It has come to my attention that very few people in my life are still obsessing over one-ingredient ice cream. This is, in my humble opinion, a huge shame.
Allow me to provide a refresher course on the singular dessert: a banana-based confection-slash-magic-trick, which, now over a decade old, can comfortably be considered retro. It consists of blending frozen pieces of ripe bananas in a food processor for many, many minutes, until — thanks to a high pectin concentration — they become as fluffy and creamy as any traditionally churned fare.
This feat of nature made the mainstream internet rounds in 2009 when the Kitchn posted step-by-step instructions. (Though vegans had been making it forever.) Our Resident Genius, Kristen Miglore, anointed it brilliant in 2012, declaring that "it comes out like the frozen bananas you ate at the boardwalk as a kid, except it whips up like Marshmallow Fluff."
And yet, just eight short years later, my mother — an ardent early adopter of this recipe — is completely sleeping on it. My best friend Jaquén, who loves in equal measure ice cream, bananas, and plant-based eating, claims to have only a vague recollection that one-ingredient banana ice cream was "a thing."
Even Kristen, who admittedly has to taste dozens of new recipes every five seconds for work, more regularly turns to pint glasses of chocolate malt Ovaltine for her after-dinner fix. "Thank you for bringing this one back!" she wrote to me, after I sent her a rant about my mission with more smiling blob emojis than strictly called for. "I will say that my father-in-law, who has mastered unicycling but does not cook, regularly makes this ice cream," she noted.
For everyone else, let's revisit this magic trick...
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Peel a bunch of super-ripe bananas—the riper your bananas, the sweeter they'll be. Cut them into small pieces. Freeze for about 6 hours, or overnight, in an airtight container. (The original Genius recipe calls for a shorter freezing time, but I've found that if you have 6 hours, you'll end up with a consistency that melts less quickly.)
When it's banana ice cream time, take about 3 bananas' worth of frozen pieces and place them in a food processor fitted with the S-blade. Blend for about 2 to 5 minutes, stopping and scraping down the sides when they stick to the plastic walls. They'll go from a shreddy consistency to sort-of blended, to, finally, smooth and fluffy like soft serve!
Serve as is, or stick in the freezer for about an hour to firm up before scooping, if that's your jam.
Now, let's talk flavor riffs.
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Make it your own
To make it chocolate: Just before the bananas have become full-on ice cream, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder, a pinch of salt, and about 1 tablespoon (depending how ripe, aka sweet, the bananas were to begin with) of honey, agave, or any mellow sweetener you like. Continue to blend.
To make it vanilla: Just before the bananas have become full-on ice cream, scrape in the insides of 1 to 2 vanilla beans, a pinch of salt, and a few teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of sweetener. Continue to blend. You could also use 1 teaspoon of good-quality vanilla extract, in lieu of beans.
To make it strawberry: Just before the bananas have become full-on ice cream, add 3/4 cup frozen chopped strawberries, a pinch of salt, and about 1 tablespoon of sweetener. Continue to blend.
To make it cardamom: Just before the bananas have become full-on ice cream, add 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (or more, if you like the flavor stronger), and about 1 tablespoon of sweetener. Continue to blend.
To make it cinnamon: Just before the bananas have become full-on ice cream, add 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or more if you like the flavor stronger), and about 1 tablespoon of sweetener. Continue to blend.
Mix-ins & toppings
At this stage, you can pulse the food processor a few times to swirl in any mix-ins, like:
- Dark chocolate pieces
- Dried fruit
- Fresh fruit, like cherries (lookin' at you, Cherry Garcia-inspired riffs)
- Cacao nibs
- Granola, or any cereal
- Peanut butter
- Almond butter
- Cookie butter
- Oreos (repeat after me: cookies 'n cream)
- Homemade cookie dough
Top-notch toppings for banana ice cream include, but are in no way limited to: