12 Things You Didn't Know Your Ice Cream Maker Could Do

An ice cream maker is the perfect way to make a delicious frozen treat at home. It works by freezing a creamy base mixture against the extremely cold side of the machine's interior basin, which churns at a preselected speed as an interior paddle scrapes the newly formed ice cream off the sides. Though it can give you a full cannister of tasty ice cream in about 25 minutes or so, there's other things you can make in the appliance.


For example, some machines have settings specifically for frozen drinks, sorbet, and gelato. Others allow you to monitor the speed and adjust it as needed. The most high-tech options even have a collection of paddles that work for everything from icy slushies to creamy horchata. Additionally, many ice cream makers are made for easy access to get to the ice cream and clean the machine, so you can use them to keep popsicles, beverages, or cold dishes chilled on a hot day.

In other words, you can easily use an ice cream maker to make classic flavors like chocolate or strawberry. But you can also utilize it to try new and novel recipes or take advantage of the super-cooling design by removing certain parts. With that in mind, here are 12 things you didn't know your ice cream maker could do.


Make frozen sorbet

A frozen concoction of ice, sugar, and flavorings, sorbet is made in a similar manner as ice cream. It's dairy-free (so it won't have the same creaminess) but it has an icier texture and more intense flavor. Even without the dairy, sorbet can be smooth and rich — and thanks to the consistent churning motion of an ice cream maker, can be made in that appliance, as well.


Now, some models have a specific setting for sorbet, allowing you to easily make a dessert with a creamy consistency and uniform texture. You can also add everything from chocolate to pureed fruit into sorbet, making it a highly customizable option. Make sure to use high-quality ingredients; sorbet doesn't include a lot of extras that can mask fruit past its prime, for instance.

Once the mixture is made, pour it into the ice cream maker and let it churn. Depending on how firm you want the sorbet, you can either serve it directly from the machine or freeze it for a firmer final result. It's also important to find the right ratio of ingredients to prevent one of the many mistakes when making sorbet (including it being too watery, too icy, or too bland). Additionally, your ice cream maker's manual often includes delicious sorbet recipes and bases that you can customize.


Mix up refreshing slushies

If you're craving a blue raspberry slushie (while wondering how the flavor came to be), you can use an ice cream maker to create one at home. These delicious treats are merely icy drinks that are thick enough to eat with a spoon or drink with a straw, after all. Compared to some other frozen drinks and desserts, slushies are heavier on ice and have a thinner consistency. Like sorbet, slushies are dairy-free, and made by combining fresh fruit or flavorings, sugar, and hot water to create a base with dissolved sugar.


Once the mixture is frozen, just add water or juice and run the ice cream maker on the slushie setting (if it has one). If there's no specific setting, use a low speed and watch the consistency of the mix as it freezes, adding more liquid to thin it out if needed. You can also use the frozen drink setting and re-spin it if it starts to freeze to the sides of the basin.

Chill popsicles and store-bought ice cream

Since many ice cream makers have a double-walled, insulated tumbler that's removable for cleaning, it can make a great cooler. With that in mind, you can keep store-bought ice creams and popsicles cold and frozen in the basin of an ice cream maker since it's literally designed to keep things cool.


Many models require you freeze the basin before starting the ice cream-making process so it stays cold. However, if you want to use it as a makeshift cooler, just don't place the basin back in the ice cream maker. Instead, put your popsicles, ice cream bars, or ice cream sandwiches inside along with ice.

Ice cream makers often have a square bottom that lets it sit flat in the freezer, and can likely hold a quart or two of ice cream. Of course, you can also put popsicles and ice cream bars upright in their individual packages and pull them out as desired. Depending on the size, you might need to leave off the lid, and be sure to avoid putting unwrapped popsicles or bars in the basin because they'll likely stick together.


