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Rocky Road Ice Cream

Rocky Road Ice Cream is summer in a bowl. Cold, creamy, sweet, and silky chocolate ice cream is studded with mini marshmallows, toasty nuts, and chunks of chocolate for an explosion of texture and flavor.

A jar of Rocky Road Ice Cream on a table with ingredients scattered around.

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I love making homemade ice cream. So much so that I wrote an entire book about it—The Homemade Ice Cream Recipe Book! I’ve got a recipe for a custard-based Rocky Road Ice Cream in the book, but this one is even simpler.

This Rocky Road Ice Cream is a mix-and-freeze version with sweetened condensed milk to give it substance in the absence of an egg-yolk-based custard.

What’s the story behind Rocky Road Ice Cream?

Rocky Road Ice Cream is said to be the granddaddy of all mix-in ice creams! Believe it or not, before its invention in 1929, people didn’t even think for a second about mixing bits of crunchy, chunky, creamy, chewy delightfulness into their creamy ice creams.

Pretty much everyone agrees that this scrumptious ice cream flavor originated in Oakland, California (not to blow your mind or anything, but guess what else originated in Oakland, California. Me!!), but who invented it is a bit of a mystery—and a bone of contention.

Was it William Dreyer and Joseph Edy of Edy’s Grand Ice Cream who first thought to load their chocolate ice cream up with bits of chopped up marshmallows and nuts? According to the lore, they gave it the name because they wanted to give people “something to smile about” after the stock market crash of 1929.

Or was it Dryer’s and Edy’s good friend and candy maker George Farren of Fenton’s Creamery down the road, who hit on a bright idea to chop up his nuts-and-marshmallow chocolate bars and churn them into rich chocolate ice cream?

Farren says he told his buddies across town about the creation and they stole all the glory when their version of the new flavor became a national sensation.

I guess their friendship was pretty rocky after that, but the success of the new flavor paved the way for the many mix-in loaded ice cream flavors we enjoy today. Whether you like your ice cream chock full of nuts or cookie crumbs or chocolate chips, you have whoever invented Rocky Road Ice Cream to thank for it.

Rocky Road is still a favorite ice cream flavor to this day, as are the many chunky ice cream flavors that came after it.

Straight on, closeup shot of a jar or rocky road ice cream.

Why you’ll love this no churn Rocky Road Ice Cream recipe

There are a million reasons to love this recipe. Here are just a few:

  • Obviously, the combination of flavors—rich chocolate, cream, sweetened condensed milk, toasted nuts, and chewy marshmallows—is super crave-worthy.
  • Homemade ice cream is fun to make and a great way to impress friends and family with little effort. For this recipe, you don’t even need an ice cream machine.
  • This recipe is super easy! There’s no custard base, and therefore no cooking involved. Just mix the ingredients and go!
  • You don’t even need an ice cream maker! This is a no-churn recipe, which means you can just put it in a pan and pop it in the freezer.
  • If you want to put it in an ice cream maker, you can definitely do that, too! I’ve included instructions for that in the recipe.
Overhead shot of the ingredients needed to make rocky road ice cream.

Ingredients for Rocky Road Ice Cream

You only need simple ingredients to make this no-churn rocky road ice cream. Here’s what you need:

  • Heavy whipping cream—Starting with good quality real cream is key to making an amazing ice cream. The cream is the base on which the ice cream is built, so use a good one!
  • Sweetened condensed milk—I love sweetened condensed milk. It’s so thick and creamy and addictive. Here it provides sweetness as well as giving thickness to the base.
  • Pure vanilla extract—Vanilla is one of the best flavors on Earth. Always use real vanilla extract (or vanilla beans).
  • Salt—Just a little salt balances the flavors and brings out the sweetness.
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder—Ideally, use a Dutch-processed cocoa powder to flavor your chocolate ice cream base, but any unsweetened cocoa powder will do.
  • Pecans—The original Rocky Road Ice Cream included walnuts, but at some point, it was changed to almonds. These days, walnuts seem the most common. But you can use whatever nuts you like! I’m allergic to walnuts, so I use pecans or almonds.
  • Semisweet mini chocolate chips—These are optional but I love the extra crunch and chocolatiness they provide.
  • Mini marshmallows—Marshmallows, along with nuts, are a signature add-in for Rocky Road Ice Cream. They add nice textural variety as well as flavor.

