Caramel Pecan Ice Cream Recipe

Candied pecans, freshly churned vanilla ice cream, and a ribbon of creamy caramel. This homemade caramel pecan ice cream is worth the wait.

hand holding sugar cone with two scoops of caramel pecan ice cream

❤️ Why you’ll love this recipe

  • The right way to make ice cream. There’s lame homemade ice cream, and then there’s real homemade ice cream. There are eggs, a custard to cook, straining, cooling time, and yes, churning. The good news? Electric ice cream makers are affordable and do a great job.
  • It’s simple to make. And there might be a lot of steps in this recipe, but most of it is just waiting for things to cool. Once you get the hang of making cream at home, you won’t be able to stop with just candied pecans and a nice caramel swirl. You’ll be making cookies and cream ice cream, peppermint ice cream, and more.
  • Delicious. This recipe, with the salty-sweet pecans and delicious caramel, will always be one of your favorites.

This is an overview of the ingredients. You’ll find the full measurements and instructions in the printable recipe at the bottom of the page.

cream, milk, sugar, eggs, salt, cinnamon, butter, and pecans on marble counter

You’ll need the following for this delicious ice cream:

  • pecan halves
  • brown sugar
  • cinnamon
  • salt
  • water
  • vanilla
  • whole milk
  • heavy cream
  • granulated sugar
  • vanilla 
  • egg yolks
  • pinch salt
  • prepared caramel sauce
  • ice cream maker
  • loaf pan
  • strainer
  • whisk


Step One: make candied pecans

grid of 4 images showing candied pecans being made in cast iron skillet

First of all, if you want to use store-bought candied pecans, don’t let me stop you! They will work just fine! But I’ve never been able to find any I like, and making them at home with this method is easy.

You won’t get a hard candied shell, more of a cinnamon-caramel coating. They’re still delicious, and perfect for making ice cream with.

Preheat your oven to 350. These pecans start on the stovetop and finish in the oven.

First, you toast them in a skillet with the melted butter, stirring over medium heat until they just begin to brown. Add the brown sugar and stir as it melts. Then add the salt, vanilla, and water. The water will bubble and turn the sugar into a sticky caramel coating.

Pour the nuts onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes. Let them cool right on the baking sheet. Snack on a few, if you’d like.

Step Two: Make the vanilla ice cream

grid of 4 images showing process of heating vanilla custard and tempering eggs

There are so many pictures in this part that it might feel a bit overwhelming. It’s not! It seems like a weird process when you first do it, but it’s not hard.

So our first step in making the custard is to heat the milk, cream, and 1/2 cup of the sugar, in a saucepan over medium heat. We want it to be steaming and 170 degrees.

Now, while this is happening, we are going to beat the egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. A hand mixer is ideal, but a whisk will work in a pinch. The egg yolk should increase in volume and become lighter.

Now we have two components. But we can’t just go pouring the egg yolk into the hot milk; it will scramble the eggs. We have to slowly heat the eggs by adding the warm milk mixture, one-half cup at a time, into the bowl with the eggs. Not all of the milk, but about half of it.

Step three: Finishing and straining the ice cream custard

grid of 4 images showing hot vanilla custard for ice cream, and straining

Once that’s done, we can safely dump the eggs into the medium saucepan. And now the whole thing gets heated up to 185 degrees. Keep stirring while you do this and don’t let the mixture boil.

Remove it from the heat, and stir in the salt and vanilla.

Now we strain it! Yes, this is a necessary step. I use my Greek yogurt strainer so I can dump it easily, but simply pouring it over a metal mesh strainer will work perfectly fine.

Pop that little guy in the fridge for a long time. Overnight is best. Don’t forget to put your ice cream insert in the freezer so it’s ready to go.

Step Four: Churning and mix-ins

4 process images showing churning ice cream and adding caramel with butter knife.

Now for the fun part! Pour the custard into the cream maker, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Churn until it has the consistency of soft serve, then add in the candied pecans either to the machine or mix by hand.

Scoop everything into a loaf pan or whatever container you’d like. Let it firm up in the freezer for an hour or so, then remove it, and pour the caramel on top, swirling throughout.

Pop it back into the freezer until firm, scoop and serve!

🥫 Storage instructions

Homemade ice cream is best enjoyed right away, but it can be stored in the freezer for a few weeks. If you plan to store your ice cream, make sure to place it in an airtight container.

🔍 FAQs

Can I substitute something else for the heavy cream?

No! Heavy cream is important in this recipe.

Can I just add the caramel to the ice cream maker?

No, you need to swirl it in at the end to still have ribbons of caramel.

👩🏻‍🍳 Expert tips

  • If you want to make this treat, you’ll need some patience. It’s easy enough to make, but requires a little bit of time and attention.
  • You have to follow your ice cream maker’s manufacturer’s instructions. Some will require you to chill the base overnight, some won’t.
  • You can make the pecans first, or while the ice cream is chilling. Your choice.
  • Feel free to add fudge or chocolate chips to this recipe with the caramel.

📘 Related Recipes

large scoop of homemade ice cream with pralines and caramel inside

📖 Here’s the recipe

close up view of homemade vanilla ice cream with nuts and caramel

Homemade Caramel Pecan Ice Cream

A creamy and rich homemade vanilla ice cream with swirls of caramel and homemade candied pecans
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
chilling time 1 day
Total Time 1 day 1 hour
Serving Size 8 servings


For the Candied Pecans

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the Ice Cream

  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla s
  • 4 egg yolks
  • pinch salt

For Swirling

  • 1/2 cup prepared caramel sauce


Make the Candied Pecans

  • Preheat oven to 350. Prepare baking sheet by lining with parchment paper.
  • Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and stir about 2 minutes, until lightly toasted. Add the brown sugar and stir until melted.
  • Add the water, salt and vanilla and stir until water evaporates and pecans are coated in a thick, sticky coating.
  • Pour pecans out on to parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 6-7 minutes, until crisp. Allow to cool while you make the custard. Smash into smaller pieces before adding, if desired.

Make the Vanilla Custard

  • Heat the milk, cream, and 1/2 cup of sugar, in a saucepan over medium heat, until warm and steaming, or about 170 degrees.
  • Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until light yellow in color and well combined.  (A hand mixer on low will work well.)
  • Temper the eggs by adding half of the warm milk mixture, a half cup at a time.  Then add the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk and cream.
  •  Heat the saucepan, which now contains all of the milk, cream, sugar, and eggs, over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches 185 degrees.  Do not boil.  Once off the heat, add a pinch of salt, and the vanilla extract, if using.
  • Strain the custard using cheesecloth or a stainer, then immediately place in the refrigerator to chill. . Chill for 4-24 hours, until very cold.
  • Freeze ice cream according to manufacturer's instructions.  When it has reached the consistency of soft serve ice cream, add the candied pecans into the machine. When throughly blended, scoop into loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze at least 1 hour.
  • Remove vanilla ice cream from freezer and pour caramel sauce on top.  Gently stir with butter knife until swirls are throughout.  Place back in freezer to firm for at least 3 hours.    Will keep well in freezer up to 1 week.


You can make the pecans on Day 1 or Day 2 of this process.  
Don’t rush any part of homemade ice cream!  It won’t set up properly.
Caramel Pecan Ice Cream Recipe

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