Earthy and sweet Matcha Ice Cream is the perfect refreshing treat on a hot day. You only need a few simple ingredients to make this recipe at home. With a deep intensity and rich texture, this green tea ice cream instantly takes me back to Japan. If you want to know what true Japanese matcha ice cream tastes like, this recipe is for you.
Green tea is one of the most popular flavors for sweets in Japan, especially in the form of ice cream. I’ve been living in the U.S. for over 15 years now, and I admit that it’s been hard to find green tea ice cream that tastes authentic to what I enjoyed growing up. The majority of what I’ve tried is either way too sweet or overly creamy, masking the delicate flavor of the tea itself. Also, with matcha ice cream, there should never be a need for any artificial coloring or flavors.
If you want to know what true Matcha Ice Cream (抹茶アイスクリーム) tastes like, I have just the recipe for you. The flavors instantly bring me back to Japan whenever I have this ice cream.
What Does Matcha Ice Cream Taste Like?
The ideal flavor of this refreshing treat should be a perfect balance of earthy, sweet, and slightly bitter. Because matcha is much more concentrated than regular green tea, you often don’t need much to experience its robust profile.
This homemade ice cream recipe accentuates the deep intensity of matcha flavor and is rich in texture. That’s how matcha ice cream tastes in Japan! It should not be overly creamy or milky like what you’d expect from some commercial ice cream brands which downplay the distinct matcha character. In short, expect intense matcha in authentic Japanese ice cream. No weak matcha flavor here.
Since matcha ice cream contains caffeine, consider it the perfect hot weather pick-me-up!
Matcha vs. Green Tea
Yes, both types of traditional Japanese teas come from the same plant (Camellia sinensis). But what sets them apart?
You will find that matcha (抹茶) is more expensive and sold in small canisters as a finely ground powder. This is because matcha is made using only shade-grown tea leaves, meaning the leaves never encounter direct sunlight (resulting in a darker shade of green due to increased chlorophyll production). Only the finest buds are hand-picked, de-stemmed, and stone-ground to become the vibrant green powder that we find in stores.
Green tea (緑茶), on the other hand, is cultivated from leaves that have been left in the sun. This type of tea is often found in tea bags or sold as loose leaf. The flavor is lighter than matcha. It’s still earthy, but it is much less intense because it’s not as concentrated.
To learn more about matcha and how best to store it, please read this post.
Ingredients for Matcha Ice Cream
My Matcha Ice Cream recipe is super simple. It only takes 4 simple ingredients to make— and eggs are not necessary!
- Matcha (Green tea powder)
- Half-and-Half or Milk & Cream (more on this below)
5 Tips for Making Matcha Ice Cream
Tip #1: Buy the right matcha
When purchasing matcha, you’ll notice there are often three types: ceremonial, premium, and culinary grade.
High-grade matcha (ceremonial and premium) is used for drinking and tends to have a bright, vibrant green hue. The “lower grades” are used mostly for culinary purposes, such as this recipe.
Premium quality matcha rarely goes on sale. Even if it does, do not buy in big volume because you need to use it in 2-3 weeks once you open the package. Matcha oxidizes and turns to yellow-green color as time passes. Unless you’re running a commercial bakery, I wouldn’t buy a big bag of matcha for home use.
Even in Japan, matcha is considered an expensive ingredient because of the care required for cultivation.
Tip #2: Half-and-Half vs. Milk & Cream
When I shared this original recipe in 2011, I used Half-and-Half (an American dairy product that is an equal blend of whole milk and light cream) to make the recipe.
Since then, I learned that many of you, who live outside of the U.S., don’t have access to this product, so I’ve included other options for you in this updated recipe. There are 4 options:
- Option 1: 2 ¼ cups (540 ml) whole milk + ¾ cup (180 ml) heavy cream – I used this for my video/recipe below
- Option 2: 3 cups (720 ml) Half-and-Half
- Option 3: 2 cups (480 ml) low-fat milk + 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
- Option 4: 1 ½ cups (360 ml) whole milk + 1 ½ cups (360 ml) light cream
Reference: The Kitchn
Tip #3: Freeze your ice cream bowl
Before diving into making the ice cream, be sure to freeze your ice cream bowl for 24 hours beforehand. If it’s not cold enough, you may end up with liquid even after 30 minutes of churning. If you are not using an ice cream maker, please read this post for helpful tips.
After having this ice cream maker for several years, we invested on this ice cream maker and really love it. We don’t have to worry about reserving a space in the freezer to store the ice cream bowl before making ice cream any more. It’s much more convenient now to make homemade ice cream.