How to make it

It is so easy to make this no-churn Rocky Road Ice Cream, with or without an ice cream machine! Here’s how:

  • In a mixing bowl, whisk the heavy cream until soft peaks form.
  • In a large bowl, mix together your condensed milk, vanilla, salt, and cocoa powder.
  • Fold the condensed milk mixture into the heavy cream. 
  • Stir in the pecans, chocolate chips, and marshmallows.
  • Pour the mixture into a loaf pan and freeze for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.
  • If you want to churn it in an ice cream maker, be sure to freeze the container for 24 hours ahead of time. Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and then churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions, for about 30 minutes. Transfer the ice cream to a loaf pan and freeze for at least 3 hours, until very firm. 
A jar of Rocky Road Ice Cream on a table with ingredients scattered around.

What about electric ice cream makers?

If you feel like you want to get an electric ice cream maker, I support that decision 100 percent! Here are my favorites:

For a basic model, the Cuisinart Electric Ice Cream Maker is a workhorse that won’t let you down. You do need to freeze the canister for at least 24 hour before use, though.

If you love making ice cream, you might want to spring for an ice cream maker with a built-in compressor (which means it has it’s own freezifying element built in!). This Whyntner Automatic Ice Cream Maker is a great option at a great price.

more summer desserts you’ll love

S’mores Ice Cream celebrates that most quintessential summer treat. If you’re still enjoying the warmth of summer but are craving the flavors of fall, try cinnamon-spiced Pumpkin Ice Cream.

If you want to be really decadent, you could use your Rocky Road Ice Cream to make Air Fryer Fried Ice Cream, or go ahead and use store-bought vanilla ice cream for this fun dessert. If air frying dessert is your thing, try air frying S’mores!

If you’re looking for more sweet summer treats, try Air Fryer S’mores, Mini Blueberry Pies, Triple Berry Hand Pies, Blueberry Clafoutis, or Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake Bites.

Yield: 1 pint

Rocky Road Ice Cream

Close-up, low angle shot of a jar with rocky road ice cream in it.

Cold, creamy, sweet, and silky chocolate ice cream is studded with mini marshmallows, toasty nuts, and chunks of chocolate for an explosion of texture and flavor.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (or use almonds, walnuts, or any nuts you like)
  • ¾ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows

Instructions

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Be careful not to over whip.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together your condensed milk, vanilla, salt, and cocoa powder.
  3. Fold the condensed milk mixture into the heavy cream. 
  4. Stir in the pecans, chocolate chips, and marshmallows.
  5. Pour the mixture into a loaf pan and freeze for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.
  6. If you want to churn it in an ice cream maker, be sure to freeze the container for 24 hours ahead of time. Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and then churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions, for about 30 minutes. Transfer the ice cream to a loaf pan and freeze for at least 3 hours, until very firm.
  7. Serve frozen.

Nutrition Information

Yield

8

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 385Total Fat 32gSaturated Fat 17gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 13gCholesterol 69mgSodium 161mgCarbohydrates 24gFiber 3gSugar 17gProtein 4g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

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By on April 21st, 2022

About Robin Donovan


Hi, I’m Robin! I am a full-time food blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. I spend my days cooking, writing about, and photographing food.

I’m the author of more than 40 cookbooks, including Ramen for Beginners, 5 Ingredient Cooking for Two, Sushi at Home, The Baking Cookbook for Teens, and the bestselling Campfire Cuisine.

My food writing has also been featured in major print and online pubications including Cooking Light, Fitness, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and other popular publications.

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10 thoughts on “Rocky Road Ice Cream”

  1. Oh yummmm….this rocky road ice cream is heavenly, creamy, and so addictive! I have to remind myself to make extra in the summertime.

    Reply
  2. This was so much fun to make!! And not at all difficult! (I always thought ice cream was hard!)
    The kids finished the lot!!!

    Reply
  3. I had every single ingredient in my house already so I whipped this up for an afternoon treat since it’s pretty warm here in Cali. You just saved us money because now we can make this ice cream at home instead of spending money. This was absolutely delicious and I know exactly what’s in it. Thank you!!! My kids thank you as well.

    Reply

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