It might sound fancy, but it’s also unbelievably simple to make.
Semifreddo means “half frozen” in Italian. The texture, a bit lighter than ice cream, is much like a frozen mousse.
There are boundless ways to serve semifreddo, and it’s a surefire way to impress even the classiest of guests. It can be formed into molds, into a sliceable loaf, or scooped just like regular ice cream.
I worked for a time at a restaurant without any type of ice cream maker on the premises. While at first this was disappointing, it forced me to stretch my creativity in building frozen components for desserts.
Semifreddo quickly become my go-to choice for something cool. From rosehip scooped onto pistachio baklava, to a dome of lime alongside sweet rhubarb soup, it never failed to impress.
The process of churning ice cream, like with our recipe for cinnamon honey ice cream, incorporates air into the custard while bringing the temperature down. When making a semifreddo, whipped cream is folded in with additional ingredients, and then frozen.
Because air is already incorporated into the mixture via the whipped cream, it can go straight into the freezer without any concern that it might turn into a solid chunk of ice – no ice cream maker required!
Sweet Simplicity: A How-To Guide
There are two basic ways to make a simple semifreddo – using sweetened condensed milk, or a fruit curd. How many steps you do at home depends on your own comfort in the kitchen.
If you are up for the challenge of making your own condensed milk or curd, your flavor options are endless! But if the extent of your kitchen comfort involves tossing takeout into the microwave, any curd or condensed milk that you purchase at the grocery store will work just fine as well.
For the condensed milk version, you will want to use one can of sweetened condensed milk, 1/2 cup of juice, and 1/2 cup of cream. You can experiment with all sorts of juice flavors, or perhaps a thicker fresh fruit puree.
You can also make your own sweetened condensed milk at home. Once you’ve tried our recipe, you won’t want to go back to the canned stuff! It’s also super delicious in Vietnamese iced coffee, made with cold brewed java.
When you’ve assembled your sweetened milk and juice, mix them together in a bowl. Whip the cream until soft peaks form, and fold into the condensed milk and juice mixture.
You can fold in all sorts of additions – like nuts, dried fruit made at home in the dehydrator, or chocolate chips.
Pour this mixture into molds, a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap, or lidded freezer-safe container. Freeze for five hours, and it’s ready to eat!
Some great flavor combinations include:
- Lime juice and dried cranberries (read on for the recipe!)
- Passion fruit puree and pistachios
- Peanut butter and chocolate chips (Warm 1/4 cup peanut butter with 1/4 cup milk over low heat until thin enough to fold into the condensed milk. Let cool, and use in place of juice.)
For the fruit curd version, you will want to use two cups of curd, one egg white, and 1/4 cup of cream. Whip the egg white until soft peaks form. In a separate bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form.
Fold the whipped egg whites into the curd gradually, followed by the whipped cream. Transfer into molds, a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap, or a lidded freezer-safe container. Freeze for 5 hours, and enjoy!
While a store bought lemon curd works nicely for this recipe, experimenting with homemade curd opens the door to a variety of flavor possibilities, like this lemon and earl grey version.
If you don’t have sweetened condensed milk available, or you do not want to consume raw eggs, you can also choose to use a simple mixture of whipped cream with sugar and flavorings, as we do in our recipe for no-churn pomegranate orange ice cream.
Read the recipes below so you can learn all of my preferred methods!
- 4 limes
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1 8-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Zest one lime. Juice the zested lime and the three remaining limes.
- Combine the lime juice and dried cranberries in a bowl. Let sit for half an hour at room temperature to soften the cranberries.
- Fold together the sweetened condensed milk, lime zest, lime juice, and cranberries.
- Whip cream until soft peaks appear.
- Fold whipped cream into condensed milk mixture.
- Transfer into individual molds, a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap, or a lidded container for scooping, and freeze for five hours.
Combine lime juice and zest, dried cranberries, and sweetened condensed milk with whipped cream to make this delicious frozen dessert.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Zest and Juice
Start by zesting one of your limes. I prefer using the Microplane 40020 – it is without a doubt one of my favorite kitchen tools.
When wedding season rolls around, it is my go-to gift, no matter if it’s not on the registry. Everyone should own a microplane. You can read our review of this model, and learn more about zesters and microplanes here.
