Is there anyone else there who doesn’t like ice cream? Even if you have dietary restrictions, there are plenty of frozen treats to enjoy. Why a quick trip to the grocery store or local ice cream shop is always an option, it’s now becoming easier than ever to make a variety of frozen desserts more easily at home. I recently had a chance to try the Ninja CREAMi dessert maker. It’s not really an ice cream maker; the premise it it’s a lot easier and less work, so in this review, I’ll look at what this machine can do, how it works, if the frozen desserts it makes are good and if I can recommend it for you.
Ninja CREAMi ice cream & dessert maker
This machine is a surprising hit in our kitchen. It’s easy to use, and makes tasty treats, with only a few minor caveats that aren’t deal-breakers.
- Makes great desserts
- Few ingredients needed
- Makes a variety of frozen treats
- 2 pint containers included
- Easy to use
- Machine is large/tall
- Takes 24 hours to freeze
- Makes only one pint at a time
- Most recipes need some type of sweetener
What is Ninja CREAMi?
Ninja CREAMi, (model NC301) is an ice cream, gelato, milkshake, sorbet, smoothie bowl and lite ice cream making machine.
It churns out small 16 ounce pints of frozen treats that you prepare, but unlike traditional ice cream makers, you don’t need to prepare custards, or freeze special bowls. The premise of this machine is that you can use very few ingredients, in some cases it will work with just a can of fruit, to prepare fresh, tasty, and healthy desserts. The machine automates seven different programs and you carry them out with the touch of a single button.
The machine comes with a recipe booklet that can guide you through several different options, and you can easily dream up your own creations too.
What’s in the box?
In the box you get the machine, which Ninja calls the “Motor Base with Dual-Drive Motors and Creamify Technology”, a special locking bowl and lid, plus two pint containers and what’s known as the Creamerizer Paddle which is what shaves and churns ice particles into a frozen treat.
Using Ninja CREAMi
Before you get too far, it’s important to note that you’re going to need to choose your recipe, mix up the ingredients, and then freeze them for a full 24 hours before you can enjoy your dessert, so plan ahead.
The machine can make a frozen dessert out of a variety of different ingredients. For the most part it uses milk, cream sugar, and cream cheese to make ice cream. It will also turn a can of fruit, like mandarin oranges, peaches or pineapple into a sorbet. Important to note is that your can of fruit needs to be in juice, light, or heavy syrup. Using canned fruit with no added sugar such as fruit and water may damage the unit.
Ninja doesn’t really explain why, but it seems the sugar helps prevent the ingredients from freezing too solidly, allowing the machine to whip them up effectively?
The machine will also make dairy free treats using unsweetened coconut milk, or coconut cream, and can make less sugary treats by varying different type of sweeteners including agave syrup, Stevia or corn syrup.
There is also an option for a fresh fruit only sorbet that does not require added sugar.
Making Ice Cream
I used the Ninja CREAMi to make a variety of desserts. Let’s start with ice cream.
The ice cream recipes are quite simple and use ingredient do you likely already have on hand. I opted to make fruity cereal ice cream. This recipe essentially uses a sugary cereal like Froot Loops or Fruity Pebbles plus milk, sugar, cream cheese, vanilla, and cream. The cereal gets soaked in milk to absorb all its flavor, then strained and mixed with the other ingredients.
They are poured into the pint container, and frozen for a full 24 hours. When you’re ready, remove the lid from the pint container and click it in to the special bowl. Attached the creamer riser paddle to the lid, then lock that into place. Next, lock the entire bowl into the machine, and select the Ice Cream program.
The machine will run for about two minutes, churning your ingredients for you. There is an option to add additional serial pieces by using the mix in program. This essentially stirs extras in at a lower velocity. When the mixing program is done, remove the bowl and take out your pint. Your fruity cereal ice cream is ready to eat.
I can say that the very limited ingredients made this recipe super easy to make, and the flavour is out of this world. This ice cream option is definitely going on repeat in our house.
