Homemade Irish Cream
Easily customizable, this Homemade Irish Cream recipe is quick and tastes like the real deal! Perfect for sipping, adding to drinks, or boozy desserts.
It’s early March.
You know what that means: the St. Patrick’s Day mania is about to start here in the US!
So this year I thought I’d jump on board the St. Patrick’s Day celebration and share a homemade Irish cream recipe, starring, of course, Jameson Irish Whiskey.
I’m normally more of a bourbon fan, but I will never turn down a good glass of Jameson, and turning whiskey into Irish cream is a-okay with me!
So why make homemade Irish cream instead of buying a bottle of Baileys?
There are lots of reasons – it makes a perfect gift, it’s made with actual real ingredients and isn’t some strange “shelf stable for 24 months” cream containing magic, it’s ridiculously easy to make, and my personal favorite reason: it’s completely customizable.
Do you find store-bought Baileys Irish Cream too sweet? Add more cream. Not sweet enough? Add more sweetened condensed milk.
Too boozy? Use less whiskey (and no, I won’t shame you for this – not everyone likes strong drinks). Not boozy enough? I trust you can figure out how to remedy that one on your own. Plus: flavorings!
You’ll be surprised to discover how easy it is, how quickly you can make, and how much less expensive it is to make it yourself!
What is Irish Cream
First things first, let’s address what Irish cream actually is.
Irish cream is a liqueur made from heavy cream and whiskey and mixed with other flavors like cocoa or espresso. The alcohol by volume generally ranges from 15 to 20%, depending on brand and variety.
Irish cream is often served as a dessert liqueur poured over ice or mixed into sweeter cocktails. It’s also delicious for baking and often stars in brownies, cakes, cheesecakes, or ice cream.
How to Make Irish Cream at Home
We can count off the ingredients needed for homemade Irish cream on one finger: unsweetened cocoa powder, heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, and Irish whiskey.
Use heavy cream or heavy whipping cream for the base, not milk or half-and-half. We need the extra fat to add a thicker, richer flavor and mouthfeel and the lower casein levels help prevent coagulation (clumping together of proteins). We want this to be silky smooth, not lumpy!
I also recommend using a good quality Irish whiskey – something you’d drink on its own. Jameson is, of course, a traditional classic, but any brand of good quality Irish whiskey will work!
Start with a Slurry
Did I mention how easy it is to make homemade Irish cream? You can literally pour everything into a blender, puree for 30 seconds, and call it a day.
I usually chose to make it by hand, however, and it still takes under 5 minutes (and no dragging out the blender and then washing it!)
The important key here is starting with a slurry – a semiliquid mixture consisting of small particles suspended in a liquid.
Start by adding just a little cream to the cocoa powder and mix until it reaches a thick, almost paste-like consistency. If you add all the cream at once, the cocoa powder doesn’t mix at all. It clumps up on top.
Why is this? It’s time for my favorite subject… kitchen chemistry!
Each speck of cocoa powder contains some fat, which is very hydrophobic – meaning it repels water. These hydrophobic molecules clump together on the surface of liquid, forming little bubbles of dry powder. If we add just a little liquid, however, we can make a thick paste. When you have a lot of powder and little liquid, it’s much harder for the cocoa powder molecules to float on the surface and avoid the whisking process. The bubbles are broken up much faster, forcing all the molecules into solution, and once in solution your cocoa powder will easily dissolve into the rest of the cream.
Of course, with enough force (i.e., a blender), you can overcome the hydrophobic nature of the cocoa powder. But if whisking by hand, it’s crucial to start with a slurry!
Once you have your slurry, it’s literally as easy as adding the rest of the heavy cream, the sweetened condensed milk, the vanilla, and of course, don’t forget the whiskey! Give it a quick whisk and – that’s it.
Done. I even like to make mine right in a 4-cup measuring cup – no need to dirty any other glassware!
Irish Cream Variations
The best part about making your own homemade Irish cream is the ability to customize it to exactly your preference!
Add more whiskey or less. Add more heavy cream to make it thicker and, well, creamier.
But we can also play with the flavors!
Lots of homemade Irish cream recipes call for adding instant coffee granules. I’m intrigued by this, because Baileys doesn’t actually contain any coffee flavoring.
But if you like it? Add it! I suggest starting with 1 teaspoon of instant coffee granules and taste testing from there.
Like almond? Add some almond extract! Mint? Add mint or peppermint extract!
I think my next batch will be caramel Irish cream, stirring in a tablespoon or two of this easy homemade caramel sauce!
Tips and Tricks for the Best Homemade Irish Cream
- Use good quality Irish whiskey. If you don’t want to drink it plain, don’t use it in this Irish cream recipe.
- Use heavy cream or heavy whipping cream, not half and half or milk. The higher casein levels in milk are likely to clump together, resulting in a lumpy texture.
- Make sure to use sweetened condensed milk and not evaporated milk.
- Homemade Irish cream can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
- This makes a perfect gift to share with friends – pour the milk into small swing-top bottles and gift for the holidays!
How to Use Your Homemade Irish Cream
Look no further than these delicious recipes for ways to incorporate your homemade Baileys in desserts!
Homemade Irish Cream
Easily customizable, this homemade Irish cream recipe is quick and tastes like the real deal! Perfect for sipping, adding to drinks, or boozy desserts.
- 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups Irish whiskey
- optional: 1 teaspoon instant coffee, almond extract, or mint extract
Whisk together the cocoa powder and two tablespoons of heavy cream in a 4-cup mixing bowl. Add cream, one tablespoon at a time, until the paste is smooth and no dry clumps remain. Whisk in the rest of the heavy cream, followed by the condensed milk, vanilla, whiskey, and any additional flavorings.
Alternatively, combine all ingredients in a blender and process for 30 seconds.
Homemade Irish cream will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
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I made this when it was published a few months ago on Smitten Kitchen. Divine! Is this recipe adapted from Deb’s?
Ha! I will admit that I am not a fan of Deb’s blog (her recipes are top notch, but her writing voice has always really rubbed me the wrong way so I stopped reading several years ago) so I am not up to date with what she’s publishing. It’s based on the other dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of recipes out there which are all pretty much the same, aside from whether you use chocolate syrup or cocoa powder (I never have chocolate syrup in the house), add instant coffee or not, and how heavy of a hand you pour when it comes to the whiskey. 😉
I’ve never really been into celebrating the whole St. Patrick’s Day thing…not sure why..just never have. But making your own Irish Cream is a great idea. I’m sure this would be Way better than the store bought version and I love how you can customize to suit your tastes.
I had never thought of making my own Bailey’s – but now you’ve broken it down so eloquently I may just give it a go as seen as I do have a few bottles of Whisky lying around 😉
When I need Irish cream for baking, I simply go to the store and buy one. Never even thought you can make it at home – yeah, I was born yesterday! 🙂 Anyway, now I know where to look if I fancy making it at home!
I’ve never had Irish Cream from scratch. Looks and sounds amazing! Perfect for the weekend. Can’t wait to try it out!
I love adding Irish cream to my hot cocoa it’s like my cocao does not taste good other wise. So often I have to make mine and this sounds like a perfect recipe to have on hand. So easy. Thanks
I’ve never been one to go crazy celebrating St Patrick’s Day (except maybe in college!), and I’m mostly dairy-free, but this recipe sounds delicious! I may try it for one of my dairy splurges and have it with coffee. Yum!
I remember seeing Irish cream when I was growing up. I love how you can make your own favorite store bought drink from scratch!
You are echoing my sentiments exactly – if you can make it yourself, why buy it? I often think about things sitting in a store on a shelf for months at at time. How does it stay “fresh?” What do they put in it? I’d much rather this homemade Irish cream, thanks! On a side note, sorry about your lawn. I’ve been there. My neighbourhood is about 90% Greek, so I don’t have to worry about St. Paddy’s Day much. But, look out when the Greek Festival or a football game is happening. LOL
The fresh thing totally blows my mind. Baileys claims it is shelf stable for 24 months, which is true – I’ve had bottles open for more than 2 years and it hasn’t gone bad. Baileys also claims there are no preservatives and the alcohol is what prevents the cream from spoiling, but if I make a homemade version, it spoils quickly without refrigeration. Something just doesn’t line up…
GIRL, this Irish girl is loving you right now! But I wish I would have had this recipe sooner. I just posted a recipe for Baileys mint chocolate chip dip and would have much rather preferred to make my own Irish cream. Who knew it was so easy and adaptable! Happy St. Patrick’s day from one Irish girl to another (1/8th) still counts!
I spied your Baileys mint chocolate chip dip and have been drooling over it ever since! I love mint everything – and coincidentally, I happen to have quite a lot of this homemade Irish cream left over, so thank you for giving me a way to use it up!!
I love me some Irish Cream – at any time of year, but especially this! This would make terrific gifts for friends, or… not. Keep it for yourself!
I am with you, if we can make something from scratch why bother to buy it in store. Thanks for showing me how to make Irish cream. I need to try it. . This is great drink for the St. Patty party.
I am going to make this and pour it over everything! My husband loves Irish Cream in his coffee! Recipe Saved!
Oh I used to love Bailey’s Irish Cream until I happened to look at the ingredient list….that love died soon thereafter! I need to try this homemade version, it sounds just delicious!
I agree that when something like this is so simple to make at home, why not make it fresh instead of buying it from the stores. This is a great recipe to make for the celebrations!
Gosh, this looks so good Julie and under 5 mins!!! I love irish cream and it’s like my fav beverage in parties but I’ve never tried making one until I saw this. I’m surely gonna try this soon.
Haha I just laughed at loud at your ST.Patric comment 😀 Could say the EXACT same thing. Anyway, I’m glad you shared this recipe because just the other day I had most amazing Irish creamed coffee and I was just wondering could I make Irish cream at home!!! And there you are… You read my mind … 😉 Thanks for the recipe! It’s quite easy. Just need to buy whiskey. I think I saw it on sale becouse of St.Patric. Win! hehe
Whiskey sale? Definitely time to stock up! 😉
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This looks good, and I can see serving it at a spring party as an aperitif…looks easy to put together too, and love that it’s shelf stable!