Tonka bean ice cream: living on the edge


I had never heard of a tonka bean until Peter Templehoff (The Greenhouse)gave us a few at the Taste of Cape Town. Reminding me of vanilla, I decided to turn them into an ice cream.

It’s a seed from the large tropical tonka tree and it’s quite difficult to describe the taste and smell.  It’s pretty unique, reminiscent of vanilla but with a herby smokiness to it. Apparently, it contains coumarin and thus is banned in the US. 

Tonka beans are said to ‘lighten one’s mood and be emotionally balancing’. It felt obvious to me that I should make a plain ice cream base from which their full character could shine through. 

I ground up the 5-tonka beans in a pestle and mortar and added this to a cup of milk.  I heated the milk to just below boiling point then turned off the heat and left it to cool, allowing the beans to fully infuse with the milk.

I strained the bits out of the milk and made a cream base from my Ben & Jerry’s ice cream book 

  • 2 eggs (free range)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups cream, heavy or whipping 

Beat the eggs until fluffy for about 2 minutes.  

Slowly add the sugar bit by bit and carry on whisking for a further minute or so until the sugar is incorporated.

Add the milk and cream and stir to combine.

Run the mix through an ice cream maker until ready according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

I served this ice cream with my pears poached in syrupy, spicy red wine and it was a winning and delicious combo.

 Had I read all the warnings before, I may have been a bit more hesitant, or scared.  Anyway, it’s too late now and the FDA is most probably concerned about consumption in large doses. The main thing is that I have survived to tell the tale and had a food-first and rare eating experience. Definitely worth the risks.


  1. Glad you made it! It really is the weirdest flavour! What is it that it is supposed to do to you?

  2. Never had tonka bean before – thanks for the lovely intro. Where did you manage to track it down though? (Ice-cream looks fantastic by the way…)

  3. drizzleanddip says:

    Marisa, its a lovely little ice cream recipe if you have a machine

  4. When I tasted tonka beans for the first time it was in a creme brulee and it was divine, I can only imagine they would be just as delicious in an ice cream like yours.

  5. drizzleanddip says:

    Hi Chanel, yes the first time I had it was also in a creme brulee, the plain cream base is a nice neutral platform from which to fully appreciate the unique flavour. Given all the health warnings and my love for vanilla, I probably wont make again 🙂

  6. Hi Sam, I had my own tonka bean epiphany this weekend, then saw you’d arrived at the came revelation earlier this year. I link back to your site on Spectacularly Delicious:

  7. drizzleanddip says:

    Hi Sean, thanks will check you out. 🙂

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