Pumpkin Spice Gelato

Eating pumpkin makes me feel grown up.

As a kid, I didn’t care for pumpkin at all. On Thanksgiving, I’d skip over the pumpkin pie and pile my plate with cake and cookies instead. Something about vegetable-esque desserts just didn’t jive with me, and pumpkin pie never held any appeal. That is – until I caught my mom eating leftover pumpkin pie… for breakfast. I had to be seven or eight years old when I discovered her little secret. On the morning after Thanksgiving, I trudged into the kitchen to pour myself a bowl of Cheerios. My parents upheld a strict “no junk food”  breakfast policy. And there my mom was – in her pajamas – eating a slice of pie. “That’s not fair!” I sputtered, “Why can you eat dessert for breakfast but we can’t?” Always the quick thinker, my mom calmly countered that I was welcome to join her. She explained that pumpkin is healthy and full of fiber, and that pumpkin pie was an appropriate breakfast “once in a while.” You better believe that I sat right down and served myself a slice of pie – the very one I had turned my nose up at the day before. And low and behold, I liked it. Sure, it didn’t compare to chocolate cake or sugar cookies,  but it was a heck-of-a-lot better than my normal cereal. I felt quite grown-up that morning, enjoying a special breakfast with my mom.

Over the years, I’ve become a full-fledged pumpkin fan. When October rolls around, I suddenly become obsessed with anything pumpkin: pumpkin beer, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin risotto, and – of course – pumpkin ice cream.

Last week, when my sister Carolyn was here, we hosted a small dinner party for the premiere of Homeland (our favorite TV show). Carolyn was making her famous chili, so I was put in charge of dessert. And – surprise! – pumpkin was on my mind. I had yet to experiment with it in my Cuisinart, so I scoured the internet for pumpkin ice cream recipes. There is certainly not a shortage of recipes out there, but most called for 4-6 egg yokes. I’m a novice when it comes to making ice cream, and I don’t feel ready to tackle so many raw egg yokes. Luckily, I stumbled across an egg-less recipe to use as inspiration for my own concoction: Pumpkin Spice Gelato.

Pumpkin Spice Gelato 
{Inspired from recipe in New York Times}


  • 2 cups milk (at least 1% milkfat)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (100%; not the pie filling kind)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1.5 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt


  • Combine the milk, heavy cream, 1/4 cup of the brown sugar, cinnamon and pumpkin spice in a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking from time to time, until it almost reaches a simmer. Reduce to very low heat.
  • Place the maple syrup, salt, and remaining brown sugar in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Add about 1/2 cup of the warm milk/cream mixture, whisking as you pour.
  • Return the maple mixture to the saucepan and increase the heat slightly (just below medium). Continue cooking until the mixture just begins to thicken. Do not allow it to boil.
  • Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla extract. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
  • Pour chilled mixture into a blender and pulse to liquefy any solids. Freeze mixture in your ice cream maker, per the manufacturer’s directions. If you’re using a Cuisinart, this means 1) turn on your machine, 2) slowly pour mixture in, and 3) leave the thing be for 15 minutes or so. The consistency should be like firm but not icy.
  • Serve immediately or transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm (about 2 hours in my case). Looks best when topped with a candy corn pumpkin 🙂

The verdict? Not too bad for my first try! This gelato was a little less sweet than most pumpkin ice creams, but I think that’s why this tasted more like real pumpkin pie. The consistency was a bit grainy, which I didn’t mind. If grittiness isn’t your thing, I suggest using a strainer – rather than a blender – to get rid of solids before adding the mixture to the ice cream maker. My guests reported that the spice level was good, but I thought the cinnamon overpowered the nutmeg. Next time I’ll just use more pumpkin spice and reduce the extra cinnamon amount. All in all, this recipe was a keeper. I can’t help but wonder… Will mom approve this for breakfast on November 23rd?