Pagoto Kaimaki: Orchid Ice Cream With Gum Mastic

Scoops of Greek ice cream with Mastic Recipe in bowls

The Spruce/Bahareh Niati

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Freeze: 4 hrs 30 mins
Total: 5 hrs 10 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Yield: 2 quarts
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
471 Calories
35g Fat
36g Carbs
5g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 471
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 35g 45%
Saturated Fat 22g 111%
Cholesterol 110mg 37%
Sodium 65mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 36g 13%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 36g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 1mg 3%
Calcium 165mg 13%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 209mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Pagoto kaimaki (pronounced pah-ghoh-TOH kah-ee-MAH-kee) is a fabulous Greek ice cream flavored with salep (powdered orchid root). It also uses gum mastic, which gives it a chewy texture. This silky sweet ice cream with its captivating flavor is worth the shopping effort, especially if you want a dessert that's sure to impress any dinner guest.

The ice cream recipe is made like many others. The creamy custard is heated, cooled, then frozen until firm. Use an ice cream machine if you have one, or fill a pan and pop it in the freezer. It's the two specialty ingredients that make it really memorable, and this is a smoother ice cream preparation than the Turkish dondurma.

Gum mastic is a resin that gives the ice cream its texture, while salep (or salepi, sahlep, sahlab—a powder made from the root of an orchid plant) is a thickening agent. Both give the ice cream a unique taste. Golden gum mastic (mastiha) from the Greek island of Chios may be available through Greek grocers, and you can often find salep at Greek, Egyptian, Lebanese, Turkish, or kosher markets. Each is available from online retailers as well.

Serve the ice cream alone with a syrup topping and sprinkle of chopped almonds. Kaimaki is also served with syrupy sweets like karythopita (Greek walnut cake).

“I wasn’t sure what to expect because of the mastic and salep, but this ice cream is fabulous. Think of the flavor as vanilla bean with a subtle spice that’s almost like cinnamon. It’s also a silky soft-serve but a bit sticky, so keep your ice cream scoop.” —Colleen Graham

Pagoto Kaimaki/Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 7/8 to 1 teaspoon ground golden gum mastic

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

  • 3 cups whole milk, divided

  • 3 teaspoons pure salep (see variation below)

  • 3 cups double cream, or whipping cream

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    ingredients to make Greek ice cream with Mastic

    The Spruce/Bahareh Niati

  2. Grind the mastic in a mortar and pestle with 2 tablespoons of the sugar.

    mastic in a mortar and pestle

    The Spruce/Bahareh Niati

  3. In a large bowl, whisk 1/2 cup of milk with the ground mastic-sugar mixture until completely blended. Set aside.

    milk with ground mastic in a bowl

    The Spruce/Bahareh Niati

  4. Stir the salep into 1/2 cup of cold milk until it dissolves. Set aside.

    milk mixture with salep and mastic in a bowl

    The Spruce/Bahareh Niati

  5. Warm the remaining 2 cups of milk in a medium saucepan over low heat.

    milk in sauce pan

    The Spruce/Bahareh Niati

  6. Using an electric mixer, beat the mastic-sugar-milk mixture at high speed until well combined. Stir in the warm milk, then the salep-milk mixture.

    whipped ice cream mixture in a bowl

    The Spruce/Bahareh Niati

  7. Stir in the remaining 1 cup of sugar and the cream.

    sugar added to bowl of ice cream mixure

    The Spruce/Bahareh Niati

  8. Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking and clumping, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature.

    ice cream mixture in a saucepan

    The Spruce/Bahareh Niati

  9. When cooled, transfer to ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer the ice cream to freezer-safe containers and freeze until firm, a few hours, or overnight, if desired.

    Greek ice cream with Mastic in an ice cream maker

    The Spruce/Bahareh Niati

  10. Remove the ice cream from the freezer 10 minutes before serving.

    Greek Ice Cream with Mastic in a glass container

    The Spruce/Bahareh Niati


  • Mastic is usually sold in drops of resin which can stick to the mortar and pestle during grinding. To avoid this, freeze the mastic for 15 minutes before using.
  • The milk really foams up when beating it with a mixer, so be sure to use a large bowl to reduce splashes and avoid a messy kitchen.


  • Note about buying salep: The most common form available has been premixed with sugar and other additives. The best salep for this recipe is the pure ground orchid root if you can find it. If not, use 4 to 5 times the amount of salep called for in the recipe and decrease the sugar to 1 cup.
  • You can make this without an ice cream maker! Once the mixture is cooked and cooled, transfer to a metal container, cover with a tightly fitting lid or foil, and freeze. Every half hour, remove from the freezer, transfer to a mixing bowl and beat with a hand mixer until frothy. Quickly place it back in the metal container and return it to the freezer. Repeat 3 more times.