a pink coned icecream

How to Make Soft Serve Ice Cream – 6 Expert Tips

The soft serve was a great part of growing up, whether it was from an ice cream truck or a store like Dairy Queen. It was a tasty treat on a hot summer’s day. While some of us still go out and enjoy it once in a while, there is a way you can make this treat at home without a lot of fuss.

Soft Serve Ice Cream

Soft serve is different from regular ice cream as it has lower milk fat and is stored at a higher temperature. While ice cream is in tubs, soft serve is usually from a machine. Carvel and Dairy Queen both were originators of this product with a dairy base.

One story says the founder of Carvel had his ice cream truck break down at the side of the road, so he started to sell his melting product to people going by. This inspired him to create an ice cream maker that used a lower temperature. The second story says Dairy Queen created it and thirdly, Margaret Thatcher who was a food chemist before being the Prime Minister of England made it for her company Mister Softee.

No matter what the truth behind the soft serve original recipe is, it has become a well-loved treat.

Tips for the Best Soft Serve Ice Cream

an ice cream maker

While there are some soft serve recipes that don’t need an ice cream machine, using one is often easier. You can make an ice cream product that has great flavor and is as good as any store-bought. Here are some tips for making the best soft-serve ice cream to enjoy without heading out to the local Dairy Queen.

Tip #1 – Bowl Prep – Ice cream machines aren’t complicated but their components are important to your final product. Machines have a freezer bowl as part of their equipment. This bowl has to be completely frozen before you can start to make your ice cream. Make sure to wash the bowl, then thoroughly dry it. Place it in a plastic bag and then put it in the back of the freezer where it is coldest.

The bowl should be on a flat surface in the upright position. It is suggested that the bowl be left in the freezer for a minimum of 12 hours before being checked. If you still hear any liquid moving in it then put it back in the freezer. It must be completely cooled down for ice cream success.

Tip #2 – Putting the Machine Together – Make sure whatever machine you are using is put together properly. While this seems like common sense that should not have to be pointed out, people forget to make sure everything is set in place properly before getting to work on their favorite recipe.

It is important to make sure the containers are set in properly, covers are on, dispenser clean and on properly and the drip tray clean and in place. The second last thing to put in place is the completely frozen freezer bowl. Last but not least put the lip that has the mixing arm attached in place, so it is secure.

Every machine will have its own quirks and ways of doing things so make sure to read through the directions that come with it, so your particular bowl has all the pieces in place properly and in the order for maximum ice cream making success.

Tip #3 – Have your ingredients ready to go – There is a choice between premixed and all-natural soft-serve recipe ingredients. You can use it but making it from scratch has some extra appeal to it. Find your favorite recipe and get things ready to go in the machine. Here is a basic recipe to get you started:


  • 1 ½ cups of whole milk
  • 1 ½ cups of ½ and ½
  • ¼ cup of heavy cream
  • ¾ cup of white sugar
  • 2 tsp of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup of nonfat dry milk powder


  1. Mix all ingredients in a blender. You want to make sure you get rid of any clumps of milk powder.
  2. Cover and keep in the refrigerator until you have the machine ready to go.
  3. Pour it into the machine to make sure to not fill it up the whole way so there is room for some expansion.
  4. Watch for tip #4.

Tip #4 – Keep an eye on the ice cream. Most machines let you see inside, and you want to make sure the ice cream is not getting too thick. You want the right consistency for your soft serve.

Tip #5 – Check for the extras. There are lots of recipes online for soft serve that go beyond the regular chocolate and vanilla flavors. You can also add toppings for some extra goodness. Things like chocolate flakes, sprinkles, coconut and chocolate chips are just a few. Make sure the extras are small, so they stick to the ice cream without weighing it down.

an ice cream dip into the sprinkles

Tip #6 – Storage. If you have left over mix that didn’t go in the machine, that can be left covered in the fridge. If you have frozen soft serve left then it can go in the freezer, but DON’T leave it in the freezer bowl. Doing that can damage the bowl. Use an airtight container or an actual ice cream bucket to store it but also realize that the soft serve will become regular ice cream

a white with purple lid container

Final Thoughts

Learning how to make soft serve ice cream is not complicated and can be a great addition to your dessert menu. It’s fun to make and even better to eat. Use these 6 tips to make sure it turns out perfectly so the whole family can enjoy a cool treat. Whether you want to have it in a bowl or cone, homemade soft serve ice cream will be a hit. Plain or with some great toppings, it’s a tasty treat.

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