Huckleberry Ice Cream is a creamy, fruity flavor made with sweet, tart wild huckleberries. If you can't find them, I've got a couple of ideas if it's not huckleberry season or you strike out when going picking that will make it so you can still enjoy homemade huckleberry ice cream any time of the year!
If you find yourself with some huckleberries, let this ice cream be the first thing you make! But then be sure to come back for my huckleberry pie, huckleberry cheesecake, and huckleberry lemonade as well!
It seems unfair to allocate huckleberry ice cream exclusively to Montana when huckleberries are also a big thing in other states like Idaho (where it's actually the official state fruit) and Oregon, so I'm including it in all three states for my American Eats series where I highlight foods that each state is famous for.
We recently spent a couple of weeks in Montana and everywhere we drove there were signed for huckleberry smoothies or huckleberry milkshakes. You can even find locally-made huckleberry ice cream at the grocery store and at famous Montana ice cream shops like Sweet Peaks Ice Cream.
But it's not a flavor that is easily found elsewhere in America! So what's a California girl who has discovered a huckleberry obsession gonna do when I can't get my huckleberry ice cream fix back at home? Make it myself, of course.
What does huckleberry ice cream taste like?
Huckleberries are sweet and tart, although they can lean more in either direction depending on when and where they were picked. They are similar to blueberries, but so much more with a bigger, more in-your-face flavor that also has a bit of a floral element to it. When we store fresh huckleberries in the fridge and open the door, you immediately catch their wonderfully fruity scent, which isn't something that I have ever experienced with blueberries.
Huckleberry ice cream has all the same flavor notes of fresh huckleberries, just in a creamy, sweet base! Not only are fresh (or frozen) huckleberries cooked down into a jam with sugar to be added to the base, but I like to throw in some whole huckleberries as well for good measure.
Tillamook and a few other ice cream makers make a huckleberry ice cream, although the Tillamook version is a vanilla base with a huckleberry swirl. If you want to try that approach, just make my blackberry swirl ice cream and replace the blackberries with huckleberries instead.
We saw (and tried!) a number of variations on huckleberry ice cream while we were visiting Montana, so I wanted to try a batch with some mix-ins.
I churned in small chunks of homemade brownie to the ice cream just towards the end of churning and layered the huckleberry ice cream with cooled fudge sauce. You don't want to put hot fudge into just-churned ice cream until it has had a chance to cool all the way down to at least room temperature. The end result was awesome and if you love huckleberries and chocolate then definitely add this version to your list!
Try adding one or two of these elements to this huckleberry ice cream recipe to create your own delicious new flavor!
Chunks (add these right at the end of churning your ice cream)
- Small pieces of homemade brownies
- Broken up Oreo or Golden Oreo cookies
- Crumble bits from my rhubarb crumble ice cream
- Small chunks of white or dark chocolate (a la Ben & Jerry's Phish Food and other flavors)
- Pieces of graham cracker crust or even just a baked pie crust
- Tiny balls of edible cookie dough
Swirls (layer these with your ice cream in a storage container)
- Hot fudge sauce (remember to let it cool to at least room temperature first)
- Marshmallow sauce (or just buy a jar of marshmallow cream and use that)
- Huckleberry jam (if you can't get enough huckleberry, might as well have intense stripes of huckleberry jam in your ice cream!)
- Cookie butter (I think cookie butter and berries are a majorly overlooked flavor combo)
- Peanut butter sauce (like a PB&J ice cream only huckleberry style!)
- Heavy cream & milk: Getting ultra creamy, premium ice cream is really a matter of balancing out the butterfat content. I use a combination of heavy cream and milk for the best result.
- Huckleberries: There is nothing quite like fresh or frozen huckleberries, but you can make this ice cream using huckleberry jam instead by just decreasing the sugar in the recipe. I'll include instructions in the notes section of the recipe for how to do this.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar adds just the right amount of sweetness to balance the tartness of the huckleberries.
- Egg yolks: Technically you could leave these out and skip cooking the base and still get excellent ice cream, but I like using egg yolks to make a custard base for a smoother, more scoopable, richer ice cream.
- Vanilla extract: You won't actually taste the vanilla because huckleberry is the predominant flavor, but it rounds things out and boosts other flavors.
How to Make Huckleberry Ice Cream
- Cook the huckleberries and sugar: Combine fresh or frozen huckleberries with some of the sugar and a little water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. You are going to cook and stir the huckleberries until the sugar is dissolved and the huckleberries start to burst and release their juices. What you will end up with is a very syrupy, almost jam-like liquid that will thicken a bit as it cools. Let it cool before adding it to your custard base.
- Make the custard base: While you are heating the cream, milk, and some of the sugar in another saucepan, whisk the egg yolks and remaining sugar together until light. When the milk mixture is hot (but not bubbling), whisk ½ to 1 cup of it into the egg yolks. This is called "tempering" the eggs and it helps raise their temperature gently. Otherwise they would scramble if you added them straight to the hot liquid. Pour the tempered egg yolks back into the pan with the rest of the hot milk mixture and continue to cook and stir until it thickens slightly. The best way to tell if your base is done is if it reaches 170-175 degrees F on a candy thermometer . Or just check to see if it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and leave a stripe when you run your finger along it.
