Fresh mint gelato with cacao nibs How to make an authentic Italian ice cream… with garden-grown mint!

Fresh mint gelato with cacao nibs

Fresh mint makes for a refreshing homemade gelato

After months of dormancy, forced into stupor by winter’s deep freeze, my herbs are the first plants in my garden to show signs of life. As soon as the ground thaws, mint, chives, sorrel and tarragon proudly emerge… tentatively at first, then vigorously. And these young shoots are never as flavorful as at this time of the year.

So infusing milk with vibrant “spring” mint to make a light gelato is truly a joy. The gelato is amazingly refreshing to the taste buds – bursting with the essence of fresh mint.

Crunchy roasted cacao nibs replace the chocolate chips

And of course, mint and chocolate being a classic (and winning!) combination, I couldn’t resist adding chocolate to this iced dessert. But here, I use unsweetened cacao nibs (roasted cacao beans that are broken into small bits) instead of chocolate chips. They bring an addictive crunch to the delightful minty gelato.

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Fresh mint

Fresh mint gelato with cacao nibs

makes 2 pints
active time: 30 min

  1. 3 cups whole milk
  2. 3 oz (85 g) fresh mint (1 large bunch)
  3. 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  4. 3/4 cup organic sugar
  5. 1 cup heavy cream
  6. 3 tablespoons cacao nibs (see Viviane’s tip)

  1. Step 1:camera icon Place 2 1/2 cups of the milk in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the mint and fast-simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover pan and let stand for 15 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve, discard the mint and pour the infused milk back into the pan. Place the cornstarch and sugar in a small bowl. Add the balance of the milk, whisk until the cornstarch has dissolved and set aside. Reheat the infused milk until it reaches boiling point. Quickly add the cornstarch mixture, whisking continuously. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, whisking continuously, until the mixture thickens slightly. Transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate until well chilled – about 2 hours in the refrigerator, or 45 minutes in the freezer.
  2. Step 2:camera icon Once chilled, whisk the heavy cream into the base. Transfer to an ice cream or gelato maker and freeze according to the instructions of your machine. When the gelato is done, add the cacao nibs and churn a few more times until well incorporated. Transfer the gelato to a container and freeze for 2 to 3 hours before serving. (The gelato should have firmed up, but should still be a bit soft.)
  3. Cook’s note: The gelato will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks, but is best eaten the day it’s made. Remove from freezer and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes until slightly softened before serving.

Cacao nibs

Viviane’s tip
  1. Don’t have cacao nibs on hand? You can use bittersweet chocolate instead. You won’t get the crunch the cacao nibs offer, but you’ll get the wonderful flavor of dark chocolate and mint. Place 2 oz (55 g) of bittersweet chocolate in a food processor and pulse until medium crumbs form. Transfer to a medium-meshed sieve to remove the finer crumbs and the chocolate dust. Add 3 tablespoons of the bittersweet chocolate pieces to the gelato, just as you would for the cacao nibs.

Fresh mint gelato with cacao nibs

gelato, mint, cacao nibs

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  • Reply Kay Stuntz July 14, 2018 at 1:55 am

    Hi Viviane, another summer, more mint in the garden, a beautiful evening and this delicious gelato on the porch! So good.
    Everyone loves it. I will try the lemon balm with berries as you suggest and let you know.
    Thank you so much for your recipes–now family favorites-that have added to our lives.

    • Reply Viviane Bauquet Farre July 14, 2018 at 2:44 pm

      Hi Kay! It’s lovely to hear from you again. Thank you so much for your lovely note. It’s gelato time, isn’t it? I planted mint in my new garden yesterday. I cannot wait for it to grow! Enjoy making your gelatos… and have fun creating new flavors. Happy summer to you and your family!

  • Reply Cicie October 29, 2017 at 12:52 am

    Hi Viviane, I’m new to your website and have been amazed by the recipes on it. The recipes and the photos are top quality. and I intend to make many them. Thanks!

    • Reply Viviane Bauquet Farre November 14, 2017 at 3:47 am

      Thank you so much, Cicie! Your comment warmed my heart. Enjoy!

  • Reply Kay Stuntz July 25, 2017 at 2:01 am

    Again, another superbly delicious gelato! How good fresh mint is! I made it using the local organic milk the top milk standing in for the cream required by the recipe and it came out so well. Perhaps the slightly less richness adds to the wonderfully refreshing quality of my final product. Crushed dark chocolate is really good, but I’m looking forward to trying the gelato with the cacao nibs. How about a coffee gelato recipe? Thanks, Vivianne!!

    • Reply Viviane Bauquet Farre July 25, 2017 at 2:13 pm

      Dear Kay, you’re on a roll! You’ve made the gelato recipes here enough to really understand the proportions… So I say to you, go for it and create your own flavors now! Yes, fresh mint is exquisite. You can try making this recipe with other fresh herbs – a particularly love lemon balm gelato, served with fresh berries – a dream! I am really grateful to you for your notes and enthusiasm. It just warms my heart. Thank you!

  • Reply Deb May 20, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    Growing up Chocolate Mint Ice Cream was a favorite. The fresh mint and cacao nibs in this recipe take my childhood favorite to a luxurious level of sublime, just fabulous!

    • Reply Viviane May 21, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      Thank you so much, Deb! I’m so glad this recipe made you dream of your childhood favorite ice cream!

  • Reply dina May 7, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    this sounds so refreshing!

  • Reply RavieNomNoms May 7, 2014 at 11:36 am

    Mint chocolate chip ice cream, but the fresh way! How amazing!!

    • Reply Viviane May 7, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      Raven, thank you, my dear! I so love making gelato with fresh mint…

  • Reply Kayle (The Cooking Actress) May 7, 2014 at 8:52 am

    This ice cream looks so perfect and sophisticated and DELICIOUS!

  • Reply Angie (@angiesrecipess) May 7, 2014 at 4:42 am

    I love the combo of mint and chocolate too. This is a perfect after-dinner treat.

    • Reply Viviane May 7, 2014 at 12:14 pm

      Hear, hear! Thank you, Angie 🙂

    Question or comment? I'd love to hear from you!