How to Make Homemade Popsicles
Freeze! DIY popsicles are easy, fun, and perfect for a hot day. You can stick with fruity classics, or take a chance on delightfully unexpected cucumber gin and tonic pops. Don’t own a popsicle mold? No problem. Let’s get started lickety-split!
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In my endless pursuit to entertain a 3-year-old, I recently hatched a plan for us to make popsicles together. But don’t be fooled, this activity was just as rewarding and fun for me as it was for my daughter. We picked some oranges from our tree, squeezed the juice, filled silicone popsicle molds, popped them in the freezer, and waited anxiously for them to set. Sheeeesh. Nobody warned us that waiting a few hours could feel like an eternity when homemade popsicles were chilling in a freezer! At last, they were ready, and my daughter and I sat hip-to-hip on the porch step to enjoy our refreshing treat, giggling as orange juice dripped down our chins.
The popsicles were so easy to make, needing very few ingredients (in this case, only oranges!) and hardly a kitchen tool, that the juices in my head started flowing. What other popsicle flavors could we make at home? Oreo popsicles? Root beer popsicles? Perhaps healthy ones for breakfast? What about adult flavor combinations with vodka, wine, or coffee? As I went further and further down the rabbit hole, rediscovering the creative world of popsicle-making I had abandoned since childhood, the possibilities were clearly infinite, and my summer was about to get way more interesting. (And my daughter was along for the ride, minus the adult popsicles, of course!) I had caught the popsicle bug.
If you don’t have a silicone popsicle mold like I do, rest assured that you don’t need a special mold to make these frozen goodies-on-a-stick. Read on for tips to help you master the art of homemade popsicles, and then choose from the list of popsicle recipes hand-picked for you below, or browse thousands more on Yummly.
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How long does it take for popsicles to freeze?
Popsicles need 5-8 hours in a cold freezer to fully freeze. The thicker the popsicle, the longer it will take.
How do you store homemade popsicles?
Storing popsicles in their molds. Once your popsicles are completely frozen, you can eat them right away or leave them in their molds in the freezer. Storing them in their molds will protect them from breaking, since they’re most likely sharing freezer space with other food packages that could shift. To prevent the off-putting taste of freezer burn, if you don’t plan to eat the popsicles within a few days of making them, place the molds inside a large, well-sealed zip-top plastic bag - unless, of course, your popsicle molds come with a tight lid. Push the air out of the bag as you seal it.
Storing popsicles out of their molds. Alternatively, take all of the popsicles out of their molds once they’ve set, place them on a baking sheet, making sure none of them is touching, and place the baking sheet back in the freezer briefly to re-freeze the popsicles. Once frozen sans molds, store the popsicles together in a zip-top plastic bag, which frees up your molds to use for another recipe.
Freezer, freezer, freezer! Popsicles should be stored in the freezer at all times, lest you prefer popsicle soup, and I don’t need to give you the recipe for that one. When your hankering for the ice cold treat kicks in, that’s the moment you pull the popsicle out of the freezer to eat it.
How long do homemade popsicles last?
Is this a trick question? They probably won’t make it past the first day, since you’ll be anxious to eat them. But if you weren’t in a rush, or were making them ahead to have later, homemade popsicles will last for 3 to 6 months if stored in a well-sealed zip-top plastic bag.
How to make popsicles without molds
You can purchase popsicle molds from kitchen supply stores and online, often for less than $15. They come in a variety of fun shapes (I’m especially partial to the ones that look like lollipops). But telling you that you can buy popsicle molds doesn’t solve the dire situation you’re in at this exact moment: a big ol' popsicle craving and no popsicle mold in sight. So if (for whatever reason; I don’t judge!) you don’t have molds and you want to make popsicles today, take a look around your kitchen and there’s likely to be a makeshift popsicle mold staring you in the face.
Here’s a list of things you can use in place of an “official” mold:
Disposable paper cups or plastic cups - Disposable drinking cups work well for popsicles, as they’re flexible, which lets you wiggle the popsicles out when they're ready.
Ice cube tray - Though the popsicles will be small, they will be mighty! Ice cube trays are the popsicle mold hack I remember best from my childhood. The tray is already designed to release ice cubes easily, so it makes perfect sense that they would release popsicles easily, too.
Small plastic food storage containers - You know those containers you use for small amounts of leftovers, or to bring your snack to work or school? They make excellent popsicle molds.
Individual yogurt or pudding cups (with the pudding still in them) - Here’s a fun tip. Next time you buy yogurt or pudding cups, consider poking a popsicle stick through the foil lid and stashing them in the freezer instead of the fridge. You might call it cheating, but there could be no quicker way to homemade ice pops than that! And then save the containers to use for more popsicle recipes.
