Thomas Keller’s Red Beet Ice Cream

Story and recipe published 2008.

QuizHow many of our garden baby beets does it take to make a batch of Thomas Keller’s red beet ice cream?

Answer-A whole heck of a lot! How about just making half a batch? Still, a whole heck of a lot! Four packages of beet seeds, a garden plot of newly conditioned soil, consistent water, love and sunshine has still only produced finger sized beet roots after 5 months of growth. Like our world smallest carrots, harvesting these beets while they’re still cute with baby roots could also qualify them to be another potential “worlds smallest” dish. We’re not trying to break “worlds smallest vegetable” records here, nor are we that impatient of gardeners who are unwilling to see our veggies to full maturity. But a shortage of garden space, lots of warm sunshine and over-crowded herb seedlings screaming out to be transplanted are forcing us to harvest half our root vegetables while they’re still baby small. Besides, these midget beets do make for some adorable photography!

We attacked our beet root plot today to make a Spring batch of red beet ice cream. In Thomas Keller’s, The French Laundry Cookbook, he discusses a chocolate cake his mother used to make for him in which she added grated beets to it. The result was a unique cake with a deep, dark, beet red color. When he created this red beet ice cream, he knew that he wanted to serve it with the same kind of chocolate cake. We didn’t make the chocolate cake that was included in the recipe because we figured the ice cream was a nice enough treat for this weekends warm weather. Besides, we just made two birthday cakes for the twin brothers’ birthday yesterday- we’re kinda caked out right now. Keller’s chocolate cake will be on our cooking agenda later on.

The recipe requires extracting the juice of raw beets with a juicer. We don’t have a juicer and opted for liquefying the quartered beets in our blender, with the addition of a little water. It worked quite nicely and we continued on to strain the beet liquid and reserved the required beet pulp for use further on in the recipe. He also tops this ice cream with candied walnuts and a walnut syrup, but we only had pecans in the pantry so the pecans replaced the walnuts.

The red beet ice cream is so delicious!! Not really knowing how the beet flavors would transcend to an ice cream, we were both curious and cautious. But the creamy, smooth and full, sweet beet flavors in this dessert were so beautiful! One word of caution: this recipe follows the fate of the beet root in many steps- whole, peel, cut, pulp, juice, strain, reduce, strain (Keller loves to strain), temper and strain some more. You’ll be seeing red stains everywhere from your hands to the kitchen. Just don’t wear your favorite Spring white shirt for this concoction! Oh, BTW- did we mention that you’ll be straining a lot in this recipe?

P.S. (Update) We had some leftover chocolate sauce which we just tried on the beet ice cream with the candied pecans. That put it over the top with and incredible layering of flavors. Damn Tasty!s!

The left over baby beet greens were so tender and perfect, their fate became a delicious sauteed beet green salad. Since we couldn’t let the greens go to waste, we created a this salad with what available ingredients we were able to find in our kitchen. This simple saute of shallots, black pepper, soy sauce, beet greens, and feta cheese, all topped with the candied pecans was delicious too! The soft, slightly melting feta cheese went so perfectly with the greens, that we don’t feel guilty at all harvesting the beets early just for their leaves!

5 from 1 vote
Red Beet Ice Cream Recipe
Total Time
3 hrs

This recipe is also from Thomas Keller's "The French Laundry Cookbook". He tops the ice cream with the candied walnuts which have been cooked in a poaching liquid. The poaching liquid mise en place works great for most any poached fruit dessert.

Beet Ice Cream Ingredients
  • 2 lbs (910 g) Red Beets, peeled & quartered
  • 2 cups (475 ml) Heavy Cream
  • 2 cups (475 ml) Milk
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) Sugar
  • 8 lrg. Egg Yolks
Candied Walnuts Ingredients
  • 2 cups (475 ml) Poaching Liquid (see recipe below)
  • 8 oz (225 g) Walnut Halves, toasted and skins rubbed off
  • 1/2 teaspoons (3 g) Kosher salt
Poaching Liquid Ingredients
  • 750 ml Dry White Wine ((like a sauvignon blanc)
  • 3 cups (710 ml) Water
  • 1 cup (200 g) Sugar
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
Beet Ice Cream Directions
  1. For the red beet ice cream. Put the beets through a vegetable juicer, reserving the pulp; you should have about 2 c of juice. (If you are lacking the fancy machinery of a juicer, do the following: Puree the beets in a blender, adding just enough water to allow the beets to liquefy. Strain the beets thoroughly. Don't forget to reserve the pulp.) Place the juice in a saucepan and reduce over low heat, skimming as necessary, to about 1/4 c. Strain the liquid into a container, cover, and place in the fridge.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the reserved beet pulp with the cream and milk. Bring to a simmer, cover, and remove from the heat for about 30 min.
  3. Strain the liquid and measure out 3 c (discard any extra.) Return it to the saucepan, add half the sugar and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  4. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until they have thickened slightly and lightened in color. Gradually whisk about 1/3 of the hot liquid into the yolks to temper them. Return the mixture to the saucepan and heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the custard has thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Pour the custard into a bowl set in an ice-water bath and let cool.
  5. Strain the cooled custard into a container, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours, until cold, or overnight (for the creamiest texture).
  6. Stir the reduced beet juice into the custard and freeze in an ice cream machine. Remove the ice cream to a covered container and store in the freezer for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days.
Candied Walnuts Directions
  1. For the Walnut Syrup and Candied Walnuts. In a saucepan, bring the poaching liquid to a boil, then add the walnuts. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced to 2/3 c.
  2. Preheat oven to 250ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Strain the syrup into a container, cover and refrigerate. Spread the walnuts onto the baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and put in the oven for about 30 min. To test, remove a walnut from the oven, allow to cool, and taste. It should be crunchy. If not, continue baking for a little longer. Let walnuts cool on baking sheet. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, or a plastic bag in the freezer.
Poaching Liquid Directions
  1. For the Poaching Liquid bring the wine to a boil in a saucepan. Skim any foam from the top.
  2. Add water and sugar, then heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add lemon juice. Store covered in a refrigerator for up to several weeks.
{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. S

