Everyone has heard of Pumpkin Pie, but what about Pumpkin Chai? This recipe involves a homemade chai spice blend, incorporated into a pumpkin custard. It is then churned and frozen into a Pumpkin Chai Ice Cream. It’s delicious anytime of the year but especially during Fall.
Not fond of pie at Thanksgiving but still want to experience a pumpkin dessert? Then look no further! This ice cream is rich, perfectly balanced and is a fabulous substitute for pumpkin pie.
All the usual suspects to make a full fat creamy ice cream are here, plus pumpkin puree, and chai spices.
- Whole milk is used, this adds to the richness of the ice cream.
- Heavy whipping cream increases the fat content along with the whole milk.
- Brown sugar which adds toffee notes.
- Pumpkin puree, either use canned like I did or roast your own sugar pie pumpkin. If using a canned puree make sure it is just pumpkin with no added spices.
- Egg yolks – vital for custard making.
- Chai spices, made up of cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg. It tastes much better if the cardamon, allspice, and cloves are whole, then roasted in the oven for a few minutes to ‘warm’ them and finally ground in a spice mill. Warming them opens up their flavor.
See recipe card for quantities.
The very first thing to do, is to place your ice cream maker bowl in the freezer. Most ice cream maker manufacturers suggest doing this 24 hours in advance. In a pot, add the pumpkin puree, milk, cream, and spices. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently for 2-3 minutes.
Whisk the egg yolks and brown sugar together.
After the pumpkin mixture has simmered for 2-3 minutes, add half of the pot contents very slowly to the bowl of whisked egg yolks and sugar. This is called tempering. It basically adjusts the eggs to the heat of the pumpkin mixture without the eggs scrambling.
Once half of the pumpkin mixture has been added to the eggs and sugar, stop. Now reverse the process and add the contents of the bowl back into the pot. The egg yolks have adjusted to the heat, they won’t scramble and the entire mixture can be combined and returned to a low heat for about 5-10 minutes or until 170 – 180 degrees F. has been reached.
At this stage a custard has been created. Custard is the technical term given to the mixture of coagulated egg proteins combined with milk or cream. Pour the custard into a shallow dish to cool. Cover it with plastic wrap. Ensure the plastic touches the surface of the custard to avoid a skin being formed and refrigerate for between 2 hours and 12 hours.
Turning the Custard into Pumpkin Chai Ice Cream
Remove the custard from the refrigerator and take the plastic wrap off. Pour the custard into an ice cream machine. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, as to how long the custard needs, in order for it to become ice cream. My Cuisinart Ice Cream machine took 10 minutes. Let the churning begin!
Flexibility of Ingredients
Feel free to use dairy products with lower fat contents such as half and half instead of heavy whipping cream, and low fat milk instead of whole. Understand the end result will be different. On the plus side, the calorie and fat content will be lower, on the down side the richness and creaminess factor will be lost. USDA regulations state that ice cream must contain at least 10 percent butterfat. This ice cream recipe contains about 17% butterfat. Meanwhile, Italian gelato includes only about 4 to 9 percent fat. So if you use low fat dairy ingredients you will be making gelato instead of ice cream!
I used ground spices in this recipe for ease. Using whole spices, toasting them in the oven and grinding them, will improve the flavor of the finished ice cream product.
If you don’t want to use ground spices and want an even easier approach, use a couple of chai tea bags instead. Drop them into the milk and cream mixture (do not add the pumpkin at this stage) and infuse the tea flavor into the milk/cream for 10 minutes. Remove the teabags and add pumpkin puree. Continue on with the recipe as usual. The color will be affected. This ice cream is predominantly a light brown, coffee color, so deleting the spices will make it look more like a peach color instead.
Flexibility with Equipment
Using an ice cream machine is the easiest and fastest way to make ice cream. If, however you don’t have one, fret not, this recipe can be made without one.
- Simply pour the cooled custard into a metal pan, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 90 minutes.
- Take it out of the freezer, using a balloon whisk, mix the ice cream and break up any large frozen chunks. Return it to the freezer for 30 minutes.
- Remove it from the freezer, whisk it, and make sure to scrape the edges well. When it is well mixed, return to the freezer for 30 minutes.
- Repeat number 3, three more times. After all of this, your Pumpkin Chai Ice Cream will be ready. It will have a soft serve consistency. Put it in the freezer for at least 2 hours for firmer ice cream.
An ice cream machine makes this recipe for Pumpkin Chai Ice Cream a breeze. It’s worth the investment and can be used for gelatos, sorbets, and frozen yogurt as well as ice cream.
