Bourbon Butter Pecan Ice Cream
This bourbon butter pecan ice cream has brown sugar, vanilla, and a splash of whiskey! It’s creamy, cozy, and the perfect dessert to transition from summer to autumn.
My ice cream tastes are that of an 79 year old man. There, I said it. Like yeah, I can get into a cookie dough or strawberry cheesecake ice cream situation, but my flavors of choice usually contain nuts and butterscotches and whatever pralines technically are. Even from a young age I loved these flavors exclusively although I guess my actual favorite was mint chocolate chip. Jury is still out on whether I actually loved it or it was just green (my favorite color). Either way, my tastes never really changed and I will still take a mint chocolate chip, pistachio, or butter pecan situation over any other flavor any day of the week.
And ok, to be honest, ice cream is probably my favorite food so it’s not like I’m that picky here. I’ll pretty much eat it all. But you should know that this bourbon butter pecan ice cream changed my life, and I really do mean that.
At this point if you’re thinking “bourbon in ice cream, why?”. WELL, let me tell you. Because when it’s combined with brown sugar and vanilla and butter and toasty pecans, it tastes like actual heaven. There’s no other way to explain it. Think the classic buttery, caramel-y butter pecan ice cream with just a hint of smooth, oaky bourbon. Even if you’re not necessarily a whiskey fan, just trust me on this. It works.
Here’s what you’ll need
- Pecans – usually, I just buy the halves and chop them myself to get different sizes of crunch, but feel free to get the bits and pieces.
- Light brown sugar – dark brown will overpower flavor-wise. If all you have is dark brown, use half dark brown sugar, half regular.
- Heavy whipping cream & half-and-half – we’re doing a custard-free ice cream here, so we need high fat dairy to prevent the ice cream from becoming icy.
- Bourbon – whatever you like! I use Frey Ranch.
- Kitchen basics – unsalted butter, Kosher salt, and vanilla extract.
Let’s make some ice cream!
We’re going to make bourbon butter pecan ice cream in two very simple steps! First, we’ll butter our pecans. And then, we’ll stir up our ice cream base and give it a quick churn.
Toast the pecans
- Melt the unsalted butter over medium-low heat.
- Add the pecans, stirring constantly.
- Cook until the pecans are toasty, about 4-5 minutes.
- Transfer the buttered pecans to a plate. Let cool completely.
Make the ice cream
- Combine the brown sugar, salt, and half-and-half in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.
- Pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Let cool in the fridge for about 30 minutes to an hour.
- Once cooled, churn the ice cream according to the manufacturer’s directions. Add the pecans and let churn for a couple minutes to combine.
- Pour the ice cream into an airtight container and freeze for at least an hour. Serve with caramel sauce, a shot of espresso, or just on its own!
French vs. Philadelphia style ice cream
This recipe is the first time I’ve ever made Philadelphia style ice cream and I’m into it! For those who may not know, ice cream is more commonly made with a custard base (eggs, milk etc.). It leads to a creamier, richer ice cream but requires a bit more work because we have to temper the eggs.
Philadelphia style ice cream, on the other hand, doesn’t use eggs. Just a gentle heat on the stove to dissolve the sugar (or not, but more on that later). This ice cream is a tad bit icier (but not much) and has more of a soft-serve texture. For this recipe, I went Philadelphia style, more for ease than anything, and I really like it! The texture is a bit lighter while still being nice and creamy. The downside is that because we don’t have the stability from the custard, this ice cream does melt a little faster. No biggie, just don’t let it sit on the counter for too long!
(Also, side bonus: if you can’t eat eggs, this ice cream is for you. We are going accidentally egg-free this time around. Yay!)
The lazy method
If you really can’t be bothered to temper eggs, or even dissolve some sugar for that matter, have I got the solution for you. The benefit of Philadelphia-style (a.k.a. egg-free) bourbon butter pecan ice cream is that you can just stir it up and pour it in your ice cream maker. Yep, that easy. You’ll just have to whisk it for a few minutes to make sure everything is completely incorporated!
The catch? Yes, of course there’s a catch! Your ice cream won’t be quite as smooth. I honestly prefer to just dissolve the sugar on the stove, because it takes, I don’t know 3 minutes? But if you’re short on time and don’t want to go through the 30 minute chilling process, the whisk method is the way to go!
Do I need to freeze it before I eat it?
Nope! If you want to serve this ice cream straight away, that is an option. The ice cream will have more of a soft-serve texture if that’s your thing. But also be warned that it’ll melt a little quicker.
But, if you want something scoop-able for say, pie, affogatos, or sundaes, you’ll want to let the ice cream freeze for at least an hour! I usually like to let it set for an hour or two, but I won’t say no to a bite or two right out of the churner.
Storing the ice cream
To store bourbon butter pecan ice cream, scoop it into an airtight container, and cover the top with a layer of plastic wrap. Then, pop on the lid and place it in the freezer. This ice cream is best eaten within a day or two (it will become grainier over time). But, when stored properly, it’ll still taste good for up to a week or so!
- Caramel! My all time favorite way to serve this ice cream. Drizzle it over the top with some toasted, chopped pecans, or you can even churn it into the ice cream itself.
- With a shot of espresso, affogato style. Bourbon + coffee? Ok!
- In between some cookies. Maybe oatmeal, snickerdoodles, or chewy ginger snaps?
- On top of apple pie or a pear galette. Trust meeee.
- By itself. It can hold its own!
More frozen treats to enjoy before summer ends
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Bourbon Butter Pecan Ice Cream
- 2 Tbs unsalted butter
- 2/3 c pecan halves, roughly chopped
Bourbon Butter Pecan Ice Cream
- 2/3 c light brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 c half-and-half
- 1 1/2 c heavy whipping cream
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 Tbs bourbon, less or more to taste*
- Caramel or butterscotch, for serving
- Ice cream maker
To make the buttered pecans
- Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the pecans and cook, stirring frequently, until toasty, about 4-5 minutes. Scrape the pecans onto a plate and let them cool completely.
To make the ice cream
- Pour the brown sugar, salt, and half-and-half into a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until the mixture is warm and the sugar has dissolved completely, 2-3 minutes. Don't let it come to a simmer.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl. Stir in the heavy whipping cream, vanilla extract, and bourbon. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, 30-60 minutes.
- When you’re ready to churn the ice cream, give it a good stir. Add to the ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s directions. Stir in the buttered pecans and churn for just a couple of minutes to mix everything together.
- Pour the finished ice cream into an airtight container and freeze until you’re ready to eat the ice cream. I like to let the ice cream freeze for at least an hour, but it’s not necessary. Drizzle with caramel sauce or butterscotch, if desired. Enjoy!
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: Breathe Deeper by Tame Impala