Neapolitan Ice Cream

Neapolitan Ice Cream

There are certain treats from the supermarket freezer section that immediately conjure up childhood nostalgia: Ice cream sandwiches (the ones with the soft chocolate wafers), the firecracker ice pops that stain mouths blue, and the boxes of Neapolitan ice cream that inevitably lead to everyone fighting over their favorite flavor.

What Is Neapolitan Ice Cream?

Neapolitan ice cream is a classic frozen dessert composed of three separate flavors—typically vanilla, chocolate and strawberry—layered in the same container.

The name comes from the dessert’s presumed origins in Naples Italy. Immigrants from this region brought their ice cream-making expertise to the United States and spumoni (a trio of pistachio, cherry, chocolate) is thought to have been the first Neapolitan-style ice cream they made in their new home.

Other variations include flavors that represented the green, white, and red colors of Italian flag, but today, it's chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry that's become the standard.

What’s the Best Cocoa Powder for Making Ice Cream?

Dutch-processed is excellent in this recipe, but either Dutch-processed or natural will work just fine.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Tips

  • When making homemade ice cream, it is always important to work quickly and get the churned product into the freezer as soon as possible. When mixing in the cocoa powder and the strawberry ice cream topping, use metal bowls that have been placed in the freezer for a few minutes to chill. That way, the churned ice cream can stay as cold as possible during this quick mixing process. Then quickly form the layers and cover and place in the freezer immediately to set.
  • Be sure to use strawberry topping, not syrup. If you can’t find strawberry topping, you can substitute strawberry jam. Your strawberry ice cream will have more texture using jam, but if you coarsely chop it before adding it to the vanilla ice cream, you’ll avoid having large pieces of fruit in the ice cream.
  • It can take from 20 minutes to 1 hour to churn ice cream, depending on the maker. Check your ice cream maker manual for specific times.

“The Neapolitan ice cream is delicious, and the recipe is easy to prepare and freeze. Mine needed about 6 to 7 hours to freeze solid, so it’s best to make this early in the morning or a day in advance. I used an 11.75-ounce jar of strawberry ice cream topping for the strawberry layer.” —Diana Rattray

A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

  • 3 cups heavy cream

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 cup strawberry ice cream topping, such as Smuckers

  • 1 teaspoon food coloring, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    ingredients to make Neapolitan ice cream

    The Spruce/Bahareh Niati

  2. In a medium bowl, combine the milk and sugar. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved.

    milk and sugar in a bowl

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  3. Whisk in the heavy cream and the vanilla extract.

    heavy cream and the vanilla extract in a bowl

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  4. Churn according to manufacturer’s directions, about 20 to 25 minutes.

    ice cream mixture in an ice cream machine

    The Spruce/Bahareh Niati

  5. Spoon 1/3 of the churned vanilla ice cream into an airtight freezer-safe container. Spread in an even layer, cover, and transfer to the freezer.

    vanilla ice cream in a rectangular container

    The Spruce/Bahareh Niati

  6. Spoon 1/3 of the churned ice cream into a large bowl. Add the cocoa powder. Stir to combine.

    chocolate ice cream in a bowl

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  7. Spoon the chocolate layer over the vanilla layer and spread evenly. Return to the freezer.

    chocolate ice cream in a rectangular container

    The Spruce/Bahareh Niati

  8. Spoon the remaining churned ice cream into a large bowl. Add the strawberry ice cream topping. Stir to combine. If a deeper pink hue is desired, add a few drops of red food coloring.

    strawberry ice cream in a bowl

    The Spruce/Bahareh Niati

  9. Spread the strawberry layer evenly over the chocolate layer. 

    strawberry ice cream in a rectangular container

    The Spruce/Bahareh Niati

  10. Cover and freeze for at least 2 hours to firm. Then, scoop and enjoy!

    Neapolitan Ice Cream

    The Spruce/Bahareh Niati

Recipe Variations

It is also possible to layer the vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream in a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap. Then, to serve, you can simply lift the plastic wrap from the loaf pan and cut into vertical slices to serve.

How to Store

Homemade ice cream can be kept in the freezer for up to 2 to 3 months. A piece of plastic wrap pressed firmly on the surface of the ice cream will prevent ice crystals from forming.


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