By Laura Mack
May 13, 2016
This Low Carb Strawberry Ice Cream is rich, creamy, and full of bright strawberry goodness, all for less than 4 carbs per serving! Homemade low carb ice creams can be some of the easiest, most satisfying desserts for those of us following an LCHF (low carb high fat) lifestyle. And while it may seem intimidating at first, it is actually quite simple to make custard-style ice cream. After a few times, you’ll be able to do it in your sleep!
As I point out in my Low Carb Mint Chip Ice Cream post, there are ‘no sugar added’ ice creams available at the grocery store, as well as at some ice cream shops. However, 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, particularly at ice cream shops (vs grocery stores).
This low carb strawberry ice cream is custard-style, which simply 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) 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.
Once the custard reaches the correct temperature, run it through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any lumps. I strain it right into the blender (or food processor) that I’ve placed the frozen strawberries. I then process the mixture until it is smooth, but you can choose whatever consistency you desire.
I use frozen organic strawberries in this recipe because they are convenient, affordable year-round, and actually, help cool down the custard base without an ice bath. However, you could certainly use fresh strawberries if you have them on hand. You’ll just need to use an ice bath for the warm custard base (see here for more info).
The quantity of strawberries used here is limited to 10 ounces (2 cups) to moderate the carb count, while still providing good strawberry flavor. However, I like a little extra berry flavor burst, so I add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of strawberry extract. You can leave it out if you prefer.
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.
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.
Even though I follow a very low carb diet, there is room from time to time for a modest amount of low carb fruit, such as berries. To me, strawberries signify the arrival of Spring and the approach of Summer, even when I use the frozen kind as I do here. If you can spare a few extra carbs, adding a few fresh berries as a garnish makes this Low Carb Strawberry Ice Cream an extra special treat.
Low Carb Strawberry 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.
10 ounces / 2 cups frozen stawberries
16 ounces / 2 cups heavy whipping cream
2.5 ounces / ⅓ 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
¼-1/2 teaspoons strawberry extract, more or less, to boost strawberry flavor (optional)
¼ teaspoon liquid stevia, more or less to taste
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum (for texture)
- Place the frozen strawberries in a blender or the bowl of a food processor. 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, combine cream, 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 instant-read thermometer, stirring constantly.
- Immediately remove pan from heat and pour custard through a fine-mesh strainer over the frozen strawberries in the blender or the food processor bowl. Blend or process on until mixture is smooth, or to your desired consistency. The hot custard will help defrost the frozen strawberries. The frozen strawberries will also cool the custard, so an ice bath is not needed, unless you are substituting fresh strawberries.
- Transfer the mixture into a storage container (at least 6-cup). Cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
- When ready to churn, remove the custard mixture and stir in vodka, and extract, if using, with a whisk. Add liquid stevia to taste. While whisking vigorously, sprinkle in xanthan gum until well blended.
- Pour the custard into the container of your ice cream maker. Churn according to your machine's directions, until the mixture has reached the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. 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): 213 cal, 18.7 g total fat (84%), 3.8 g total carbs, 0.6 g fiber, 3.2 g net carbs, and 2.2 g protein. Please note that I do not count the sugar alcohols from xylitol 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.