5 Best Ice Cream Flavors + 7 Popular Brands
Ice cream has been enjoyed by young and old alike for thousands of years. Before we knew how to make it, people enjoyed desserts ‘sprinkled with wintery snow’ as a treat. Nowadays, ice cream is a little more elaborate than that. There are huge numbers of delicious ice cream flavors available across the world.
But what are the best flavors? To find out just what kind of ice cream is the nicest, smoothest, and most satisfying, we’ll start at the beginning.
Where did ice cream come from, who invented it, and what were those first elusive flavors. After that, we’ll tell you all about the world’s best flavors, alongside the weirdest, and some truly unique ones.
What to Know about Ice Cream Flavors
We already mentioned the Romans and their edible snow, but ice cream history starts much further back. The first ice creams were truly unusual creations. You may even be tempted to try some of these at home after reading all about them.
Origin of Ice Cream
Ice cream originated thousands of years ago, probably in Persia. Persians used ice pools and ice houses to produce sorbets. They also made a unique dessert known as faloodeh; vermicelli-like starch noodles set in a sugar and rose syrup semifreddo.
Elsewhere in Asia, ice cream-like concoctions were made using water buffalo milk, flour, and camphor. In Japan ice was saved over the winter so it could be served to the aristocratic Japanese alongside a sweet syrup once the weather warmed up.
The ice cream we know and love today was introduced to the West some time around the 1600s. Marco Polo is credited with the introduction of sorbets to Italy, having learned about these while visiting China.
In 1686 an Italian man by the name of Francesco dei Coltelli opened the first ice cream parlor in Paris.
Who Invented Ice Cream
There is no one person credited with the invention of ice cream. The practice of making flavored ices and sorbets goes back so far in history that nobody quite knows who was the first.
What is known is that it took centuries before the practice of making ice cream reached Western shores. North America only saw first references to the making of ice cream in 1744. Nobody quite knows who introduced it to the USA.
Ingredients of Classic Ice Cream
The very first ice creams were made of readily available ice and snow found outside. The ice creams we know and love today are traditionally made using a little more than that:
You’ll generally find that ice creams include egg yolks, granulated sugar, whole milk, heavy cream, and vanilla extract.
Larger scale ice cream makers also like to use additives such as guar gum, carob bean gum, or cellulose gum. These prevent the formation of ice crystals, making the ice cream extra smooth.
Italian gelato tends to have less eggs but more milk as a base. Some Italian ice creams contain no eggs at all, making them a good alternative for those with certain food intolerances.
The First Ice Cream Flavors
Some of the first ice cream flavors of modern times were quite unusual: In 1665 an Englishwoman recommended an ice cream flavored with ambergris, nutmeg, and orange blossom water.
Other floral flavors such as rose, elderflower, and jasmine were popular in the 1800s. By comparison, vanilla didn’t appear in recipes until some time in the 1760s.
The Best Ice Cream Flavors You Need to Try
There are many ice cream flavors you can try around the world. Some are obvious fan favorites and have been for years. Others may sound surprising, but are definitely ones to add to your must-try list. Below are some of the best ice cream flavors ever.
To some vanilla may sound, well, vanilla. Yet vanilla is hands down the world’s best-known, best-loved ice cream. It doesn’t need to be bland either — the addition of real vanilla bean can make vanilla a very exciting flavor.
What’s more, vanilla ice cream is a great addition to a variety of desserts. You can have it with apple pie, gooey cookies or brownies, even Asian fried banana dishes.
Another flavor that doesn’t sound very surprising on the surface, but truly is. Chocolate ice cream can be made with any variety of chocolate, from white to dark and even red varieties.
You can have chocolate ice cream that is smooth, or studded with chocolate chunks. The origins of chocolate ice cream are actually quite interesting as well: in the 1700s, Europeans turned popular hot drinks such as coffee, tea, and hot chocolate into frozen treats.
What’s better than strawberries and cream? Strawberries and cream turned into freshly churned, mouthwatering ice cream of course.
Generally, really good strawberry ice cream is made from a mixture of fresh cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and of course fresh strawberries. On that note, strawberry ice creams made from artificial flavoring can be a little sickly, so it’s not for everyone.
Matcha ice cream is all kinds of magical. This Japanese flavor has long since found fans across the world. Matcha is made from ground green tea leaves and added to all sorts of desserts.
Matcha green tea ice cream tends to be creamy, slightly earthy, and delicious. It’s one flavor that’s unique while also being a firm favorite of most people who have ever tried it.
While we’re covering the best tea ice cream flavor, we obviously couldn’t forget about the yin to its yang: coffee. If you like iced coffee you’ll love coffee ice cream. It’s creamy, delicious, and usually quite sweet. Coffee ice cream is great on its own or alongside vanilla or chocolate ice cream.
It’s also scrumptious — you guessed it — when blended with cold milk and a shot of espresso, for that ultimate homemade iced coffee experience.
The Weirdest Ice Cream Flavors
There are unique ice cream flavors, and then there’s just plain weird. Below are our top three weirdest ice creams. These are all actually quite popular where they’re from, but they’re unusual if you haven’t had them before.
If you can, definitely give them a try, but be warned — these are definitely on the stranger side.
A firm favorite from the Philippines, queso ice cream tastes like, you guessed it, cheese. It’s one of the most popular street food ice creams sold in the Philippines. What makes it unique is that combo of sweet, creamy, and salty flavors which fans find enticing. Beyond that, it’s actually just a bit weird.
Bubble gum is likely an ice cream flavor you’ve seen many times before, yet, when you think about it, it’s a weird one. Bubble gum is strange because it’s definitely not a natural flavor.