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Uses for Pumpkin Chai Ice Cream
Pumpkin Chai Ice Cream is as versatile as it is delicious.
- Serve it as a lighter alternative to Pumpkin Pie at Thanksgiving.
- Use it as a gluten free dessert for the big day.
- Make an affogato with it. (Place a couple of small scoops of Pumpkin Chai Ice Cream into an espresso cup, pour a shot of espresso or 3 tablespoons of freshly brewed strong coffee.) Enjoy!
- Serve it with traditional Thanksgiving pies instead of vanilla ice cream, such as Apple Crumb Pie.
- Stuff it in between some oatmeal raisin cookies and make a Fall themed ice cream sandwich.
- Reserve it for the kids – they’ll love it!
Once frozen, store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 5 days.
A Tip From Me
Remembering to place the bowl of the ice cream maker in the freezer is the first step in this whole ice cream making process. I tend to keep a bowl in my freezer all the time ‘just in case.’ Chill the bowl upside down. This will force the gel in the lining to distribute itself more evenly around the sides.
Do not wash the ice cream maker bowl in the dishwasher. The high heat compromises the gel in the lining of the bowl and it will not chill well after that.
I’ve got answers – hopefully!
- What is the difference between Pumpkin Spice and Pumpkin Chai? The spice blends are have the same ingredients but Chai contains cardamon as well.
- I want a firmer consistency ice cream, suggestions? Chill the custard after cooking for up to 12 hours. Make sure the freezer bowl is actually frozen. It needs a full 24 hours in the freezer for best results. In the ‘Tips From Me’ section, I suggest storing the ice cream maker bowl upside down to spread the gel in the insulated walls. Remember the freezer temperature should be between -5 and -10 degrees Fahrenheit too. Hopefully chilling the custard, and ice cream maker bowl, and having the freezer at the right temperature will help.
- Can I make this without an ice cream maker? Yes, scroll up to the ‘Flexibility with Equipment’ Section for information how to do this.
- Do I have to cool the custard down before I put it in the ice cream maker? Yes, chilling the custard helps enable the protein strands in the eggs to become fully saturated. This creates an ultra-creamy texture.
- Why does store bought ice cream last longer? One word – stabilizers. Homemade ice cream will start to form ice crystals in the absence of stabilizers.
- I added the pumpkin milk to the egg yolk and sugar mixture too fast and now it has curdled, what should I do? Throw it away. It cannot be salvaged. The eggs did not temper properly, so they scrambled and formed clumps in your bowl. Do not put it in a blender to homogenize the mixture. The protein strands have been irreparably damaged. Start again, use a digital thermometer to ensure your pumpkin milk is not too hot and add it very gradually to the eggs.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration state that they are 2 ways to make homemade ice cream a safe food to eat:
- Cooking the eggs to make a custard that reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit and then cooled. This temperature will kill Salmonella. Following this recipe meets this criteria.
- Using a pasteurized egg product instead of raw egg yolks. Pasteurized egg yolks come from eggs that have been removed from their shells and pasteurized. They come in liquid, dried or frozen form.
Recipe for Pumpkin Chai Ice Cream
- 12 fl oz heavy whipping cream
- 8 fl oz whole milk
- 8 oz pumpkin puree
- 4 egg yolks
- 6 oz brown sugar
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground cardamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
- ¼ tsp ground clove
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp salt
- Place your ice cream maker bowl in the freezer 24 hours in advance.
- In a pot, add the pumpkin puree, milk, cream, and spices. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently for 2-3 minutes.
- In a bowl whisk the egg yolks and brown sugar together.
- After the pumpkin mixture has simmered for 2-3 minutes, add half of the pot contents very slowly to the bowl of whisked egg yolks and sugar. This is called tempering. It basically adjusts the eggs to the heat of the pumpkin mixture without the eggs scrambling.
- Once half of the pumpkin mixture has been added to the eggs and sugar, stop. Now reverse the process and add the contents of the bowl back into the pot. The egg yolks have adjusted to the heat, they won't scramble and the entire mixture can be combined and returned to a low heat for about 5-10 minutes or until 170 – 180 degrees F. has been reached.
- At this stage a custard has been created. Pour the custard into a shallow dish to cool. Cover it with plastic wrap. Ensure the plastic touches the surface of the custard to avoid a skin being formed and refrigerate for between 2 hours and 12 hours.
- After the custard has chilled, remove the plastic wrap and pour the custard into the ice cream maker bowl. Start your machine. Follow the manufacturer's instructions. Churn for about 10 – 20 minutes.
- If you want a soft serve texture, then eat immediately. If not, place it in the freezer for at least 2 hours to improve firmness.