Akutaq – Eskimo Ice Cream History and Recipes

The native people (Indigenous People) of Alaska have a distinct version of ice cream called Akutaq (also known as Eskimo Ice Cream).  It is not creamy ice cream as we know it, but a concoction made from reindeer fat or tallow, seal oil, freshly fallen snow or water, fresh berries, and sometimes ground fish.  Air is whipped in by hand so that it slowly cools into foam.  They call this Arctic treat akutaq (ah-goo-duck), aqutuk, ackutuk, or Eskimo ice cream.  Akutaq is a Yupik word that means mix them together.

This is a delicacy that Alaska Natives have thrived on for thousands of years.  This recipe was made by Natives a long, long time ago for survival and was used as a special traveling food.  When hunters went out to go hunting, they brought along akutaq.

The women traditionally made Eskimo ice cream after the first catch of a polar bear or seal.  The woman (grandmother or mother of the hunter) would prepare the akutaq and share it with the community members during special ceremonies.

Akutaq can also be made with moose meat and fat, caribou meat and fat, fish, seal oil, berries and other Alaskan things.  Women traditionally made akutaq after the first catch of a polar bear or seal.  Traditionally, it was always made for funerals, pot latches, celebrations of a boy’s first hunt, or almost any other celebration.  It is eaten as a dessert, a meal, a snack, or a spread.

Today, Eskimo ice cream is usually made with Crisco shortening instead of tallow and with raisins and sugar sometimes added.  The region of Alaska lived in usually determines what berry is used, and each family usually has their favorite recipe for Eskimo ice cream.  It is said that your choice of berries used in making Eskimo ice cream is a lifetime decision.  It is okay to eat any flavor made by others, but if you are caught making more than one kind, you will lose all social standing.

The people of the Arctic love to serve their favorite dish to cheechakos (newcomers in Alaska).  When guests are willing to try their favorite foods, the Inuits feel pride at sharing their culture.  At first, the host might be shy to offer any of their food for fear of rejection.  If you are a guest and are offered some (you will probably be served first as a guest), at least try a small amount.  Please do not express any “yucks” or other words of ridicule.  If you really cannot bring yourself to eat this unusual food, accept the serving and find the oldest person in the room and offer the food to him or her.  This will show that you have good manners, if not good taste, and that you respect your elders.  Then quickly grab a plate and fill it with things that you can eat.  Most people who try Eskimo ice cream say it is delicious!


Akutaq - Eskimo Ice Cream Recipes:
Prep Time
15 mins
Total Time
15 mins

This was a very hard recipe to record, as each family usually has its own version and usually has never written it down in an actual recipe. They generally just make it from memory and feel. After reading several descriptions on how to make Akutaq, I came up the the following recipe. I have never, personally, made the following recipe.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Native American
Keyword: Akutaq- Eskimo Ice Cream Recipe
Traditional Eskimo Ice Cream:
  • 1 cup reindeer, caribou, or moose fat (back fat)*
  • 1 cup animal oil (seal, walrus, or whale), divided
  • 1/2 cup water or 2 cups loose snow
  • 4 1/2 cups berries (blueberries, cloudberries, cranberries, salmonberries, or blackberries), fresh
Modern Eskimo Ice Cream:
  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening**
  • 1 cup sugar, granulated
  • 1/2 cup water or berry juice (or 2 cups loose snow)
  • 4 cups berries (blueberries, cloudberries, cranberries, salmon berries, or blackberries), fresh***
Traditional Eskimo Ice Cream Instructions:
  1. Grate or grind fat into small pieces. In a large pot over low heat, add fat and stir until it becomes a liquid (the fat should never get hotter than it is comfortable to your hand).  Add 1/3 cup seal oil, mixing until it is all liquid.  Remove from heat and continue stirring the fat in big circles.

  2. While continuing to stir at a steady rate, add 1/4 cup water or 1 cup snow and another 1/3 cup seal oil.  As fat slowly cools and starts to get fluffy and white, add remaining 1/4 cup water or 1 cup snow and remaining 1/3 cup seal oil, continuing to stir.

  3. When the Akutaq is as white and fluffy as you can make it, fold in berries.  Form into desired shape. Cover and freeze to firm up.

