This homemade French Vanilla Ice Cream is packed with vanilla beans for a deep vanilla flavor. Grab a scoop for dessert tonight!
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So what’s the difference in all of these ice creams? It’s actually pretty simple. French Vanilla Ice Cream has nothing to do with the type of vanilla. Instead, this style refers to the French style of ice cream which uses egg yolks in the base. In addition to adding a slightly yellow-ish color, the egg yolks produce an ice cream with a richer, creamier taste. Plain vanilla ice cream on the other hand doesn’t use egg yolks in the base. You’ll notice that this style is usually whiter in color. It’s still a delicious ice cream…just slightly different than French vanilla.
What’s the deal with that Philly vanilla flavor? Nothing. Philadelphia-style ice cream is the official name for ice creams that don’t use egg yolks in the base. So that ‘regular’ vanilla ice cream is Philly style – you just won’t see it on the packaging usually. Our local convenience store probably chose the name just to sound fun. In the end, Philly vanilla is the same as traditional vanilla.
French Vanilla Ice Cream
And that brings us to the vanilla bean. Yes, yet another option when it comes to picking out vanilla ice cream. Both French Vanilla Ice Cream and Philly Vanilla Ice Cream can use vanilla extract or vanilla beans. The little black flecks in vanilla bean ice cream? Those are vanilla bean seeds. And they add a ton of flavor! I’m partial to both the French style of ice cream as well as vanilla beans, so that’s what we have here. Technically, this recipe should be called French Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, but I went with the shorter version. No matter what you call it, it’s delicious!
Using real vanilla beans brings such a unique, strong flavor to recipes. If the recipe has another predominant flavor – chocolate, peanut butter, coffee, etc. – then I typically use vanilla extract. It adds a nice boost of flavor. But if the recipe is meant to taste like vanilla? Well that’s where the vanilla beans come into play. Last month, I posted these Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Frosting. This French Vanilla Ice Cream tastes just like that frosting…just in frozen form. It’s delicious!
When it comes to vanilla beans, I particularly enjoy the options from SLO Food Group. SLO Food Group is a vanilla bean importer based in Sarasota, Florida. Shawn (one of the brain-trust behind SLO Food Group) regularly goes on vanilla bean harvesting trips to Tahiti and Madagascar. I’ve used his vanilla beans a number of times, and they’ve always exceeded my expectations. I love vanilla flavored desserts, so I expect my vanilla beans to produce a strong vanilla flavor.
Because SLO Group works directly with vanilla bean farmers, they’re able to offer premium products at reasonable prices. Did you know that vanilla beans rank as the world’s second most valuable spice (behind only saffon)? Vanilla beans are hand-pollinated, and the process is both labor and time intensive. Vanilla bean production also plays a key economic role in a number of smaller countries – most notably, French Polynesia, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea. SLO Food Group works directly with farmers in each of these locations. I highly recommend their vanilla beans – oh, and did I mention that they offer free shipping within the US? Bonus!
As we wrap up this discussion of ice cream and vanilla beans, I’ll leave you with one extra trivia fact. Vanilla beans are actually seed pods from orchids. And the flower that produces the vanilla bean? It only lasts one day. (The beans are hand-picked and cured/dried for 4-6 months after they’re picked.) I hope you enjoy this French Vanilla Ice Cream as much as we do!
Did you make a batch of this French Vanilla Ice Cream at home? Leave a comment. Or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog)!
French Vanilla Ice Cream
- 2 vanilla beans
- 1¼ cups half-and-half
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 large egg yolks
- 2 cups heavy cream
- Using a sharp knife, slice each vanilla bean lengthwise.
- Using the back of the knife, scrap the seeds out of the halved vanilla beans.
- Using a medium saucepan, add vanilla beans and half-and-half. Heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until it just begins to simmer.
- Meanwhile, using a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until well blended.
- Gradually pour the heated half-and-half into the egg yolk mixture; whisking vigorously the entire time.
- Transfer this mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until custard thickens noticeably and coats a wooden spoon. (~4-6 minutes).
- Once the custard mixture has thickened, remove from heat and add the heavy cream; stir until well combined.
- Pour mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly onto the surface of the mixture, and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or overnight.
- Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. (Note: For a softer ice cream, serve immediately. For a harder ice cream, transfer mixture into a freezer-safe container and freeze for 3-4 hours.)
Looking for more vanilla bean recipes? Check out these other favorites, too: