I wanted to make licorice ice cream, but I don't want to use existing licorice candy (which probably contains preservatives, starch, gum etc which I want to add myself if needed). I realized I should probably go for cooking licorice root into some sort of extract or syrup and add black food coloring to the ice cream.

What would be the optimal way (traditional?) to extract flavor from a licorice root? Cut into thin strips and cook with a little water and sugar? Macerate in alcohol for a few weeks?

Or is the root not good for candy at all? Should I use anise seeds instead, for example?

  • David Lebowitz has recipes for both anise ice cream and chartreuse ice cream. The licorice is made by infusing toasted anise seeds in hot milk for 1 hour, then draining before proceeding with the custard. The Chartreuse is a mix of milk and sour cream (no custard) with 45 ml Chartreuse liqueur per batch. These are probably both an easy way out if you decide to use substitutes. Also, the first one proves that the taste is sufficiently heat-resistant. Maybe you can try infusing root pieces in the milk instead.
    – rumtscho
    Apr 21, 2014 at 0:08
  • Have you tried all natural good licorice, from Colabria, Italy? You can also get the organic licorice powder from Italian or Egyptian sources.
    – Jolenealaska
    Apr 21, 2014 at 17:44
  • This calls for candy, but it looks soooo good! Epicurious Licorice Ice Cream.
    – Jolenealaska
    Apr 21, 2014 at 17:47
  • oops Calabria, not Colabria. At any rate, there is no comparison between that stuff and Twizzlers. If you're not familiar with it, read the comments on the Amazon link I posted above under "good licorice".
    – Jolenealaska
    Apr 22, 2014 at 4:33

2 Answers 2


Licorice root can be simply simmered in water to make a basic licorice extract, but it's quite weak, and not very "zesty"

Modern commercial licorice root extraction uses ethanol under pressure and heat, and a form of ultrasonic "distillation". None of this is very likely in the home kitchen :-(

You could try using a water and ethanol solution (say basic vodka), in a closed pot, and simmer below the boiling point of ethanol 78°C (172°F). Do this outside and wear protective face wear in case of a flash fire

Here is an old patent which may provide more clues http://www.google.com/patents/US3131175

  • I think I'd rather avoid heating ethanol if possible - but that patent seems to suggest keeping water at about 90c (195f), adding ground licorice root and let steep for say an hour. That sounds easy. Do you think it will work or is the pressure cooking key in that patent?
    – Max
    Apr 21, 2014 at 11:08
  • The sweet stuff in licorice, Glycyrrhizin looks fairly water soluble, so your steeping might work alright. They give patents for things that work better than old methods though, so consider adding a few shots of vodka after you've stirred the powder in hot water. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycyrrhizin Apr 21, 2014 at 13:27

I made a wonderful "licorice" syrup while doing experiments in making my own wheat free licorice. Not exactly precise instructions, but it worked for me.

Licorice root (preferably peeled. It is a labour of love but does give a tastier result) smashed or chopped (grinding isn't so good for a syrup as its much harder to strain out the bits) Star anise,a little or a lot, to taste

Throw in pot, cover with water, then simmer for a while (I left mine for ages but there is probably no need for any more than an hour or so).

After straining I added enough sugar for about a 1/4 syrup i.e. 250g/L boiled up again and then put in jars while still v hot.

I used it for biscuits (cookies) but I reckon it would work well in ice cream or anything else. Kept well for ages but i'd only use an open jar for a couple of months.

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