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Key Lime Ice Cream

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Key Lime Ice Cream is a sweet, slightly tart dessert made with real key lime juice and a custard ice cream base. It’s full of tropical flavor and 100% homemade.

Key lime ice cream is quickly rising to the top of my top five favorite ice cream flavors, which is a big deal because I’m super picky about ice cream. This kind is smooth, creamy, with the distinct flavor of key lime. In my book, it’s pretty much perfect!

From the time that I was about 15 and tried a slice of real key lime pie (not the stuff made with Persian lime juice), I knew I’d forever love the flavor. As an adult, I use key lime juice anywhere I can. Some of my favorite recipes have been key lime fudge, frozen daiquiris, and key lime martinis.

Key lime ice cream seemed like a great idea to tackle, and it turned out well. This ice cream starts out on the softer side but freezes solid, so it’s helpful to leave it out at room temperature for about 10 minutes before scooping.

After that you’re good to go! It would taste great with some hot fudge, shredded coconut, or even some marshmallow cream.

Two scoops of ice cream in a glass container.

How to make key lime ice cream:

  • You’ll need an ice cream maker for this recipe. Before you get started, make sure to freeze the core of the ice cream maker according to the manufacturer directions. I usually do this the day before, so it has plenty of time to freeze solid.
  • When you’re ready to start making the ice cream, grab a large saucepan and add heavy cream, granulated sugar, whole milk, 5 egg yolks, and vanilla extract.
  • Whisk to combine over low heat. Continue to whisk for 8 to 10 minutes until the mixture begins to steep. Do not let the liquid boil; otherwise, it will separate and won’t be usable.
Collage style photo showing how to make custard base for ice cream.
  • Continue to whisk until the mixture is light yellow in color and slightly thick. It should coat the back of a spoon when it’s ready.
  • Pour the hot custard through a mesh strainer into a heat safe container.
  • Place the container in a bowl of ice for about 1 hour to help cool the custard.
  • Cover the custard with a piece of plastic wrap, and ensure the plastic wrap touches the custard to prevent a thick skin from forming.
  • Transfer the ice cream custard to the refrigerator to cool completely, about 2 to 3 hours.
Collage style photo showing how to mix key lime ice cream.
  • After the custard is completely cool, pour it into the prepared ice cream maker.
  • Churn until the ice cream reaches the soft serve stage, about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the ice cream maker.
  • Pour in the key lime juice, and continue to churn. The additional of the key lime juice will loosen the ice cream, and it will take some time to firm back up again, about 10 minutes.
  • Transfer the ice cream to a freezer safe container, and freeze for 8 to 10 hours or overnight.
  • When ready to serve, allow the key lime ice cream to set out at room temperature for about 10 minutes before scooping.
Top down view of key lime ice cream being scooped from a pan.

Can you use lime juice in place of key lime juice?

You can use lime juice in place of key lime juice. However, it may take more lime juice to get the same tart flavor as key lime juice provides. Key lime juice is more tart and more acidic, so these juices may not be an exact 1:1 substitution.

For this recipe, the ice cream will not taste the same if lime juice is used. It does not have the same distinct flavor as key lime juice. You’d be making lime ice cream instead of key lime ice cream.

Where can you purchase key lime juice?

We’ve been able to purchase a bottle of Nellie and Joe’s Key Lime Juice from Amazon, Wal-Mart and Publix. Another option is to purchase Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Juice online or in person from their Key West, Florida or Deland, Florida locations.

Where can you purchase key limes?

Some grocery store chains carry key limes. We are able to purchase a 2 pound bag of key limes from Wal-Mart. A friend mentioned she saw some in the Northeastern part of the U.S. at Fresh Market.

Can you substitute a lower fat milk or milk substitute for heavy cream?

We have not tried to substitute another type of dairy or non-dairy product for the heavy cream or whole milk. The high fat content is what gives this ice cream its creamy consistency. We don’t have any recommendations on substitutions, since we have not tested other ingredients for accuracy.

Other ice cream recipes you may enjoy:

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Top down view of ice cream in a glass cup.

Key Lime Ice Cream

Yield: About 8 Cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Additional Chill and Freeze Time: 20 hours
Total Time: 20 hours 20 minutes

Key Lime Ice Cream is a sweet, slightly tart dessert made with real key lime juice and a custard ice cream base. It's full of tropical flavor and 100% homemade.

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 1 Cup Whole Milk
  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 5 Large Egg Yolks
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • ¾ Cup Key Lime Juice, use less if you want for a sweeter, less tart ice cream

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream, milk, egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla. Bring to a steep over low-medium heat. Steam should begin to rise from the liquid. Stir consistently and continue to cook over low-medium heat for approximately 8 to 10 minutes until the custard slightly thickens. The custard should lightly coat the back of a spoon when ready.
  2. Transfer the custard to a bowl to cool and cover with plastic wrap. The plastic wrap should touch the top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Place the container in a large bowl of ice to chill for about 1 hour, then transfer to the refrigerator to cool completely, about 2 hours.
  3. After the custard cools, pour it into the prepared ice cream maker. Churn according to manufacturer’s instructions until the ice cream reaches the soft set stage. Add the key lime juice. Continue to churn until the ice cream is well mixed and has begin to set.
  4. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer safe container, and place in the freezer until completely firm. This will vary based on how frozen the ice cream is when it’s removed from the ice cream maker. (Ours took 8 to 10 hours.)
  5. Allow the ice cream to set out at room temperature for about 10 minutes before scooping. Serve cold.

Notes

*The calories listed are an approximation based on the ingredients in the recipe card and a serving size of ½ cup of ice cream. Actual calories will vary.

*Use less key lime juice for a less tart ice cream. This ice cream tastes quite tart at first, then the sweetness comes through.

*For more information, tips, and answers to frequently asked questions, please refer to the post.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: .5 Cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 231Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 111mgSodium: 53mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 0gSugar: 19gProtein: 4g

*The calories are an estimate and are based on the ingredients and serving size listed. The calories can vary depending on the brand of product purchased.

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