Vanilla Bourbon Butter Pecan Ice Cream

The campaign for delicious home-made ice cream continues on! This week, I decided to take a break from the usual fruit-based flavors, and instead, opted for a more grown-up oriented flavor: bourbon. Specifically, vanilla bourbon butter pecan (now there’s a mouthful!).

Vanilla Bourbon Butter Pecan Ice Cream

I enjoy many a drink–a good beer, a nice bottle of wine, whatever. But if I had to pick one thing, I’m more of a whiskey guy. Some weeks, that means a good, single malt scotch, and others, a nice bourbon. Each have their charms. So why not combine a nice after-dinner drink with a nice after-dinner dessert? And so here we are.

But a bourbon-based ice cream wouldn’t quite be enough. Vanilla seemed like a natural combination (plus, it would mix very well seeing how the flavor of vanilla is extracted using alcohol), but I wanted a little something more. Seeing how that usually means nuts, I decided to mix in another ice cream flavor I’d had on my mind: butter pecan. I thought this toasty, buttery flavor would be well suited to the sweet, smoky nuances I expected of the bourbon vanilla, and I’d get two birds with one stone.

The end result was delicious. The flavor was very…complex. You have the light sweetness of vanilla floating above the deep, smokey bourbon flavors, both of which were very nicely complimented by the lightly buttery, toasty flavor of the pecans. The appearance was a light tan, dotted with the specks of vanilla and the small pecan chunks. The texture was the only area that disappointed me–alcohol has a very specific effect on ice cream, which might seem obvious to you vodka drinkers out there: alcohol, when in your freezer, won’t freeze. So when added to ice cream, it will result in a softer ice cream since, unlike many other ingredients in the custard base, it stays unfrozen. This is a good thing…in moderation.

The end result of this recipe wasn’t quite as “fluffy” as I had hoped, instead being a bit more on the “soft serve” end of the spectrum. Was this a bad thing? Not at all–just not what I had expected. Cutting back on the alcohol content is certainly one solution, but isn’t that half the fun of an ice cream like this? I tried to convince myself this is what I wanted, and after a bowl, I had successfully convinced myself. 😉 If you’re also a whiskey person, this ice cream has your name written all over it. If not, the flavor might still be a bit on the strong side, but it is indeed different from a glass of straight-up whiskey, so its hard to say if the non-whiskey fans out there will find this appealing–my wife unequivocally did not, but I’d be very interested to hear from any brave souls out there!

  • 1 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Slit vanilla bean

Preparing this is ice cream is very similar to the usual process for making an ice cream custard. Begin by slitting the length of the vanilla bean.

Scrape into the milk, scald, and steep

Scrape the contents of the vanilla bean into a saucepan along with the milk and scald this (don’t boil), adding in the empty vanilla pod as well for extra flavor. Once warmed up, get this off of the heat and let the vanilla steep for about 30 minutes.

Sauté the pecans in butter

While you wait on the milk, coarsely break up the pecans into large chunks and sauté these in a pan with the hot, melted butter for about five minutes, taking care not to burn the pecans.

Separate pecans and melted butter, reserving butter

Pour the butter pecan mixture into a strainer, catching the butter in a medium sized bowl. Let this sit so that the butter and the pecans can cool off a bit. The butter should have a slight brown color and a delicious pecan infusion while the pecans will have taken on a toasty, buttery tinge. Once the pecans are reasonably cool, package them up and transfer to the fridge.

The secret ingredient to bourbon ice cream: bourbon!

So now, let’s assume the milk/vanilla steeping time is up. Scald the milk once again, and as you wait for it to warm up, set up an ice bath, placing your bowl o’butter in the ice bath. Add the heavy cream to the melted butter. Set your strainer up over this bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until the color changes and then beat in both of the sugars until well mixed. Temper this with a small scoop of the hot milk, mixing all the while, and then transfer the yolk mixture into the hot milk over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Briefly cook the custard

After about five minutes or so (you want it to thicken so as to coat the back of a spoon, but you don’t want the egg to scramble), pour this custard through the strainer into the cream/butter bowl (transfer the vanilla pod into the cream bowl as well for extra vanilla flavor). In case the butter has re-solidified some during this whole cooling off period, now is a great time to whisk the hell out of it because that hot custard will melt it right back down. Also add in the vanilla extract, salt, and last of all: the bourbon! You add this last because the less heat left in the custard, the better, because otherwise, you’d cook off the alcohol 😮 !

Mix this well, cover tightly (press the plastic wrap right down on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming), and transfer this to the fridge for about 6 hours or so. Once time is up, remove the vanilla pod, follow the directions that came with your ice cream maker, and churn this custard for about 20 minutes. During the last minute or two, throw in the sautéed pecans so that they can get mixed in. Transfer to an airtight container, freeze this overnight, and cheers *clink*!


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31 Responses to “Vanilla Bourbon Butter Pecan Ice Cream”

  1. kittie Says:

    Mike, mike, mike… sigh…

    You do know I’m going to end up having to buy an ice-cream maker if you keep creating these astounding recipes for us… :-S

    (Ps I think the softserve looks really good…!)