Bread loaf pan - This might seem unusual, but making popsicles in a bread loaf pan is actually quite efficient. Line the pan with plastic wrap before filling with your popsicle mixture. Because there are no dividers in the pan, you can decide how large you want each popsicle based on how you space the popsicle sticks. Once frozen, remove the entire popsicle loaf from the pan and use a sharp knife to cut between the sticks and make individual portions.
Muffin pan - These pans are natural-born popsicle molds. They make 12 popsicles at a time, and the size of each cup is just right. You can also use a mini muffin pan, which will turn out a popsicle very similar to an ice cube tray.
Shot glasses - Though on the smaller size, they’ll do in a pinch. And bonus, they’ll remind you of your past vacations.
If you don’t have popsicle sticks lying around, there are plenty of substitutes for those, too:
Plastic spoons - Plastic spoons make great popsicle sticks. The utensil’s spoon end is what goes into the popsicle liquid, and you hold the popsicle from the plastic handle.
Toothpicks - Because toothpicks are small, they are best used for mini popsicles, such as those made in an ice cube tray. They won’t be strong enough for large popsicles.
Straws - Reusable metal straws, thick paper straws, or sturdy plastic straws can all fill in as popsicle sticks.
Wooden skewers - They’re not just for kabobs anymore. Wooden skewers are strong, and can be cut down in length if you’re making mini popsicles.
How to keep the popsicle stick from falling over when placed into a popsicle mold
You might notice that if you put a popsicle stick directly into the center of your filled popsicle mold, the stick immediately tips over. Popsicle liquid isn’t going to keep it standing upright. So when do you put the popsicle stick into your popsicle mold so it doesn’t fall over and freeze at an angle? There are really two approaches:
Before the filled molds go in the freezer. This is the method I prefer, because it doesn't require that you remember anything later: Set it and forget it. The trick to pulling this method off is covering the filled molds with plastic wrap, and then poking the sticks through the wrap. The plastic wrap will hold the sticks in place. When you place the plastic wrap on the mold, don’t let it touch the liquid, or it might stick to the popsicle.
After the filled molds have been in the freezer for a few hours. Put the popsicle sticks in the popsicle liquid after the liquid has already been chilling in the freezer for a few hours and has hardened enough to keep the sticks in place. If you forget to check the freezer now and then, though, you might miss your window to put the popsicle sticks in; once the liquid has totally solidified, you won’t be able to add the sticks.
How to get popsicles out of the mold
If you are using an official popsicle mold, it’s usually as easy as pulling the popsicle straight up and out, wiggling the mold gently if necessary. If they’re a bit stuck, or you’re using a makeshift pop mold, don’t fret. You can try dipping a metal knife in hot water and then cutting the popsicle away from the edges of the mold. Or, you can try placing the entire mold in a warm water bath for 10 seconds at a time to help release the popsicle from the mold.
Healthy fruit popsicle recipes
The store-bought popsicles of our collective childhood were laden with added or refined sugar and enjoyed as a treat. But with today’s emphasis on healthier living, popsicles don’t have to be a guilty pleasure. Serve one of these fruity, healthy popsicles for breakfast or after a sweaty workout.
Your food processor or blender is going to become your new best friend (if it wasn’t already), once you witness the speed at which you can make popsicle filling. Strawberries, honey, and lemon juice are all you need to make these easy fresh fruit popsicles. If you can’t find fresh strawberries, use frozen ones - just thaw them a bit before you blend. Pour the pureed mixture into your molds and let chill in the freezer. Waiting is the hardest part, by far.
Next time you go for a jog, reward yourself afterward with one of these refreshing popsicles. Protein powder and spinach provide important nutrients, but when blended, they are mostly undetectable - a great way to get kids to eat their veggies. Watermelon and strawberries are blended into the filling, but you also leave some chunks whole. The result plays a trick on the eye: pink fruit floating in a green-hued popsicle that mimics the rind and flesh of a watermelon.
These fun, summery popsicles have just a teaspoon of honey. The rest of the sweetness comes from pineapple Greek yogurt, mango, and bananas. So simple to prep, so perfectly tropical-tasting, all that’s missing is you in a hammock on a sunny beach near the equator.
If these popsicles had bacon in them, Elvis would be all shook up. However, this is the healthy(er) bacon-less version. But guaranteed, combining peanut butter, bananas, almond milk, honey, vanilla, and salt, isn’t going to taste like diet food.
Food blog Fox and Briar had previously published a Post Workout Smoothie recipe that received glowing reviews. Now the hit beverage gets a new life - in the form of a popsicle. Turns out, smoothies make great popsicles! Banana, pineapple, and cherries go in a blender with Greek yogurt and coconut water, and then get the popsicle mold treatment. With no added sugar, these post workout smoothie popsicles will help replenish your body.
