Orange & Sichuan Peppercorn Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks

Orange & Sichuan Peppercorn Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks

I cannot believe that it’s already Thursday. I attribute the seeming disappearance of the week to the fact that I traveled to NY on Sunday, to house-sit while my parents are away for the next week. If you’re a regular reader, you know that I do this fairly often. It is, in fact, one of my favorite things. My parents take vacations to see family and go to things, and that means me, here in upstate NY, doing the exact opposite. Which is pretty much my ideal vacation. I make a mess of my mother’s usually pristine kitchen on a daily basis. I pick a ton of flowers from the gardens, then quell bouts of paranoia about some of them being poisonous because I think my throat feels funny, and maybe my face feels a little tingly too. (I read weird non-fiction medical books. This is the result.) I don’t answer the house phone. I barely look in the mirror. I wear the same comfy sundress until it actually feels dirty. In short, I have a grand ol’ time. Just me, nature, and a couple of cats.

Orange & Sichuan Peppercorn Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks

Back before my little vacation, I made some delicious angel food cupcakes, which left me with a bunch of leftover egg yolks. I was pretty fixated on using them for ice cream, and as I was flipping through my copy of The Perfect Scoop, the recipe for Orange & Sichuan Peppercorn ice cream jumped out at me. I’d had my eye on the recipe for a while, as I love a little bit of unexpected spice in a dessert, especially a cold one. And since I’d also received a jar of sichuan peppercorns in my sample pack from Mark and Reese of Season with Spice, it was pretty much a perfect choice.

I decided that I wanted to add chocolate to the ice cream, seeing as chocolate + orange is great, and chocolate + spiciness is also great. Logically speaking, all three should combine to create one big heap of greatness, right? I won’t keep you guessing, the answer is definitely YES. BOLD ALL CAPS YES.

Orange & Sichuan Peppercorn Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks

I realize that some might be skeptical of the idea of sichuan heat in an ice cream, but I promise you, it’s in no way overwhelming. The aroma of the peppercorns is almost floral, which makes them perfect for a dessert like this. When you eat the ice cream, the first flavor that hits you is the orange, and it pretty much just tastes like a delicious creamsicle. Then you get the spice and the chocolate simultaneously, which are awesome together, and work super well in contrast to the orange. And the heat of the peppercorns lingers a little, just enough to make you want another bite to cool your slightly tingly mouth. And the process repeats itself. Many times.

I think it’s possible that this is my favorite ice cream I’ve made to-date. And that’s saying a lot, because it’s up against some pretty tough contenders. I felt like SUCH a jerk when my mom discovered the ice cream in the freezer the morning before they left and said, “You made ice cream? So we can have some tonight for dessert?!” And I had to respond, “Well……I actually still need to photograph it.” (Don’t worry, mom, I’ll leave some behind for you guys!) Also, if you aren’t sure where to buy sichuan peppercorns, definitely check out the Season with Spice shop. You can find them there, along with tons of other awesome spices.

Orange & Sichuan Peppercorn Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks

Orange & Sichuan Peppercorn Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks

Orange & Sichuan Peppercorn Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks

(adapted from The Perfect Scoop)

makes: 1 quart

3 tbsp sichuan peppercorns

1 1/2 cups of whole milk

1 1/2 cups of heavy cream, divided into 1 cup and 1/2 cup

1 cup of sugar

4 oranges (unsprayed, preferably)

6 large egg yolks

1 cup of roughly chopped bittersweet chocolate

Crack peppercorns into coarse bits with a mortar and pestle. (Alternatively, you can put them in a ziploc bag and smush them with something — rolling pin, hammer, wine bottle, meat tenderizer, etc.)

Heat the milk, 1/2 cup of the cream, sugar, and peppercorns in a saucepan. Zest the oranges directly into the pan. Once the mixture is warm, cover and remove from heat, and let steep for 1 hour.

Pour the remaining 1 cup of cream into a large bowl and set a strainer on top. Prepare an ice bath big enough to hold the large bowl. Rewarm the peppercorn-infused mixture and beat together the 6 egg yolks in a separate bowl. Once the peppercorn-infused mixture is warm, temper the eggs by slowly whisking it into the eggs a little at a time. Once you’ve incorporated the two, pour everything back into the saucepan.

Stir constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer into the large bowl of heavy cream. Transfer bowl to the ice bath and stir until cool.

Chill the custard in the fridge overnight, then process in your ice cream maker as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the chocolate chunks in during the last couple minutes of churning.

Orange & Sichuan Peppercorn Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks

Orange & Sichuan Peppercorn Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks


  1. says

    This combination sounds awesome. Orange and spice and chocolate. Orange and chocolate is not my favourite, but with the sichuan pepper in there, all of a sudden I’m intrigued.

