Roasted Strawberry Rhubarb Basil Ice Cream

Few things make me happier than the arrival of rhubarb season. Once I see it making an appearance at farmers’ markets and on store shelves, I know that winter really, truly is over. But even more exciting than the symbolic significance those strange red stalks hold is their amazing flavor — a unique tartness that plays well with others, like strawberries, citrus, and ginger. It’s darn tasty, and so versatile. It’s the pumpkin of the spring! And while the pumpkin supply is practically endless during fall in the northeast, rhubarb season seems to vanish all too quickly. And that is why I’ve developed a method for making sure I get my fill of rhubarb each year: If I see it, I buy it. And I buy most of it. The first day it showed up at the store, I’d stuffed about half of the pile in a bag when I realized people were waiting for me to quit being such a hog and get out of the way. The next week, no one was around, so I took all but three puny stalks. Yeah, I’m that jerk.

Looking through my archives, you wouldn’t really pick up on my rhubarb obsession. That, I’m sorry to say, is due to the fact that everything gets eaten before I have a chance to photograph it. Pies, sodas, fruit leather — it’s all gone. We ate it all. But I saved you some ice cream! Wasn’t that nice of me?

As soon as I tasted this stuff, I knew I couldn’t let it vanish without being documented. I usually try to avoid the combination of strawberries and rhubarb because J is mildly allergic to the former, but it seemed essential for this ice cream (especially because I wanted to bring basil into the mix). If you’re skeptical about the use of basil in a sweet dish, I urge you to suspend your disbelief and give it a try. It adds a subtle, almost anise-like flavor, which compliments the sweet/tartness of the strawberries and rhubarb perfectly. The end result was divine. I know an ice cream is good when I want to melt it down and drink it so I can consume it more quickly, and this is one of those ice creams. Even J ate it, under my watchful and somewhat concerned gaze, promising me that it was fine because he’d taken allergy meds earlier that day. My only teeny tiny complaint was that, once frozen, it got a bit icy. Some brief reading online seems to indicate that the way to remedy this is by adding more sugar (but if anyone has any other insights, please share). I’ve made no adjustments to the recipe below, so if you’d like to try adding more sugar to avoid iciness, an additional 1/8 – 1/4 of a cup might help. (Also, the original recipe called for brown sugar, which I was out of. This may have a different effect on the final consistency, and also add a nice depth of flavor if you’d like to give it a try in place of white sugar.)

Roasted Strawberry Rhubarb Basil Ice Cream

(adapted from Not Without Salt)

yield: approximately 1 quart

  • 2 cups of rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups of strawberries, stems removed and halved
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large basil leaves, minced
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 1 of cup milk

Preheat oven to 400°. Combine rhubarb, strawberries, and lemon juice and zest in a pan. Roast for around 15–20 minutes, or until everything is nice and soft. Remove and let cool for 10–15 minutes.

Add rhubarb/strawberry/lemon mixture to your food processor. (If you aren’t neurotic about non-chunky ice cream, you can add the basil now as well and skip the straining part.) Process for several minutes, or until the mixture seems very smooth. Run mixture through a sieve, stirring until you’ve gotten everything through and separated out any remaining chunky bits. Return the mixture to the food processor, add in your basil, and process for another minute.

Transfer mixture to saucepan. Heat on medium and add the vanilla extract and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved, then remove from heat and let cool.

Once your mixture has cooled down a bit, add in the heavy cream and milk. Cover the mixture and refrigerate for at least an hour, or, ideally, overnight. (I also read that an overnight chilling can make a big difference in the final texture, so I will be doing that from now on.)

Process chilled mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


  1. Dani says

    One way to minimize crystal formation in ice cream is by adding a little bit of alcohol, which lowers the freezing point. That is provided that no kids will be eating it. It’s great stopping by your blog for the recipes and the laughs alike :)

  2. Mary says

    Carey, I don’t know if you have a green thumb (insert my hubby here) or not (this would be me), but if you’re of the former type rhubarb does exceptionally well in the garden. (Just mentioning this fact, seeing as you’re the self-declared, ‘rhubarb-jerk’.) As I speak, the big green monster is dominating our little garden. I think its peers are jealous. :-) Oh, and concerning your ice cream…. yes, yes, and yes! Cannot wait to try it out. I think I’m on the verge of a blog-crush here!

    • says

      Ooooh, I’ve so thought about trying to grow some! Unfortunately, I’ve been hesitant to do so in my current location (small apartment with a small garden area) because my landlord would probably have my head. :) I am so very jealous of your rhubarb patch! Once I stop bumming around apartments and get myself a real house with a respectable garden, I will absolutely have to grown one of my own. Thank you, Mary!