Next up I wanted to do a sorbet option using canned fruit. I had a can of mandarin oranges on hand in light syrup, so I realized this would fit the bill nicely. Make a sorbet using canned fruit, it’s as simple as opening the can and dumping the fruit and juice into the pint container. You’ll want to make sure not to go past the max fill line. Cover the container with the lid and freeze for a full 24 hours. When you’re ready choose the sorbet program on the machine. The machine will run for a couple of minutes until your treat is ready. If it comes out looking crumbly, this likely means your freezer is extra cold. You can run what’s called the Re-spin program to get a creamier result. This essentially mixes it for a little longer now that it has started to warm and thaw a bit.
I also used a can of peaches to make a peach sorbet. Both my sorbets did need a Re-spin to get creamier, but the taste was great. Real, pure fruit flavour that is a nice refreshing change from over processed grocery store frozen desserts.
The machine seems to lower the blade inside the lid down and into the ingredients like an auger, shaving them up a thin layer at a time until it’s all been broken apart. Then it kind of sees. To whip those shavings into a creamy texture.
Coconut Mango Smoothie Bowl
The last dessert I tried in my review period was a dairy-free Coconut Chery Smoothie Bowl. This recipe uses fresh or frozen fruit pieces and coconut milk to create a frozen breakfast or dessert bowl. The recipes is as simple as adding fruit, then topping to the fill line with coconut milk and freezing for the full 24 hours.
This one whipped up on the Smoothie Bowl program, came out almost crumbly or powdery, which frozen coconut milk can do… I opted to let it sit out and warm up for a few minutes, before giving it a stir, and that helped it soften up and become a little more cohesive. It made a fine creamy breakfast base for fruit and granola.
Overall, I can say the recipes are very easy and offer a lot of different options for flavours and dietary changes. Each of the treats was quite tasty and easy to make, with the most difficult part being waiting 24 hours for the ingredients to freeze.
Caveats & special instructions
The machine has a few important caveats that seem somewhat intimidating. For starters you must ensure that your pints have frozen flat inside the container. If any of the liquid inside has been frozen at an angle or if your pint has been scooped out and then refrozen unevenly, this could pose a problem for your machine.
The machine is designed to process bases that are between 9°F and -7°F. You may need to adjust your freezers temperature in order to get the best results. Your frozen treat mixes need to be frozen for a full 24 hours. While it may seem frozen after last time, the entire bowl needs to reach coldest temperatures before it can be processed, and to avoid damaging the machine.
Ninja also points out the machine is not a blender and should never be used to process a solid block of ice or even ice cubes. It should also not be used to make a regular smoothie or to process hard loose ingredients like frozen fruit. Frozen fruit must be crushed to release juice or combine with other ingredients and frozen before processing.
The pint containers, plus locking bowl and lid are dishwasher safe.
Overall I’m surprised by how much I have enjoyed using this machine. I thought it would be quite limited and more complicated, but I’m really impressed with how few ingredients are actually required to make delicious frozen desserts. I’m a huge fan of the ice cream, and the fruity cereal ice cream in particular. I love the sorbet option, particularly since they can be made with nothing more than a can of fruit. But there’s a variety of non-dairy and light options too.
The machine is easy to get the hang of, and seems to work well. When it comes to the downsides, the machine itself is on the large size, and is quite tall meaning it might not fit under every kitchen cabinet. It also takes a full 24 hours to freeze your ingredients before you can make anything, so last minute desserts are out—you’ve got to plan ahead. As well, most of the recipes do require some type of sweetener. Some folks may also be disappointed at the size of the output; you’re only getting one pint at a time, and the machine comes with 2 pints which may or may not be enough for larger families.
Those caveats aside, this is a great way to make more wholesome frozen desserts at home with fewer ingredients, no preservatives, and a great variety of flavors. I can definitely recommend the Ninja CREAMi to you.
It sells for about $229USD/$249CAD and you can get it from Ninja or Amazon.
Best Buy link: