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Homemade Butter Pecan Ice Cream is so creamy and smooth with a cooked custard base and loads of buttery, toasted nuts for a fantastic crunch. This wonderful, rich flavor is a much-loved classic for good reason!
We are major ice cream fans at our house and I will always default to flavors with lots of nuts! Some of our other favorites are Toasted Almond Ice Cream, Maple Walnut Ice Cream, and of course, Burnt Almond Fudge Ice Cream!
Not Just For Old People
I was totally flabbergasted when my friend Ginny recently suggested that “only old people like butter pecan ice cream” after her husband Jason and I both declared how much we like the flavor. How dare she malign one of my favorite ice cream flavors of all time! Or was she taking a jab at my age? Lol.
Maybe a timeless scoop of butter pecan isn’t as trendy and hip as some other ice cream flavors, but man alive it’s phenomenal stuff. Especially for anybody who loves nutty ice cream. So this one’s for you, Jason. And all my other butter pecan loving readers and friends.
What’s the difference between Butter Pecan and Pecan Praline Ice Cream?
If you have had both butter pecan and pecan praline (or pralines and cream) you might be interested to know that while similar there are slight differences between the two flavors.
In my experience, butter pecan is less sweet and focused on the buttery, toasty flavor of the pecans than the much sweeter, brown sugar focused pecan praline which has caramel notes.
- Heavy cream & milk: I use a combination of both heavy cream and whole milk for my ice cream base. If you only have skim milk, that works just fine too. You just need to increase the heavy cream a bit and decrease the milk a bit in that case.
- Brown sugar: The molasses in the brown sugar adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the ice cream base.
- Butter: I recommend using salted butter which helps season the pecans while they toast.
- Egg yolks: For the richest, creamiest, most scoopable ice cream with the best mouthfeel, I like to use fresh egg yolks.
- Pecans: Did you know that you can freeze nuts to extend their shelf life? I buy big bags of pecans and store them in the freezer so I always have some on hand.
- Vanilla & salt: These supporting players have a big role in rounding out and balancing the other flavors of the ice cream.
How to Make Butter Pecan Ice Cream
- Make the custard base: Start by heating the cream, milk, and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. You don’t want it to come to a boil but it should start to have tiny bubbles just around the edges and steam a bit when you stir it.
- Temper the egg yolks: Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl until they lighten in color. When the milk and cream mixture is hot, gradually add 1/2 to 1 cup of it to the egg yolks while whisking to help warm them gently. Then add this back into the saucepan with the rest of the hot liquid.
- Cook until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon: Continue to cook and stir until the mixture reaches 170 degrees F on a candy thermometer or is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and leave a clean streak where you run your finger along it. Set the pan over an ice water bath to cool it quickly, then transfer to the fridge to chill thoroughly before churning it in an ice cream maker.
- Toast the pecans: Meanwhile, melt the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add the chopped pecans and stir for 3-5 minutes until the nuts are toasted and the butter has browned. Remove from the heat and set them aside to cool completely.
- Churn the ice cream: Once the ice cream base is thoroughly chilled, pour it into the frozen base of an ice cream maker and churn for 20-30 minutes until it reaches the consistency of soft serve ice cream. As it churns, the volume will increase because of air being added to the ice cream.
- Add the buttered pecans: During the last 2-3 minutes of churning the ice cream, add the cooled pecans and any browned butter from the skillet to the ice cream machine. Once they are mixed in, transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container like a bread pan and freeze for at least 4 hours until firm and scoopable.
Pro Tip: I like to reserve a few of my buttered pecans for sprinkling over the ice cream before sticking it into the freezer. It’s something you see at gelaterias and even though it doesn’t affect the taste at all once you start scooping, it’s a fun presentation!
Sure! It wouldn’t be buttered pecan, but I don’t see why buttered almond or buttered walnut wouldn’t be just as delicious!
- Storage: Unlike commercially produced store bought ice cream, homemade ice cream doesn’t have preservatives so it won’t last as long in the freezer. This ice cream is best within 2 weeks before ice crystals start to form.
- Chill all components thoroughly: Remember that when making ice cream it’s important that everything be completely cold before churning. This is especially true of the pecans which should be made at the same time as the ice cream base so they can cool completely.
- Make ice cream sandwiches: I HIGHLY recommend sandwiching a scoop of this butter pecan ice cream between two fresh cookies for the most delicious ice cream sandwiches! Molasses cookies, snickerdoodles, and classic chocolate chip cookies would be my top picks.
- Make a brownie sundae: Another excellent choice would be to top a fresh brownie or peanut butter blondie with a scoop of this ice cream. And hot fudge sauce. And whipped cream and a cherry.
Make it a double scoop!
When given the choice I will ALWAYS split my scoop. Or make it a double. Here are some other flavors that I would definitely pair with butter pecan.
- Old-Fashioned Fresh Peach Ice Cream
- Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream
- Blackberry Swirl Ice Cream
- Apple Pie Ice Cream
- Pumpkin Ice Cream
- Southern Blackberry Cobbler Ice Cream
- Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream
Ice Cream Base
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup salted butter
- 1 cup roughly chopped pecans
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, milk, and brown sugar. Cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is hot and the sugar has dissolved. It should have small bubbles around the edges and steam when you stir it, but it should not come to a simmer or a boil.
- Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks for 1 minute in a medium bowl until they lighten in color. Gradually add 1/2 to 1 cup of the hot liquid to the egg yolks while whisking. This process is known as "tempering" the eggs which helps them come up to temperature without shocking and scrambling them by adding them directly to the hot liquid. Add the tempered egg yolks into the saucepan with the rest of the hot liquid.
- Continue to cook and stir until the mixture reaches 170 degrees F on a candy thermometer or is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and leave a clean streak where you run your finger along it. Set the pan over an ice water bath to cool it quickly, then transfer to the fridge to chill thoroughly before churning it in an ice cream maker.
- In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the chopped pecans and stir for 3-5 minutes until the nuts are toasted and the butter has browned. Watch the nuts carefully so they don't burn. Remove from the heat and set them aside to cool completely.
- Once the ice cream base is thoroughly chilled, pour it into the frozen base of an ice cream maker and churn for 20-30 minutes until it reaches the consistency of soft serve ice cream. As it churns, the volume will increase because of air being added to the ice cream.
- During the last 2-3 minutes of churning the ice cream, add the cooled pecans and any browned butter from the skillet to the ice cream machine. Once they are mixed in, transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container like a bread pan and freeze for at least 4 hours until firm and scoopable.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 460Total Fat: 40gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 178mgSodium: 115mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 1gSugar: 21gProtein: 5g
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods and portion sizes per household.