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Perhaps, like me, you’ve got an ice cream maker collecting dust somewhere because the only recipes that came with it are high in fat and calories and rely on heavy cream and sugar as the main ingredients.
If you’re wondering if you can make healthier, high-protein ice cream in your ice cream maker, the good news is YES! You can absolutely make a healthier, lower-calorie, high-protein ice cream in your ice cream maker.
I’m going to share a simple recipe that has only four ingredients: protein powder, filtered milk, sugar substitute, and salt.
Calories & Macro Breakdown
- Calories: 90-100, depending on the flavor of protein powder
- Carbohydrates: 4-6g, net of sugar alcohols*
- Protein: 17-20g, depending on the flavor of protein powder
- Fat: 1g
*If sugar alcohols cause digestive distress for you, you can use regular granulated sugar instead. This adds 90 calories and 23g of carbs per serving.
When you consider that a half-cup serving of Haagen-Dazs Caramel Cone ice cream has 300 calories with 25g of sugar and 19g of fat but only 4g of protein, you can see that this recipe is much lower in calories, carbs, and fat, and much higher in protein, but just as delicious in taste.
This can really help you to hit your protein target for the day, and it can be easier to fit the calories into an overall daily calorie goal, especially when you are looking to maintain or lose weight.
Why Use Sugar Alcohols In Ice Cream?
Sugar is the backbone of ice cream. It does more than just add sweetness and flavor; the properties of sugar help to bind the other ingredients and reduce the freezing point, which allows for the soft, creamy texture of ice cream rather than rock-hard blocks.
Sugar, however, is a concentrated source of calories, coming purely from simple carbohydrates that are quickly digested.
Sugar alcohols have similar properties as sugar, but for a fraction of the calories. This means that they can be used to achieve the same creamy texture in low-calorie ice cream.
This recipe calls for erythritol, which is 60-70% as sweet as table sugar but is almost completely non-caloric.
My go-to brands for erythritol are:
- Lakanto Classic Monk Fruit Sweetener, which contains erythritol and monk fruit extract
Note that high-intensity sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, or stevia cannot be used when making ice cream. These sweeteners do not have the necessary physical properties to achieve the binding and texture requirements for ice cream. This means that you cannot use Sugar Twin, Splenda, Truvia, or other similar products in this recipe.
If sugar alcohols cause digestive problems for you, or if you would like to increase the calorie content of this recipe for your goals, you can substitute an equivalent amount of granulated sugar in the recipe.
- Related Article: 10 Best Protein Bars Without Sugar Alcohols
- Protein powder: I highly recommend using Quest Nutrition Protein Powders for this recipe. Quest brand has a blend of whey protein isolate and casein (a thicker, slow-releasing protein), along with sunflower lecithin, which is a natural emulsifier (meaning it allows substances that normally wouldn’t mix together such as fat and water to be combined), and xanthan gum, a thickening agent.
All of these properties mean that Quest is ideal for creating a smooth, creamy protein ice cream. Flavors to consider are:
- Quest Nutrition Chocolate Milkshake Protein Powder
- Quest Nutrition Peanut Butter Protein Powder
- Quest Nutrition Salted Caramel Protein Powder
- Quest Nutrition Vanilla Milkshake Protein Powder
If you don’t like Quest protein powder or you don’t have access to it, I recommend finding an isolate-casein blend if possible, and consider adding ½ tsp of xanthan gum to the recipe if your protein powder does not already have it.
- Filtered milk: Filtered milk is thicker and provides more protein per serving than regular dairy milk (the same way that strained yogurts like Greek yogurt or Icelandic skyr provide more protein than regular yogurt). I’m using Fairlife Fat-Free Ultra-Filtered Milk in this recipe.
- Sugar substitute: Erythritol can be bought online or in health food stores, and brand-name products like Swerve or Krisda are increasingly common in the natural food aisles of major grocery chains.
- Salt: Salt in ice cream is a key ingredient (along with sugar) used to lower the freezing point. Ice cream needs to be able to freeze at a lower temperature so that it stays creamy and doesn’t become hard. Regular table salt will work fine, but I like to use Himalayan Pink Salt for its lower sodium content and more trace minerals, including potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Related Article: 12 Low Sodium Store-Bought Desserts
How To Make Ice Cream Maker Protein Ice Cream
If your ice cream maker has a pre-freeze bowl like mine, chill it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This will require planning ahead for your recipe since pre-freezing can take as long as overnight.
There are also self-freezing ice cream makers that do not require any pre-freezing.
Add cold filtered milk, sugar substitute (or sugar), and salt to a blender and mix on low speed for 2 minutes to dissolve.
Add protein powder into the blender and increase speed to medium for 1 minute to fully mix it in. You should have a thick, fluffy mixture. If your protein powder does not already have xanthan gum, add it in this step.
Put the pre-freeze bowl in your ice cream maker, if applicable. Turn on the ice cream maker motor and pour the mixture from the blender into the machine. Use a rubber spatula to scrape in all of the mixture from the sides of the blender.
Let your ice cream maker churn the mixture into delicious protein ice cream. This usually takes 15-20 minutes, but check the instructions for your machine.
Enjoy! You can also put your ice cream in an airtight sealed container and store it in the freezer for later.
For Different Textures
You can add small pieces of fruit, chocolate chips, or nuts for different textures. Add these to the mixture after it is blended and stir them in by hand before pouring them into the ice cream maker.
For Lower Calorie
This recipe is already low in calories. Do not add any additional ingredients. A smaller serving size will have lower calories.
For Higher Calorie
Add high-calorie toppings like coconut flakes, a nut butter such as peanut butter, sauces, and syrups to increase the calories.
You can make the recipe with filtered whole milk (adds 40 calories and 4g of fat per serving) and regular granulated sugar (adds 90 calories and 23g of carbs per serving).
How to Store & Meal Prep
This protein ice cream will keep in the freezer for up to 2 months. Store it in an airtight container so that it doesn’t get freezer burn.
This protein ice cream is perfect for meal prep because it can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer for a quick and healthy high-protein snack or dessert.
Other Protein Ice Cream Recipes
- Ice Cream Protein Shake
- Low Calorie, High-Protein Ice Cream Recipe
- Protein Ice Cream Recipe For Bodybuilding (Easy to Make)
- Protein Ice Cream Sandwich
- Protein Ice Cream With Xanthan Gum
About The Author
Lauren Graham is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She focuses on helping busy professionals balance healthy eating and purposeful movement. Lauren has a background in competitive swimming and is currently competing as a CrossFit athlete. She has a passion for training, teaching, and writing.