    Might be nice with a bit of orange extract.

  2. Jennifer Miller

    This was delicious!

  3. Daniel Furness

    I made something very similar to this recipe yesterday – although I took a few steps out (mainly the straining), because I’m lazy 🙂

    I really recommend this recipe to everyone now, I think beetroot ice-cream is one of those things that sounds horrible until you try it, but the taste is earthy and creamy and lovely 🙂

    I also used pre-cooked beetroot in my version, which I know is a bit of a cheat, but it saves a lot of effort and prevents getting those horrible beetroot-stained hands! I’d definitely try again using this recipe though, once the beetroot is ready in the garden I’ll get digging and have a crack at it!

  4. Tanya

    I would only add almond extract for a nicer flavor.

  5. stefani

    I tried this recipe, and it is definitely one of the best ice creams I have made (although I say that about every ice cream I’ve made…). It took a LOT longer than I thought it would- just getting the mixtures ready for churning took almost three hours (but also, I started it very late at night- it might have gone more quickly if I had done it during normal human hours). Also, I cut down on the amount of eggs, as 8 seemed pretty excessive to me. I used four eggs, which is still more than I normally use in a custard-based ice cream. Overall, it turned out PERFECT. Amazing, vibrant flavor and insane color.

  6. gina

    I’m super excited to make this recipe. But where is the recipe for the poaching liquid?

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Oops. Don’t know where that went to, but we have it back up again. Enjoy.

  7. Jill

    Never had beet ice cream…I wonder how it taste. Gotta try this recipe! Love your blog!

  8. Steven

    I was wondering if, with this recipe, you could substitute carrot juice for the beet juice.

  9. R

    Hi!! I stumbled upon your site googling for Bahn Mi, and have since made my own, including my own carrot pickles 🙂 I flicked through your beetroot and carrot posts and I love them! I share your joy and humour at the harvests of a space limited garden of overambitious, hope-filled foodies! You had me in stitches from the first word!

  10. josh

    I’m not sure how beet sorbet would taste, but it can be done by freezing the beets for a day, then running them through a champion juicer. No juice comes out, and beet sorbet comes out the pulp chute.

    I do it with bananas all the time. Mmm…banana and plum sorbet.


  11. Claudia (cook eat FRET)

    i’m afraid if i made this my kitchen would look like a murder scene….

  12. Andrea

    Your miniature beets are adorable, and that ice cream is to DIE for! Thanks for sharing it with Grow Your Own!

  13. foodhoe

    wow, those beets look perfect! The ice cream sounds great, what an unusual idea.

  14. sra

    How unusual! And what a brilliant colour! Does it retain the taste of beet – I mean, does it taste any bit vegetable-y?

  15. Rebecca

    Looks delicious! What an unusual flavor-and beautiful color! Great photos-keep it up!

  16. Homecooked

    I never thought you could make ice creams with beetroots 🙂 Looks really yummy!

  17. Suganya

    Beet leaves salad sounds delicious.

  18. foodwoolf

    Wow…I love beets. I love ice cream! How could I not love beet ice cream? Thank you for the amazing recipe!

    PS, Marcella Hazan has an AMAZING beet leaf gratin (actually, in the cook book it’s for swiss chard leaves…but I’ve made it with beet greens) in her Hazan’s ESSENTIALS OF ITALIAN COOKING cookbook. Yummy!

    can’t wait to read more,

  19. tbc

    That is so new to me! beets in an ice cream. 🙂
    Love the intense color.

  20. katy

    oh man. I just learned how to use Google Bookmarks, just so that I could be sure that I saved this recipe in a place where I could find it again. That is AWESOME!

  21. richa

    those baby beets look adorable & the ice cream must taste so good with the fresh produce from ur garden 🙂 out here the temps hv dipped again, wonder when I’ll be able to start my gardening, hopefully soon 🙂

  22. matt wright

    I have never heard of beet ice-cream before, but it looks brilliant. Great looking beets too, and I bet those greens were well tasty.

  23. Chez US

    Yum. We both had “French” food on the brains this weekend. I just put the ice cream part of our kitchen aid in the freezer last week – may be time to give this one a whirl!!