Juice the zested lime along with all of the remaining limes. If you roll the lime firmly between your palms a few times before slicing it in half, this will help to break up the pulp and makes juicing much simpler.
Step 2 – Combine Cranberries and Juice
Sometimes dried fruit can be a bit tough to chew. Now imagine that already tough fruit when it’s frozen. My teeth hurt just thinking about it.
Softening the cranberries in lime juice first will help to rehydrate them, which significantly improves the final texture of your dessert.
Step 3 – Fold Ingredients Together
Mix your sweetened condensed milk, lime zest and juice, and cranberries together well. Make sure the juice is fully incorporated into the condensed milk – you don’t want any streaks of juice running through the mixture.
Step 4 – Whip Cream
You can do this with an electric mixer, or by hand. Make sure your cream is cold – it will whip much faster this way.
I enjoy whisking by hand – it incorporates a nice little workout into my cooking routine. Plus, there is something so satisfying about feeling the cream turn from liquid to airy solid.
Our guide to whisks can help you choose which model is best for you. For whipping cream, I recommend a large, loose balloon style.
If you choose to forego the upper arm exhaustion and leave the work to a mixer, be sure to watch the cream closely. The transition from soft peaks to butter and whey can happen in the blink of an eye.
Step 5 – Fold Cream into Condensed Milk Mixture
Fold your freshly whipped cream into the condensed milk and juice mixture. Be sure to do this gently, so as not to deflate the air you so carefully incorporated.
For the folding process, you want to pull the mixture from the outside of the bowl into the center with a large rubber spatula. Try to do this in just a few large and gentle movements.
Be sure that the cream is fully incorporated before moving on to the next step. Again, you don’t want any streaks running through it!
Step 6 – Transfer and Freeze
One of the best parts about semifreddo is that you can mold it, slice it, or scoop it just like ice cream. Silicone molds are a fancy way to serve semifreddo for guests.
You can also line a loaf pan with plastic wrap. Once frozen, flip the semifreddo out of the pan and peel off the plastic for a beautiful, sliceable loaf.
Finally, if you like you can just freeze your semifreddo in a lidded container and scoop it out like ice cream.
Don’t let the heat keep you out of the kitchen this summer. With these two semifreddo techniques, you can whip up frozen desserts all season long.
For another tasty alternative frozen dessert that can be made without an ice cream maker, check out our review of the Yonanas soft-serve dessert machine.
After you’ve polished off the last scoop, try even more ice cream recipes:
Let us know what fun flavor combinations you try out in the comments below!
Photos by Kendall Vanderslice, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.
About Kendall Vanderslice
Kendall’s love of food has taken her around the world. From baking muffins on a ship in West Africa and milking cows with Tanzanian Maasai, to hunting down the finest apfelstrudel in Austria, she continually seeks to understand the global impact of food. Kendall holds a BA in Anthropology from Wheaton College and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University, and has worked in the pastry departments of many of Boston’s top kitchens. Based in Somerville, Massachusetts, Kendall helps to run a small community supported bread bakery and writes about the intersection of food, faith, and culture on her personal blog, A Vanderslice of the Sweet Life.
31 thoughts on “Semifreddo Two Ways: The Perfect No-Churn Ice Cream”
I learnt some Italian, while learning about food, I’m living the dream! Haha.
Great post though, I’m not sure about anybody else but I’m terrible in the kitchen.
I believe I read another post here about creating you own ice cream? Anyway, I will definitely try this, it never hurts to learn more, especially when you’re giving away this knowledge for free!
Thanks a bunch 🙂
This is actually a great option for dessert, I haven’t heard from this type of ice cream before reading this post, and now I already know what to do when I have some spare time, specially on summer!
It’s always a great thing to try (and learn!) new things when it comes to desserts.
Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂
This is definitely one to keep for the summer! It’s winter time now in SA, so a bit too cold for this. But my kids love ice cream and it has become a very expensive thing to buy. So I’ll be trying this and impressing my kids with some kitchen “magic”! Thanks for the easy recipe. I can probably add some food coloring to the condensed milk to add color for the kids, right?
Adding food coloring sounds like a great idea to make this recipe fun for kids! I would just mix it in with the condensed milk first if you want it fully incorporated, or if you want more of a swirl of color, you could add a few drops as you fold in the whipped cream.
