This rich berry cheesecake ice cream is 100% summer in a dessert! It features a creamy, tangy cheesecake base, ribboned with a sweet sauce made from blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. A crunchy graham cracker crumble adds the finishing touch, for all of the flavors of a classic cheesecake with less fuss!
Whether it's no-bake cheesecake, cheesecake bars or cheesecake masquerading as ice cream, I love any dessert that turns a typically high-maintenance recipe into a low-effort treat. This berry cheesecake ice cream is exactly that type of recipe.
It has that classic cream cheese flavor, chunks of toasty graham cracker crumbs, and a fruity berry compote swirled in for extra pizzazz. It tastes luxurious, but it's simple to whip up. You'll need less than 30 minutes of hands-on time to make it happen!
What is cheesecake ice cream made of?
There are three main elements that make up this (delicious) frozen treat:
- Cheesecake ice cream base: This ice cream is made with a combination of cream cheese, sour cream, and lemon juice for that quintessential, tangy cheesecake flavor. Like my mint Oreo ice cream, this one isn't custard-based, so you won't need any eggs!
- Mixed berry compote: Cheesecake is often served with some sort of berry sauce, and an easy, 5-minute berry compote plays that role here. It's made from a combination of blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, plus a touch of sweet liqueur to prevent it from getting icy once frozen.
- Graham cracker crumble: This is essentially the crust for our berry cheesecake, made with graham crackers crumbs, sweetened with brown sugar, and held together with melted butter. We'll brown it on the stove to make it toasty and crunchy, just as if we'd baked it!
With more flavor comes more ingredients, but here's the good news: nothing about this berry cheesecake ice cream recipe is complex.
What you need to know:
For the dairy products (sour cream, cream cheese, heavy cream, and buttermilk): Don't substitute these ingredients, and don't try using anything with reduced fat. Full-fat dairy is the backbone of traditional ice cream; it's what makes it rich and creamy!
Also - while homemade buttermilk is great for many things, you're going to want to use the real stuff for this recipe. Along with the cream cheese and sour cream, we're relying on the natural tang of true buttermilk to make our cheesecake flavored ice cream.
Berries: I've made this recipe a few different ways - once with a combination of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries in the compote, and once with nothing but blackberries. The moral of the story here is that any mix of berries will work. You want blueberry cheesecake ice cream? You got it. Strawberry cheesecake? We can do that too!
I haven't tried using frozen berries, but if you do, here's what I'd suggest: let the berries thaw, and drain out any excess water before you use them.
Berry liqueur: I recommend using Chambord (raspberry liqueur) or creme de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur). Both are easy to find and will pair well with just about any berry (or combination thereof) that you decide to use for your compote. In a pinch you can even use vodka. Skip it if you must, but know that it's there to prevent the compote from getting hard and icy once it's frozen.
Graham crackers: To make gluten-free berry cheesecake ice cream, you can use gluten-free graham crackers (try Kinnikinnick, Pamela's or Nairn's). You'll need to break the cookies into coarse crumbs, which you can do with a bowl and muddler, a mortar and pestle, or a food processor on the "pulse" setting.
Flour: You can use whole wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, or gluten-free all-purpose flour in the graham cracker crumble component of this ice cream recipe.
Butter: The crumble also calls for unsalted butter and a pinch of salt. If you use salted butter, just skip the added salt!
How to make berry cheesecake ice cream
Each of the three main elements of this recipe needs to be prepped and cooled completely before the ice cream is churned - at least 8 hours in advance is best. Start with the berry compote and work your way down!
Berry compote swirl
Step one - Simmer berries with sugar: In a medium saucepan, toss together your berries of choice (I used equal parts blueberries, raspberries, and chopped strawberries here) and granulated sugar. Set the mixture over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the berries have broken down into a soft, juicy mixture.
Step two - Make a slurry: While the berries are simmering, combine cold water, lemon juice, and corn starch in a small bowl, whisking them together until the corn starch has dissolved. (We call this a slurry, and it's used to thicken sauces such as this compote.)
Step three - Add the slurry: Remove the berry mixture from the heat and slowly pour in the slurry, while stirring. Transfer the saucepan back to the stove and bring the compote to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it's boiling, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer for 1 minute; at this point the compote should be thick enough to coat a spoon.
Step four - Stir in liqueur. Take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the berry liqueur. Chill the berry compote thoroughly in an airtight container and give it a quick stir before you add it to your ice cream.
Graham cracker crumble
Step one - Combine all ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients for the graham cracker crumble. Add the melted butter and mix it in so that the dry ingredients are evenly coated and the mixture is crumbly.
Step two - Brown on stovetop: Transfer the crumble mixture to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Cook the mixture just until it's golden-brown, stirring frequently. This usually takes about 5 minutes, but it can go from brown to burning quickly, so watch it closely!
Once browned, transfer the crumble to a baking tray or large sheet of parchment and let it cool. It'll get nice and crunchy, which is exactly what we want!
Cheesecake ice cream
Step one - Blend all ingredients: Combine all of the ingredients for the ice cream base in a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer it to the refrigerator (covered with the blender lid) and chill it well - several hours or overnight.
Step two - Churn: Just before churning, whisk the ice cream mixture briefly to ensure it's smooth. Churn it in your ice cream maker until it's thick and creamy. This takes about 25 minutes in my Cuisinart. During the last 3-5 minutes of churning, slowly add the graham cracker crumbles, using a spoon if needed to make sure they get mixed in sufficiently.
