This post describes how the Ninja Creami, Sugar Free Lemon Italian Ice recipe was developed in detail. It’s helpful for developing your own variations and to understand where the recipe came from. However, if you just want to make some Italian Ice in the Ninja Creami then you should go directly to the Italian Ice recipe which has detailed instructions.
I started with the official Ninja Kitchen Lemon Italian Ice recipe which has these ingredients:
- 113g (½ cup) lemonade powdered drink mix
- 591g (2 ½ cups) hot water
The nutrition label for a typical high sugar lemonade mix (e.g. Country Time Lemonade Mix) tells us that it’s mostly sugar (in a 26g serving, 24g or 92% is sugar) and some flavorings. So we need to adapt two things in this recipe: the lemon flavor and the sugar.
Adapting the lemon flavor
Let’s start with the amount of lemon flavor. The cold temperature of the Italian ice dulls flavors so we’ll need more lemon flavor than when making a lemonade drink. To know how much we’ll compare the official Creami and lemonade recipes:
|Recipe||Instructions||Drink mix to water ratio|
|High sugar Lemonade (Countrytime)||2 tbs mix for 1.5 cups water||1.33 tbs mix per cup water|
|High sugar Ninja Creami Italian Ice||½ cup mix for 2.5 cups water||3.2 tbs mix per cup of water|
Since 3.2/1.33 = 2.4, the last column indicates that Italian ice needs ~2.4 times the amount of mix than when making the same amount of lemonade drink. Crystal Light sugar free lemonade is 4g (or 1 packet) mix for 16.9 fl oz of water which is 1.89g mix per cup, so for sugar free Italian ice this would translate into 2.4 x 1.89 = 4.5g mix per cup. Since we’ll be using the same 2.5 cups of water as the original recipe, this would be 2.5 x 4.5 = 11.25g of sugar free lemonade mix which is slightly less than 3 packets (12g). I have tested it with both 2 packets and 3 packets and in our household the 3 packet version was preferred universally.
Adapting the sugar
Now that we’ve got the amount of lemon flavor dialed in there’s the issue of adapting the sugar content. I suspect the sugar’s role isn’t just to add sweetness but also to depress the freezing point of the recipe so that you’re not creamifying a pure block of ice which could damage the machine. To achieve the same effect with less calories, I’ve used allulose which is a low calorie sugar replacement. Allulose actually has 1.9 times the freezing point depression effect of sugar which would indicate that you could get away with about half the allulose than sugar (i.e. replace the ~100g of sugar in the original recipe with ~53g of allulose). I tested both 100g of allulose and 53g allulose and settled on 100g for a couple reasons. First, the freezing point depression is just a theory and I don’t officially know if it’s safe to process a base with only 53g of allulose, so I hesitate to recommend it. And 100g of allulose is still the same amount of non-water ingredients by weight as the original recipe so it seems safer as a recommendation. I did make and test a 53g allulose version. While the texture between the 53g and 100g version was pretty close, the 100g version tasted noticeably better simply because it was sweeter. That being said, for someone sensitive to allulose a possible variation of this recipe would be to reduce the allulose down somewhere between 100g to 53g and make up the sweetness with a high intensity sweetener like stevia, monk fruit, or sucralose (or an additional packet of drink mix).
Experimenting with Erythritol
It’s worth noting this recipe won’t work with erythritol. Erythritol (usually Swerve Confectioners) is my usual choice for low calorie sugar replacement since allulose is harder to find in grocery stores. Erythritol has an even stronger freezing point depression effect than allulose but unfortunately it has terrible solubility in water so it doesn’t dissolve well if there’s too much of it.
|Sweetener||Freezing Point Depression|
(compared to Sucrose)
|Solubility (in 100g water 25 °C)|
Nonetheless, I attempted this recipe with the minimum amount of erythritol (11.5g per cup of water) to achieve identical freezing point depression as sugar in the official recipe (32.2g per cup of water). As shown in the image below this was a failure. The erythritol precipitated out of solution and clumped at the edge of the base. I did not attempt creamifying this base out of concern there would be non-uniformity in the hardness and risk damage to the machine.
To taste test the final recipe, our household compared it against the regular high sugar Lemon Italian ice recipe from the Ninja website and an Italian ice that we purchased from the local store (Lindy’s Homemade). The store bought Italian ice had a different flavor (Strawberry Lemon) but helped us verify the texture. In our taste tests the texture between the three matched. And the lemon flavor between the high sugar and sugar free was suitably close letting us know the recipe was ready.
Hope you enjoy it!