    • says

      Thanks, Sarah! I kind of feel the same way about chocolate + orange. I don’t mind it, but there are just so many other combinations that I prefer in comparison (like mint or coffee or whatever). But all three together worked perfectly. :)

  2. says

    My family’s from Sichuan, so I ate a lot of dishes that were spicy and tongue-numbing growing up. It’s a familiar sensation, and one that I don’t get enough here in New York. (Although I just found an awesome hole-in-the-wall Sichuan restaurant in Chinatown that will be quite sufficient to satisfy my cravings, score!) Anyway, I’ve never ever ever tried the peppercorn in non-savory dishes, but I’ve always wanted to! I can imagine telling my relatives in China about it. They’d be like, what? Why would anyone do something like that? But people can be really stuck in their ways about their cultural traditions, don’t you think? I love the idea of taking advantage of the peppercorn’s floral notes by pairing it with orange. The combination just sounds so… pretty. Also, I love these photos! There’s nothing like a well-loved dining table to complement food (that is your parents’ actual dining table, is it not?). (Actually, that reminds me. A friend of mine who reads my blog told me she wished she had a table similar to mine back when I was shooting a lot on a few slabs of dark chipped wood. It kind of pained me to admit that the surface was fake, and that there was actually nothing rustic about my living space whatsoever, haha.)

    Also, I also love housesitting for my parents! Your mini-break sounds awesome by the way. Hope it’s not too hard to come back to reality!

    • says

      Hehehe, I was so wondering if something like this would be considered a total bastardization by people who are familiar with traditional Sichuan cuisine! :P It’s so tasty though, I feel like it could convert most skeptics. (Except for maybe that woman on pinterest who wrote “I don’t need peppercorns in my orange-chocolate chip ice cream! But I forgive their mistake anyway.” on someone else’s pin of this. *facepalm* Sometimes I think I should stop browsing through the “other pins from” section for my site.)

      And oh man, that’s totally an old shutter posing as a table in the pictures! It IS on top of my parents’ dining room table, which is also pretty cool, but wasn’t the right color for the photos. :) Just being able to take pictures in a real dining room space makes SUCH a difference, though. I love being able to take photos that truly give you a feel for the space they’re in. One day, I’ll have a real house to do that in. In the meantime, I’m cramming all I can into this visit!

  3. says

    OH MY GOD YUM! This looks and sounds so awesome! I can imagine all those flavors working beautifully together. Your photos are making me sooo hungry for spicy sweet chocolatey citrusy ice cream. I love the way you combine unexpected flavors. You’re kind of a genius. :)

    • says

      Thanks, Alanna! :D It really surprised me just HOW well everything worked together. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I made the custard, because it smelled pretty crazy, like that strange orange zest + cream smell, and a whole lot of sichuan. But when it finally finished churning in my ice cream bowl and I took a taste, I was so psyched!

  4. says

    I heart, heart, heart the fruity, tingly, numbing heat of Sichuan peppercorns! I bet it’s just the best in ice cream. Chocolate makes spicy ice cream so much better, I think. Keeps it sweet! And I love that you get down to NY so often. The photos in this post are so great–you made the different location work really well. Enjoy the rest of your time house-sitting!

    • says

      Thanks, Brianne! I had a lot of fun taking these pictures. It’s definitely different than what I’m used to, but in a good way. (I don’t have to set up a weird fake table area and then clone stamp a bunch of stuff in photoshop.) I will miss it when I leave! (I also took a bunch of random pictures the other day around the house and property. I might try to do a rewind post this weekend with some of them!) :)

  5. says

    Love these photos. And man, staying in that cozy farm house in upstate sounds like the *perfect* getaway. It is so nice to just have some time to yourself to relax and do whatever you want. Especially when one of those things that you want to do is make ice cream. And MY GOD. When I heard you mention this ice cream I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about it. I love spicy flavors in creamy sweets, and chocolate, and oranges, and so I am definitely making this for me and Jerm this summer. So happy you shared this wondrous sweet!!!

