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Sicilian-Style Gelato Base (Dairy-Free, Vegan Options)

Sicilian-Style Gelato Base (Dairy-Free, Vegan Options)

This Sicilian-style gelato base uses cornstarch as a thickening agent, which produces a bright white gelato with a wonderfully silky texture.

How to Make Gelato //

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This versatile Sicilian-style gelato base replaces most of the usual egg yolks required for making a rich gelato base with a bit of cornstarch. This produces a bright white gelato and a wonderfully silky, mouth-coating texture. It also results in a leaner treat that tastes every bit as luscious as its egg yolk-based counterpart.

Video Class: How to Make Gelato

Video Class: How to Make Gelato: Tips and Recipes to Make the Delightful Italian Frozen Treat //

Never made gelato before? Curious about what makes gelato different from ice cream? Check out my detailed video class: How to Make Gelato: Tips and Recipes to Make the Delightful Italian Frozen Treat. In it, you’ll find out what makes gelato different from ice cream, how to make a versatile gelato base you can turn into a variety of flavors, and all my secrets and tips to churn and serve outstanding gelato. I even share how to make dairy-free vegan gelato! In short, it’s a very thorough, colorful class that will quickly turn you into a gelato master. Watch Now!

Sicilian-Style Vanilla Bean Gelato //

Sicilian-Style Gelato Base

This Sicilian-style gelato base uses cornstarch as a thickening agent, which produces a bright white gelato with a wonderfully silky texture.
Prep Time:15 mins
Cook Time:10 mins
Churning / Freezing Time:2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time:2 hrs 55 mins
Servings 1 quart (4 cups/1L)
Author Marie Asselin,, adapted from Saveur Magazine


  • 2 1/4 cups milk, preferably whole (3.25% m.f.) or partly skimmed (2% m.f.)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream (35% m.f.)
  • 1 vanilla bean split lengthwise (optional, use only to make vanilla bean gelato, or if instructed by the recipe you’re making)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 large egg yolk


  • In a medium saucepan, pour 1 1/4 cups (310 ml) of the milk and all of the cream, then add the split vanilla bean, if using. Warm over medium heat until it just starts to bubble around the edge (no need to bring it to a boil).
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the remaining 1 cup (250 ml) milk, sugar, and cornstarch together. Remove the saucepan with the hot milk from the heat and whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return the saucepan to medium heat and cook, stirring regularly, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture thickens slightly, 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Place the egg yolk in a medium bowl and whisk until pale and thickened, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Temper the egg yolk by slowly pouring one ladleful of the hot milk mixture into the yolk, whisking constantly, then slowly pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan, whisking to combine.
  • Remove from the heat. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for a few hours, or preferably overnight.
    The gelato base must be thoroughly cool before churning: this will produce the smoothest, silkiest texture.
  • Fish the vanilla bean out of the custard. (You can rinse the used vanilla bean under cold water, pat it dry, then add it to a jar of brown sugar to keep it moist and infuse some of the vanilla flavor into it.)
  • Strain the gelato base to make sure it is silky smooth. Pour into the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions. Stop the machine when the gelato is thick and icy but still easily spoonable.
  • STORAGE: Transfer the gelato to an airtight container and freeze until firm, about two hours. The gelato will keep, frozen, for up to two weeks.
  • SERVING: Always take this gelato out to room temperature 15 to 20 before serving to soften it and make it easier to scoop. 
  • MAKE IT DAIRY FREE: Substitute lactose-free milk or oat milk for the regular milk, and lactose-free heavy cream or soy cream for the regular heavy cream.
  • MAKE IT VEGAN: Get my recipe and instructions for making vegan gelato right here -->

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Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Churning / Freezing Time: 2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time: 2 hrs 55 mins


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  1. Made your Sicilian style raspberry rose gelato last week (substituting frozen strawberries instead) and it came out delicious! However….the recipe barely makes one quart, not two quarts as it says in the yield. Disappointed as we wanted more!

    • Hello Lisa! Yes, my gelato recipes require the use of an ice cream maker. There are lots of no-churn ice cream/gelato recipes out there, but they almost always use condensed milk as a work-around to achieve a creamy texture without churning. In my opinion, the use of condensed milk steers you away from the true nature of gelato (I’m a gelato nerd like that!). There are reliable and affordable models: the one I’ve been using for years is a basic Cuisinart model that cost me about $70. If you loved iced treats, it could be worth investing in one!

  2. Made this yesterday, and again today.
    I’m placing the custard in bowl of cold water to speed the cooling process.