Lemond basil italian iceI’ve loved Italian ice since my very first taste of it at Mario’s Italian Lemonade stand in Chicago’s Little Italy back in 1984. I was blown away by the combination of icy, lemony, sweet, and real peel. It’s incredibly refreshing on a hot summer day.

Now that I’ve given up sugar, store-bought Italian ice (like pretty much all frozen treats) is off the menu. But don’t despair. I’ve come up with a recipe that’s super easy to make, fun, and beautiful to serve. At the first taste, I was transported back to Taylor Street on Chicago’s West side on a blistering hot August day. This would be fun and easy for kids to make.

The renovation: The original recipe called for sugar, so I’ve substituted agave syrup. This recipe was adapted from Better Homes and Gardens. I have turned it into a granita, an easy technique I explain below. You can watch a video of me making prickly pear granita here.

You can also use an ice cream freezer to make more of a slushy/Italian ice consistency. However, if you don’t eat it all, it will probably freeze solid, unlike the granita, which will stay perfect in a lidded container.

Other flavor combos:
Lemon juice, zest, and rosemary blossoms
Orange juice and zest with mint
Grapefruit juice and zest with lemon verbena
Let me know what your combinations are!

All of our recipes are gluten-free, sugar-free, and made with plant-based ingredients to help you build a healthy life. We support Meatless Monday. Look for midweek posts on meditation, service, and life lessons, helping you create inner balance.

Lemond basil italian ice

Lemon-Basil Italian Ice

The bright flavors of lemon and basil combine in this easy recipe. No ice cream maker needed.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 4 hrs 20 mins
Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8


  • 3 cups water (filtered or spring)
  • 3/4 cups agave syrup organic
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves (fresh) slivered
  • 2 tsp lemons peel, finely shredded
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice (fresh) freshly juiced


  • In a medium saucepan, bring water and agave syrup just to a boil, stirring until syrup is dissolved.
  • Remove from heat and cool for 10-15 minutes.
  • Add the basil or other herbs and let stand for 30 minutes.
  • (If using rosemary or lavender blossoms, just stir them in and let it stand, no sieve necessary. They look really pretty in the granita.)
  • Pour through a fine mesh sieve, discarding basil.
  • Use a Microplane grater to get just the yellow part of the lemon peel. It's an amazing tool. Or, use a peeler to peel the lemons, then finely shred with a paring knife.
  • Stir the lemon peel and juice into the syrup.
  • Pour into a shallow baking dish. (The larger the better; it needs to fit into your freezer and sit flat.)
  • After about 45 minutes, pull it out and rake it with a fork, breaking up any clumps.
  • Continue to freeze and rake about every 30 minutes until you have fluffy snow-like ice.
  • Serve at once, or store in an airtight container.


Per serving:
  • 91 calories
  • 0 g fat
  • 0 g cholesterol
  • 0 mg sodium
  • 163 mg potassium
  • 23 g carbohydrate
  • 0 g fiber
  • 23 g sugars
  • 0 g protein
  • 2  Weight Watchers Points
Agave syrup is made from the agave cactus. It's a naturally occurring sugar (although still processed) with a lovely light taste, much lighter and more neutral than honey. It's suitable for diabetics because it doesn't raise blood glucose levels the way other sugars do. Make sure you choose an organic brand. Non-organic brands might have fillers like high-fructose corn syrup, or use chemicals in processing. I now use much less agave syrup after learning more about it. You could also make this with honey or brown rice syrup.