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Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream in a waffle textured bowl

Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream

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When I swirled some delectable caramel sauce into some vanilla bean ice cream, this fabulous Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream was born! This ice cream verified my motto that caramel desserts trump everything else!

Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream in a waffle textured bowl

Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream

When we were in Denver last month, Katie and Bill would take a stroll down to the hotel lobby each evening to get their single servings of HΓ€agen-Dazs ice cream. Bill, no surprise here, purchased chocolate and Katie found delight in their dulce de leche. It was Katie’s selection that inspired me to make a rich vanilla caramel swirl ice cream. I knew she and I would be thrilled if I was successful with my recipe testing.

Ice Cream Week 2014

Welcome to day 2 of Ice Cream Week 2014! This year the event is hosted by Kim of Cravings of a Lunatic and Susan of  The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen. We have teamed up with 25 amazing bloggers to bring you ice cream treats all week long. It’s going to be an epic week full of frozen treats including this Caramel Ice Cream Recipe!

Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream in a freezer container

Homemade Vanilla Caramel Ice Cream

Katie and I were swooning over each bite of this silky vanilla caramel ice cream with the sweet, gooey streams of caramel throughout. Bill took a cursory bite, but was anxiously awaiting the Oreo ice cream I made for Thursday’s post.

Chocolate trumps caramel in his book. But that’s just fine. Katie and I didn’t want to share! Thankfully, my fears that the caramel might turn to a rock-like consistency when frozen were unfounded. Whew.

Tips for Making this Caramel Swirl Ice Cream

If you’re new to making ice cream and/or caramel, here are a few tips to help make the process a success.

  • When you’re making an ice cream base, it’s basically a custard.  Care must be taken when the eggs are added to the hot cream mixture so they don’t scramble.
  • The process is called tempering. First add a small amount, 1/2 cup, of the hot cream mixture to the eggs while whisking constantly. And repeat. This warms up the eggs slowly instead of cooking them.
  • The custard works best when chilled overnight so it’s nice and cold and the vanilla flavor is well infused.
  • Making caramel can be daunting as it’s finicky. Do not rush the process by turning up the heat as the sugar will burn.
  • Having the cream at room temperature will help prevent lumps from forming when you add it to the hot sugar. Drizzling it in slowly will also help the cream incorporate into the sugar more easily.
  • If lumps do develop, cook the mixture on low until the sugar melts.
Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream in a white and peach waffle bowl
Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream

Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream

A luscious vanilla bean ice cream swirled with caramel

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 55 minutes
Yield 8 servings


Adapted from Epicurious:

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar, divided
  • 1 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (may use vanilla extract if desired)

For the caramel swirl:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, warmed
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. In a large Pyrex measuring cup or heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks with ¼ cup of the brown sugar. Set aside.
  2. In a heavy saucepan, stir together the cream, milk, salt, and the remaining ¼ cup of brown sugar and put the pan over medium-high heat. When the mixture starts to simmer, decrease the heat.
  3. Remove about ½ cup of the hot cream mixture while constantly whisking the eggs, slowly drizzle the cream into the egg yolks. Repeat with another ½ cup of hot cream, then pour the egg-cream mixture back into the saucepan, whisking as you pour.
  4. Cook the mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is thickened, about 1-2 more minutes.
  5. Strain the custard mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container. Set the container into an ice-water bath (I fill my sink with ice cubes, then adds some water). Stir occasionally, till cool. Remove the container from the ice-water bath, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate
  6. for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  7. While the ice cream base cools, make the caramel.
  8. Set the warm cream by the stove so it's at hand when you need it. Put 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. When the sugar is melted around the edges and starts turn golden, stir the mixture gently and add another 2 tablespoons sugar to the pan.
  9. Continue to add the remaining sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, stirring frequently and allowing most of the sugar to melt before you add more. Watch carefully as the sugar darkens, stirring gently to help it melt evenly.
  10. When the bubbling slows down, gently stir in the cream to blend. If you have any hard sugar lumps, just keep the burner on low and cook till sugar melts. Stir in salt and vanilla and allow to cool to room temperature.
  11. Put the container you'll use to store the ice cream into the freezer.
  12. When the ice cream is frozen, layer about a third of it into your container. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of caramel on top of ice cream, then repeat again two more times. You will have leftover caramel.tablespoons of the caramel. Use a knife or a chopstick to swirl the caramel. If you prefer softer ice cream, eat right away or else freeze for about 4 hours before serving.


      Yield: 1 quart of ice cream.
      Total time includes 2 hours freezing time.

      Nutrition Information:



      Serving Size:

      1 scoop

      Amount Per Serving: Calories: 445Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 19gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 202mgSodium: 136mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 0gSugar: 40gProtein: 5g


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      54 comments on “Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream”

      1. That caramel swirl is making me swoon, Lizzy! YUM!

      2. Aww look heavenly Lizzy!
        Just delicious!!!

      3. Oh yes…can’t wait to try this one.

      4. this looks like my kind of ice cream! I love it

      5. I love coconut milk ice cream (mint chocolate chip is fabulous!)

      6. Any #dairyfree frozen treat I can find πŸ™‚

      7. Oh, this ice cream is calling my name. I’d make sure to get a scoop with lots of caramel πŸ™‚

      8. This looks amazing! My favorite ice cream is Rocky Road or Tin Roof.

      9. My favorite flavor of ice cream is chocolate … plain ‘ole chocolate.

        But I would totally eat a bowl of your vanilla caramel swirl ice cream too!