How awesome is this post? I learned a little Italian and was introduced to three great sounding flavor combinations.
This is neat! I always thought making ice cream was a very difficult and time-consuming process, but your recipe makes it so easy. I will definitely try this at home. Also the way the recipe is laid out is very user-friendly. Thanks
Wow, Semifreddo its called, I’ve never heard of it. At first I thought that it was a fancy word for gelato, but its definitely not what I thought it would be. The recipe is so simple and seems to be absolutely delectable, I never realized that whipping cream can be used like ice cream!
I see that in the fruit curd version it says “eggs”; I don’t eat eggs and I know that we can add apple sauce to substitute eggs in baking, can the same be said for this? Will I get the same outcomes?
In some baking recipes, applesauce can serve as a replacement for eggs, but unfortunately a fruit curd is not one of those recipes. Eggs serve several different purposes in recipes — sometimes they are there for protein, sometimes for fat, sometimes for binding, etc. Unfortunately their purpose in curd is difficult to replicate with another replacement. For an egg-free dessert, I would suggest sticking with the sweetened condensed milk version of semifreddo!
Thank you for replying. Ah, okay then. If not applesauce, there is also a sort of powder called “egg-replacer” might this be something that can work? I would really like to try this, but not a very sweet version as my father is diabetic, I assume that the fruit version may not be as sweet?
Unfortunately for the curd to work you will need the true egg yolk. The powdered egg replacer mimics the egg white, but the thickening agent of the yolk is necessary in this curd. There are some recipes for egg-free curds available online, many involve using corn starch or other thickeners. The process with these thickeners is different, so unfortunately its not a simple replacement in this particular curd recipe. However if you find an egg-free curd, you can still make it into a semifreddo by folding in whipped cream!
I am experimenting with a trendy new egg-replacer at the moment, and I will hopefully have some recipes up here soon. So keep an eye out, perhaps I’ll be able to get an egg-free curd up soon!
WOW! this is the perfect dessert for this upcoming summer.
I have never heard of this stuff before, but I think I’m in love already. It sounds so simple and delicious, that I just want to try gallons of it. I definitely want to give it a shot myself and see what flavor combinations I can come up with. If this type of ice cream is as easy to make as it sounds, I will never have to buy ice cream again.
Oh this one’s going on my weekend menu for sure! The first time I saw semifreddo as part of a dessert on a restaurant’s bill of fare I had no idea what it was. I ended up ordering it and thought it was great. I’ve always wanted to make ice cream at home but haven’t done it for want of an ice cream maker. This looks like it’s a great way to do it!
I have seen semifreddo in stores before but I was never sure what differentiated it from gelato and ice-cream. Since we don’t have an ice-cream maker this will be a great option for us. I can see thai iced tea or vietnamese iced coffee flavors with the sweetened condensed milk version. Citrus curd is always a good idea so I will definitely try some combination with that. The curd version doesn’t need a juice/liquid component in it like the condensed milk one?
A Thai iced tea semifreddo sounds amazing — I’m tempted to go make some right now! The curd version does not need any additional liquid, since the curd is flavored already. The whipped egg whites will cut the richness of the curd and cream!
I love Thai Iced Tea! though I’ve never made it, and am not the best in the kitchen. Would either of you have any tips for me in starting out, and making your wonderful Thai Iced Tea semifreddo idea?
Mango sticky rice dessert is also my very favorite dessert. any thoughts on this as an option, or should I just stick to learning the traditional recipe? Thanks a bunch.
Love your creative ideas, Ali!
I’m not sure that mango sticky rice would be the best option for a semifreddo since the texture of the rice will change when it’s frozen, but you could try making a base with a combination of rice milk and coconut cream in addition to the mango to mimic the flavor of your favorite dessert.
I’d use brewed and cooled Thai tea to replace the lime juice, and skip the cranberries in our basic recipe. You might also like to sprinkle some boba on top for garnish when you serve it. Keep in mind when changing the flavors that maintaining the proportions of liquid, fat, and sugar is key to get the texture that you’re going for when you experiment. Please let us know how it turns out!
I’m italian so I’m familiar with this delicious treat. It’s perfect for every occasion and there are so many combinations to experiment with. I loved your recipe, I think the tangy flavor of the lime is perfect combined with the sweetness of the cream and the dried cranberries. I’m definitely going to try it out.
