I must have ice cream on the brain, because lately my TikTok For You Page has been swimming in Ninja Creami recipes and testimonials. Clearly, the universe wanted me to try this newfangled machine for myself. So is it as great as everyone says? Does it produce the kind of ice cream that would keep Ben & Jerry up at night? Or is it an overpriced, overrated countertop monster? The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Here's my Ninja Creami review.
First things first: The Creami doesn't "make" ice cream in the way a bread-maker makes bread. You don't just dump in the ingredients, press a button and wait for the magic to happen. Instead, you have to mix the ingredients yourself, pour this "base" into a plastic tub, and then freeze it for at least 24 hours. Then the machine does its thing, shaving and churning the frozen block into that thing we all scream for.
Actually, it can churn other variants as well — this model has seven modes — including gelato, sorbet, smoothie bowls and milkshakes (the only item that doesn't require the 24-hour pre-freeze). But if this machine is really just a glorified blender, is it any better than an actual blender? Or a food processor?
The answer is a qualified yes, because the Creami combines a powerful motor with a specialized metal paddle that slowly makes its way down and up through the container, with different strengths and speeds depending on what you're making. Other machines have fixed-position (and, in the case of a food processor, fixed-speed) blades that merely crush what they're mixing. Ice cream is all about texture, and there's no question the Creami produces that texture — that creaminess, natch — much better than a blender or food processor.
(Of course, you can make pretty incredible ice cream with just two ingredients — heavy whipping cream and sweetened condensed milk — and not spend $200-plus on yet another kitchen appliance. Just saying.)
The machine definitely requires some trial and error, which can be frustrating when you've waited 24 hours for that trial. I can see the value in buying a few extra pint containers (the machine comes with two) so you always have something ready to pull from the freezer. And I definitely recommend watching some TikTok or YouTube videos for instruction. There's also a very active Ninja Creami Facebook group that's great for asking questions and finding recipes.
Ninja Creami: My tests and results
My first attempt at ice cream (chocolate, obviously) was a partial success. Despite following Ninja's recipe (which seemed a bit fussy, including whole milk, heavy cream and even cream cheese) to the letter, I ended up with little clumpy bits of chocolate that wouldn't blend into the mixture. I did my best to strain those out of the pint before freezing — which might explain why the final product wasn't very chocolatey. I also made a poor mix-in choice: mini Reese's peanut butter cups, which seemed kind of waxy and flavorless.
Nevertheless, what ultimately came out of the machine was true to its name, a rich and creamy dessert that three out of four testers loved. (I was the holdout.)
Next, I tried a pair of fruit options, both based on TikTok recipes: a simple cherry pie filling from a jar, then some fresh strawberries and raspberries pureed with a little sugar and whole milk. Both were blended using the sorbet setting, which is specifically intended for fruit-based recipes.
The pie filling turned out amazing, although just a touch too sweet — I should have blended in some graham crackers or something to help balance it out. As for the berries: [chef's kiss]. The consistency was amazing, easily as good as anything I've had from a store or pint.
Again following TikTok (what can I say, it's fun watching others experiment!), I froze some Fairlife chocolate milk, which is notable for being higher in protein and lower in sugar than typical chocolate milk. End result: Hey, who put this Wendy's Frosty in my bowl? Similar texture and flavor, though a bit less sweet.
Ninja Creami: What I don't like
This thing is loud. Like, really loud. And it takes several minutes for the blade to make its first pass through the pint, something to consider if you live in an apartment. (Take pity on your neighbors.) If you decide to add mix-ins or need to do a "re-spin" (necessary for some recipes), that typically takes another minute or so.
It's also a big, heavy machine, weighing in at about 13 pounds and standing 16 inches tall. Be sure to measure the space beneath your cupboards if you're hoping to slide this underneath. In my kitchen, there's barely enough clearance.
Finally, the $180 price tag (for the NC301 model, which I tested) seems steep for a single-use product, especially considering that you can buy something like the Dash My Pint Ice Cream Maker for all of $25 (or less when it's on sale). Indeed, there are lots of ways to make frozen desserts for less (see above), and without the 24-hour wait, too.
Ninja Creami: Is it worth it?
These issues notwithstanding, the Ninja Cream is a lot of fun. There's a certain mad-scientist joy that comes from creating or discovering a delicious recipe. I think it's especially great for the health-minded, as it affords total control over your ingredients (unlike the pints you buy at the store).
If the price is hard to swallow, consider the five-mode Ninja Creami (currently $149 at Walmart), which removes the gelato and smoothie-bowl programs but is otherwise identical.