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Sicilian-Style Gelato Base (Dairy-Free, Vegan Options)


Sicilian-Style Gelato Base (Dairy-Free, Vegan Options)

This Sicilian-style gelato base uses cornstarch as a thickening agent, which produces a bright white gelato with a wonderfully silky texture.

How to make a Sicilian-style gelato base to create the frozen treats of your dreams! //

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This versatile Sicilian-style gelato base replaces most of the usual egg yolks required for making a rich gelato base with a bit of cornstarch. This produces a bright white gelato and a wonderfully silky, mouth-coating texture. It also results in a leaner treat that tastes every bit as luscious as its egg yolk-based counterpart.

Video Class: How to Make Gelato

Video Class: How to Make Gelato: Tips and Recipes to Make the Delightful Italian Frozen Treat //

Never made gelato before? Curious about what makes gelato different from ice cream? Check out my detailed video class: How to Make Gelato: Tips and Recipes to Make the Delightful Italian Frozen Treat. In it, you’ll find out what makes gelato different from ice cream, how to make a versatile gelato base you can turn into a variety of flavors, and all my secrets and tips to churn and serve outstanding gelato. I even share how to make dairy-free vegan gelato! In short, it’s a very thorough, colorful class that will quickly turn you into a gelato master. Watch Now!

How to make a Sicilian-style gelato base to create the frozen treats of your dreams! //

Sicilian-Style Gelato Base

This Sicilian-style gelato base uses cornstarch as a thickening agent, which produces a bright white gelato with a wonderfully silky texture.
Prep Time:15 mins
Cook Time:10 mins
Churning / Freezing Time:2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time:2 hrs 55 mins
Servings 1 quart (4 cups/1L)
Author Marie Asselin,, adapted from Saveur Magazine


  • 2 1/4 cups milk, preferably whole (3.25% m.f.) or partly skimmed (2% m.f.)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream (35% m.f.)
  • 1 vanilla bean split lengthwise (optional, use only to make vanilla bean gelato, or if instructed by the recipe you’re making)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 large egg yolk


  • In a medium saucepan, pour 1 1/4 cups (310 ml) of the milk and all of the cream, then add the split vanilla bean, if using. Warm over medium heat until it just starts to bubble around the edge (no need to bring it to a boil).
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the remaining 1 cup (250 ml) milk, sugar, and cornstarch together. Remove the saucepan with the hot milk from the heat and whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return the saucepan to medium heat and cook, stirring regularly, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture thickens slightly, 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Place the egg yolk in a medium bowl and whisk until pale and thickened, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Temper the egg yolk by slowly pouring one ladleful of the hot milk mixture into the yolk, whisking constantly, then slowly pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan, whisking to combine.
  • Remove from the heat. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for a few hours, or preferably overnight.
    The gelato base must be thoroughly cool before churning: this will produce the smoothest, silkiest texture.
  • Fish the vanilla bean out of the custard. (You can rinse the used vanilla bean under cold water, pat it dry, then add it to a jar of brown sugar to keep it moist and infuse some of the vanilla flavor into it.)
  • Strain the gelato base to make sure it is silky smooth. Pour into the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions. Stop the machine when the gelato is thick and icy but still easily spoonable.
  • STORAGE: Transfer the gelato to an airtight container and freeze until firm, about two hours. The gelato will keep, frozen, for up to two weeks.
  • SERVING: Always take this gelato out to room temperature 15 to 20 before serving to soften it and make it easier to scoop. 
  • MAKE IT DAIRY FREE: Substitute lactose-free milk or oat milk for the regular milk, and lactose-free heavy cream or soy cream for the regular heavy cream.
  • MAKE IT VEGAN: Get my recipe and instructions for making vegan gelato right here -->

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Author: Marie Asselin

Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Churning / Freezing Time: 2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time: 2 hrs 55 mins


