vanilla ice cream
Photo by KGora

It's a dessert! It's a science project!

It's way cool fun for kids. And it's a great hands-on project for when the kids are home and they're bugging you for something to do. We'll show you how kids can shake up their own homemade ice cream and sneak in a little learning while they're at it.

How to Make Ice Cream in a Bag

This no-cook recipe for vanilla ice cream makes about eight half-cup servings.


  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups half-and-half cream
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 bag crushed ice
  • 4 cups coarse salt

For each kid you'll need:

  • 2 pint-size resealable plastic freezer bags
  • 1 gallon-size resealable plastic freezer bag
  • Gloves or towel to protect fingers


  1. In a pitcher or large measuring cup, stir together the whipping cream, half-and-half, sugar, and vanilla extract until sugar has dissolved.
  2. Pour about 1/2 cup of mixture into a pint-size plastic bag and seal carefully, squeezing out extra air. Place each sealed bag into a second pint-size bag, again squeezing out extra air. Seal carefully.
  3. Fill each gallon-size plastic bag about halfway with ice and add 1/2 cup coarse salt. Place one sealed small bag into the large bag, squeeze out most of the air, and seal the large bag.
  4. Wear mittens or thick gloves, or wrap the bag in a towel to protect hands against the extreme cold. Shake and massage the bag for about 5 minutes or until mixture thickens into ice cream. Add more salt and ice to the outer bag if ice cream hasn't formed after 10 minutes of continuous motion.
  5. Remove the outer pint-size bag before you open the inner bag so you don't get any of the salty ice on your ice cream!

How Does it Work?

The Science of Salt

Salt lowers the freezing point of the ice and creates an extra-cold brine that absorbs heat from the milk mixture, causing the mixture to freeze.

What's Shaking?

Why shake the bag? The motion creates smoother ice cream by breaking up large ice crystals and allows the ice cream to freeze uniformly.

VIDEO: See how to make ice cream in a bag.

Download the Instructions

Print out our step-by-step guide to making ice cream—no ice cream maker needed:

Ice Cream In A Bag
Illustration by Allrecipes

Flavor Ideas

  • You can customize your ice cream before or after the big shake up by adding flavored syrups, bits of fruit, crushed cookies, or small candies.
  • If you add extra stuff to your ice cream after you shake it up, be sure to fold in the ingredients gently or you might end up with ice cream soup!
  • Get more ideas to turn plain ol' vanilla ice cream into rock star recipes.

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