Introduction: Buttered Popcorn Frozen Yogurt (no Machine Needed)

This recipe is for all the people out there who want to make frozen yogurt (or ice cream, for that matter) but who don't have a fancy machine. The secret tool? Ziploc bags!

Some of you might remember making a similar recipe in middle school science class where you filled a bag with sweetened milk, then put that bag in a coffee can filled with ice and rock salt and rolled it around the classroom. Well, this recipe is even simpler, and it makes frozen yogurt that's buttered popcorn flavored! The sweet and salty combination tastes terrific, and it's a great way to use leftover popcorn.


1 gallon-size Ziploc bag

1 quart-size Ziploc bag (not sandwich size. Quart-size is significantly larger and has a stronger seal.)

Measuring cups and spoons


mixing bowls

Step 1: Ingredients

(makes 3 servings, generous 1/2 cup each)

3 cups buttered popcorn (I used microwave "movie theatre-style". Don't use a "light" variety, since you need that buttery flavor to come through.)

1/2 cup milk (or half-and-half)

1 1/2 cup whole-milk plain yogurt (not Greek-style, since that would make it too thick and tangy)

1/4 cup honey

1/4 to 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (depending on how vanilla-y you want it to be)

Around 8 cups of ice cubes (enough to fill a gallon-size Ziploc bag halfway)

1/2 cup rock salt (If you don't have rock salt, you can use kosher salt or table salt)

Step 2: Heat Milk and Infuse With Popcorn

Heat 1/2 cup milk in the microwave for about 1 minute, or on the stovetop until hot (but not boiling).

Combine 3 cups of popcorn and milk in a bowl or Tupperware container.

The popcorn will shrink down, so you only need a small container to hold the mixture.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours.

Step 3: Squeeze Out the Flavored Milk

After you've infused the milk with that popcorn-y goodness, dump the soggy popcorn into a sieve and drain the buttered popcorn-flavored milk into a bowl. Press out as much milk as you can with the back of a spoon.

Save the flavored milk and discard the solids.

(If you would like to experiment, perhaps you could blend up the popcorn and milk in a food processor or blender, then strain out the solids and use that for a stronger "buttered popcorn-flavored" milk. I haven't tried that, so report back if you do!)

Step 4: Add Yogurt to the Bag

Scoop 1 1/2 cups whole-milk plain yogurt into the quart-sized Ziploc bag.

The reason why you shouldn't use Greek yogurt is that Greek yogurt would overpower the delicate butter flavor in the ice cream with its tanginess, and it would also give the frozen yogurt too much richness. It could end up tasting like frozen sour cream, and no one wants that!

I haven't tried using low-fat or non-fat yogurt, but I predict it would be less thick and creamy than the whole-milk yogurt. Also, some brands of "light" yogurt add in thickeners or milk solids to their yogurt to make up for the lack of fat, and those thickeners can give the yogurt a grainy mouthfeel, so I would avoid them. When you buy yogurt, make sure that the ingredients are just milk, cream, and live/active cultures.

Step 5: Add Popcorn-Milk and Vanilla to the Bag

Pour in the buttered popcorn-infused milk as well as the 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.

If you add too much vanilla, that could overpower the butter flavor, and you'd just end up with vanilla fro-yo, so don't add too much.

Step 6: Add Honey to the Bag and Mix

Pour in the 1/4 cup of honey into the bag, then seal the bag (make sure it's really sealed shut!) and mix up the ingredients inside until they're well-mixed and smooth.

Step 7: Fill the Large Ziploc Bag With Ice and Salt

Fill your large, gallon-sized Ziploc bag halfway with ice cubes (about 8 cups, but I didn't bother to measure, I just eyeballed it). Pour in 1/2 cup of rock salt or any other kind of salt you have. Shake around the bag a bit to mix up the ice and salt evenly.

Step 8: Put the Yogurt Bag Into the Ice Bag

Insert the bag of the yogurt-mixture (sealed tight!) into the ice bag and surround the yogurt bag with ice all around it. Seal the ice bag really well and make sure they're no leaks.

Step 9: Shake It Up!

Shake the bag for 10-20 minutes, kneading the yogurt bag occasionally to make sure the yogurt freezing evenly.

If the ice turns into water, just drain off the water and add in some more ice.

I found that the easiest way to shake it up is to wrap the whole bag in a large towel and shake it around. That way, any water that drips out gets soaked up by the towel, and your hands don't get as cold. The salt makes the ice extra-cold, so it's nice to give your hands some insulation from it.

Step 10: Cut Off a Corner and Pipe Out the Frozen Yogurt

Once your yogurt is nice and frozen, cut a large hole out of the corner of the bag and pipe out the frozen yogurt into a bowl.

Step 11: Enjoy!

Now you can eat it as-is, or sprinkle on toppings. I used additional buttered popcorn, but you can use berries, caramel, whipped cream, chocolate chips, or any candy you like.

This makes a soft-serve frozen yogurt, similar to what you would get at a frozen yogurt place and is best eaten immediately. If you'd prefer a more scoopable, hard-serve version that can be frozen for later, continue to the next step.

Step 12: Hard-Serve Method

Freeze the soft-serve frozen yogurt in a bowl or a shallow pan until firm, about an hour or so. Then you can use an ice cream scoop to make nice little scoops of frozen yogurt.


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