Desserty popsicle recipes
There is definitely a time and a place for healthy popsicles, but sometimes you just need to indulge. When that time comes, you can find pretty much any dessert reimagined in the form of a popsicle. Check out the frozen treats below, from Oreo popsicles to root beer float popsicles, and feed your sweet tooth.
Smitten Kitchen is serious about her prerequisites for a good fudge popsicle. She expects them to be fudgy, chocolaty, and chewy. Lucky for us, those high standards are realized in a fudge popsicle recipe she shares on her blog. Chocolate shows up in two ways - as chocolate chips and unsweetened cocoa powder. Unlike most popsicle recipes, this one doesn’t rely on a blender; you heat the ingredients together in a saucepan, and then pour the slightly-cooled filling into popsicle molds.
Oreo cookies are the main event in this reinterpretation of a classic ice cream flavor. Add whole milk, whipped topping, and sugar and you’ve got yourself a cookies and cream popsicle that looks exactly as it sounds - the off-white hue of the Oreo’s cream filling with flecks of cookie throughout. Recipe creator Wonky Wonderful explains the ultimate goal of her concoction was to make sure it tasted like milk and cookies in every lick. That’s a noble cause!
With hefty amounts of Nutella, sweetened condensed milk, whole milk, and heavy cream, you might want to enjoy this popsicle in moderation. But if you’re a big fan of the popular chocolate hazelnut spread, this recipe is everything there is to love about Nutella wrapped up into one frozen dessert package: It’s creamy, rich, chocolaty, and nutty.
I’ve often felt that the best way to describe a popsicle is what you get when ice cream and a lollipop have a baby. Well, with this classic soda parlor treat-turned-popsicle, that baby metaphor isn’t so far off. Root Beer Float popsicles only require two ingredients, and they’re exactly what you’d expect: vanilla ice cream and root beer soda. Simply scoop softened ice cream into molds, pour root beer on top, freeze until set, and partake in this soda fountain treat, no straw (or spoon!) necessary.
Welcome to popsicle layering! Slices of strawberry, strawberry puree, sweetened milk, and crushed shortbread cookies are all layered into a popsicle mold to create a beautiful side profile, as well as an impressive flavor profile reminiscent of strawberry shortcake. The recipe creator Life, Love and Sugar suggests cooking down the strawberry puree in a saucepan until it’s been reduced by half. Imagine the intensity of strawberry flavor when a lot of the water content has cooked out, not to mention how that helps prevent the popsicle from tasting too icy. Brilliant.
Boozy/adult popsicle recipes
For mature audiences only, check out this next recipe section on popsicle flavors curated with adults in mind. Cocktail lovers might enjoy a margarita popsicle, while coffee aficionados will bean, er, beam with joy over Vietnamese coffee popsicles.
Vietnamese coffee is one of the most beloved coffee beverages in existence. Extra-strong brewed coffee and sweetened condensed milk are combined to create a very sweet “alarm clock in a cup.” In fact, David Lebovitz says that the coffee you use in this drink should be “chest hair-raisingly strong.” If it’s too subdued, he advises supplementing with instant espresso. Lebovitz also suggests you can pour the mixture into an ice cube tray, and add the ice cubes to a variety of drinks that need a sweet little pick-me-up. You’ll be wide awake in no time.
This three-ingredient popsicle recipe is the grown-up version of lemonade popsicles. Because the ratio of lemonade to vodka is high, you don’t have to worry about the alcohol preventing the popsicles from freezing up. If you decide to make the lemonade from scratch, resist the urge to add a lot of sugar, as Sweet Pea Sweetie points out that the honey and vodka provide plenty of flavor already.
When I treat myself to a cocktail, nine times out of ten, it’s a sweet, fruity cocktail. This summery wine cocktail-turned-popsicle fits the bill, combining peaches, fruit juice, rosé wine, and sugar. When blended together, the ingredients produce a gorgeous peachy-coral shade. Wine popsicles are a great way to cool down and relax at the end of the day.
Margaritas are already a great frozen cocktail when blended with ice, so it’s only natural that margaritas would make ideal popsicles, too. Prepare a simple syrup, then add lime juice, tequila, and orange liqueur. The margarita mixture goes into molds, freezes for several hours, and then it’s time to dig in. Nobody will question you if you decide to enjoy your margarita popsicle during your Taco Tuesday dinner. The only thing missing is the salt rim!
These spiked popsicles are striking to look at, with sliced cucumbers swimming in a clear popsicle liquid made of tonic water, gin, and lime juice. As expected, the alcohol can keep these popsicles from freezing rock solid. But is it really torture to have to slurp down a cucumber gin and tonic popsicle quickly before it melts? Exactly.
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