Jul 28, 2023

Ninja Creami Review: We Tried the TikTok

By Adam Thalenfeld

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Recently, a new kitchen appliance appeared on my FYP. The Ninja Creami—a machine released last year that promises to make a substance reminiscent of a DQ Blizzard out of basically anything—has taken the “healthy” dessert algorithm by storm. Influencers in yoga pants can be seen pouring protein powder on top of protein-enriched milks on top of protein-packed yogurt and whirring it up into a fluffy cloud of…more protein than the human body is actually capable of absorbing at one time. I thought all of this was pretty dumb, so I promptly watched more videos. I saw people making ice cream out of canned peaches, almond milk, Fruity Pebbles, old socks, probably. My entire TikTok algorithm just became the Creami.

The only natural next course of action was to give up, call myself influenced, and purchase the machine. Over the course of a couple of weeks “Can it Creami?” became a regularly asked question around my house, and the answer was usually yes. Well, usually, provided you know some tricks and tips I learned along the way. For the scoop on the as-seen-on-TikTok wonder, read my Ninja Creami review below.

The Creami is not quite an ice cream maker, because it has no cooling mechanism (frozen ice block or mechanical). It’s also not quite a blender; there are no variable speed settings and you’re certainly not making soup in this thing. It’s a Franken-device that uses “creamify” (that’s the actual name they use, sorry) technology to “break down a uniformly frozen block into an incredibly smooth texture in minutes,” according to Ninja’s website.

Really, the Creami uses technology that was previously only available in a very expensive and not-widely available machine called the Pacojet. Both the Creami and the Pacojet have a bit attached to a blade, which spins as it slowly moves into the frozen block of liquid. Essentially, the blade drills into the ice, shaving off fine pieces and whipping them together until the whole thing forms a creamy texture. The Pacojet was used in restaurants a lot during the molecular gastronomy era, with the idea that it could offer sorbets and ice creams with more pure produce flavor, since you could make the frozen dessert straight from the fruit itself, withe fewer added base ingredients.

After using one for weeks, I can confirm that this much more affordably priced machine can turn frozen blocks of liquid and fruit into a creamy texture. Hovering around $180 at the time of writing, the Creami is not cheap by any measure, but compared to a compressor-based ice cream maker, it’s a steal. (And it can whip smoothie bowls, shakes, and sorbets together too).

This is, in fact, one of the easiest possible ways to make ice cream because you don’t need to do any prep or buy any special ingredients. Traditional ice cream starts with a crème anglaise, which involves tempering egg yolks into cream for a custard before that’s chilled and then churned. With the Creami, you simply pour your liquid base in (milk, yogurt, puréed frozen fruit), freeze it for 24 hours, and then hit a button. Ninja’s website hosts plenty of recipes, and the brand sells a companion cookbook. Most recipes are under five ingredients. There are even some single-ingredient recipes (fro-yo is as simple as freezing your favorite yogurt), and some famous ones (Disneyland’s Dole Whip).

The machine itself looks like a taller pod coffee maker, and it comes with two plastic pint jars in which you can freeze your concoctions. Once your mixture is frozen, you pop the lid off of the containers and drop them into a larger container, attach the lid fitted with the spinning blade (known in the Ninja parlance as the “creamerizer”) and insert the container into the machine. The whole process is very pleasant. Every time I installed and removed the container (a little smaller than a food processor bowl, but very similar in style), I felt a little spark of joy as I felt it click into place.

Once installed, there’s a couple of different buttons to choose from: ice cream, “lite” ice cream, sorbet, smoothie, milkshake, gelato, re-spin, and mix-ins. It’s a bit of a journey determining which of these options you want, but in the end, I determined that they all basically do the same thing: The blade very loudly and very slowly spins down the chamber, creamifying the ice. This process takes about two minutes total, though the mixture sometimes requires a re-spin (you’ll be able to tell by a chalky appearance, which indicates a filling that got too cold). Once you find your ideal consistency, you can throw in mix-ins (M&M’s, pretzels, peanut butter, etc.), press that button, and the machine blends them in.

I made all manner of frozen desserts in my Creami: yogurt, smoothie bowls, dessert protein shakes, frozen cocktails, and something closer to actual ice cream made with heavy cream. I was perhaps most impressed by the yogurt. By simply freezing and whirling a singular ingredient around in this machine, you get something that tastes luxurious and restaurant-worthy. I also loved making smoothie bowls in the machine: They were richer in texture than anything I've made in a blender or food processor before, and it really makes breakfast feel special. A frozen watermelon and tequila mixture was phenomenal and, again, far beyond the level of creamy that I could ever have achieved in a blender—it tasted like it came from a bar with professional frozen drink equipment.

And listen, I didn’t have much interest in replicating the absurdly protein-packed desserts I’d seen online, but to not try them would have felt disrespectful to the Creami fanbase. If you’re reading this review, you may very well want to put collagen powder into protein chocolate milk and call it a post-workout dessert, and that is your right as a Creami owner. I’m happy to report that, after an initial few discouraging rounds of chalky mixture, I made several very successful protein ice creams. They were so successful and so easy, in fact, that I wondered why some of the protein ice creams available in grocery stores didn’t taste better.

I was least impressed with actual ice cream mixtures. When I tried to make a vanilla ice cream, the texture ended up feeling too heavy—not the light and airy consistency I was looking for. The texture is more akin to that of a concrete or a Blizzard, and if you’re in the mood for a dessert like that, this thing really satisfies—feel free to go hard on the mix-ins. I found myself wishing I’d just reached for the store-bought vanilla in the freezer. Which brings me to a few crucial Creami tips:

While the Creami is definitely easy to use and cuts down on prep time, making a frozen dessert in it requires quite a bit of forethought. You have to freeze your base a full 24 hours in advance of mixing (sometimes I have gotten away with 4–6 hours).

In my initial testing, I had a lot of problems with clumping—especially when I used protein powder in the base. You want to make sure every ingredient in the base liquid is extremely well mixed. I actually found the best results when I mixed with a little handheld milk frother.

I said above that you could choose to run your mixture through the “re-spin” setting if it seemed chalky in appearance. After some weeks of regular Creami use, I’ve determined that basically everything you make should go through a re-spin cycle. This extra blending after the frozen mixture has come together just improves the texture so much.

Unfortunately, refreezing your Creami-fied mixture really compromises the texture (similarly to homemade ice cream). Your frozen dessert should really be eaten right out of the mixer.

So, what’s the official Ninja Creami review? If you’re someone who’s really traditional and classic in their ice cream taste, you may want to skip this machine and opt for one of our favorite ice cream makers. If you just want ice cream—and quickly—we recommend making a trip to the frozen food aisle of your local grocery store because, while the Creami is convenient, it’s not quick. But if you truly love frozen desserts and are interested in experimenting with making them at home using a cool new technology, this is the machine for you. You’ll have a summer full of watermelon slushies, Oreo and peanut butter shakes, and fresh sorbets—not to mention the potential for patio cocktail parties featuring frozen drinks that feel like they came from a cool cocktail bar.