Create cold dips

You can add just about anything to an ice cream mixture, including savory ingredients like buffalo sauce and blue cheese. In fact, this particular appliance can make excellent cold dips for veggies or chicken wings that you serve as an appetizer. Some cold dip-type mixtures might even be touted as ice cream, but you can adjust the recipe to make a dish less sweet if you prefer (though a sweeter profile works well with tangy blue cheese and spicy buffalo sauce).


Use the regular ice cream setting even when making savory ice creams to use as cold dips. Some models have a special mix-in setting that slows the paddle when larger pieces are included; use this setting at the very end after the rest of the mixture is frozen. Because the basin is double insulated, you can also store the dip right in the maker to keep it cool when serving. Depending on the size of your ice cream maker, you might be able to make a large batch and freeze some for later, too.

Indulge in frozen cocktails

Since not every alcohol freezes solid in the freezer, you can enjoy an icy beverage such as a frozen margarita or boozy milkshake when you use an ice cream maker to prepare them. Plus, whipping up a frozen cocktail in your ice cream maker can often be done easily by using the slushie or frozen drink setting.


Some recipes include dairy, while others use water or juice as a base liquid. This will impact the creaminess of the final cocktail, but the ice cream maker can handle both. If your machine has a frozen drink setting, this is ideal for frozen cocktails, although you can add more liquid or re-spin the ice cream maker if you prefer to adjust the consistency.

There are plenty of recipes for well-known frozen cocktails, also, and many ice cream maker user manuals including a recipe guide of some sort. You can craft your own non-boozy creations, as well, by substituting alcohol for juice, milk, water, or other liquid ingredients. You'll still need ice for a slushy consistency, although you can swap in frozen fruit or puree for ice if you want to amp up the flavor (without watering down the drink).


Use the bowl to keep side dishes cold

You already know an ice cream maker's basin works great as a cooler for pre-frozen treats. But it can also keep dishes cold while in a buffet line or when you're leaving for the day and need to keep something on ice. After all, you can ensure potato salad and pasta salad (among other options) stay chilled by keeping them in the insulated bowl of the ice cream maker.


Before heading out to a barbecue, chill the bowl and transfer your dish into it to keep it cold. Depending on the size, you may need to pack the bottom with extra ice to keep your dish at the top of the deep basin. Fortunately, the insulated basin should also keep the ice frozen. The bowl also makes a great cooler for smaller items, such as fresh fruit, veggies, or snacking cheese, because you can pack them in ice and put the lid on the top to keep it all contained. The flat bottom lets you put the makeshift cooler in the car, on the pool deck, or in the sand without worrying about it spilling.

Perk up with iced coffee

You can skip the long lines and high cost of coffee spots with an ice cream maker. In fact, you can quickly and easily make iced coffee at home by pouring hot coffee into the chilled bowl of an ice cream maker. Since the appliance rapidly cools liquids, it results in a ready-to-drink iced coffee faster than you'd be able to order one at a shop.


For simple iced coffee, swirl it through the ice cream maker's bowl for a few seconds. You don't even need to turn on the machine; just keep the bowl in the freezer beforehand so it's cold, then pour the coffee directly into the bowl, turning it around with your hands until it's chilled. Don't add ice, sugar, or any other ingredients into the ice cream maker unless you want to create a different coffee beverage.

Once the coffee is chilled, you can pour it into a glass and add milk, sugar, or cream. If you're looking for a frozen coffee beverage, add milk and sugar to coffee as a base and churn it in the ice cream maker like you would a smoothie. If you want a more drinkable consistency, use the frozen drink setting. For something a bit firmer, use a frozen yogurt or ice cream setting.


Start your day with a smoothie bowl

Your can begin your day with a nutrient-rich smoothie bowl. Simply whip up a smoothie base in an ice cream maker, then top it with your favorite ingredients for additional flavor and texture. You can find frozen blends for smoothies at the grocery store or make your own from frozen fruit, a sweetener like agave, and liquid such as coconut milk. You can also add veggies for some extra nutrients.


Blend the ingredients together to form the base before putting the blended mixture directly into the ice cream maker's bowl. Once it freezes, select the smoothie or smoothie bowl setting (if the machine has one) and let it come to the right consistency.

