How to Make a Sugar-free Ice Cream

Thanks to an Australian reader for requesting this republication of my entry on how to make a no-sugar ice cream.

If you’re new to making low- or no-carb desserts, this recipe for making lemon ice cream is absolute easiest way to start (and there’s a recipe for strawberry ice cream here, too). Even if you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can make this diabetic dessert in minutes for less than it costs at the store.

This recipe for making lemon ice cream has an advantage of all store-bought brands in that you can make with the best of all the sugar substitutes for diabetes, an all-natural, stevia-sweetened version. Ice cream made with “sugar alcohols” such as mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, maltitol, or hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH) is usually labeled as “sugar free” or “no sugar added.”

Don’t believe it. Sugar alcohols have a negligible effect on blood sugars in the short term, but they are eventually converted to glucose, too. A day after eating your big bowl of “sugar free” ice cream you can be wondering why your blood sugars are so high. Stevia, which the FDA recently decided was safe, after all, will not raise blood sugars and may even lower them ever so slightly, 1 to 3 mg/dl (0.05 to 0.15 mM).

Here’s all you need to make lemon ice cream:

  • Cream
  • Lemon extract
  • Stevia

These are the ingredients for the absolutely zero-carb, almost-no-trace-of-artificial ingredients version. It’s sweet, it’s creamy, it will have no effect on your blood sugars other than slowing down the absorption of any carbs from other foods you eat at the same meal, and it’s scrumptious. It’s also a high-calorie food. Don’t worry, this isn’t the only version of the recipe!

Two lower-calorie versions (one of them with just 20 calories a serving and no Nutra-Sweet.

  • ½ teaspoon (2-3 ml) liquid stevia extract or 2 teaspoons (4 grams) green stevia powder
  • 2 cups (480 ml) whipping cream
  • ½ teaspoon (2 ml) lemon extract

If you really must use NutraSweet, it takes 5 packets to equal 2 teaspoons of stevia powder.

If you are using an ice cream maker, just pour the ingredients into the chilled mixer bowl (if your ice cream maker requires you to freeze the mixer bowl first) and turn on the machine. Be sure not to add too much stevia or lemon extract. Both flavorings rely on “tricking” your palate with the slightest hint of bitterness to activate sweetness receptors. Too much stevia or lemon extract and the end product taste bitter. I know this from experience.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, use a mixing bowl that’s just large enough to hold the 2 cups of cream. Pour in the cream and stir in the stevia. Cover the stevia-sweetened cream with plastic wrap and put the bowl in the freezer for 1 hour or until the mixture is just beginning to freeze around the edges.

After the mixture begins to freeze, take it out of the freezer and the lemon extract. Give the ice cream a thorough stirring, replace the plastic wrap and return to the freezer for another hour. At the 2-hour mark, take the ice cream out and beat again. Replace the plastic wrap and allow the ice cream to freeze until its firm enough to stay in the bowl but soft enough to dip. This usually takes about six hours. Two cups of cream makes 6 servings of ice cream.

The all-cream ice cream has no carbohydrate but 225 calories per half-cup serving.

If you can tolerate about 6 grams of carbohydrate a serving and you want to cut the calories in half, then try this no-eggs, no-gluten half-and-half lemon ice cream recipe:

  • ½ teaspoon (2-3 ml) liquid stevia extract or 2 teaspoons (4 grams) green stevia powder
  • 1 cup (240 ml) whipping cream
  • 1 cup (240 ml) skim milk, whole milk, or almond milk
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon (0.5 ml) lemon extract

Same procedure as above, adding lemon juice and lemon extract after the milk and cream mixture has begun to firm up in the freezer, if you don’t have an ice cream maker.

How about a strawberry sugar-free ice cream? To make strawberry ice cream, use just 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of lemon juice but add 2 cups (300 g) of sliced fresh strawberries at the same time you’d add lemon.

I’ve tried these variations with soy milk, and it works, but you have to be very careful not to use too much stevia or lemon extract. Soy milk can have a slight, bitter aftertaste that really comes out if you use too much stevia.

Now if you are really just wanting a recipe for lemon ice, not a recipe for lemon ice cream (zero fat, 3 grams of carbohydrate and just 20 calories per 1 cup serving), you’ll need:

  • ¾ cup (180 ml) of fresh lemon juice (3 or 4 lemons)
  • ½ teaspoon (2-3 ml) liquid stevia extract or 2 tsp (4 grams) stevia powder
  • 6 cups (1500 ml) water

Again, if you must use NutraSweet, it takes 5 packets to equal 2 teaspoons of stevia powder.

Put the lemon juice and stevia in a pitcher or jar and stir thoroughly to dissolve add the stevia. Pour in water and stir to mix thoroughly. Place lemon juice and water mixture in a bowl as above, then cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer 1 hour. Take the mixture out of the freezer, stir with a fork, and replace the plastic wrap. Repeat the procedure at the two-hour mark and once again before serving.

For a tart and colorful variation, replace 2 cups (500 ml) of the water with Red Zinger or hibiscus tea to make beautiful lemon-hibiscus granita. Incidentally, I tried making lemonade ice cubes and then pulsing them in the food processor. The result was closer to a snow cone than to an ice.

Ice creams, ices, and granitas are the easiest diabetic desserts. Just be sure your ice cream freezer bowl is thoroughly frozen and, if you are making ice cream in the freezer, don’t forget to stir!

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