Tip #4: Make Matcha Paste
Matcha is a fine powder and you can’t add it to the large volume of liquid because the powder becomes lumps as soon as it absorbs moisture. Therefore, when you mix matcha with liquid (milk mixture in this recipe), you have to make matcha into the paste form before adding to the large volume of liquid.
Tip #5: Refrigerate the Matcha Milk Mixture
To facilitate the churring properly, you have to chill the ice cream mixture in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. I consider this the hardest part of ice cream making!
Other Ice Cream Recipes:
Ceramics from Musubi Kiln
I’m partnering with a great online ceramic shop from Japan called Musubi Kiln. They kindly offer JOC readers 10% off with a coupon code JUSTONECOOKBOOK for your purchase. In this post, I’ve used:
- Ichikawa Wood Craft Cloud Shaped Wooden Tray
- Rinkuro Kiln Old Imari Story Chrysanthemum Imari Bowl Set
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Matcha Ice Cream
- ¾ cup sugar
- ⅛ tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- 5 Tbsp matcha (green tea powder) (1 Tbsp matcha is 6 g)
- 3 cups milk mixture (pick one option below)
For the Milk Mixture:
Option 1 (I use this in the recipe and video)
- 2¼ cups whole milk
- ¾ cup heavy (whipping) cream (36% or more milkfat)
- 3 cups half-and-half (an American dairy product of equal parts whole milk and cream that contains 10.5-18% milkfat)
- 2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
- 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream (36% or more milkfat)
- 1½ cups whole milk
- 1½ cups light cream or coffee cream (18-30% milkfat)
To Freeze the Ice Cream Bowl (at least 24 hours prior)
- If you're using an ice cream maker that requires you to pre-freeze the bowl (like this one), make sure to freeze it for at least 24 hours. If it’s not cold enough, you may end up with liquid even after 30 minutes of churning. I use this ice cream maker that does not require pre-freezing the bowl. If you don't have an ice cream maker, I hope this post helps.
To Make the Ice Cream Mixture
- Gather all the ingredients.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the ingredients for the milk mixture. Here, I use whole milk and heavy whipping cream (option 2). Turn the heat to medium low.
- Add the sugar and salt to the milk mixture and whisk together. Heat until the sugar is dissolved, then turn off the heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat if you see small bubbles around the edges of the pan. NEVER let it boil.
- Next, make a paste with the matcha. Place the matcha in a medium bowl. Add 3 Tbsp of the heated milk mixture to the matcha bowl. Stir with a silicone spatula until the matcha completely absorbs the liquid. Tip: Matcha is a fine powder that will become lumpy if you add it to a large volume of liquid. Therefore, we have to make a paste with the matcha before adding it to rest of the milk mixture.
- Add another 3 Tbsp of the milk mixture to the bowl and stir until the matcha absorbs the liquid.
- For the third time, add another 3 Tbsp of the milk mixture to the bowl and stir. The mixture will start to become pasty.
- For the fourth time, add another 3 Tbsp of the milk mixture and stir to further loosen up the paste.
- Add a final 3 Tbsp of the milk mixture to the bowl and stir. Now, the matcha mixture is a thick liquid.
- Transfer the matcha mixture into the milk mixture and stir together.
- Change to a whisk and combine this matcha ice cream mixture well. Then, prepare an ice bath and a bowl (I use this 8 cup measuring cup with a spout) that can sit in the ice bath. Set a fine-mesh sieve over the bowl or measuring cup. Next, pour the ice cream mixture through the sieve.
- Press and strain any matcha lumps left in the sieve. Let the ice cream mixture cool on the countertop. When the mixture has cooled, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. IMPORTANT: If you don't chill the mixture thoroughly, the ice cream maker will not produce an ice cream consistency.
To Churn the Ice Cream
- My ice cream maker doesn't require pre-freezing, but the machine needs to run for 15 minutes until the interior bowl is -33ºF (-36ºC). When your ice cream maker bowl is ready to use, whisk the matcha ice cream mixture one last time.
- Transfer the mixture to the ice cream maker bowl and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- After 25 minutes, when the mixture is thickened and not moving, turn off the ice cream maker.
- Transfer the "soft" ice cream into an airtight container. Freeze until the ice cream is firm and the flavor develops, at least 4 hours.
- Scoop the ice cream and serve in a small bowl.
- You can keep it in the freezer for up to 2 weeks, but enjoy it sooner for the best flavor and color and to avoid the formation of ice crystals on the surface.
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on August 15, 2011. The blog content and images have been updated and a new video has been added to the post in August 2021.