Commercial Ice Cream Mixes

Ever wondered how small ice cream shops and restaurants make their homemade ice cream?  Well, it turns out many of them don’t actually beat together the eggs and sugar, and then heat the milk and cream, and go through the whole process like we do at home.  They just pour a pre-made mix into the ice cream machine and let it churn away.  And they get that ice cream mix from a local dairy.  The mix typically has cream, milk, and sugar, but without the flavoring, which can be added depending on what they’re making.

I’m lucky enough to have a friend that works at a dairy, and when he found out about my love of all things ice cream, he brought me five half-gallon containers of their various ice cream mixes.  My friend, his dairy, and the names of the ice cream companies he gave me the official mixes for shall remain nameless in this blog post, because I’m not absolutely sure he was allowed to give them to me.  He does, however, have my eternal thanks.  :-)

  • 14% Mix – This was the official ice cream mix for an ice cream company with locations around the world.  If you live in the U.S., you’ve almost certainly had it.  This particular one was unflavored, or in other words, just a Sweet Cream mix.
  • 10% Mix – Since ice cream in the U.S. has to have at least 10% butterfat to be called “ice cream”, this would be considered a “low fat” or “reduced fat” ice cream.  It was also unflavored, and probably used by lots of restaurants, schools, etc.
  • 5% Mix – Another official mix for a very famous international company, and this one’s been around a very long time.  This mix has a very distinct, vanilla-like flavor that you can almost immediately identify when you first taste it.  Since it’s only 5% butterfat, it’s considered a soft serve mix, which would normally be eaten right out of the machine.
  • 3.5% Vanilla Mix – This would be considered an “ice milk”, since it has the same butterfat content as whole milk.  This would also be used in a soft serve machine, and eaten fresh.  Think about soft serve machines you’ve seen at restaurants giving away free cones, etc.
  • 3.5% Chocolate Mix – Same as the vanilla, but with the chocolate flavor already mixed in to make things easier for the company using it.  The vanilla and chocolate mixes might even be used in the same machine for swirls.

The first thing that struck me about these mixes is that none of them contained eggs.  If I tried to make ice cream without eggs, I’d end up with a fairly icy batch of ice cream.  But they compensate by using stabilizers like guar gum (from guar beans) and carrageenan (from seaweed).  They also sometimes use things like polysorbate 80, and mono and diglycerides, which are emulsifiers that work the same way as egg yolks to help bring things together that don’t normally mix well (for example, oil and vinegar in Caesar salad dressing).  But I’m more interested in the guar gum and carrageenan, since they’re easier to buy, and something I’d like to experiment with (although I have no idea how much of them to use — that’s an experiment for another blog post).

The other thing about not using eggs is that the mix doesn’t have to be heated to kill salmonella.  The dairy uses pasteurized milk and cream, so the mix can be used as it is.

So what do you do with five half-gallon containers of commercial ice cream mix?  You have an ice cream party, of course!  I made several versions of vanilla, and had a blind taste test.  Sort of like a wine tasting, but without the spitting.  I had five vanilla ice creams in all — four of the commercial mixes plus a batch of my own homemade version (the sweet cream base plus a teaspoon of vanilla).  I also made Chocolate Brownie, Spicy Peach Chocolate Chunk, and a Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookie Chocolate Chunk ice cream (recipes coming soon).

So here’s what I learned…

First, all of the commercial mix ice creams came out of the machine really sticky.  Some of them hung off the spoon almost like marshmallow cream.  I assume this was because of the emulsifiers and stabilizers.  And they were all snow white, since they didn’t have any eggs in them.

The next thing I learned was that I might be using too much vanilla — or maybe the vanilla I’m using is too strong for a full teaspoon.  The pre-made vanilla mixes tended to be much more subtle.  The taste testers seemed to think it was fine either way, but that the ones I added vanilla to were better suited to someone that really likes vanilla.