      10. This ice cream looks delicious!!! I love salted caramel swirl ice cream almost as much as I love chocolate! Yours looks fabulous and perfectly swirled!

      11. I adore caramel anything and your ice cream is making me drool!!

      12. This might be even better than Haagen-Daaz! Summer nights in Colorado with a scoop of ice cream are memorable =)

      13. I’m so happy to have found your website! Peanut butter cookies are my favorite. I’m anxious to try your recipe. Home made ice cream would taste pretty good alongside!

      14. I guess from the way my mouth is watering I’m going to have to make this soon. And I’m thinking it would be perfect on top of a slice of apple pie.

      15. Sounds amazing! A few added pecans and I’d be in ice cream heaven:@)

      16. Caramel forvsure

      17. This ice cream totally ROCKs Liz. I would have a very difficult time refusing a second scoop (and you know I’m not much of a sweet eater!). The contest is great too! Love the bowls, so pretty.

      18. I am in love with this recipe. I want to have it right now. I know I’ve said it before but you have some of my favorite photography skills, I feel like I can reach out and touch (or more appropriately, lick) that ice cream!!!

      19. I have a serious weakness for caramel. Add it to ice cream and swoon! The looks delicious!

      20. Good evening Liz,
        wow, this looks great, printed you’re recipe so I can give it a try. I have been into making a lot of ice cream lately, loving my Cuisinart ice cream maker!

      21. Love this ice cream. John isn’t fond of caramel so I feel really bad that I have to eat it all by myself. πŸ™‚

      22. My favorite flavor of ice cream is chocolate with peanut butter.

      23. You are killing me with these ice-cream posts!!! I’m “screaming for ice-cream” inside. When our daughter was young we used to get-together with our friends and their young families on Labour Day Weekend and make homemade ice-cream – do I have time to plan an ice-cream party for old times sake in just a couple of weeks??? You sure are tempting me Liz. I am bookmarking many of these recipes – keep them coming!

      24. wow thats wonderful Liz,i want a scoop from that

      25. I am for caramel, too, Liz! I’m partial πŸ™‚

        Gourmet Getaways

      26. So THAT’S how you do the swirl! I always just put it in at the end of the churning and it never was in those cool ribbons… now I know the trick πŸ˜‰

      27. You mean I have to choose only one flavor??? No can do, ice cream is my favorite dessert. These recipes by that Skinny Chick can bake and with the prize package, the only choice I’ll have to make is how many flavors my freezer can store until I can make the next few flavors!

      28. This ice cream looks perfect – so creamy and I love the caramel swirl!

      29. My mouth is watering terribly, Liz. Your ice cream looks awesome.

      30. The ice cream looks wonderful. I love caramel swirls with vanilla.. sounds iressistible

      31. All Chocolate! πŸ™‚

      32. Chocolate – straight up – nothing fancy. πŸ™‚

      33. That ice cream is screaming my name! Great give-away too πŸ™‚

      34. Caramel tastes like childhood — so sweet!!! It could not have a better pair than vanilla… and in an ice cream. How tempting!!!

      35. homemade caramel is the best. yum!

      36. Coffee Oreo!

      37. That caramel swirl looks like pure heaven, love this ice cream!

      38. Lizzy,
        This ice cream looks irresistible. I can’t believe anyone would turn it down. I can’t wait to try it.

      39. My favourite ice cream is butter pecan.

      40. The caramel looks so decadent, so creamy ! Very nice presentation as well πŸ™‚

      41. I’m a recentish caramel convert so this ice cream is totally calling to me right now! I love those ooey gooey swirls

      42. This ice cream looks great. Love the swirl!

      43. Yes Liz we are all screaming for ice cream!

      44. This looks delicious! I bought an ice cream maker recently & was going to try this recipe as my first try at making ice cream. Is this a no churn ice cream? Maybe I missed it, but it doesn’t say in the instructions to churn in an ice cream maker? Just a little confused. Thank you very much!

      45. Hi there! Excellent recipe. I’m trying it out now! I have a question though. When do you mix in the vanilla into the ice cream base? (Steps 1-6) I see you have us add the vanilla for the caramel part but not sure when to add in the vanilla into the ice cream base itself. Thanks!

        • Hi, Brendan,

          Thanks for letting me know about my omission. The vanilla bean paste or vanilla should be added to the custard before you chill it in the ice bath. Then after it’s churned, I layer about a third of the ice cream into a freezer safe container, drizzle with some caramel and repeat a couple times. Then use a knife or chopstick to swirl the caramel throughout the ice cream. You’ll want to freeze it again to let it firm up. Hope you enjoy!

      46. Hi, do you stir in the caramel after you’ve used the ice cream maker? or do you mix everything in together, then add to the ice cream maker to churn? Thanks!

      47. Hey, so I was looking for a caramel mix-in for my homemade vegan ice cream. I switched the cream for coconut cream. All was going well, but the cream was too cold and made the caramel seize up. Was able to resolve it (and added some margarine), but definitely should have warmed up the cream beforehand. Also added a bit more salt than called for for a salted-caramel vibe. Yum! Worked out well.

      48. I would like to try this recipe, but you have left out how much sugar you need for the caramel swirl on the ingredients list. Could you please share it with us?

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