Modern Eskimo Ice Cream Instructions:
  1. 1 cup solid vegetable shortening*
    1 cup granulated sugar
    1/2 cup water, berry juice, or 2 cups loose snow (optional)
    4 cups fresh berries, (blueberries, cloudberries, cranberries, salmon berries, or blackberries)**

  2. * Crisco solid vegetable shortening is preferred.

  3. ** Use one or more different types of berries.

Recipe Notes

* The type of fat used determines how the Akutaq will taste and feel, as each animal has a different type of fat.  Well-aged yellow fat is usually preferred because it has more flavor and whips up fluffier than does fresh fat.  The ice cream can also be sweetened with sweetener or with fruits.  Meat and fish Akutaq are not usually sweetened.

** Crisco solid vegetable shortening is preferred.

*** Use one or more different types of berries.



Alaskan Cuisine    Ice Cream    Ice Cream & Ices History    Wild Game   

Comments and Reviews

11 Responses to “Akutaq – Eskimo Ice Cream History and Recipes”

  1. MC cool dude


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  3. KG

    Cloudberries and salmonberries are the same thing. Also called akpiks in the north.

    Also, the more, “modern” akutaq also usually has some kind of meat in it. Fish or caribou are most common.

    • dRedwick

      Cloudberries and salmonberries are not the same thing. To the Innuit, cloudberries are “blackberries” and salmonberries are “salmonberries.” They are two completely different berries. They grow from two completely different plants. The leaves of cloudberries/blackberries can be made into a tea – the leaves of salmonberries cannot. (Source: the berry picking field trip I just took yesterday with my Innuit elementary school students).

      It is 100% true though that akutaq is made with fish meat (haven’t heard it made with caribou}. Whereas in the past Crisco obviously wasn’t used, it is definitely the most common ingredient used for modern akutaq. Akutaq is basically Crisco, sugar, berries, and fish meat. If you ask the Innuit people they will tell you that the akutaq without fish meat is not as good as the akutaq with fish meat because it ends up being way too sweet.

  4. Erik MacNeil

    I don’t use moose meat,fat and wild carrots in my ice cream. I use chocolate, half and half, heavy cream and crushed ice.

  5. Tracey

    Erik MacNeil, your attempt at being funny and sarcastic was rather pathetic, and that’s putting it nicely.

  6. kevin

    very nice Tracy.

  7. Robin Luethe

    I had some once, in a remote Athabaskan village. Addicting from the first bite!

  8. Rita Prunes

    it is amazing i love it my husband makes great Aquatk

  9. Mary

    I had read on another website that before this is served, the cook traditionally takes a berry of each kind and a pinch of the mixture, throws it into the fire, and says something that translates as “everybody eat.” It reminded me of a breadmaking ritual some women do when making challah (braided egg bread.). They take a pinch of the raw dough, nowadays wrap it in foil, and let it burn in the oven before baking the bread. It’s supposed to be a type of religious thanks for their food, a symbolic portion that’s dedicated. I wonder if her translation of “everybody eat” before they eat this, really means just simply that, or is there more meaning to it that can’t be translated? It’s even making me wonder about other rituals I don’t know about, before serving traditional foods.

  10. Mary

    RRedwick, The reason I got curious about this food is that a TV show today said that this coming week, one of the national morning shows is going to show it!

    Too bad we can’t get cloudberries or salmonberries here in the desert, in the lower 48! I’ve always wanted to taste them, as well as aroniaberries. At least one can grow the aroniaberries down here. I know cloudberries and salmonberries are packed with vitamin C, tougher to find at higher latitudes. I know that the bears also love the berries up there. I’ve even read of something labeled “ice cream,” in the Middle East, that’s kind of gummy in consistency and bears no relationship to the frozen dairy confection. Except for the Crisco, a modern industrial product, this recipe is an extremely nutritious treat. Every culture has foods that others would find “different.” An author named Kurlansky has written a book called “Food of a Younger Land” that documents what regional foods people traditionally made before the construction of interstate highways, fast food chains and refrigeration started changing diets. They often make use of what was locally available, always seasonally dictated, and they avoid wasting any part of the food. He’s even got Native American recipes. I’d try this, just to know how it tastes and feels. The texture sounds kind of luxurious. I’m vegetarian… but I’d try it.


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