Much to all of our surprise, the taste testers liked the 10% mix better than the 14% mix or the homemade version I made.  They immediately picked out the one I made from scratch, saying it was almost like butter in comparison.  My first thought was that maybe I needed to lower the butterfat content a bit, but actually I think now that the high butterfat content is probably needed at home since we don’t add all the extra stuff to make it thicker and less icy.  But when I do some experiments with guar gum and carrageenan, I wonder if I’ll find that I need less butterfat to make an ice cream that’s just as smooth.  I think the tasters would have been happy eating any of the three higher butterfat mixes (10%, 14%, and mine), but the 10% mix was the winner.  Even they were surprised when they discovered that their favorite wasn’t the 14% premium ice cream from a famous company.

They immediately picked out the 5% mix because of its distinctive flavor.  They seemed to like it though.

The 3.5% mixes were interesting to try because of how different they were from the ones with higher butterfat contents.  We could really taste the difference in the texture.  They felt colder on the tongue, almost like the slight burning feeling that you get from eating ice or snow.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say they were bad by any means, but it was very clear they weren’t in the same category as the others, and that fact helped the tasters understand the difference between the various types.

One really cool thing about the mixes was that it was just so incredibly easy to make ice cream!  Pour 3 cups of mix from the carton straight into the machine, start it churning, and out comes 4 cups of really good ice cream!  I also figured out finally that my machine adds a pretty consistent 33% “overrun”, which is the amount of air added during the churning process.

And I learned that if you’re gonna make nine batches of ice cream, it’s really nice to have a machine with a built in freezer.  It was a veritable ice cream factory in my kitchen that day!

I think I also learned that having nine types of ice cream is really great for an ice cream party, but maybe a bit too much when doing a blind taste test.  But hey, can you really have too much ice cream?


35 comments for “Commercial Ice Cream Mixes”

  1. Lindsay wrote:

    Thanks for the great post and great blog! You have lots of interesting information in here to help me make my own ice cream better!

    August 17, 2009, 10:15 am
  2. James wrote:

    Your site is awesome and I have learned tons. This blog entry is no different.

    I’ve always wondered if they sat in the back mixing up batches of ice cream. I have a question:

    Does this mean the big guys are all using powdered milk? And what kind of cream are they using to have a dry mix?

    August 26, 2010, 12:31 pm
  3. Peter wrote:

    Great post! Is the price of the mix cheaper than the cost of ingredients if you make your own mix at home?

    October 6, 2010, 9:30 am
  4. Russell wrote:

    Yes, I would guess they all use powdered milk, but it’s most likely powdered skim milk, in addition to normal milk and cream. The mix is liquid, but they add powdered skim milk to help with the consistency.

    Actually I got these mixes free from a friend of mine that works at a dairy. Some dairies sell ice cream mixes to the public though (usually at grocery stores), but I don’t know what the price would be compared to doing it yourself — my guess is that doing it yourself would be a bit cheaper though.

    October 6, 2010, 10:21 am
  5. Rachel wrote:

    Is it possible to make a chocolate ice cream from a vanilla commercial mix?

    October 8, 2010, 8:46 pm
  6. Russell wrote:

    Rachel: yes, I’d think it should be possible to make chocolate from a vanilla mix, but my understanding is that the big companies actually get a chocolate base from the dairies, to make it easier.

    November 3, 2010, 9:56 am
  7. Carol wrote:

    A couple years ago I found an ice cream powder that was black raspberry flavor. I added the milk and eggs and froze it in my 2 qt freezer. I have moved since then and can’t find my information. Does anyone have a source for these flavor powders? It helped with the ice crystal issues that can come with homemade ice cream.

    I also wondered if anyone has had any experience with the xanthan gum in making homemade ice cream for the 2 qt freezers. I wondered how much to use in the base I make.

    May 12, 2011, 3:54 pm
  8. Pat wrote:

    Hi, do you know if there are any existing powdered milk or pre packaged versions for the ice cream mixes that can be purchased from the super market for commercial use (for large quantities of ice cream for an ice cream shop). i am thinking that this might be an alternative to buying large quantities of fresh milk ice cream mixes directly from a dairy. Many thanks


    December 11, 2011, 4:08 pm
  9. Jesse wrote:

    Hey there,
    I have a friend who runs a very successful ice cream business. She makes it all herself. I discovered she gets regular deliveries from the dairy of what she just calls “cream.” It comes in these large bags which seem like 2.5 gallons. She mentioned she gets some that are 14% butterfat and some 16% butterfat. She dumps it directly into her batch freezer. Could this be the same “commercial mix” you’re referring to?

