This butter pecan ice cream has light, soft vanilla ice cream with a hint of bourbon flavor and is loaded with buttery, sweet, roasted pecans. This ice cream is for adults only – sorry, kids! Check out my loaded mint chocolate chip ice cream for another boozy ice cream favorite.
If you’ve been around these parts for a while, you’re very familiar with my belief that ice cream is meant to be consumed 24/7/365. It’s that one food of which I will never get sick. NEVER, I SAY.
Hot summer’s day? Gimme all your ice cream.
Middle of a blizzard? *reaches out with big fluffy mittens* Gingerbread ice cream, please.
I realized recently that I haven’t shared with you any of the 21+ ice cream recipes I make. Some are still in development, others are just so good I’m not ready to give away my secrets. I know – I’m a terrible, greedy person. Someday I will share, I promise.
Let’s consider today step one in my program to become a more “sharing is caring” kinda person.
Tips for making bourbon butter pecan ice cream
Make it easier to scoop with a simple trick. If you run into the above scenario and don’t have time to let ice cream sit on the counter to thaw a bit, run your ice cream scoop under hot water for 5-10 seconds and then scoop. This applies to all ice cream, not just this recipe!
Vanilla bean paste vs. vanilla extract. In the recipe card below, I call out using vanilla bean paste and list vanilla extract as a secondary option. Vanilla bean paste is more robust and is something I consider to be essential when making a vanilla ice cream base.
Vanilla bean paste is thick like molasses, and it gives the ice cream those vanilla bean specks you see when you’re eating a good quality vanilla bean ice cream. I’m all for saving money and being frugal, but in this instance I highly recommend spending a bit more for the good stuff because it makes a big difference in the final product.
Use a bourbon you like the flavor of. Another piece of advice (I know what I said before, but let’s pretend I didn’t say that for a minute): Use a good bourbon. The flavor is pretty prominent (in a nice way, not a smack-you-in-the-face way), so make sure it’s one of which you like the flavor. It makes a difference, I swear.
Liquor is sort of magical in ice cream. Here’s the thing about ice cream with liquor in it: it’s a very delicate balance between boozy perfection and a runny nightmare. When alcohol is added to ice cream, it prevents it from completely freezing, lending itself to a creamier and softer ice cream – which is great, because who wants rock hard ice cream that you have to use crafty tactics to soften and scoop?
But don’t add too much liquor. However, the other side of that coin is that if you add too much alcohol, the ice cream will never set. And I do mean never. You’ll just have a runny puddle of milky liquor. I guess you could add it to your morning coffee? #silverlinings
What if I don’t like bourbon?
You can just leave it out! No need to make any other adjustments to the recipe. Just omit the bourbon for alcohol-free butter pecan ice cream.
Why you should toast the pecans
In addition to the bourbon, another key ingredient here is pecans. But not just any pecans: buttered pecans. You’ve heard me talk about toasting pecans before because it gives them a new dimension of flavor.
In this case, we’re also going to coat them in butter and brown sugar so that they’re sorta candied before they’re added to the batter. It adds a nice sweet crunch to each bite that’s just…. it’s just wonderful. I can’t come up with another word that’s better and more descriptive. It’s just wonderful.
Can I substitute the brown sugar?
At the time I shot these pictures, I used granulated sugar in the ice cream base – simply because I had used the last of my brown sugar on the pecans.
I recommend using brown sugar instead because the flavors that develop with it are top notch – but granulated sugar works just fine in a pinch.
Do I need an ice cream maker for butter pecan ice cream?
For this particular recipe, you do. But I’m telling you, my ice cream maker is my favorite appliance.
Are you looking for an ice cream maker? Fear not! I swear by this one.
Happy churning, my friends!
After you’ve made this recipe, please consider coming back to share your experience with others by leaving a comment below with a star rating!
Bourbon Butter Pecan Ice Cream
- 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1 Tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
- Hearty pinch of salt
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup half and half, I use this
- ¾ cup light brown sugar or granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
- 3 Tablespoons bourbon
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Place chopped pecans on baking sheet and toast them for 7 minutes, or until fragrant and golden.
- Just before the pecans are done toasting, melt butter in a small saucepan. Add 1 Tablespoon brown sugar and salt and whisk until completely combined and bubbly. Remove from heat.
- Add pecans to sauce pan and stir/toss to coat. Pour pecans in a single layer onto a piece of parchment paper to cool.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together heavy cream, half and half, 3/4 cup sugar, vanilla extract and bourbon.
- Pour batter into frozen ice cream maker and prepare according to manufacturer's directions (usually 20-25 minutes of churning). During the last 5 minutes, add in your prepared pecans.
- Store in freezer-safe container and freeze for a couple hours if you want it to be soft-serve texture (or overnight, if you want to eat it after it’s hardened). Enjoy!