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Adventures in Sugar Free Ice Cream Part 1

Adventures in Sugar Free Ice Cream Part 1

Last Updated on April 23, 2024 6 Comments

I get asked loads of questions on the blog about sugar free ice cream. And the truth is I've never tried to make it before, because I've never been very interested in eating it!

As long as you eat sensible amounts, there's nothing wrong with ice cream that contains sugar, as far as I can see.

But I am trying to reduce the amount of sugar I eat across my diet in general, and I've become slightly intrigued by these reduced and sugar free ice creams I keep reading about on the web!

Halo Top. Rebel Ice Cream. Enlightened. And loads more. Lots of extravagant flavors. And lots of people raving about how great they are.

Now I've never tried any of these. As far as I know, we can't get them in Europe. So I thought I'd have a go at making them myself.

How hard could it be? Well...

It's always going to be easier to make reduced sugar ice cream than sugar free ice cream, so I started there.

Halo Top Vanilla does contain some sugar. So I tried to reverse engineer it using the ingredients label.

Here's my first recipe attempt. I had to deviate from the Halo Top ingredients slightly as I didn't have some of them in the house...

  • 550g Milk
  • 50g Cream
  • 45g Skimmed Milk Powder
  • 10g Granulated Sugar
  • 40g Erythritol
  • 40g Inulin
  • 0.2g Stevia
  • 2g Stabilizers

I didn't have any "milk protein concentrate" so I used Skimmed Milk Powder which is obviously over 50% sugar (lactose) itself!

Inulin is used as a replacement for "prebiotic fiber", which to be fair may be Inulin in Halo Tops' recipe since it is actually a prebiotic fiber!

And I didn't use any "vegetable glycerin" as I thought it was probably being used to keep the ice cream soft and my calculations indicated I didn't need it in my recipe.

Anyway, it was a complete disaster (see the image at the top of the page). The mixture separated in the fridge before it was spun in the machine. Even worse, it also separated when the ice cream melted.

It had a horrible green tinge, caused by the organic Stevia I was using. And it also tasted really bad. It was icy, thin, watery. Complete rubbish!

The only good thing about it was that it didn't turn into a block of ice when it froze. In fact, it was actually pretty scoopable straight out of the freezer. 

One of the mistakes I made was trying to keep the fat levels down as well as reducing the sugar. This was exacerbated by accidently using Skimmed Milk instead of Full Fat Milk! I'm not even sure why we had Skimmed Milk in the house to be honest, but there you go.

So for my second attempt, I decided to abandon any attempt to keep the fat levels down to the extent that Halo Top do...

  • 400g Milk
  • 200g Cream
  • 45g Skimmed Milk Powder
  • 10g Granulated Sugar
  • 45g Erythritol
  • 40g Inulin
  • 0.2g Stevia
  • 2g Stabilizers
  • 2 Egg Yolks (34g)

What I basically did was significantly increase the butterfat content by using more cream, and add two egg yolks to help with stabilization, emulsification and give the ice cream a richer flavor.

The final ice cream was OK. There was no separation. The texture was good, it didn't turn into an icy block in the freezer and it was sweet enough.

The problem was that the sweetness wasn't particularly nice! There's a flavor that reminds me of candy floss (cotton candy), that I've detected in normal ice cream when I've overheated the Skimmed Milk Powder. And I could taste it strongly in this ice cream.

Except in this version I added the Skimmed Milk Powder once the mixture had cooled down a bit (after also noticing the flavor in the first recipe). 

Further investigation (tasting all the ingredients separately) revealed that that's exactly what Inulin tastes like! I don't know if it's just this brand or all Inulin. And it's not unpleasant in itself. I just don't want to taste it in my ice cream.

So the next step is to get rid of that flavor. And I'll also need to replace the Skimmed Milk Powder with Milk Protein Powder, since there's still over 32g of sugar in this recipe.

All in Part 2 of my Adventures in Sugar Free Ice Cream...

About the author 


Wherever I am, whatever I'm doing, I'm always looking for the perfect ice cream. The "dream scoop". I document my findings, my successes and failures here...

  • Looking forward to reading Part 2 of this adventure! I’d love to know how your further experimentation turned out.

    Speaking of branching into non-traditional ice cream territory… Have you ever tried making a dairy-free, egg-free ice cream? I’ve tried making one once, but it turned out disastrous. The base tasted great, but when frozen, it became a solid block. It made me never want to try it again. But I’ve got a good friend who can’t do dairy, and she’s begging me to make some ice cream she can actually eat. Have you found a recipe that actually works out well?

  • I just got a new ICE-100. After discovering how much I love making ice cream after buying a frozen-bowl machine at a thrift store I had to get myself a toy. Your review pushed me over the edge on that decision.

    Anyway, I haven’t tried yet, but I intend to make a sucrose-less ice cream. I’m just going to use a mix of eythritol and xylitol. I’ve been using it as a sugar substitute in my coffee for a while and it is a good match in flavor and mouthfeel. I haven’t tried xanthan gum yet because I’m afraid of the sliminess (I’ve tried it in other things before) but I’ve had good results with arrowroot powder.

  • Good to see your amounts tried for sugar-free. I have tried a few different recipes on my hunt to develop a sugar-free and dairy-free ice cream (suitable for an insulin-resistant lactose-intolerant ice-cream obsessed people!).

    I had success with a recipe using coconut cream – but you have to be OK with the coconut flavour, which I don’t particularly like. It has a high fat content, to help the ice cream not be too hard-setting.

    I found an industry paper on sugar-free ice cream using erythritol & xylitol and inulin, but must have had some troubles in my conversion of amounts, because my end result was not good at all — too gummy to even churn after it had chilled!

    I did have success with one sugar-replacement ice cream (it still had natural sugars from the dairy, however) and need to find the recipe again! It was a little too sweet, but that would be easy to tone down.

    I love your ice cream science pages – they have been incredibly useful and interesting!
    I also love that you have a Gelato Messina recipe book – I had no idea they sold one, but I do like their ice cream in-store, so I will be looking into this!

  • Hi, I have an ice cream shop in Hermanus South Africa. I really appreciate your website and all the useful information. Looking forward to part 2 of the sugar free ice cream. I make one with erythritol but it really sets very hard

  • So much information here. So appreicative and so much here to learn. I’ve been baking for a while now and recently I have now had to cope with the fact that I have to reduce sugar from my diet. Not offical diabetic yet, or atleast my Doctor is not using the word, but given my lifetime of consuming vast amounts of sugar. Its hard to give up.

    Getting into Ice Cream making as it helps with portion control and hopefully I will able to make a nice ice cream.So far not to worried about Calories yet.

    For Baking Stevia in the Raw has been excellent. My Cookies have tasted decent, no complaints from those where I have used it to reduce the sugar. Less than succesful with using to replace for Ice Cream, as it seems the flavor of that sweetener becomes far more aparent. And replacing the White sugar, has lead to Brick like ice cream, when completely frozen. Just getting started but having this knowledge is huge.

    • Hi Wesley,

      Yep, it’s much more difficult with ice cream, because the sugar isn’t just there to provide sweetness. It also provides body, lowers the freezing point.

      Best of luck with your experiments!


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