The origin story of this recipe is super weird, which one of my favorite sources for recipes. Basically, I have a friend who got this gag gift of a can of kidney beans for a Secret Santa exchange. Turns out he doesn’t actually cook or particularly like kidney beans, so he bequeathed the beans to me, with the promise that I will make him something tasty with them. One joke about kidney bean ice cream later, and here we are…
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So, kidney bean ice cream. The first thing I thought of was red bean paste, which is a staple in East Asian desserts. A quick Google search confirmed that red bean ice cream is not a crazy idea – in fact, I found a number of recipes that helped to form the basis of this recipe. I also found a lot of mention of the flavor combinations red bean paste and matcha (Japanese green tea powder), and red bean paste and coconut. Why not do all three? Plus, the inclusion of coconut would also allow me to make this a vegan ice cream by replacing the cream with coconut milk, which I would like to do more frequently.
Given all that Googling involved, the foundation of this recipe is COMBINE – I compared a few different recipes, noting the similar RATIOS and differences, and designed what I thought would be a successful first attempt. Specifically, I drew from David Lebovitz’s (the ice cream master) Green Tea Ice Cream from The Perfect Scoop (I also modified his Candied Red Beans for canned beans), Gena Hamshaw’s Strawberry Vanilla Coconut Ice Cream that I have made before and loved, and a Matcha Coconut Ice Cream from Love & Lemons.
BALANCE was tricky in this one, as I don’t know these ingredients very well. I largely relied on the internet for flavor profiles, but here’s what I do know about these new ingredients:
Matcha – smells like light tea, grass, very fresh. Apparently can taste kind of bitter if you use too much, definitely not sweet.
Red bean paste – overwhelming flavor is usually just sugar and a very starchy texture. In this case, they definitely also still taste quite beany. Kind of like baked beans. Baked bean ice cream?
Ice cream makers – I received an ice cream maker for my birthday a few years ago, and while it takes up some storage space, it really brings me joy (take that Marie Kondo!). It’s a basic frozen bucket electric spin model. I keep the bucket in my freezer all the time, just in case I have a sudden urge to make ice cream. It’s allowed me to experiment with unusual flavors, I can be sure the ice cream I’m making doesn’t have any preservatives or weird ingredients, and I get to impress my friends!
Matcha Coconut Ice Cream with Kidney Bean Swirl (Vegan)
For the Red (Kidney) Beans:
- 1.5 cups (15 oz) canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed well
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- In a medium pot, submerge beans in water until just covered.
- Bring to a boil over high, then add sugar and corn syrup.
- Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring often, for 10-20 minutes, until thick and syrupy
- Cool completely, then drain (reserve syrup) and mash with a potato masher/chop until roughly the size of peas
For the Matcha Ice Cream:
- 2 – 15 oz cans full fat coconut milk
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 4 tsp cooking grade matcha
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- pinch salt
- Whisk the coconut milk in a medium pot over medium heat until it just develops bubbles
- Remove ~1/2 cup of the coconut milk and whisk in cornstarch until smooth
- Add sugar and salt to the pot and stir to dissolve
- Whisk in the cornstarch mix until smooth
- Continue cooking until thickened to a custard consistency
- Remove from heat and whisk in lemon juice and vanilla
- Remove ~1/2 cup of the mix and whisk in the match until smooth, then recombine with the rest in the pan
- Strain into a metal bowl and refrigerate until cold
- Freeze in ice cream maker according to machine directions, 15-20 minutes until frozen
- Remove back to metal bowl and fold in 2/3 beans. Return remaining beans to the reserved syrup.
- Transfer to final container and freeze until solid, at least 6 hours
- Best served with more beans and syrup spooned on top!
In terms of achieving the stated goals, I did a great job. I thought the flavor balance was pretty spot-on, and it had a good creamy texture despite being vegan. The coconut was not that noticeable, but that’s to be expected with the strength of the other flavors. That said, matcha is a somewhat polarizing flavor and the beans… have the texture of beans, so keep in mind that this may not be for everyone. Of the coworkers I shared this ice cream with, 9/10 thought it was great, and 1/10 thought it was fine. The kidney bean hater was converted. I’d call that a success!
Boil beans more before adding sugar. It would be nice if they were softer without disintegrating. Can test by squishing between fingers.