Lemon Gelato|AFoodCentricLife.com

Lemon Gelato

By Sally Cameron on September 22, 2015



Yesterday the thermometer registered a scorching 104°F at our house.

Late summer in California means the hottest weather of the year. When much of the country is starting to cool down and leaves are getting ready to turn, here, the heat can be brutal.  All you want to eat is something cold and refreshing. Lemon gelato anyone?

Only Dreaming of Fall

While my head was dreaming fall colors and comfort food recipes, I was melting. I wanted to shoot the photos for the Bison Bolognese post, but as I shoot in our garage “studio”, there was no way without about dying from the heat.

Please Make Gelato!

We needed something cold and refreshing. Kent’s request – please make gelato. No, not go and buy some gelato. Make gelato. Any flavor. Just make gelato. So I thought of my tangy, lemon gelato. Hadn’t made it all summer. But where was my recipe? Gone. Couldn’t find it, so I decided to create a new one.

New Recipe – Lemon Gelato

The “please make gelato” call came while I was at the store, so I grabbed lemons, some half and half, and eggs. I knew I had a little organic, natural sugar in the pantry. Just a few simple ingredients.

Making Lemon Gelato – Tool Tips

Makers – You will need an ice cream maker for this recipe. Machines are relatively inexpensive these days, available in many price points to meet any budget.

If you don’t have one or don’t have space for one, here is an article from David Lebovitz on making ice cream without a maker.  And here is another article for making ice cream without a maker from The Kitchn

Pans – When making a custard, a liquid base thickened with egg yolks,  you will need a heavy pan. Why? Heavy pans distribute heat gently and evenly, cooking the egg yolks without scrambling them. The pan I use is a 3-quart saucier, but you can use any heavy pan that you have. Here is a picture of the pan on Amazon for reference. Its a nice addition to a pan collection after you’ve covered the basics.

A quick pan lesson – a saucier has sloped sides versus straight sides, making whisking and stirring liquids more easy. I’ve used my Le Creuset small Dutch oven as well, because the sides are a bit sloped. If your pan has straight sides, just be more careful whisking and stirring to get into the edges of the pan.

Blender – After the base is cooked and thick, I puree it in a blender. Many recipes strain the base to catch any bits of egg yolk, but I didn’t want to strain out the lemon zest. So I smoothed it out in the blender. The gelato came out nice and creamy.

Lemon Gelato|AFoodCentricLife.com

Ice Cream Versus Gelato

So ice cream and gelato, are they different? Yes. While you might think gelato is just the Italian word for ice cream, there are differences, according to the experts.

Gelato is usually more dense than American ice cream and has less air whipped into (called overrun). The flavors are also more intense than many ice creams. I can attest to this after eating plenty of gelato in Rome years ago.

Gelato is often lower in fat, made with more milk and less cream (if any). For this recipe, I used half and half, but no cream. Gelato is also served less cold than ice cream. So there you have it. But the lines easily blur. Stop thinking about it and just enjoy it on these last meltingly hot days of summer.

For more fun reading, enjoy this post from Serious Eats on ice cream versus gelato, or here from About Food.Meyer Lemons

Old Post, New Post, Meyer Lemons

My original recipe used Meyer lemons. With their smooth skin, Meyer lemons are a little sweeter and more floral than a standard lemon.  It is thought to be a cross between a common lemon like a Eureka or Lisbon and a sweet orange or mandarin.

But as lemons (and all citrus) are a winter fruit, only regular lemons are available right now. And they work just fine. Whatever lemons you have, use them. But do try this with Meyer lemons in a few months when they are in season. I can’t wait till my trees are ready to harvest!

Meyer Lemons

These photos are from my original lost post five years ago. My, how we have improved with our photography! I left them in anyway. The only new photo is the one where the gelato is still in the machine.

It’s about all gone now. Guess I will have to make it again, then maybe I’ll get some new shots to share.

Lemon Gelato|AFoodCentricLife.com
Print Recipe

Lemon Gelato

When Meyer lemons are in season, try this Meyer lemon gelato, a cool and creamy dessert where Meyer lemons really shine. When Meyers are out of season, use regular lemons. Either way, it is terrific.


  • 3 cups half and half
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest use a microplane zester
  • 3/4 cup natural granulated sugar
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice 3-4 lemons
  • pinch of salt
  • Tools
  • Ice cream maker
  • A decent sized whisk
  • A blender
  • A medium heavy pan like a 3-quart


  1. Pour half and half into a medium saucepan (about 3 quarts) and add lemon zest. Turn heat to medium low and allow the zest to infuse the half and half while you work on the eggs and sugar.
  2. Create an ice bath by filling a large bowl (or small sink) with ice and water 3/4 full and set aside. Whisk sugar and yolks together in a medium bowl until thick, pale and smooth. You’ll get a good arm workout in.
  3. Bring the half and half just barely to a boil. Turn the heat off  (gas stove) or move the pan to a cool burner (electric) so it does not boil over. Add about a 1/4 cup of the hot half and half to the yolks and whisk until smooth. Do this several times to “temper” the eggs so they do not scramble when you add them into the pan to cook the custard.
  4. Add the egg-sugar-dairy mixture back into the pan and bring to almost a boil while whisking. Turn heat down to low and cook until the custard coats the back of a spoon when you draw a line through it with your finger, just a couple of minutes. Turn off heat. Stir in lemon juice and salt.
  5. Pour the gelato base into a blender and puree about 30-60 seconds, being mindful that hot liquid expands in a blender. Keep the lid on tight and crank the speed up gradually.
  6. Place the pureed base into a stainless steel or glass bowl and into the ice bath to chill. Stirring speeds the cooling process. When it reaches 70°F or lower, place the bowl in the refrigerator for about 2 hours to get really cold. The colder it is, the faster it will freeze in your ice cream maker
  7. Freeze the gelato in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions,. Place the gelato into a freezer safe container and cover. Allow the gelato to firm up for a few hours or enjoy it soft out of the machine.


Leave a Comment
Madonna/aka/Ms. Lemon | 09/24/2015 at 8:23 am

I could really use some lemon gelato. 🙂 Does the lemon juice curdle the half and half? I have been wanting to make it since your previous post, but I am a little spooked about curdling.

    Sally Cameron | 09/24/2015 at 9:01 am

    Hey Madonna. It’s so tasty and easy. No curdling issue a all. And any stray bits of coagulated egg were smoothed out in the blender, so you keep all of that fresh zest and lemony flavor. Try it and let me know how it goes, or if you have any questions. It’s really a straight forward recipe.

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