Do you remember those “choose your own adventure” books from childhood? The books that let you choose how the story proceeds, with each option presenting different potential outcomes? Just thinking about those books makes me nostalgic for simpler times, when limited choices offered more clear-cut conclusions. Life’s not so simple these days.
Anyway, this peanut butter ice cream recipe is kind of like those “choose your own adventure” books, so I thought I’d present it as such. Fortunately, each option leads to a happy ending.
Question no. 1: To add spice or not to add spice? The first time I made this ice cream, I added 1/16 teaspoon cayenne pepper, which lent a stronger jolt of spiciness than anticipated. The cold, sweet-and-spicy ice cream tingled my throat and kept me going back for bite after bite.
I loved the cayenne version, as did Tessa and Jordan. Alissa, on the other hand, much preferred my spice-free, salted second version. If you’re sensitive to spicy heat like Alissa or want a more traditional ice cream flavor, skip the cayenne.
Question no. 2: To use two cans full-fat coconut milk, or one full fat and one light? The first time I made this ice cream, I opted for the latter, thinking that I would even out the amount of fat when I mixed in the peanut butter. The resulting ice cream was creamy and scoopable, but only after it rested on the counter for five minutes first. My second ice cream was scoopable straight from the freezer and noticeably richer to me, but my friends couldn’t tell the difference. Regardless of which you choose, this is not a low fat ice cream.
Question no. 3: To add arrowroot starch or not? Arrowroot is a natural starch that is easy to digest. It’s used often in gluten-free baking. It can be used as a thickener, like corn starch. I’ve found that it significantly improves the texture of coconut milk-based ice creams by reducing the iciness, which makes it creamier.
You can often substitute arrowroot for corn starch in other recipes, too, but beware that it can make dairy-based substances sort of slimy. You can find arrowroot starch in the bakery aisle at health food stores or well-stocked grocery stores.
Bonus Q & A: Why coconut milk instead of cream? I prefer making coconut milk-based ice cream because it’s easier to make than custard-based ice creams and just as good. As an added bonus, it’s dairy free, so it won’t cause any problems for lactose-intolerant ice cream lovers.
While the ice cream is dairy free, it is not vegan because I sweetened it with honey. I’ve discovered that honey is the perfect sweetener for coconut milk ice creams. Since it never fully freezes, the ice cream stays soft enough to scoop straight from the freezer and offers a more traditional ice cream texture on first bite. Now you know!
- 2 cans coconut milk (28 ounces total), either 2 cans full fat or 1 can full fat and 1 can light
- 3/4 cup honey
- 1/2 cup creamy, natural, unsalted peanut butter
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon arrowroot starch (optional), whisked with a few tablespoons of the coconut milk mixture
- Dash ground cayenne pepper (optional)
- In a Dutch oven or a big, heavy-bottomed pot, combine the coconut milk (don't worry if the coconut solids have separated from the liquid), honey, peanut butter, vanilla and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking often to prevent scorching.
- By now, the mixture should be well blended, but if not, whisk vigorously until it is. If you are NOT using arrowroot starch, remove the pot from heat. If you ARE using arrowroot starch, transfer a few tablespoons of the ice cream mixture to a small bowl. Add the arrowroot starch to the bowl and whisk to get out all of the lumps. Pour the mixture into the pot and gently simmer for 1 minute, whisking frequently. Remove the pot from heat.
- Transfer the mixture to a heat-safe mixing bowl to aid the cooling process. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then place the bowl in the refrigerator until the mixture is completely and thoroughly chilled. If your future ice cream container is made of glass or metal, place it in the freezer to chill.
- If you used arrowroot starch, scoop off the thickened top layer with a spoon (if there is one) and discard it. Whisk together the chilled mixture one last time, then pour it into your ice cream maker. Freeze according to your manufacturer's instructions, then transfer it to your chilled container and freeze for several hours in the freezer.
- If you used 1 can light coconut milk, you might need to let the ice cream rest at room temperature for 5 minutes before scooping.
Make it vegan: You can substitute maple syrup or agave nectar for the honey, but the ice cream will freeze harder. You might have better luck with granulated brown sugar. You may need to adjust the amount of sweetener to taste—add sweetener until the ice cream mixture tastes a tad too sweet (it tastes less sweet once frozen).
Serving suggestions: This ice cream would be awesome with crumbled graham crackers or magic shell on top.
Storage suggestions: This ice cream should keep well in the freezer for a couple of weeks, stored in an air-tight, freezer-safe container .
Change it up: Add finely chopped chocolate near the end of the churning process.
A note on ice cream makers: I love-love-love my 2-quart Cuisinart. If you don't have an ice cream maker and don't want to buy one, here are a couple of methods that might work for this ice cream (I haven't tried them): how to make ice cream with a food processor (tips from Jeni Britton) and how to make ice cream without a machine (by David Lebovitz).