In fact, this flavor tastes about as artificial as you can get. Some bubble gum ice creams even include tiny morsels of gumballs, which doesn’t sound particularly enticing.
This one certainly sounds strange, but it’s surprisingly fragrant and delicious. The rich, creamy ice cream pairs perfectly with spiced, earthy flavors.
Meanwhile the color of curry was just made to be put in ice cream. If you can’t get this anywhere, try making it at home.
There are some excellent recipes available for homecooks to try. A homemade curry ice cream is sure to intrigue guests.
Unique and Special Ice Cream Flavors
There are so many ice cream flavors available around the world, it’s hard to pick the most special ones. The top three we’ve chosen are unique because of their unusual ingredients.
These ingredients are sometimes tricky to find, even today, making these a real treat if you do get your hands on them.
Teaberries are native to New England, and are the reason this particular ice cream flavor is colored bright pink. Some say it reminds them of Pepto Bismol, which is kind of how the flavor is as well.
Teaberry ice cream tastes minty and a little like medicine, and absolutely not at all like any kind of berries. Teaberries naturally have a spicy, minty flavor which some people love. Artificial versions tend to taste a little like wintergreen gum.
Ube is an unusual flavor from the Philippines. It’s a wonderful, natural purple color and tastes both sweet and a little earthy.
Ube is a purple yam, so you can imagine it being a little bit like a sweet potato in flavor. It’s the chief ingredient in many Filipino desserts, including cakes, cookies, and filled pastries. The ice cream, however, is something extra special.
This isn’t such a weird flavor. In fact, rosewater ice cream was likely among some of the earliest ice cream inventions in the 18th century, perhaps even earlier. Rosewater ice cream is creamy, floral, and sweet. Some creations also include cardamom or pistachio, for a Persian twist.
The Most Popular Ice Cream Brands
If your aim is to try as many different kinds of ice cream as you can, below is a good list of brands to start with. These are the most popular ice cream brands around.
Some of them have been making ice cream for decades, and each offers tons of different flavors to choose from.
Blue Bell Creameries have 66 different ice cream flavors to choose from. The Texan brand has been making ice cream for over 100 years.
Some of their most popular flavors include their Homemade Vanilla, chocolate, and their delicious Moo-llenium Crunch. The latter is a basic vanilla ice cream filled with caramel chunks, dark chocolate chips, and nuts.
Braum’s ice cream comes from Oklahoma, where it’s still made today. They use milk from their own dairy cows to produce more than 100 flavors of ice cream.
Some of their most popular flavors include their Coconut Chocolate Cheesecake ice cream, Cherry Chocolate Chip, and Chocolate Toffee.
A well-known brand across the world, Baskin Robbins are famous for their ‘31 flavors.’ The idea behind this concept — and their famous logo — is to have a flavor available for every day of the week.
Yet Baskin Robbins now have more than 1,400 flavors to choose from. Some of their most popular varieties include Pralines ‘n Cream, Mint Chocolate Chip, and Vanilla.
Tillamook pride themselves in never using preservatives or artificial flavors of any kind. Tillamook have 31 different flavors to choose from.
Some of their very best include their White Chocolate Raspberry flavor, French Vanilla, and Banana Split. They also make a very good Butter Pecan which is described as being both creamy and crunchy, salty and sweet at the same time.
Ben & Jerry’s
Ben & Jerry’s are known for being a very outspoken ice cream brand, so you probably already either love or loathe them.
They have 98 ice cream flavors on offer, with some of the most unique creations around: Cookie Dough, Phish Food (with cute little fudge fish throughout it), and Karamel Sutra are just three of their most popular flavors.
Häagen-Dazs is internationally renowned for their many delicious, high quality flavors. This ice cream brand was founded by Polish immigrants in 1960’s New York, and is now available nearly everywhere in the world.
One of their most popular flavors include Matcha Green Tea, Raspberry Sorbet, and Cookies & Cream.
Magnum ice cream bars are also available nearly everywhere. There are over 15 flavors, including classic Magnum ice creams, doubles, and vegan varieties.
You can also get Magnum in tubs, with cracking chocolate topping off their delicious, creamy ice creams. Magnum’s most popular flavors include their basic vanilla, almond, and caramel.
Delicious Ice Cream Flavor Hacks and Recipes
Let’s face it, ice cream is always a great choice on its own. With that said, it’s even better when paired with a special dessert.
The ice cream hacks below will give you some delicious options for your next date night or special event. Number two is a real showstopper.
Ice Cream Waffles
What’s better than waffles? Waffles with ice cream. Start by making fresh waffles in the oven or a waffle maker. Add ice cream while your waffles are still warm.
Some of the best flavors for this are the iconic classics such as vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry. Waffles are delicious paired with just about any ice cream though. Just try different varieties and see which you like best.
Ice Cream Cake
Ice cream cake is essentially just layers of different ice cream, frosted with whipped cream. You can choose any flavors for your ‘cake’, but Neapolitan ice cream is a great place to start.
Neapolitan ice cream, also sometimes known as Harlequin ice cream, is made up of the three all time classics: chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
Top your finished ice cream cake with plenty of sprinkles and enjoy.
Ice Cream Sandwiches
Ice cream sandwiches are a classic treat that will probably never go out of style. The best ones are made with homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Allow your cookies to cool and sandwich a layer of ice cream between two cookies. The resulting ‘sandwich’ is a delicious combination of ice cream and chocolatey goodness.
You can use any ice cream for this, though vanilla is probably the most common.