“Heavenly” is really the only adjective I could find to describe this lightly-sweetened homemade coconut milk ice cream infused with fresh lychees and ginger and lime.
How would I come up with the crazy idea of putting lychees into ice cream? I’ll tell you! Last weekend I was up in Northern California having a blast, running through the redwoods, eating 5-pound vegan burritos in Santa Cruz, and picking out my future mansion in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights. Then on Sunday I drove back home to LA, and if you’ve ever made this trip down the California coast, you know there are fruit stands everywhere with the most amazing produce. Hand-painted signs advertising 7 avocados for $1 or 4 red grapefruit as big as your head for $1 – you won’t find better deals or better quality fruits anywhere. I stopped at one such place and found lychees for $3/pound! Considering that lychees are my absolute favorite fruit, I may or may not have bought more lychees than I could carry…
If you’ve never had a lychee (what’s wrong with you?!), they’re a small translucent white fruit that originally hail from China. Their taste is totally indescribable, with sweet nectary tropical flavors. Also, they kind of resemble an eyeball:
Back home, staring at my pile of lychees, I was trying to figure out what I could make with them. Given that it’s the middle of summer here, vegan coconut milk ice cream seemed like the perfect use. Lychees are a natural paring with coconut, and I’ve really nailed the coconut milk ice cream base recipe. So after I added a little lime and ginger and stuff, this turned into a frozen dessert unlike any I have ever tasted. I know it seems a little off-the-wall, but if you can source some lychees (they’re in season) and you have an ice cream maker ($50 on Amazon), please give this one a shot – you won’t be sorry.
Makes about 6 servings
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk
- 1 can light coconut milk
- 12-15 lychees
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger
- 1 lime (juice + zest)
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoons vanilla
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon vodka or rum (optional)
- 1/4 cup dried coconut flakes
The hardest part of this recipe is preparing the lychees. The red outer shell needs to be peeled away, and then the large stone in the center needs to be removed. Once that’s done, add the translucent lychee flesh into a blender along with the coconut milk, fresh ginger, lime juice (reserve the lime to be zested later), some maple syrup, a little vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth and give it a taste – the flavors will change after being frozen, but you’ll have a good idea now if anything needs to be adjusted.
The vodka is optional, but highly recommended. You see… vodka doesn’t freeze like water, so when you mix just a tablespoon into the ice cream, it gives it a lovely creamy consistency once fully frozen, whereas the other ingredients alone *can* have a tendency to become a little too icy.
Pour this mixture in a large bowl and place in the refrigerator to fully chill. Meanwhile, make the garnishes. This ice cream is taken to a whole other level by toasting some dried coconut flakes and sprinkling over top. I made this by adding coconut flakes to a baking sheet and popping in the broiler for 5 minutes. You can also zest that lime and set aside for garnish later.
With the mixture chilled, follow your ice cream maker’s instructions to, you know, make the ice cream. At that point, it will likely still be fairly soft. Add to a chilled container (I used a loaf pan) and freeze for at least 3 hours until firm. It will keep for 5+ days in the freezer. When ready to serve, allow to thaw on the counter for ~10 minutes so that it’s easier to scoop. Garnish with the lime zest and toasted coconut for extra happiness.