Vanilla Milk Gelato

Gelato is one of my absolute favorite desserts when it’s warm outside. This Vanilla Milk Gelato is a perfect treat, with a creamy, dense texture and intense vanilla flavor. Vanilla gelato is similar to vanilla bean ice cream, but with milk instead of heavy cream. If you’ve been wanting to experiment with homemade gelato, now is the time to get started! Learn how to make this easy vanilla gelato recipe in no time.

A scoop of this homemade gelato recipe in a white bowl.

I’m not sure what it is about the word milk, but whenever I see it in a dessert title, I want it.

Maybe it has something to do with the implications of milky, at least in my mind: creamy, smooth, a pleasant mouthfeel, and slightly sweet but far from cloying.

Like cream, but without the heaviness. I feel the same way about my milk panna cotta. Does that make sense?

Two vanilla beans on a white backdrop.

Awhile back, I was browsing through the food section of a used bookstore and I came across several Donna Hay cookbooks. Jackpot! I have been a fan of Donna’s for years. Her recipes and food photography are a huge inspiration to me.

This Vanilla Milk Gelato recipe is adapted from Flavours, and I highly recommend making it and picking up a copy of the book. Each section is divided into ingredients such as vanilla, cinnamon and chili.

The photos are beautiful. Also, I am a bit obsessed with her vanilla chapter.

Gelato vs Ice Cream

While ice cream and gelato are very similar, gelato has a lower fat content. Ice cream typically has a fat content of 10 percent or more, while gelato uses more milk, and often less egg yolks (sometimes none).

Where to Buy Vanilla Beans

Don’t purchase vanilla beans from the grocery store; they’re a huge rip off! Aren’t they some insane price like $7-$10 for 3 beans in a spice bottle? Don’t do that.

I buy vanilla beans in bulk online. There are plenty of online stores. I’ve purchased several times from Vanilla Products USA, and am happy with the quality. (Note: it appears they’ve gone up in price since my last order, so you may want to shop around. Still much cheaper than the grocery store).

How to Scrape a Vanilla Bean

Place the bean on a cutting board. Use the tip of a paring knife to cut the bean in half lengthwise. Use the dull edge of the blade to scrape the seeds from the pod.

How to Substitute Vanilla Paste

Another option is to use vanilla bean paste. One teaspoon of vanilla paste equals one vanilla bean or one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.

Vanilla milk gelato in a white bowl next to a vanilla bean.

Looking for more frozen desserts?

Check out my Passion Fruit SorbetBaileys Ice Cream, and Cookies and Mascarpone Ice Cream!

Vanilla Milk Gelato Recipe
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Vanilla Milk Gelato Recipe

5 from 10 votes
Vanilla Milk Gelato is a simple frozen dessert that allows the vanilla flavor to shine through. 
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword gelato recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Inactive Time 6 hours
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 242


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  • Heat the milk and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan set over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally with a heat-proof spatula. Meanwhile, vigorously whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a medium-sized bowl until the yolks lighten in color slightly.
  • Remove the milk from the heat and pour slowly into the egg yolks while whisking. Pour everything back into the saucepan, scraping the bowl. 
  • Return the saucepan to the heat and, using a heat-proof spatula, stir until the mixture thickens slightly, approximately 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the vanilla bean. Stir in the cream and vanilla extract. Allow to cool (I let it cool overnight).
  • Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and prepare the gelato according to the manufacturer's instructions, until it's frozen and scoopable. Alternatively, place the mixture in a metal container and freeze, beating at 1-hour intervals, until the gelato is scoopable.


Recipe adapted from Flavours by Donna Hay


Calories: 242kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 139mg | Sodium: 41mg | Potassium: 112mg | Sugar: 21g | Vitamin A: 13.2% | Vitamin C: 0.2% | Calcium: 9.9% | Iron: 1.3%

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Vanilla Milk Gelato is creamy, dense, and packed with vanilla flavor. It's the perfect sweet treat for ice cream lovers!

About Jennifer Farley

Jennifer graduated from the Culinary Arts program at L’Academie de Cuisine, and has worked professionally as a line cook, pastry chef, and cooking instructor. Her cookbook, The Gourmet Kitchen, was published in 2016 by Simon & Schuster.

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