    October 28, 2012, 1:01 am
  10. John Alguire wrote:

    This all is very interesting,but what about soft serve machines commercial mixes???
    Thanks So Much, John Alguire

    February 12, 2013, 8:11 pm
  11. Petal Rampersad wrote:

    I live in Trinidad which is in the Caribbean, where can I get the ice cream mix to buy closes to my country.

    March 22, 2013, 8:21 pm
  12. sumit wrote:

    hi , i am from india and i don’t think that i will get the ice cream mix directly from any dairy. so can i make it using dairy products myself ? if yes then help me with that.and if no then what other options do i have to get ice cream mix.

    May 4, 2013, 7:07 am
  13. isabel wrote:

    Hi, you have very interesting things here, I was wondering if you got the chance to experiment with the guar gum and the carrageenan or the emulsifiers, I would really like to know since I have tried myself to replace egg yolk with guar gum and is a mess. Thank you!

    February 3, 2014, 10:13 am
  14. Valerie wrote:

    Hi. I’d love to know the names of the commercial mixes that you’re referring to. Can you please “name names”?

    March 14, 2014, 9:23 am
  15. satyanarayana wrote:

    I want commercial ice cream mix ingredients % clearly.

    May 1, 2015, 12:50 pm
  16. RAKESH wrote:

    hi i am looking for a mix ice cream plz let me know if u can help us nearly 3 to 4 pallet week 1 lets into 12 case

    May 8, 2015, 4:28 pm
  17. Caroline corona wrote:

    I’m trying to get ingredients info from ice cream shops such as Leatherbys and Farrell’s and bennjerrys but having difficulty. Handles did reply and they use high fructose corn syrup. When asked why there was no answer.

    August 29, 2015, 10:23 am
  18. simon wrote:

    What mix % can I use to make soft ice cream

    November 28, 2015, 8:03 am
  19. Tim Palmer wrote:

    We make micro batches of dairy free ice cream using coconut cream as primary ingredient. We are using a Musso bench top machine. Although it has proven to be a very robust reliable unit the ice cream produced sets very hard in the tubs that we produce. We are trying to find a way of getting more overrun into the mix which I think would make the ice cream softer once fully frozen in the freezer. Do you think a more professional batch freezer like a Carpigiani would achieve more air in the mix?

    February 14, 2017, 10:59 pm
  20. Ken Swayze wrote:

    Tim Palmer, I started just as you did with a Musso and made pretty decent ice cream however I had a huge reliability problem with mine it seemed to stay in the back of a UPS truck headed to New Jersey for repairs more than it did on the bench making ice cream. Also it advertised 20 minute batch times mine was more like 30 minutes plus using fully chilled ice cream mix.
    Have you ever heard of Emery Thompson, it blows the Italian machines away. I recently purchased the CB 350 with infinite overrun control (variable speed) it is a 6 quart machine and consistently kicks out my batches in 12 – 14 minutes. It has a touch screen control on the front with different types of gelato, Italian ice, and high air American ice cream settings with the ability to custom adjust the RPM anywhere you want it.
    You can literally put in 3 quarts of mix, crank up the RPM and get 6 quarts of high air ice cream. I personally prefer setting mine just above gelato. People tell me I have the smoothest ice cream they’ve ever eaten.
    Another good feature is the freeze drum and paddles are horizontal meaning if you dump nuts, candy, or cookies in the mix they stay suspended in the ice cream in lieu of sinking to the bottom as with the musso. The paddles also have spring loaded scrapers that touch the drum and keep any caking from happening.
    The master might have a different opinion, I am speaking from my experience only and I’ve had nothing but positive results with my CB 350.

    February 19, 2017, 11:08 am
  21. Anand wrote:


    help me how much ratio these can be added of a good ice cream to be prepared in air Churner

    April 18, 2017, 12:53 am
  22. Amol wrote:

    I want to know how to make an ice cream mix for commercial use.