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  1. This is by far the best ice cream recipe I have ever made, thank you, thank you!
    I’ve substituted link for constituted whole milk powder, and used a shaker to both mix the cornstarch/milk/sugar and “beat” the yolk, which meant less dishes!
    The ice cream has a lovely gloss and a slightly chewy texture, and it comes out of the freezer soft and scoopable.
    Don’t be fooled when you taste test the mixture when all is done and it seems very sweet, it tastes superb when frozen!
    Will definitely try the vegan version next, yum 😊

    • Thank you so much Amata! That shaker tip is so fun! I’m elated that you loved this gelato as much as I did. Thank you for taking the time to write, it means a lot to me 🤗

    • Hello Rosalie, this recipe indeed allows you to make a gelato base. To turn it into different flavors, you need to refer to my other gelato recipes, which you’ll find right here:
      Your comment made me realize it would be super useful to link to different gelato flavors right here in this post so I’ll make sure to improve it! Thanks for your feedback!

  2. Hi, love the recipe, but can you try to publish your recipes measured in grams? everyone outside US would appreciate it very much and shouldn’t be too hard to have both :)

    • I am in process of adding metric measurements to all my recipes! This one will be updated soon. I definitely want my recipes to be useful to as many people as possible! Thanks for pointing this out Andre!

  3. Love your website and gelato recipes!
    Would like to use the Sicilian base to make banana gelato and same base to make salted caramel. Should I make a 2 cup banana paste and add to the base before churning? Same for salted caramel- could I add 2 cups homemade sauce to the base, then churn?
    Thanks for your input.

    • Hello Brenda! My general rule of thumb to create a fruit-based gelato is to add 2 cups of fruit puree. To make banana gelato, I would use ripe but not overripe bananas (the bananas should only have tiny black dots on them, or be right before that stage–don’t let them ripen as far as you would for banana bread). Count about 2 bananas per cup, so 4 bananas for a batch. I’d make the Sicilian base, let it cool overnight, then add the chopped up bananas to the base, puree the mixture until very smooth, then strain and churn.

      As for caramel gelato, the process wouldn’t be as simple as mixing in caramel sauce into the gelato. I’ll soon be sharing my own recipe for salted caramel gelato and it involves caramelizing the sugar, then mixing in the heavy cream and milk, and finally the yolks. Caramel gelato works best with a classic gelato base (as opposed to the Sicilian one.) That said, I don’t think you could go wrong by mixing in 2 cups of premade caramel sauce into your gelato base, but I think the caramel flavor would be less intense. However, I’m thinking mixing 1 cup caramel sauce into the base, then swirling the 2nd cup into the gelato after churning would be really nice! You’d get a soft caramel flavor in the gelato, with swirls of real caramel throughout. Just a thought!

      I hope these tips are helpful. Happy churning!

  4. Hi, do you think I could substitute potato starch for the corn starch? Would it make a huge difference?

    • Hi Rachel! I’ve never tried using potato starch but I’ve been doing some reading and it does look like you could substitute it for cornstarch. It has no flavor and is gluten-free, just as cornstarch is. The one warning is that potato starch tends to thicken liquids more quickly than cornstarch, so you likely won’t need to simmer the custard as long (before you mix in the final egg yolk) if you use potato starch. I read that an extended cooking time for potato starch can actually break it down and cancel the thickening effect. If you ever do try using potato starch, I’d love to hear about your experience! I’ll try it myself. That might be a great tip to add to my recipe! Thanks for reaching out!

  5. Hi everyone!!
    I really want to make Gelato, but I am confused about corn starch. Which brand do you suggest?
    Regards!! :)

  6. Made your Sicilian style raspberry rose gelato last week (substituting frozen strawberries instead) and it came out delicious! However….the recipe barely makes one quart, not two quarts as it says in the yield. Disappointed as we wanted more!

    • Hello Lisa! Yes, my gelato recipes require the use of an ice cream maker. There are lots of no-churn ice cream/gelato recipes out there, but they almost always use condensed milk as a work-around to achieve a creamy texture without churning. In my opinion, the use of condensed milk steers you away from the true nature of gelato (I’m a gelato nerd like that!). There are reliable and affordable models: the one I’ve been using for years is a basic Cuisinart model that cost me about $70. If you loved iced treats, it could be worth investing in one!