy-crunchy texture contrast. The ice cream is also delicious alongside a slice of low-carb gingerbread (look for my recipe in the next few weeks).

I hope you’ll give this scrumptious ice cream a try. While it’s not quite as quick and easy as some of my other desserts, it’s so worth a little extra effort. Let us know what you think!

Low Carb Spiced Pumpkin Ice Cream

Author: Laura Mack
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time:  10 mins
Cook time:  10 mins
Total time:  20 mins
Serves: 12

Print Recipe

If you love pumpkin and spice, this rich Low Carb Spiced Pumpkin Ice Cream will rock your world. It's loaded with rich, pumpkiny goodness for just over 4 net carbs per serving! Because chilling time is required before churning, it's best to make this a day ahead.


16 ounces / 2 cups heavy cream

3.5 ounces / ½ cup xylitol

4 large egg yolks

10 grams / 2 teaspoons blackstrap molasses

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 pinches sea salt

15 ounces canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 ounce / 2 tablespoons vodka

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ teaspoon liquid stevia, or more to taste

¼ teaspoon xanthan gum


  1. Place 3 layers of paper towels on a dinner plate and spread out canned pumpkin, leaving a couple of inches around the edges. Cover pumpkin with 3 more layers of paper towels, pressing down lightly. Let sit while preparing the custard.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine cream and xylitol. Cook, stirring occasionally until mixture reaches 170F on a candy or instant-read thermometer.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks until well-blended, about 1 minute. Whisk in molasses, spices, and salt. Very slowly whisk ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolks to temper them, then gradually whisk tempered yolks back into the saucepan. Continue to cook the mixture, stirring continuously, until it reaches 170F to 175F. Do not let the temperature exceed 180F.
  4. Remove saucepan from heat and immediately whisk in reserved pumpkin. Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing firmly on the solids with a rubber spatula, into a 6 cup container. Set the container into an ice bath and let cool 10 minutes, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill until cold, at least 3 hours or overnight.
  5. When ready to churn, whisk in vodka, vanilla, and liquid stevia into the custard. Sprinkle in xanthan gum and whisk vigorously to combine well. Taste for sweetness, and adjust with additional liquid stevia, if desired.
  6. Pour mixture into the canister of an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's directions until ice cream is about the consistency of soft serve. Serve immediately if you like a soft texture, or transfer to an airtight container and place in the freezer for 3 hours to firm. Holds well in the freezer for up to 1 month.


Nutritional info* per serving (about ½ cup): 193 cal, 15.6 g total fat (80%), 5.4 g total carbs, 1.2 g fiber, 4.2 g net carbs, and 2.1 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.

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