How to Make Coconut Ice Cream at Home (it's easy, no machine needed!)

Ever since I moved to Southeast Asia, I have become a total sucker for coconut ice cream. I haven’t been able to develop a taste for local desserts here (yes corn is a real dessert flavor, and don't even get me started on durian) but give me a coconut ice cream and I’ll be your best friend for life. That, and Thai mango with sticky rice. But that’s another topic for another day. 

I love to cook, but I don’t have the precision to be a great baker, as everything ends up burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. So an easy dessert that doesn’t require an oven - I am on board with this. I always thought I needed an ice cream maker to make the good stuff myself, but after some digging around online found that it’s possible to do without the machine; you just need to put in a little elbow grease. The machine just aerates the ice cream as it freezes so ice cream made without the machine will turn out just a bit less fluffy but no less tasty. Oh, and this recipe is vegan and dairy-free too, for those of you who like to pay attention to those sorts of things.

What you need

  • A large, freezer-safe container for storage (a non-stick bread pan works really well)
  • A sturdy whisk or hand-held immersion blender
  • A regular blender (or hand-held immersion blender and large bowl)


  • 2x 400ml / 14 oz cans of full fat coconut milk (or get the stuff in the UHT packs if you want to avoid the bad stuff in aluminum cans)
  • ½ cup (100g) white granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract
  • Adult version: add a bit of rum to the mixture. Go ahead and have a sip while making the ice cream. No one is judging, you’ve had a long day.

Yup, that’s it. Make sure you get coconut milk and not coconut cream, as they’re not the same thing. Skip the light stuff – really, some fat is good for you and you’ll end up using less sugar, which is the real enemy here. One of the recipes I found online called for a whopping 1-3/4 cups (350g) of sugar! I reduced it to half a cup, and you can taste as you go and add more depending on your tastebuds.

If you have an ice cream machine (woo!) then it’s easy – just blend everything together, put it in your machine as per its instructions and process until solid. Voila!

Instructions for if you don’t have an ice cream machine:

  • If you can manage to remember this step (which I usually don’t), chill the coconut milk for a few hours ahead of time. It will make the whole process faster if you start with cold ingredients.
  • In your trusty blender, combine all of the ingredients until the sugar has dissolved completely and the coconut milk has emulsified. Taste. Add more sugar if needed. Stop tasting or else you'll have nothing left. I see you.
  • Pour into your large, freezer-safe container. Cover with cling film, and put in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  • Take out and beat the mixture with your whisk or whizz with your immersion blender, breaking up the ice chunks and adding some air.
  • Return to the freezer and repeat every 30 minutes until the mixture is creamy and more or less frozen through. Freeze solid and store after pressing a piece of cling film to the surface ice cream.

Extra tip: freeze some fruit (mango works exceptionally well) and serve on top of the ice cream. Sprinkle some shaved coconut or mint leaves on top. Try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting. Enjoy!

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