Heavenly Coconut Lychee Ice Cream

“Heavenly” is really the only adjective I could find to describe this lightly-sweetened homemade coconut milk ice cream infused with fresh lychees and ginger and lime.

How would I come up with the crazy idea of putting lychees into ice cream? I’ll tell you! Last weekend I was up in Northern California having a blast, running through the redwoods, eating 5-pound vegan burritos in Santa Cruz, and picking out my future mansion in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights. Then on Sunday I drove back home to LA, and if you’ve ever made this trip down the California coast, you know there are fruit stands everywhere with the most amazing produce. Hand-painted signs advertising 7 avocados for $1 or 4 red grapefruit as big as your head for $1 – you won’t find better deals or better quality fruits anywhere. I stopped at one such place and found lychees for $3/pound! Considering that lychees are my absolute favorite fruit, I may or may not have bought more lychees than I could carry…

If you’ve never had a lychee (what’s wrong with you?!), they’re a small translucent white fruit that originally hail from China. Their taste is totally indescribable, with sweet nectary tropical flavors. Also, they kind of resemble an eyeball:


Back home, staring at my pile of lychees, I was trying to figure out what I could make with them. Given that it’s the middle of summer here, vegan coconut milk ice cream seemed like the perfect use. Lychees are a natural paring with coconut, and I’ve really nailed the coconut milk ice cream base recipe. So after I added a little lime and ginger and stuff, this turned into a frozen dessert unlike any I have ever tasted. I know it seems a little off-the-wall, but if you can source some lychees (they’re in season) and you have an ice cream maker ($50 on Amazon), please give this one a shot – you won’t be sorry.


Makes about 6 servings


  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 12-15 lychees
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger
  • 1 lime (juice + zest)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon vodka or rum (optional)
  • 1/4 cup dried coconut flakes


Step One

The hardest part of this recipe is preparing the lychees. The red outer shell needs to be peeled away, and then the large stone in the center needs to be removed. Once that’s done, add the translucent lychee flesh into a blender along with the coconut milk, fresh ginger, lime juice (reserve the lime to be zested later), some maple syrup, a little vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth and give it a taste – the flavors will change after being frozen, but you’ll have a good idea now if anything needs to be adjusted.

The vodka is optional, but highly recommended. You see… vodka doesn’t freeze like water, so when you mix just a tablespoon into the ice cream, it gives it a lovely creamy consistency once fully frozen, whereas the other ingredients alone *can* have a tendency to become a little too icy.

Step Two

Pour this mixture in a large bowl and place in the refrigerator to fully chill. Meanwhile, make the garnishes. This ice cream is taken to a whole other level by toasting some dried coconut flakes and sprinkling over top. I made this by adding coconut flakes to a baking sheet and popping in the broiler for 5 minutes. You can also zest that lime and set aside for garnish later.

Step Three

With the mixture chilled, follow your ice cream maker’s instructions to, you know, make the ice cream. At that point, it will likely still be fairly soft. Add to a chilled container (I used a loaf pan) and freeze for at least 3 hours until firm. It will keep for 5+ days in the freezer. When ready to serve, allow to thaw on the counter for ~10 minutes so that it’s easier to scoop. Garnish with the lime zest and toasted coconut for extra happiness.




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  1. This looks ah-maaaa-zing! I adore lychees but haven’t had them in forever! I guess they’re pretty hard to come by here…or maybe I just forgot about them so haven’t been looking…? Whatever the case, I better go find some !

    • Thanks so much, Emma! Hmm, I have no idea how abundant lychees are in England, but they *are* in season right now. I hope you can find some! 🙂

  2. LOVE lychees but I can only find them canned in heavy syrup. The second I find fresh lychees I’ll be making this!

    • Hey Rachael! I saw someone on Facebook mentioned canned lychees, which I didn’t know existed. You know, that might not be a terrible idea. If most of the syrup was rinsed off and the amount of sweeter reduced, it would probably come out very similar when fresh lychees are hard to find.

  3. Could I use something other than vodka? I’ve got Kahlua, Bailey’s, a blush wine, and a german light wine. Would any of those do, or does it have to be vodka?

    • Definitely! The alcohol (which doesn’t freeze) prevents the ice cream from becoming too icy. Anything that’s neutral in taste and high in alcohol would work just fine.

      • Thanks Andrew! One other quick question (and this may be a stupid question but I’ve got to ask): I bought some lychee from a Korean store and peeled them (they’re so delicious!!) but while I was trying to scoop out the seed, I noticed that there is a brownish skin (from the seed?) that’s stuck to the white flesh. And try as I might, I can’t seem to separate that from the flesh. Do you know if this is the way it’s supposed to be? Do I just throw it all into the blender? If not, how do I peel off the skin from the flesh? Sorry to bother you again with my questions! 🙂

        Btw, just to start off, I made a shake with some of the lychee and some coconut milk, and ice. Very nice, indeed!

        • Hi Indrani, no worries! Yes, that brownish film on the inside of lychees is nothing to worry about and they should blend just fine 🙂

          • Thanks much Andrew — for your patient replies 🙂

            I grew up in India eating lychees (we called them “lichu”) but we didn’t make shakes or ice cream out of them. Looking forward to trying this!

            take care…

  4. I made this today and it turned out delicious! I added sour cream to make it more sour (but not sure if that worked). I tasted more coconut than lychee though, even though I added 25 lychees! They had been stored in the freezer, so this may have diluted their flavor. Oh well, next time I’ll add 50 lychees and see where that takes me :). Still a delicious recipe! Thanks for posting!

    • Maybe. It’s never going to be the same but one way to do it is to freeze 80% of it in ice cubes and then blend with the other 20% liquid (maybe returning to the freezer for a while until it’s the right consistency).

  5. Okay Rachel I also have some lychees but they’re in the can can I still make the ice cream with lychees in the can

  6. Thank you for sharing your fabulous recipe with the world. I made a batch and this certainly shall be an annual favourite in every lychee season!

    • Awesome! I’m really glad to hear that you enjoyed this ice cream, Ayesha. Thanks for taking a minute to let me know 🙂

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