  24. Tempered Woman

    So just how long did it take you to get to a final product? Sounds like it was a real workout! The end product is stunning though. I imagine it would have paired perfectly with a really rich chocolate cake. I was totally wondering what you did with the leaves! Not many people realize the greens are tasty too. Thanks for a great idea on using the whole beet.

  25. lcsa99

    You two never fail to impress me!

  26. bee and jai

    that is a spectacular shade of red!!!

  27. Anticiplate

    Thomas Keller is a GENIUS. I have nothing more to say.

  28. Maggie

    I was just looking at this recipe yesterday and then saw your image on Tastespotting! Your homegrown baby beets are so adorable. I’d almost have a hard time cooking them. I’d just want to display them!

  29. Sandie

    Love, love, love the recipes you are making with your baby veggies. They are so darn cute! The color of this ice cream paired with the pecans and the sauce – delish! Keep up the good work!

  30. chriesi

    Beautiful beet roots!

  31. Cakelaw

    Interesting! I am a fan of beets, and have made a chocolate beet cake, but would never have thought of beet ice cream. Great job!

  32. lil

    wow, beet ice cream? sounds very intriguing… i normally love beetroot as it is (yeah, you’re talking about a crazy girl who eats a whole portion of beetroot salad for breakfast) so i’ll be curious to try how this taste too… sounds a bit more work than i have time to spare right now though, but hey if i need something to procrascinate on, i’ll know what to do! 😉

  33. Jen Yu

    You guys have the cutest tiny vegetables. But that’s an awful lot of work to harvest them so small! I never would have thought to make beet ice cream, but it’s a gorgeous color. When you eat the ice cream, does it turn your poop red still? 🙂

  34. Marc @ NoRecipes

    Oh man, this looks delicious! I’ve had my French Laundry cookbook for years and it’s never been more than a coffee table book. Might have to give this one a try.

  35. steamy kitchen

    love the itty bitty baby beets!

    speaking of ice cream, I’m having some haagen daaz sent over to you. 4 quarts of brand new flavors for you to try. My fav is fleur de sel caramel and pomegranate dark choc. Email me back if you want! They will overnight it to you with dry ice.

  36. toontz

    That beautiful color convinced me to give this recipe a try sometime. The photo is just gorgeous! Good job!

  37. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    Beets. Ice Cream. Well, I’d sure be game to try it.
    The tiny is really good!!

  38. Rhyleysgranny

    It looks lovely. I so enjoyed reading about the whole performance. You have a grand way with words. Your pics are also quite beautiful.

  39. Karen

    Love this idea! Love your blog! Great job!

  40. lifeinrecipes

    I’ve made this ice cream before, but never with beets that precious! I’ll bet the greens were so tender and delicious. What a fantastic home grown meal you had!

  41. diva

    amazing ice cream. looks very good and what an interesting flavour as well.

  42. Kevin

    That red beat ice cream looks amazing!! What a vibrant colour of red.

  43. Lori

    That is some great looking ice cream. And those greens…they must have made a really good salad!

  44. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy

    OMG! That beet ice cream is gorgeous! I don’t know how it tastes, but the brilliant color is jumping out from the screen. I’m so impressed that you made this. I’m also impressed with your beautiful garden. You guys are amazing!

    I’m still waiting for the guy I hired to come over and build my garden area. Hey, maybe he’ll get here in time for the NEXT planting season.

  45. Kitt

    Those teeny tiny beets are so cute! What a creative use for them.

    I had a taste of white pepper ice cream last weekend at Soisic in Oakland, and it was amazingly good. Once warm weather gets here (yes, it’s supposed to snow again today), I’ll be breaking out the ice cream maker to try some funky flavors, too!

  46. evil chef mom

    BEETS?! What the…? You are really going to have to talk me into this one.

  47. Colleen

    Ooh, what beautiful color these beets make. But beets? I think raspberries would taste much better. But. I’m a bit more picky.
    Ever tried garlic ice cream?

  48. grace

    very interesting! although i wouldn’t call myself an ice cream connoisseur, ive been known to eat more than my fair share. that being said, i’ve never even considered using beets as a base, but if you say it works, i’ll believe you!

  49. noble pig

    I wish this was served at the French Laundry the night I was there! Looks great!

  50. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    I’m loving your tiny vegetables — though it does seem like the beets should have been farther along in 5 months? What I’m having a harder time wrapping my brain around is beet ice cream. The color is great — but honestly, if it doesn’t taste exactly like chocolate, I don’t think I’d bother!

  51. Mike

    lol, I love the mini-veg garden more with each post about it! This ice cream looks awesome–the plating (I really like how you laid it out!), the color, the sound of the flavor–very nice work!

  52. Peter

    Phew…you did eat the greens…delicious! The bet ice cream is so brilliant…hot, slut red and pardon my French but that’s how red and gorgeous that colour is.

  53. Manggy

    Noo, I refuse to believe you! Todd probably has freaky monster-sized hands! 🙂 Even if it takes a lot of beets, it looks totally worth it! Check out that deep, passionate color, it’s amazing!

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