Ice Cream Sunday: Chai Ice Cream (plus a simple recipe for chai tea)

I absolutely love the comfort of a steaming hot cup of tea–chai especially–on a chilly winter day. It fills my belly with warmth and just plain ol’ feels like a fuzzy blanket gets wrapped all around me.

But who wants a cup of hot stuff going down in the summertime when the sun is beating down and the sweat is pouring? Now that is not comforting.

Bring on this chai ice cream to converge the two seasons, though, and you’ve got that winter comfort in a cup of creamy frozen chai. How perfect is that?!

Have you ever had chai? It’s a black tea full of warm aromatic spices, such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, star anise, and black pepper. It’s mixed with honey and milk to create a silky, fragrant tea that glides down to soothe the body. I don’t recall how I got into chai, but I often order that when I pop into Starbucks.

I do recall, though, how I got into adding milk to my tea: I had a cousin visiting from Australia about 25 years ago. She introduced me to this concept, which at first I thought was very odd until I tasted it. Quite yummy indeed, and it’s now a habit of mine. It really softens the tea, giving it a smoother quality.

My sister-in-law introduced me to a very simple recipe for chai, which she got from a 2007 yoga magazine: to your black tea, add 1/8 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. ginger, a pinch of cloves, 2 tsp. honey, and a dash of milk. I usually mix a big batch of the spices and just scoop some into my black tea every morning and every evening. I’ve seen more complex recipes on the internet, but this one is easy and works for me.

However, for this recipe, I used some bags of Tazo brand chai that I had picked up at Starbucks a few weeks back (thank you for all the Starbuck gift cards I get as gifts from students–it’s a happily and seemingly endless supply!). The Tazo tea flavor is more complex than the recipe above because it includes more spices, so the ice cream really had a depth to it.

The end product resulted in probably the creamiest ice cream I’ve made to date. I don’t know why this ice cream churned up so creamy because it is similar to other recipes I’ve tried. I think, though, it has something to do with the whisking of the yolks as well as the increased amount of vanilla I added (did you know vanilla is made from alcohol and vanilla beans? and did you know that alcohol helps keep frozen ice cream soft?). Anyway, if you like chai, you’ll definitely enjoy this frozen treat.

Chai Ice Cream

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  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk (I used whole milk)
  • 2/3 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup loose leaf chai (or 2-4 bags)
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream, milk, 1/3 cup sugar, chai, and salt. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Use a wooden spoon to stir, dissolving the sugar, and bring the cream mixture to about 175 degrees F (about 8 minutes). Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and allow the tea-infused cream to steep for 15 minutes or more, depending on how strong you want the flavor (I steeped mine for 35 minutes).
  2. When ready to continue, prepare an ice bath: place a 2-quart bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl. Set aside.
  3. After steeping is complete, whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl, then slowly add the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, whisking for about 4 minutes or until the eggs are light in color and thick.
  4. Slowly ladle 1 cup of the hot cream into the eggs, whisking all the while.
  5. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and gently cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula until custard reaches 170 degrees F,  about 8-10 minutes. You will know the custard is ready when you run your finger across the spatula coated with custard and it leaves a definite trail that doesn’t flow back together.
  6. Immediately strain the custard into the prepared ice bath (into the empty bowl). Add vanilla. Allow it to cool, about 1 hour, stirring periodically.
  7. Churn ice cream once cooled, or you may refrigerate it in a covered container for several hours or overnight. Follow manufacturer’s direction for churning.
  8. Store in an airtight container in the freezer.

SOURCE: adapted from Kitchen Confidante

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8 thoughts on “Ice Cream Sunday: Chai Ice Cream (plus a simple recipe for chai tea)

  1. I can’t wait to try this! I have been trying to conquer chai ice cream for awhile now. I’ve been using the concentrate, so I’m interested in just steeping it regularly. Did you rip open the bags & then strain it, or keep the tea bags in tact?

  2. Looks delish…. btw… chai means tea, so ‘chai tea’ is actually saying ‘tea tea’… its not your fault, starbucks didn’t do its research….

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