I usually make the coffee version, it was my grandmother’s recipe and it always turns our great. But now that summer is approaching, I think your version will be perfect, it sounds really refreshing and flavorful! Thank you for sharing the recipe!
Oh wow… as a coffee addict I have to say that sounds absolutely delicious. I come from an Italian background as well and I’m so surprised I’ve never heard of this! Adding coffee to my lists of flavors to try. 🙂 I wonder how easy it would be to make a mocha version, or even just plain vanilla…
Thank you for this wonderful post about ice cream. I never made home made ice cream before. My family and I are going out to to the store soon to gather up what we need to make this. I had a friend of mine show me how to do this years ago with a plastic bag but it never turned out good. Thanks again!
I’m such a weirdo when it comes to food and textures. I think the lime sounds amazing, but I don’t know if I’d want the pieces of dried cranberry in it. Maybe white chocolate? I’m also thinking some kind of honey flavored kind. The possibilities are endless.
Another no churn way I learned many years back, as an idea for children, was a small can with the ice cream mixture, inside a bigger coffee can with the ice, and then you roll it back and forth to each other. That mimics the “churn” without actually needing the machine.
Oh, this is just cool (no pun intended). Thanks for sharing this brilliant idea. This will make a really fun project to work on (and enjoy eating) with my grand babies. I think I will do this for one of their upcoming birthday parties. We can make it in the morning for fun and eat it in the evening to show off their work. I love it.
It really sounds tasty and refreshing for grown ups too, without a lot of hassle. I love how pretty all of yours turned out. Very nice.
I’d heard of semifreddo before, but only in Masterchef, so I didn’t even try looking it up to see if it was something that could be made at home. It seemed to fancy to be made without any of the expensive kitchen gadgets, but it’s nice to learn that it’s not very difficult at all!
I’ll be trying the condensed milk version. I can think of so many flavors that I want to try! I will be making mango first, since it’s my favorite fruit.
And you’re right, it is much more satisfying when you whip the cream by hand. Every time I do it, I’m almost sure it won’t happen, the consistency will stay the same for the longest time and then suddenly you notice that it has changed.
Thank you for introducing me to a way to make ice cream at home, without any hassle.
Oh my goodness. This is making my mouth water just reading it! My little guys love ice cream so I’m always looking for healthier alternatives and I think they will love this (I might steal a few scoops myself). Love when the ingredients list is simple, too. Thank you for the recipe!
What is the health factor for this? While it does use condensed milk and cream, the fresh ingredients make me think that semifreddo could be a good alternative to ice cream for people who are looking for a tasty summer treat. Throwing some nuts like almonds in there could also up the protein content too. Definitely going to give this one ago on a hot July day!
The condensed milk version is definitely a bit lighter than ice cream — the fresh juice really helps! There is less cream per serving than in ice cream, and the lack of eggs bring the calorie count way down (although they also take away a lot of the protein). The sugar content is still pretty high, but I think that in the end condensed milk semifreddo still ends up the better choice. Now the curd, version, on the other hand, I’m afraid is just about the same. Again it as a bit less cream per serving, but with the eggs I’m not sure it can really assuage any guilt.
I’ve been making homemade ice-cream for a while now and I always thought it’s a really cool process and the result is better than what you can find in stores, Semifreddo seems like a really nice recipe to try out! Looks delicious!
I have heard of this and I think I even ate one in Rome. It was very fancy – well, the way it was presented, and I assumed it would be difficult to make. It is a lovely cross between ice-cream and sorbet I find. Not as rich as the first but a little more filling than the second. Also, very refreshing like a sorbet.
Before I bought my ice cream maker, I made lots of semifreddo. I liked to whip my cream a little more than what the article talks aout. I found that it usually produced a slightly thicker and more set product. However, you don’t want to whip the cream into anything too stiff because it will eventually make it hard to incorporate into the sweetened condensed milk properly. Once you make this a few times and experiment, it is easy to get the hang of. Honestly, this is a great thing to make with kids or if you have limited skills in the kitchen.
Just a thought, but how would semifreddo work if you were to include something like peanut butter or chocolate over nuts and fruit?
Peanut butter and chocolate would be delicious additions to the semifreddo! It would work very well!