Step three - Layer and freeze: Transfer about a third of the cheesecake ice cream to a 9"x5" loaf pan or other freezer-safe container (take note that an 8"x4" pan will be too small!). Spread half of the berry compote on top.
Continue with another layer of ice cream, the second half of the compote, and a final layer of ice cream, working quickly to avoid melting. Use a knife or offset spatula to briefly swirl the layers together, and then cover and freeze well (preferably overnight) before serving.
Here are a few pointers for making sure your berry cheesecake ice cream is a smashing success:
- Use cold ingredients: As mentioned above, your ice cream base needs to be sufficiently chilled before churning if you want it to freeze properly. Starting with cold ingredients will help speed the process along.
- Freeze your ice cream bowl: If you're like me, you don't keep the bowl for your ice cream maker in your freezer at all times (because who has the room?!). Remember to pop it in the freezer at least a full 24 hours before you plan to use it. If it's not cold, you'll be making soup instead of ice cream.
- Time accordingly: Although this recipe will only take about 30 minutes of your (active) time to make, there's a lot of chilling time involved. Here's what that means: if berry cheesecake ice cream is on the dessert menu for tomorrow night, you need to prep the compote, graham cracker crumbles, and ice cream base today and churn it first thing tomorrow morning.
- Soften (briefly) before serving: Depending on how cold your freezer is (among other factors), you may need to let this ice cream sit out on the counter to soften for 5-10 minutes before scooping it. Trust me when I say it'll be worth the wait!
YES. An ice cream maker works by incorporating air into your ice cream base at the same time as it freezes it, preventing ice crystals from forming in the process. We're relying on that churning process to make a creamy, scoopable ice cream.
It should work! Just make sure your jam is cold.
When stored properly, this homemade cheesecake ice cream typically keeps well for 2-4 weeks.
More berry desserts for summer
With its tangy cheesecake flavor, crunchy graham cracker crumbles, and sweet-tart ribbons of berry compote, this ice cream has BIG summer vibes. Here are a few other berry-laden desserts to match the mood!
Berry Cheesecake Ice Cream
A lusciously rich and tangy cheesecake ice cream loaded with crunchy bits of graham cracker crumbles and swirled with a homemade berry compote.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Churn Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes (plus chill time)
- Yield: approx. 1.5 quarts
- Category: ice cream
- Method: ice cream machine
- Cuisine: American
Berry Compote Swirl
- 10 ounces (2 cups) berries of choice
- 1 ¾ ounces (¼ cup) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 ¾ teaspoons corn starch
- 1 tablespoon berry liqueur
Graham Cracker Crumble
- 3 ounces (1 cup) coarsely crushed graham crackers
- 2 ⅛ ounces (½ cup, spoon and level) all-purpose flour
- 1 ⅞ ounces (¼ cup, packed) brown sugar
- heavy pinch of salt
- 2 ½ ounces (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
Cheesecake Ice Cream
- 8 ½ ounces (1 cup) full-fat sour cream
- 8 ¼ ounces (1 cup) heavy cream
- 8 ounces full-fat, brick-style cream cheese
- 5 ounces (⅔ cup, packed) brown sugar
- 4 ¼ ounces (½ cup) full-fat buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- pinch of salt
Berry Compote Swirl
- Simmer berries with sugar: Toss berries and sugar together in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries are soft and the mixture is juicy.
- Make a slurry: Meanwhile, make a slurry by whisking together water, lemon juice, and corn starch in a small bowl until corn starch has dissolved.
- Add the slurry: Remove berries from heat and, while stirring, slowly add slurry. Return to medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once boiling, immediately reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for 1 minute.
- Stir in liqueur: Remove compote from heat and stir in berry liqueur. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until cold (several hours or overnight). Stir briefly before adding to ice cream.
Graham Cracker Crumble
- Combine all ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk together the crushed graham crackers, flour, brown sugar, and salt. Add the melted butter and mix in until the mixture is crumbly and all of the dry ingredients are coated in butter.
- Brown on stovetop: Transfer crumble mixture to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring very frequently, until golden-brown. (Watch closely as the crumble can burn easily!) Remove from heat and transfer to a tray or sheet of parchment to cool completely before adding to ice cream.
Cheesecake Ice Cream
- Blend all ingredients: Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until chilled to 40ºF - several hours or overnight.
- Churn: Just before churning, whisk ice cream base briefly to smooth out. Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions, slowly adding in graham cracker crumbles once thickened, about 3-5 minutes before churning is finished. Use a spoon if needed to help mix crumbles in completely.
- Layer and freeze: Layer ice cream with blackberry sauce in a freezer-safe 1.5 quart container, finishing with a layer of ice cream on top. Swirl briefly with a knife or offset spatula. Cover surface of ice cream directly with plastic wrap, and top with container lid (or wrap in aluminum foil). Freeze until firm (at least a few hours) before serving.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions:
- Use real buttermilk, not a homemade substitute.
- Any combination of blackberries, raspberries, chopped strawberries, and/or blueberries can be used.
- Chambord or creme de cassis are both good berry liqueur options. Vodka can also be used. Alcohol can be skipped entirely if necessary.
- Graham crackers can be crushed with a mortar and pestle, muddler, or food processor. You should have a mix of fine and coarse crumbs. Use gluten-free graham crackers if preferred.
- All-purpose flour (gluten-free or regular) OR whole wheat pastry flour can be used.
- When stored properly in the freezer, this ice cream should keep well for 2-4 weeks.
Cheesecake ice cream base adapted from my Cherry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.
Berry compote adapted from The Perfect Scoop