a close up of two scoops of hazelnut praline ice cream in a waffle cone standing upright. a shard of hazelnut praline is sticking out of the top of the ice cream.

hazelnut praline ice cream

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This hazelnut praline ice cream takes one of my all time favorite ice cream flavors — hazelnut — and makes it even better with the addition of hand-chopped hazelnut praline made from scratch.

I’ve been a little bit obsessed with making praline and candied nuts ever since I made that mocha hazelnut layer cake for Jimmy’s birthday last year which called for a hazelnut praline paste. It’s why I made my own candied nuts for the shaved Brussels sprouts salad (though you don’t have to).

So when I found myself craving hazelnut ice cream recently, I knew I wanted to make a hazelnut praline to go with it. All the toasted layers of flavor from the nuts and the praline make this such a good ice cream for fall.

And because you know I love a chunky ice cream — the more crunchy, chewy additions to my ice cream the better — I really stuffed this one with as much crunchy rough chopped hazelnut praline as I could get away with.

hazelnut praline from scratch

If you’re feeling intimidated by the thought of making praline, let me be the first to tell you to stop it right now. Making praline is actually so easy.

Praline, at least as I think of it, is basically just melted, caramelized sugar poured over nuts. The sugar hardens around them as it cools. Break that into pieces and congrats, you’ve made praline.

a waffle cone with a huge scoop of hazelnut praline ice cream topped with shards of hazelnut praline rests upright in a small glass. shards of hazelnut praline are scattered on the surface around it.

The best part? Because sugar dissolves, it’s really easy to clean up. Once the sugar cools, it’s easy to flake off any surfaces. And if there are any stubborn spots, a little hot water and some scrubbing dissolves the sticky, hardened sugar right off.

Fair warning: the sugar does get quite hot, so you’ll want to be careful not to handle it with your hands until it’s cooled.

Below you’ll see two different ways to make hazelnut praline that you can use in this recipe. Because I like BIG CHUNKS in my ice cream, I wrote the recipe to have you to pour the sugar mixture over whole hazelnuts, then rough chop them to make the praline chunks to mix into the ice cream.

But I did want to show the other method — where you stir chopped hazelnut pieces into the sugar mixture, then pour it out on a silpat or greased parchment paper to cool — because it’s what I used to create the shards of hazelnut praline topping you see in the photos here.

1
Combine water and sugar (and butter, if using) in a skillet over medium heat. Swirl to combine.
2
Keep swirling as it begins to bubble and take on a light amber color.
3
Quickly pour it over toasted hazelnuts on a silicone mat and let cool to harden.
4
OR stir roughly chopped and toasted hazelnuts into the sugar mixture.
5
Then pour the mixture onto a silpat or greased parchment paper to cool.
6
Rough chop to make bite sized pieces…
7
…or break into large shards to use as a topping.
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It’s up to you which of these methods you use, or if you even want to make the extra praline for topping at all (I didn’t include it with the recipe).

Just a note: The recipe does call for butter to be added with the sugar and water. But I tested that after I had already filmed these videos, which is why you don’t see any butter action happening!

the best hazelnuts are toasted

To intensify the hazelnut flavor in the ice cream base and in the praline chunks, I toasted the hazelnuts before using them. You can toast hazelnuts on a skillet, but I prefer to stick them on a sheet pan in the oven for 20-30 minutes and just give the pan a few good shakes as it toasts.

You’ll know the hazelnuts are properly toasted when the skins come right off when you give them a good shake in a clean dish towel.

If you shake them in a towel and the skins don’t come right off, pop the hazelnuts back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes. They’ll get there.

I made toasting the hazelnuts its own step (and the first step!) because you’ll divide them up and use them in two different ways in this recipe. Half will get chopped up and used to flavor the ice cream base. The other half will stay whole and get turned into praline pieces that you’ll mix into the ice cream.

You can’t go wrong serving a few scoops of hazelnut praline ice cream in a cone, but it’s also great served over apple pie or a hot fudge brownie. Or you know, eaten directly from the container. We don’t judge here.

Save a few large shards of hazelnut praline from getting mixed into the ice cream. Stick them in the top of the scoop and you’ll feel like a real fancy person as you lick your fingers clean.

a few quick notes

  • If you have any hazelnuts with skins that stubbornly remain on, use those for the ice cream base. They’ll get chopped up and strained out eventually so it’s ok if the skins get mixed in.
  • In the first step of the recipe you’ll be toasting and peeling all of the hazelnuts — 250 grams total. I split the ingredient lists for the ice cream base and the praline in half (125 grams of hazelnuts in each) just in case someone wanted to make just the praline or just the ice cream base. So if you’re making the full recipe, make sure you’re toasting and peeling all the hazelnuts. It’s not a big deal if you don’t, I’m just trying to save you the hassle of having to do two batches of toasted hazelnuts.
  • The reason the finely chopped hazelnuts get mixed with the heavy cream while the milk gets stirred in separately is because the milk will burn if you try to boil it. Don’t try to shortcut this by mixing all three together on the stove.
  • Before you start making the praline make sure you set up your silicone baking mat lined sheet pan with the hazelnuts on it. When the sugar reaches your desired level of darkness you’ll need to move quickly to pour it over the nuts.
  • Don’t wander away from the stove while you’re making the praline. It takes a few minutes for the sugar to start turning from clear to brown but once it starts browning, it goes from pale to dark amber very quickly. You’ll also want to be nearby to adjust the heat or give the sugar a stir or swirl if it’s bubbling up too high.
  • When you’re pouring the caramelized sugar over the hazelnuts, try to keep the hazelnuts fairly close together so you can coat as many of them with one pour as possible. Use a silicone spatula to scoot any naked hazelnuts into the sugar or to give the nuts a quick stir on the silicone mat so they’re fully coated in the sugar mixture before it starts to cool.
  • Once you chop the hazelnut praline pieces for the ice cream it’s important that you freeze them for at least an hour before you mix them in. You also want to give the ice cream base at least an hour or two in the freezer before you mix in the praline pieces. Why? Because if the ice cream base is too soft and the mix-ins aren’t cold enough, they’ll melt where they make contact with the ice cream base and sink to the bottom. Womp-womp.

