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There’s nothing better than rocky road ice cream! This combination of chocolate ice cream with nuts and marshmallows is a total classic.

rocky road ice cream
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If you’re a fan of ice cream mix-ins, there’s nothing better than the good old classic Rocky Road Ice Cream! This ice cream flavor is almost a century old and still popular as ever. The creamy chocolate base holds chunks of toasted nuts and marshmallows, creating irresistible texture and flavor contrasts. Make it homemade and you can add chocolate chunks too (why not?!). Here’s the best homemade rocky road ice cream recipe and a few notes on the origin of this funky flavor!

Why is it called rocky road ice cream?

The ice cream flavor rocky road was invented in 1929 by business partners William Dreyer and Joseph Edy, who co-founded the ice cream brands Dreyer’s and Edy’s. At the time, ice cream flavors were simple (vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry). Rocky Road was one of the first combination flavors, which used the mix of chocolate, nuts, and marshmallows from a candy bar that Joseph Edy had invented. The name alluded to the “rocky” economic times of the Great Depression.

The story goes that William Dreyer used his wife’s sewing scissors to cut the marshmallows into pieces, since there were no mini marshmallows at the time! The original ice cream used walnuts, but they were later replaced by toasted almonds. Some versions today also use chocolate chunks, but the original version had only a chocolate base.

Either way, we owe the idea of ice cream mix-ins to Dreyer and Edy, who pioneered the concept in the 1920s! (Ben and Jerry’s thanks them, we’re sure!)

Rocky Road Ice Cream

Ingredients in rocky road ice cream

Sure, you can buy rocky road ice cream at the store. But it’s a fun and satisfying project homemade! There’s nothing better than that creamy, rich chocolaty base with crunchy mix-ins. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Cornstarch: cornstarch helps to thicken the ice cream and keep it soft after freezing; it’s absolutely essential in our book!
  • Whole milk
  • Heavy cream
  • Cocoa powder
  • Granulated sugar
  • Salt
  • Vanilla extract
  • Almonds (or walnuts)
  • Marshmallows
  • Chocolate chips or chunks

For the marshmallows

There are a few options for the marshmallows in rocky road ice cream. Turns out, it’s tricky to cut marshmallows into pieces! They are very sticky, and it’s almost impossible to cut them with a knife. So, we took a cue from the flavor’s inventor, William Dreyer! You can also use mini marshmallows.

  • For large marshmallows, cut them with kitchen sheers! Dip the scissors into hot water before cutting each marshmallow, and if necessary wipe off the blades with a towel or paper towel. They’re a little fiddly, but we like the organic look of the large cut shapes.
  • Or, use mini marshmallows! These small marshmallows are much easier to manage. However, we don’t like the look as much (feel free to use whatever you choose).
Rocky Road Ice Cream

Add chocolate chips or chunks if desired

The original rocky road ice cream recipe did not have chocolate chips or chunks. But to us, the more chocolate the better! Some modern versions of rocky road do include extra chocolate, but the original simply used chocolate as the base. Use whatever you like (we couldn’t resist a little more chocolate).

Required equipment: ice cream maker

This rocky road ice cream recipe does require one piece of special equipment: an ice cream maker. You’ll find it’s a great investment you can use to make sorbetssherbet and ice cream year round! There are two main types of ice cream makers:

  • Freezer bowl ice cream maker: This type of ice cream maker is the most economical choice. Here’s the 2 quart freezer bowl ice cream maker we use; it’s held up very well over the years. Be sure to freeze the base of the ice cream maker overnight before making this recipe.
  • Automatic ice cream maker: Do you make ice cream often? Consider this automatic ice cream maker, which is larger and more expensive. It requires no pre-freezing of the base, so you can make ice cream on a moment’s notice.

How to make rocky road ice cream (basic steps)

This homemade rocky road ice cream recipe uses the classic method for making ice cream: make a custard on the stovetop, chill it, churn it in an ice cream maker, then freeze to “ripen” the texture. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Make the custard (5 minutes): Simmer the cornstarch, whole milk, cocoa powder and sugar for 4 to 5 minutes. Then add in the heavy cream, more milk, vanilla, and salt.
  • Cool the custard (1 hour or overnight): Cool down the custard before churning it. You can do this in a few ways. The quickest is to transfer the mixture to a large metal or glass bowl and place the bowl in a smaller bowl of ice water for 1 hour.
  • Churn (25 minutes): Churn the ice cream in the ice cream maker.
  • Add mix ins: Add the toasted almonds, marshmallow pieces, and chocolate chips.
  • Freeze or “ripen” for hard ice cream texture (at least 2 hours or overnight): Freeze the ice cream for 2 hours or overnight for a scoop-able, hard ice cream texture.
Rocky road ice cream recipe

More ice cream flavors

And that’s it! Let us know if you try this homemade rocky road ice cream and what you think! (Edy and Dreyer would be proud.) If you’ve got an ice cream maker, are a few more classic ice cream flavors you might enjoy:

This Rocky Road ice cream recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free.

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rocky road ice cream

Rocky Road Ice Cream


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 quart 1x

Description

There’s nothing better than rocky road ice cream! This combination of chocolate ice cream with nuts and marshmallows is a total classic.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk, divided
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • ½ cup chopped large marshmallows or mini marshmallows*
  • ¼ cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, slowly whisk the cornstarch and into 1 cup of the whole milk, then whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar. Heat over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes, whisking frequently, until it’s almost simmering and the mixture thickens.
  2. Remove from the heat. Stir in the remaining ½ cup milk, heavy cream, salt and vanilla extract.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a large metal or glass bowl. Place the bowl in a smaller bowl of ice water for 1 hour, making sure not to splash any water into the custard. Alternatively, simply place the bowl in the refrigerator and wait for 3 hours or overnight, until the temperature drops to 40°F.
  4. While the base chills, prepare the toppings. Toast the almonds. To chop the marshmallows, use kitchen shears and dip the shears into hot water before cutting each marshmallow (clean them off by wiping with a towel or paper towel; you can also use mini marshmallows instead). 
  5. Churn according to your ice cream maker instructions, about 25 minutes for soft serve consistency.
  6. Transfer the ice cream to a loaf pan or freezer container. Stir in the toppings with a spatula and mix to combine, saving out a few toppings for sprinkling on the top.
  7. Sprinkle with the remaining toppings. Then freeze in the freezer for at least 2 hours or up to 4 hours. Store in a loaf pan with a parchment sheet over the top or a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.

Notes

*It’s easiest to use mini marshmallows since large marshmallows are tricky to chop: but it works with kitchen shears. However, we like the look of the organic shapes of large marshmallows best.

  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Frozen
  • Cuisine: Dessert
  • Diet: Vegetarian

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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1 Comment

  1. Alex S says:

    I absolutely love rocky road ice cream! This looks like fun to try! I have never tried to make ice cream but this looks so good that I need to give it a shot.