Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

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Have you ever tried Vietnamese coffee? It’s sweet but packs a caffeinated punch from strongly brewed coffee. I tried it at Saigon Restaurant, a new favorite of mine in Lafayette Square.

Our friends Chris and Yvonne asked us to dinner and John chose Saigon Restaurant as the place to eat. At first I thought John was overcome with a fever, as that was probably the last place I would have thought he would chose would be an ethnic restaurant. However, we went once before and both of us truly enjoyed it, and with more than 100 items on the menu there were plenty of reasons to return.

Our friends had never been to Saigon before but they were open minded and ordered steamed dumplings as an appetizer, spicy noodle soups and grilled chicken over noodles, which was similar to what we ate on our first visit. This time John chose a chicken and vegetable stir fry dish and I chose duck soup with mushrooms and herbs.

I’m going to suggest that we eat here once a month and call is “Pho with Phriends.” This was my duck soup:

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream - Solid Gold Eats

After devouring our entrees, Chris and Yvonne ordered bubble teas, which we saw one gentleman make behind the counter the entire time that we were dining, and I ordered a Vietnamese Coffee. Bubble teas were very popular, but I only saw one other person drinking a Vietnamese coffee within my view in the restaurant.

Now, if you know me and my coffee habits, you may be questioning why I decided to purchase a sweetened coffee. I’m the girl that gets my coffee black and never, EVER do I add sugar or cream. But this was meant to be a dessert, so I opted for a strongly brewed coffee with a little bit of sugar over a bubble tea.

Vietnamese coffee, as described by CoffeeGeekis a combination of concentrated coffee brew, condensed (very sweet) milk (nb: do not use evaporated milk; always condensed milk), and ice. To brew Vietnamese iced coffee as authentically as possible (though with a specialty coffee twist, which I’ll detail below), you need something called a phin.

Ah, a phin! So that’s what it was called! When I received my coffee, there was a tiny contraption on top of a glass with sweetened condensed milk at the bottom. The contraption had water on top and coffee dripped down into the glass. I took a short video of it should you could see for yourself:

Once it all dripped into the cup, I removed the phin and poured the mixture over the glass of ice, scooping out every last drop of the sweetened condensed milk. The end result looked like this:

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream - Solid Gold Eats

By the end of my drink, my caffeine level allowed me to not fall into a Vietnamese cuisine coma from eating so much food.

Of course, I had to translate this drink into ice cream.

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream - Solid Gold Eats

The concept is simple but delicious – coffee mixed with half and half, sweetened condensed milk and a pinch of coffee grounds for a sprinkle of color. The slightly bitter coffee blends well with the super sweet milk, giving you a treat that will cool you off without the sugar rush you may expect from a sweeter ice cream.

Since the sweetened condensed milk is so thick, it replaces the need for heavy cream, but I still found my finished product to be a little more icy than some of my other milk and heavy cream based recipes. That’s the way I like it!

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream - Solid Gold Eats


Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

Makes 1 1/2 Quarts


  • 2 14-oz cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 1/2 cups strongly brewed coffee
  • 1 cup half and half
  • Pinch of coffee grounds

In a large bowl or a container with a lid, whisk all of the ingredients together. Let chill in the refrigerator overnight. Process in your ice cream maker per manufactures directions (my Cuisinart took about 25 minutes). Spoon the ice cream into freezer safe containers and let sit in the freezer for at least one hour before serving.

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  • Ashlee Aleshire-Ash

    Did you hot or cold brew the coffee? I’ve heard that cold brewing coffee decreases the acidity/bitterness, but I’ve never tried it myself.

    • solidgoldeats

      It was stale coffee HA! No really, it was leftover coffee in the pot from that morning. We brew our coffee pretty strong, so I considered it strong enough for this ice cream. If you brew hot coffee, just let it sit to room temperature before you mix it with the rest of the ingredients, since you ultimately need a cold mixture for your ice cream machine.

  • Harry Howe

    Sara, I’ve got one of those contraptions used to make Vietnamese coffee and use it every now and again. If you’d like to borrow it, let me know and I’ll give it to Jenn.

    • solidgoldeats

      That IS so cool! I would love to try it out sometime. I’ll read up on it more and see what kind of coffee I need.

      • Harry Howe

        I was told to use a New Orleans style coffee with chicory, which I enjoy.