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an overhead shot of a scoop of hazelnut ice cream in a cone. a piece of hazelnut praline is sticking out of the top and more pieces of hazelnut praline lie on the table below the ice cream.

hazelnut praline ice cream

The Practical Kitchen
A toasted hazelnut ice cream base with crunchy chunks of buttery, caramelized homemade hazelnut praline.
Pro-tip: Save some shards of hazelnut praline and stick them in the top of your scoops of ice cream so you can feel real fancy as you lick your fingers clean.
0 from 0 votes
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Combined Resting Time 16 hrs
Total Time 17 hrs 5 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 1 quart

Ingredients
  

Hazelnut Ice Cream

  • 125 grams hazelnuts (toasted and peeled)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 150 grams sugar (¾ cup)
  • 2 egg yolks (large)
  • 1 egg (large)

Hazelnut Praline Pieces

  • 125 grams hazelnuts (toasted and peeled)
  • 200 g sugar (1 cup)
  • 50 g water (3 TBSP)
  • 15 g unsalted butter (1 TBSP)

Instructions

  • Prep your ice cream maker according to instructions. Depending on your ice cream maker, you may need to chill the bowl up to 18 hours in advance of when you plan on churning it.

Toast hazelnuts

  • Preheat oven to 350°F with a rack in the topmost position.
  • Place all 9 ounces of hazelnuts on a sheet pan and toast for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to prevent burning.
    You may need to pull them out after 15 mins if they're looking dark or leave them in another 5-10 minutes if the skins don't come off easily in the next step.
  • Transfer toasted hazelnuts to a clean kitchen towel and shake, rub, and roll them around to remove the skins. It's okay if some of them still have a little skin on them, but try to get most of the skins off.
    Set aside.

Hazelnut Ice Cream Base

  • Place half of your toasted hazelnuts in a mini food processor and pulse a few times until well chopped. Combine with heavy cream in a sauce pot and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and let simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  • In a large bowl, whisk egg and egg yolks until pale and well combined, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in sugar until fully combined, then whisk an additional 30-60 seconds more.
  • Add cold milk to the bowl and whisk well. Then, slowly and gradually add in the heavy cream mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Once about half of it has been added slowly you can add the rest more quickly.
    Whisk well, transfer to an airtight container and place in the fridge for at least 12 hours to chill.
  • The next day, strain the mixture through a fine wire mesh strainer to remove the hazelnut pieces.
  • Churn immediately according to your ice cream maker's instructions. The ice cream will likely still be quite soft once it's done churning.
    Transfer back to the container, press a sheet of plastic wrap flat over the surface of the ice cream to prevent freezer burn, and chill for at least 1-2 hours before stirring in the hazelnut praline pieces.

Hazelnut Praline Pieces

  • Arrange the remaining half of the toasted and peeled hazelnuts on a silicone mat or parchment paper lined sheet pan. Group them as close together as you can.
  • In a medium skillet, combine sugar, butter, and water over medium heat. Swirl to combine.
  • Cook the sugar mixture until it melts and becomes very bubbly. This is the liquid boiling away. Stir occasionally and swirl the pan to keep the bubbles from coming up too high.
    Don't walk away — the sugar can burn quite easily!
  • When the sugar mixture starts to brown, continue swirling until it becomes a rich, golden amber color. Immediately remove from the heat and pour over the hazelnuts. Have a spatula ready to go because the sugar will cool quickly.
    Push any hazelnuts that weren't coated into the sugar mixture. Scoop any sugar mixture that has pooled away from the hazelnuts onto the hazelnuts. Its ok if they aren't fully or evenly coated, just do your best to get them covered.
  • Once the hazelnut praline has cooled completely, transfer it to a cutting board. Use a very sharp knife to chop into small, bite-sized pieces.
    Place in a container in the freezer for at least 1 hour before stirring into the ice cream.
  • Press a sheet of plastic wrap against the surface of the ice cream, then cover and freeze for at least another 2-3 hours before scooping and serving.

Video

Notes

  • It is so important that the chopped hazelnut praline pieces get at least an hour in the freezer before you stir it into the ice cream. The pieces are large and quite heavy and if they aren’t fully chilled they will melt the softened ice cream and sink to the bottom. By making sure they are chilled completely and that the churned ice cream has had at least 1-2 hours in the freezer to firm up before stirring them in, they’ll be evenly suspended in the ice cream and won’t sink to the bottom. 
  • prep time = making the ice cream base including toasting hazelnuts, cook time = making the praline, resting time = overnight rest and post-churn chill before adding mix-ins
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