    May 25, 2017, 11:55 am
  23. Michael wrote:

    I’ve had a carpigiani LB 502 for 15 years with no problem
    at all! It’s just luck of the draw I guess. I’ve heard of Emery Thompson’s not lasting 5 years so it’s all different.

    May 26, 2017, 10:08 am
  24. Marsha Kitchens wrote:

    Hello – Great Information. I would like to buy some of this 14% ice cream mix from this dairy. I am opening an ice cream retail shop and will be making my own. How can I purchase from this dairy? Thank you.

    June 25, 2017, 7:32 am
  25. Nk wrote:

    Hi there, how can i buy 10% ice cream mix from this dairy, i am experimenting with some of my own flavoring and would like to know where i can buy 10% ice cream mix from this dairy ?, thanks for your detailed blog and information you shared. awesome work…!!

    July 19, 2017, 10:37 am
  26. Sheena Kaw wrote:

    Hi Russell! I’m researching to make our own ice cream base mix for our start up business. I saw in your comment that the pre-mix you used was in liquid form. How long is the shelf life of the liquid mix? I was hoping to use a powdered mix instead, to get a longer shelf life. But will it come out too “watery” if I mix the powdered mix with water?

    I know your post has been since 2009, but still taking my chance and hoping you’d reply. :) Thank you, Russell!

    August 5, 2018, 1:15 am
  27. Russell wrote:

    Hi Sheena,

    I don’t remember exactly what the shelf life was, but since it was mostly milk and cream, I’d assume it was the same as for those products in general. Less than a week, I’d guess.

    I’ve heard of using a powdered mix with gelato (that’s fairly common) but I’ve never heard of it for full-fat ice cream. My guess is that you wouldn’t get the same quality as if you used a liquid mix, but you might contact a local dairy to see what they offer.


    August 5, 2018, 3:53 pm
  28. Esther Mackie wrote:

    Hey I looking for to buy ice cream mix commercial… I hope someone can help me where I can get that in Australia…thanks

    October 15, 2018, 5:25 pm
  29. Martha Boyles wrote:

    Im looking to purchase 14% ice cream mix for a startup in Maui Hawaii. I have tried several dairies but they do not ship to Hawaii. I have also researched the local dairies and they do not make this product.

    Any Thoughts?

    November 4, 2018, 4:47 pm
  30. Ethan Simmons wrote:

    Need help lining up a ice cream mix supplier

    October 28, 2019, 4:32 pm
  31. Jim H wrote:

    What is the best way to make chocolate from a dairy sweet cream 5% mix for commercial soft serve? How much chocolate per 2 gallon mix?

    Also, has anyone tried mixing dry chocolate mix with the diary 5% mix rather than making with gallons of water?

    Please share your experiences.

    November 8, 2021, 11:21 am
  32. Russell wrote:

    Hi Jim H,

    I’m not in the commercial ice cream business but my understanding from talking to someone that works for a dairy is that businesses that sell chocolate ice cream typically buy a pre-mixed chocolate base from the dairy rather than mix it themselves from a sweet cream base. Maybe someone else can comment on how to actually mix it though.


    November 8, 2021, 11:56 am
  33. JimH wrote:

    Thank you for the prompt reply Russell.

    I am not a commercial operator, but have a Taylor 161 two flavor soft serve machine in a party room in my garage, I host several car clubs and of course neighbors. I am new to the soft serve world. So far I have used Frostline Vanilla and Chocolate dry mix, 6 lb bag to 2 gallons of water. Last event we bought from a dairy, they only have the sweet cream base, which we like better but mixed the dry chocolate in 2 gallons of chilled water as instructed. For my next event I will try using the dairy base instead of water for the chocolate. I was hoping someone with experience doing this would reply.



    Sent from my iPad

    November 8, 2021, 1:44 pm
  34. Tahir shah wrote:

    I have an ice cream factory can anyone tell me about the formula of ice cream mix of 500 kg having skimmed milk powder of 28% of fats and 26% of protein…

    August 5, 2022, 5:39 am
  35. Dan wrote:

    Hi, What are the machines required to make Ice creams with ice cream powder mix for a small scale ice cream business?

    September 13, 2022, 2:47 pm

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