    • says

      Thanks, Eva! Being away and having time to myself is sooooooo nice. One week doesn’t feel like enough! I kept asking my parents if they were sure there wasn’t something else they wanted to do on the way back to extend their vacation. :P

      You guys will definitely love this one! I get SO excited about ice cream once summer hits, and then I get overwhelmed because there are a million kinds that I want to make. I really glad I made this one happen, though. :D

  6. says

    I love adding things like pepper (and herbs) to sweet treats and this ice cream right here has got my name written all over it! I’m going to have to add this to my ‘to-make’ list for next summer here in Australia and turn it into a dairy-free version. YUM, thanks for sharing love. xx

    • says

      Yes! Totally with you on the herbs too — I love them in sweets so much. I’d love to see what you do with a dairy-free version! (I was thinking that this would be super refreshing as a sorbet with the citrus and the peppercorn spice. The creaminess is great too — it just takes it to a different kind of dessert place.) :)

  7. says

    I LOVE a little heat in sweet treats. I opens up a different dimension of flavor. Great work on the ice cream Carey. Absolutely brilliant and I loving the thought of your vacation n the farm house. Now I know why you said in your flower instafeed ‘no one to stop me’ :)

    • says

      Thank you, Kankana! And oh yes, I totally do a number on my mom’s flower gardens whenever she isn’t around. :D (She has lots of beautiful flowers but never cuts them for arrangements, since they always make her allergies act up. Not me though!)

  8. says

    Yes – this ice cream sounds right up my alley. I love mixing unusual spices with sweets. Like cayenne pepper + chocolate and strawberries + peppers. Need to try this!

    • says

      And, I forgot to mention, I am the SAME way with picking wild flowers or trimming bushes. I ALWAYS feel itchy all over after and am convinced that I must have brushed up against something poisonous (even though I’ve lived at this house for years).

      Just thought you should know that you aren’t the only paranoid weirdo around here. : ]

      • says

        Omg, right??! :) I picked a bunch of these things down at the bottom of our driveway that I thought might be elderflowers. I kept smelling them and they didn’t smell quite the way I expected, so I decided to look up elderflower pictures just to be sure. They definitely weren’t exactly the same. Then I swear my nose felt numb for an hour.

        Sweets + unusual spices are my favorite! I just bought some strawberry jalapeno jelly from the farmers’ market last weekend that I’m so exited to try. (I actually want to turn some of it into a syrup for cocktails with tequila too — I think that could be awesome.)

  9. says

    This ice cream! Seriously! Such a totally stunning combination of flavours (especially with the chocolate in there too). Completely craving this right now.

  10. says

    Chocolate and orange has to be one of my all time favourite ice creams, but this addition of peppercorn is something I have to try.

    So glad to have stumbled across your beautiful blog. I can see I will be getting lost for some time in your beautiful pages. By the way, your photography is absolutely stunning!

  11. says

    Sounds incredible! I’m always so tantalized by your flavor choices, and am actually surprised to hear this is from The Perfect Scoop (how could I have missed it?). I adore a little heat where it’s unexpected, and this sounds right up my ally.

    (Also, I can totally relate to having to tell my family – no, not yet! I haven’t taken pictures! Thankfully they’re all very understanding, haha!)

    • says

      There are so many amazing flavors in that book, it’s kind of easy to overlook things! I’m still going through it and finding recipes that I never remembered seeing before. :)

  12. says

    (firstleh, I can’t believe I haven’t commented on this! What have I been doing!?)

    I think as food bloggers, we all have to pull out the ‘you can’t eat it I haven’t photographed it’ like it’s our freakin motto (…actually it basically is). But SPICY ICE CREAM. YES. DOUBLE YES. I love putting a little bit of a spicy kick into cooling things, like cayenne into lemonade with loads of ice. The heat makes them so ridoncs refreshing! Plus the bittersweet chocolate (it’s my fave. I even went for some 80% the other day and loved it! ugghhh, so good). OH and the photos are awesome, that window and chair in the background, so nice and lifestyle-y and I am waaay jealous of that old pie tin..

    • says

      Hehe, I feel like that happens to me ALL the time. I basically try to obsessively pin things on a regular basis so I can actually go back through and remember to comment on stuff. And then I pin too many things and forget. Good grief. :P

      I loved taking photos in that dining room, and getting to have the chair in the background because there actually IS a chair and a table where I’m taking pictures, not just some old-board-on-top-of-living-room-ottoman fake table. Teehee.

  13. says

    I LOVE Season With Spice’s Sichaun peppercorns but I never would have imagined them in an ice cream! With 3 Tbsp. I bet this is a tongue numbing ice cream and it’s not due to the cold. :) What a amazing combination of flavors. I love this!

  14. Maryellen says

    Wow! I just purchased The Perfect Scoop this week and found your website today. The stars have aligned! Also, many thanks for introducing me to Season with Spice. I’m so inspired by their recipes and placed an order there immediately! I can see your blog will be addictive and dangerous :)

  15. says

    Hi! Making this as we speak (I’ve got the base down, putting it all in the ice cream machine tomorrow), but I was wondering how long you think this will keep in the freezer? I live alone (but I don’t want to take too long because there are more ice creams to be made).


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