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Ninja Creami review: This machine makes your frozen dreams come true

It's an affordable and surprisingly versatile way of making great ice cream at home.

Photo by Sam Rutherford / Engadget

Unless you’ve worked in the food service industry, the Ninja Creami probably isn’t like any other ice cream maker you’ve used before. That’s because until recently, the engineering that powers the Creami was owned by the Pacojet company (which was acquired by Groupe SEB in 2023), which made pricey devices intended for use in restaurants. But after the patent expired, Ninja jumped on the opportunity to make a much more affordable version for home cooks. And while making ice cream in your own kitchen is more of a luxury than a true necessity (though I’m sure some may disagree), the Creami makes the process so fast and easy, and produces surprisingly tasty results, that I hope more people will give it a go.

The version I tested for this review is the standard Creami, which goes for $200. However, there is a deluxe model that costs a touch more at $230. The latter comes with a few extra settings (most of which are drinks) for things like slushies and Creamiccinos (whatever those are) and a revamped menu system to match. But the biggest change is that the Deluxe uses larger 24-ounce “pints” instead of the 16-ounce containers you get with the standard model. This means it's easier to make bigger batches for parties or other special occasions, while also having options to spin just the top or bottom of a container as needed for smaller mixes.

For people who want a compact machine to make all sorts of frozen treats, the Creami delivers much more than its $200 price tag might suggest.

  • Easy to use
  • Mostly machine washable
  • Surprisingly versatile
  • Kind of loud
  • Not the most attractive design
$200 at Amazon
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$200 at Ninja

Unlike traditional ice cream makers, the Creami doesn’t rely on churning. Instead, you make a liquid ice cream base, freeze it solid (ideally for 24 hours) and then the machine uses what is essentially a drill press to blend (or spin in Creami parlance) everything into a thick and tasty treat. The base of the machine is about 6.5 inches wide and 16 inches tall. That’s significantly smaller than most old-school ice cream churns, but it’s still going to take up some space on your countertop, especially for anyone living in an older home with low cupboards. Make sure you measure before buying.

Aside from its main body, the Creami comes with an outer bowl, two plastic pint containers (plus tops), a large lid and a paddle, which is the blade-like attachment that does all the hard work. The pints fit inside the outer bowl, while the paddle attaches to the top of the lid. Then, after you put everything together, you shove the whole contraption into the machine, twist the handle to lock it in place and you’re ready to go. Admittedly, it sounds complicated, but if you can use a food processor, you can use the Creami. After the first spin, you can always top off your creation with some sprinkles, chocolate chips or anything else you want and then hit the mix-in button to spread things evenly throughout the pint.

My main complaint is that when it’s actively blending, the Creami is kind of loud. It’s noisier than a food processor but slightly quieter than a countertop blender on full blast. The first time I used the Creami, my toddler covered his ears and ran into another room. But the commotion only lasted for a few minutes, and on subsequent attempts, he stuck around (though that’s probably because he learned all that noise meant ice cream was on its way).

Of course, the best part of testing the Creami is trying everything it makes. To start, I relied on Ninja’s surprisingly large catalog of recipes. My son requested something with blueberries, so I landed on this recipe for blueberry honey ice cream with graham crackers, which turned out excellent even though I swapped in coconut-based yogurt (my wife is lactose intolerant) and skipped the graham cracker crumble. Next, I made a sorbet based on this formula, but with key lime juice instead of lemon. It was smooth and tart without a hint of iciness and it may have been my favorite of the bunch. Then my wife used these instructions to create a true vegan option, which tasted rich and creamy even though she used zero dairy.

After this, I went for a more freestyle approach and started throwing things together with abandon. The most surprising thing is how hard it is to mess up a batch, even when things don’t turn out how you intended. For example, while there isn’t a dedicated setting for it, I wanted to see if the Creami could make something close to shaved ice. Even though the texture of my creation was more like froyo than distinct flakes, I was shocked at how good a simple mixture of whole milk with a couple tablespoons of condensed coconut milk can be. So unless you go absolutely buckwild, it’s pretty hard to make something that doesn’t taste good.

That said, there are some important differences between what the Creami makes and more traditional ice cream. Because the base is spun instead of churned, there’s less air inside your finished product. This is good because it increases flavor intensity and delivers a slightly denser, more luxurious mouthfeel. It’s almost closer to a frozen custard than ice cream. The downside is that less air means less insulation, so treats tend to melt faster. I noticed that often after spinning something in the Creami, the consistency was borderline runny, like when you leave a pint from your freezer on the counter for a few minutes too long.

Now, if you’re eating things right away, this might be a bonus, because I prefer a softer product instead of something you need to really bite into. But if you’re not, it’s important to put whatever you made in your icebox almost immediately before it turns back into a puddle. On the flipside, if your base is too cold before you put it in the Creami and it comes out too hard or chunky, you can simply re-spin the pint (there’s a dedicated button for that), which will help smooth it out.

For someone like me with a relatively small kitchen, anything that takes up valuable space on my countertop or in my pantry has to be more than just OK or even good. And while I’m still not sure I need it, the Creami is something I want to make room for. Sure, what it creates isn’t exactly the same as a more traditional churned product and the machine is far from the prettiest kitchen appliance I own. But the Creami is still undoubtedly a great ice cream maker and it has some advantages over more traditional rivals. Flavors are more intense and textures are smoother. Meanwhile, because most of the parts are machine washable or easily rinsed, cleanup isn’t a chore either. You also get the freedom to control exactly what ingredients you use or mix in, which is almost essential when you live with people with a handful of food allergies/restrictions. And at just $200 for the standard model, it feels very reasonably priced. You just have to remember to use it in moderation, because it is possible to have too much of a good thing.