One great thing about smoothie bowls is the customization and endless selection of options you can use as toppings. Fresh fruit is a popular and healthy choice, while granola brings crunch and flavor — often with an extra nutritional boost from the seeds and nuts.

Have an extra ice bucket for drinks

If you're entertaining, you might find yourself wanting another spot to store or serve chilled drinks such as soda, beer, or wine. Of course, the bowl of an ice cream maker can easily double as an additional ice bucket. More than that, many models look sleek enough that you wouldn't even suspect its humble origins as a kitchen appliance.


Many ice cream makers have a stainless-steel bowl with an exterior and interior lining. Some even come in bright colors that give an extra pop to your tablescape. To make the most of the basin as an ice bucket, pop it in the freezer before putting in any ice. This allows the sides to get even colder and will keep the ice frozen for longer.

If you're using your ice cream maker to store drinks, leave room to nestle any bottles or cans and leave the lid off the basin. The exact number of beverages you can store will depend on the size of your machine, but most models have small basins — so don't expect to hold drinks for a larger crowd in your ice cream maker's bowl.

Enjoy frozen horchata

Traditional horchata is a Mexican drink made by blending rice and cinnamon water, then straining it through cheesecloth to get the lumpy bits out. You add sugar once it's completely strained (and has a silky consistency), resulting in a deliciously smooth and creamy spiced drink. It's normally served cold, but this summer favorite can be upgraded with the frozen treatment thanks to your ice cream maker.


The ingredients for frozen horchata are similar to the normal beverage, but you can use rice milk to save time. Rather than let rice soak up cinnamon water — which can take many hours — opting for rice milk lets you make horchata in a fraction of the time. You also won't need to strain out the lumpy parts using cheesecloth. Simply put the rice milk with simple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon in the ice cream maker to mix up the base.

Keep in mind: The horchata mixture needs to freeze before it's ready to go into the ice cream maker for churning. Once it's frozen, though, add it and let it blend on the frozen drink setting or smoothie setting (depending on the ice cream maker you use). After it finishes, you'll be rewarded with a frothy frozen horchata that's easy to make — and just as delicious as the time-intensive traditional option.


Try Indian lassi

When you want to whip up something refreshing in your ice cream maker besides ice cream, consider a delicious lassi. The frothy drink hails from India and uses yogurt and other ingredients to create a smoothie-link beverage. Lassi has a creamy consistency (thanks to its yogurt base) and combines crushed ice and cold water with yogurt and any additional ingredients.


To make lassi in an ice cream maker, you'll need to freeze the base mixture first. For fruit lassi, this consists of fruit puree, yogurt, and sweetener (which works by adding flavor while taking the place of ice). Once it's frozen, transform it into lassi in the ice cream maker on a smoothie or slushy setting. Many models have a setting specifically for creamy drinks like smoothies, after all (as we've noted). If you're using the frozen drink setting, the ice cream maker will likely turn off automatically when it is the right consistency.

Mango lassi is particularly popular and has a long history in Indian cuisine. You can also use alternative options that work with various nutritional needs, such as a non-dairy cashew yogurt or one that uses agave in place of honey.


Indulge in decadent gelato

Gelato has more milk and less cream compared to traditional ice cream and is churned more slowly, resulting in a rich and delicious dessert. Gelato also has a lower fat content since it uses milk rather than heavy cream (like in ice cream). Now, since gelato isn't often as widely available in the U.S. as standard ice cream, making your own in an ice cream maker may be the preferred route since you can also customize the taste.


You can use your ice cream maker on a slow setting (or gelato setting if it has one) to make this tasty treat. The gelato setting should churn the mixture much slower than a standard ice cream setting, which is crucial for making gelato rather than ice cream. The reason this is so important has to do with the air that's incorporated into the mixture as it's churned. Ice cream churns fast, resulting in a lot of tiny air bubbles. Gelato, on the other hand, goes around much slower and has less air overall, which gives it a much denser and richer texture.