    • says

      They’re dangerous, for sure! I just bought the ice cream attachment for my mixer a couple months ago, and I see LOTS of ice cream in my future this summer . . .

    • says

      I want to! I bet I’d love it too. I promise to serve you some homemade basil ice cream off that tray if/when I see you at the end of the month. :)

    • says

      Thanks, Stephanie! I’m rapidly becoming obsessed with adding herbs to sweets — they add such a great and unexpected flavor. I am really looking forward to making more herbed ice creams this summer! :)

  3. says

    I’m going to have to borrow my friend’s ice cream maker to try this recipe out! Does the attachment for your mixer work well? I’ve been thinking about getting one but wondered how others like using them…

    • says

      I am very happy with the KitchenAid attachment. It’s relatively compact and easier to stow away (which is crucial for me and my limited kitchen space, which couldn’t possibly hold another big crazy gadget!). I’m assuming the stand-alone machines could probably yield larger batches, but if you aren’t looking to make more than 1 quart at a time, I think the attachment is definitely the way to go.

      And this ice cream is so good! There was a little bit left over that wound up getting freezer burned, but I still couldn’t bear to throw it out. I take bites of it now and then and it’s still delicious, even with the iciness. :)

    • says

      Thank you, Annie! It’s amazing what roasting can do for the flavor of pretty much anything. I’d been seeing a lot of things about roasting fruits and berries over the past year or so, which is why I decided to give it a try with this. I definitely wasn’t disappointed!

  4. Natasha says

    Could you make this without the rhubarb? Would you have to increase the amount of strawberries used?

  5. rohan goyal says

    Hi Carey,

    I love the idea of adding basil for the perfect summer flavors. I would like your counsel and thoughts.. what do you think of adding ginger root to the mix as well? I am thinking about adding a few chunks of ginger root and roasting it in the oven along with the rest of the ingredients.

    • says

      Hi Rohan! I think some ginger would be splendid in this. It would probably work best if it was grated or finely diced for roasting, since it won’t cook as quickly as the berries and rhubarb. Good luck!

  6. Helen says

    This ice cream is incredible!!! I read about your iciness problem. What I did was add 4 egg yolks, and I had to adjust the recipe as my ice cream maker can only handle a quart, tops. I also used a mix of heavy cream and 10% cream. I made the custard the standard way with yolks, sugar, and cream. I also did not have lemon, but used just a squeeze of lime juice into it, after pureeing the fruit.

    I made the custard and fruit mixture last night and chilled it overnight, ran it through the machine this morning. The texture is very, very creamy. Such a winner! Thanks for this great recipe!!!!

    • says

      Thank you for the tips, Helen! I’ve done a lot of reading about homemade ice cream since I became obsessed with making it this summer, and it definitely seems like fat and alcohol are the best cures for the iciness problem (and, perhaps, all problems?). :) I’ve also tried using a pinch or two of guar gum in sorbets. It definitely inhibits the growth of ice crystals, but it also tends to make things feel rather slimy once it reacts with water, so it walks a fine line between being helpful and being gross.

      So glad you enjoyed this recipe. It’s still my favorite of all the recipes I’ve made since I bought my ice cream bowl this spring!

  7. says

    I’m about to geek out on you a lil bit :D I’ve been researching ice cream too, hubs and I are going to start our own ice cream shop one day. I’m also a huge science nerd who studied hard in chemistry just because I liked it :|

    I’m sorry for info-bombing your post when we haven’t been properly introduced. Hi, I’m Susie :)

    Binding up the water the way to reduce iciness; eggs partially do this (by making an emulsion), or you can also add cornstarch or tapioca starch (or arrowroot.. I wouldn’t personally use cornstarch because it reacts less well to freezing than some others) to thicken the mix. Adding sugar will depress the freezing temperature but it won’t do anything to mitigate the ice crystal formation. The addition of protein also improves texture–egg yolks or nonfat dry milk both add protein. I think it has something to do with how well protein traps air? and probably aids in uniform crystallization by keeping water droplets separated. I use Jeni Britton Bauer’s egg-free method of binding up the water with tapioca starch; she uses cream cheese to bump up the protein as well, but I use nonfat dry milk, because I think cream cheese makes every flavor taste like cheesecake : Especially lighter fruit flavors.

    • says

      Hi Susie! Thanks so much for all the info! The protein thing makes sense to me, especially since I’ve noticed that all of my custard-base ice creams have been, by far, the best texture-wise. I’d also heard an interview with some ice cream lady on the radio that mentioned adding a little bit of guar gum to the base, as it inhibits the formation of ice crystals. I tried it and it definitely works, but I am NOT a fan of the sliminess it imparts. I will definitely try the dry milk the next time around (especially since I’m not a big fan of that cheesecake flavor!). :)


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