- Chill the base: You can chill the custard base and huckleberry mixture separately or add them together while both are still warm and chill them that way. It really doesn't matter. What's important is that the base is nice and cold before pouring it into an ice cream maker. You can speed up the process by setting the base over an ice water bath to quickly bring down its temperature. Or just stick it in the fridge for 4 hours instead.
- Churn the ice cream: When the base is cold, pour it into an ice cream maker. The ice cream will need to churn for 20-30 minutes until it is frozen and thick. It will increase in volume as air is incorporated to the ice cream while it churns. If you have fresh huckleberries on hand, you might want to throw a few handfuls in right at the end for bursts of huckleberry flavor in your ice cream. Or if you are doing mix-ins like broken up cookies or brownie pieces, now is the time to do it.
- Freeze for 4-6 hours to harden: Transfer the ice cream, which will be the consistency of soft-serve, to a freezer-safe container. If you are adding a swirl of fudge or marshmallow sauce, layer half of the ice cream, then some of the sauce, then more ice cream, etc. Stick the ice cream in the freezer for 4-6 hours so it can harden all the way until it is nice and scoopable. This is called "curing" the ice cream. When you are ready to serve, let the ice cream sit out on the counter for 10 minutes to soften slightly for easier scooping.
Huckleberries grow predominantly in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain regions of the U.S. Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington are all well-known for their wild huckleberries. But you can find them from Wyoming to Alaska.
Technically yes, but then it would just be blueberry ice cream, rather than huckleberry ice cream, and they won't taste the same. Instead, I would recommend substituting huckleberry jam and decreasing the sugar called for in the recipe.
Yes! You can make huckleberry ice cream using huckleberry jam just by decreasing the sugar to ½ cup and using 1 cup of huckleberry jam in place of the huckleberries called for in the recipe.
- Storage: This ice cream is best enjoyed within 1-2 weeks before ice crystals start to form. Be sure to keep it covered either with a lid or plastic wrap pressed against the surface of the ice cream. Homemade ice cream doesn't last quite as long in the freezer as store-bought varieties because it is lacking preservatives to prevent against the growth of ice crystals.
- Be sure your ice cream base is cold: One of the biggest mistakes when making ice cream is getting impatient and not letting the base cool completely before churning it.
- Straining the custard base: Many recipes call for straining the custard base through a fine mesh sieve after cooking it to remove any possible bits of scrambled egg yolk in it. I have done that step numerous times and never once have I ever had scrambled egg in my base, so now I always just skip it.
More Ice Cream Recipes
- Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
- Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream
- Cookies and Cream Ice Cream
- Southern Blackberry Cobbler Ice Cream
- Apple Pie Ice Cream
- Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
Huckleberry Ice Cream
- 2 ½ cups huckleberries fresh or frozen, divided
- 1 cup granulated sugar divided
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- Pinch of salt
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Start by combining 1 and ½ cups of the huckleberries, ⅓ cup of the sugar, and the water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes until the huckleberries have released their juices and burst and the sauce has had time to reduce a little bit and thicken slightly. It will continue to thicken as it cools.
- Meanwhile, combine the cream, milk, ⅓ cup of the sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the liquid is hot but not yet at a simmer. It should just steam a bit when you lift a spoonful from the pan.
- While the milk and cream are heating, whisk the egg yolks and remaining ⅓ cup of sugar in a bowl until light. Slowly whisk ½ to 1 cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks to temper the eggs, which is just gently raising their temperature without scrambling them. Add the tempered egg yolk mixture to the pot and continue to cook and stir 2-4 minutes longer until the custard reaches 170 to 175 degrees F on a candy thermometer or is thick enough to coat the back of a spatula or spoon.
- Remove the custard base from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Add the huckleberry compote and stir to combine. Chill thoroughly over an ice water bath or by sticking this in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
- When the base is completely chilled, pour it into your ice cream maker and churn for 20-30 minutes until it is the consistency of soft-serve. At this point, add in the remaining 1 cup of huckleberries, letting them churn in to evenly disperse in the ice cream. Transfer to a freezer-safe container for freeze for 4-6 hours until hard and scoopable.
- If you don't have access to fresh or frozen huckleberries, this recipe can be made with blueberries, although it won't taste the same. A better solution is to replace ⅔ cup of the sugar and all of the huckleberries with 1 cup of huckleberry jam. Heat the remaining sugar with the milk and cream and you can whisk the egg yolks without any sugar in them instead.
- See post for lots of mix-in ideas like brownie chunks, Oreos, or fudge swirls.
More States I Have Visited in my American Eats Series
Alabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • California • Colorado • Connecticut • Delaware • Florida • Georgia • Hawaii • Idaho • Illinois • Indiana • Iowa • Kansas • Kentucky • Louisiana • Maine • Maryland • Massachusetts • Michigan • Minnesota • Mississippi • Missouri • Montana • Nebraska • New Jersey • New York • Oregon • Puerto Rico • South Carolina • South Dakota • Texas • Utah • Wisconsin