  2. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) Says:

    This is just the kind of thing I like to serve in the summer. Will bookmark the recipe, and dust off my ice cream machine!

  3. Peter Says:

    Mike, this is an Alpha-male ice cream. Bourbon, real vanilla, pecans. All premium ingredients…I’d buy this flavour if it were marketed.

  4. grace Says:

    i’m so looking forward to warm weather so i can enjoy treats like this without shivering convulsively. :)

  5. the caked crusader Says:

    Yum. The only alcohol I have had in ice cream before is rum (i.e. rum and raisin). This sounds nice.

  6. RecipeGirl Says:

    The vanilla beans look wonderful in this.

    I’m not a whiskey girl by any stretch, but this might be a good one to make for the guys on poker night.

  7. Deb Says:

    That is my kind of ice cream – 3/4 cup of whiskey!!!! Oh yum!

  8. Chuck Says:

    Anything food with bourbon in it has to be good. Looks amazing!

  9. dp Says:

    I think this ice cream looks great. I like my ice cream on the soft, creamy side, so this is probably up my alley. Oh, and the alcohol doesn’t hurt either :-)

  10. Toni Says:

    Oh dear…….Another reason to buy an ice cream machine. I know the feeling of eating ice cream and saying to myself: “You know what this needs? Booze.” 😉

    This is actually the best use of bourbon – at least in my world!

  11. David Liske Says:

    I am SOOoo impressed with your post, Vanilla Bourbon Butter Pecan Ice Cream.

    My wife, who runs the State of Michigan, and I (a 46-year-old, retired United States Naval Officer) really know good food when we see a recipe such as this.

    Since I am now unemployed, I surf the internet daily (while my wife attempts to earn enough money to support us), so I am WELL AWARE of the really good posts.

    And, this is ONE of them.

    Thanks for your input.

    David Liske,

  12. Mansi Says:

    man! you are like a treasure-house of yummy ice cream recipes Mike! I love butter pecan, and this one looks delicious indeed!:)

  13. Kevin Says:

    Tis ice cream sounds good. I have not tried making an ice cream with an alcohol yet. I like the pecans sauteed in butter!

  14. beth Says:

    this is amazing! i’ve been on the lookout for new ice creams since some friends have started making their own. i can’t wait to pass this along, and hopefully reap the benefits!

  15. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy Says:

    I’m not really a bourbon kind of girl, but if I were, this would be the ultimate! It is a very creative and interesting recipe.

  16. Gail H. Says:

    Oh boy…my Aussie husband is gonna love this one!

  17. Helen Says:

    Wow! That really rolls off the tongue doesn’t it? Try saying it fast 5 times….It looks delish though!

  18. Jeff Says:

    Brother you like the ice cream master.

    Quick question did you notice any freezing issues with not cooking off the alcohol?

  19. pam Says:

    Another one of your ice cream recipes to bookmark!

  20. Terry B Says:

    Okay, this is two amazing ice cream recipes I’ve seen today. Although the other one didn’t have booze in it, so you win. I think the gods are telling me to buy an ice cream maker. Looking over the ingredients list, though, maybe I’ll wait ’til I can afford a defibrillator too.

  21. Susan from Food Blogga Says:

    You’re good, Mike. I’m not a bourbon gal and I don’t each much ice cream, but man, oh, man, could go for a bowl of that right about now.

  22. noble pig Says:

    Well, we know I’m in for this one.

  23. Ari (Baking and Books) Says:

    Mmm, bourbon ice cream sounds super yummy. I’ve been planning to make ice cream soon, the weather is finally getting warm enough. Spring! Spring has arrived!

  24. Helene Says:

    Could you send a pint home. I’m dreaming of your ice cream.

  25. Nina Says:

    I just love how you always add a different flavor to your dishes. first the figs with lamb and now this ice-cream….you are very creative, Mike.

  26. Ginny Says:

    It looks amazing! With all these new ice cream recipes popping up, I may have to invest in an ice cream maker…it just looks so good! :)

  27. Bellini Valli Says:

    This is my kind of ice cream Mike…it may surpass my favourite Maple Walnut:D

  28. brilynn Says:

    This sounds awesome! I miss my ice cream machine, I need a new one..

  29. Mint Julep Gelato from Mike's Table Says:

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  30. Rob Says:

    Hey, just thought I’d let you know. I stumbled on your recipe and have made it twice now. First, following everything exactly. The second time, changing it up a little. I am a bourbon fan and love a bourbon butter sauce with vanilla ice cream. Your recipe seemed like the perfect marriage. I enjoyed it but felt it might be a bit heavy on the bourbon side. The second batch i took a queue from the butter sauce letting a little bourbon go a long way. I used 1/8 Cup of bourbon (Knob Creek), 1 C Vanilla Sugar, 1/4 Cub Light Brown Sugar, 2 Cups Cream, 2 Cups Whole Milk. Everything else was the same. It came out much lighter, froze better and still had a nice bourbon taste without over powering the butter, pecans or vanilla. Just my 2 cents…

    Thanks so much for posting this!

  31. Cupcakes! | thecopperbeech Says:

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