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Who doesn’t love ice cream? Like pizza, it’s one of the first foods I can think of that’s universally loved across all cultures.
You can make ice cream out of almost anything so there are literally thousands of flavors from around the world. Some are conventional, others not so much.
Case in point, we were in Oaxaca recently and got to try one of the strangest ice cream flavors we’ve ever had on a trip – grasshopper. Seriously.
And I’m not talking about a scoop of ice cream topped with toasted grasshoppers either. The grasshoppers were blended into the ice cream so you couldn’t see them but you could definitely taste them. It was an odd but intriguing blend of sweet, sour, spicy, and salty that’s probably not for everyone.
As much as we enjoy trying these strange flavors, we find that the classics are still the best. We’ve rounded up 25 of our favorite ice cream flavors here. Some of them may not be as exciting as squid ink ice cream but they’re definitely among the most delicious.
I think we’ll leave the balut ice cream for another list.
THE MOST POPULAR ICE CREAM FLAVORS
1. Vanilla Ice Cream
This is a no-brainer. Vanilla is the most popular ice cream flavor in the world so it only makes sense to start this list with vanilla ice cream. It isn’t the sexiest flavor but it’s definitely one of the most delicious and versatile.
Made from vanilla bean, vanilla ice cream is delicious on its own but it’s often the flavor of choice when serving desserts a la mode. Apple pie, brownies, turon, and pisang goreng are just a few desserts we’ve tried that are made even more delicious by a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
2. Chocolate Ice Cream
Like vanilla and strawberry, you can’t compile a list of the world’s best flavors of ice cream without including chocolate.
Vanilla may be the most popular flavor but chocolate ice cream was invented first. In fact, it could very well be the world’s first ice cream flavor. In 17th century Europe, popular drinks like hot chocolate, coffee, and tea were the first food items to be turned into frozen desserts.
Chocolate ice cream is typically made by blending cocoa powder with eggs, cream, sugar, and vanilla. All types of chocolate ice cream are heavenly but personally, we love the versions made with dark chocolate. The richness and slight bitterness of the dark chocolate is to die for.
Like vanilla, chocolate ice cream is often used as a base to create other ice cream flavors like rocky road, neapolitan, and chocolate fudge brownie.
3. Strawberry Ice Cream
Strawberry completes the holy trinity of simple but quintessentially delicious ice cream flavors. It can be made with strawberry flavoring but the best versions are made with fresh strawberries blended in with eggs, cream, sugar, and vanilla.
I’ve never met a Haagen-Dazs flavor I didn’t like but their strawberry ice cream is my hands-down favorite. It’s so creamy and delicious.
4. Chocolate Chip
Chocolate chip ice cream is basically vanilla ice cream enriched with mini chocolate chips.
When I first arrived for school in the US, chocolate chip ice cream became my first love. We didn’t have this ice cream flavor in my native Philippines back then so I was intrigued by the bits of chocolate in the ice cream!
As delicious as it is, vanilla can sometimes be boring but the chocolate chips give the ice cream texture and little punches of chocolate flavor.
Can you believe that something as universally appealing as ice cream can have its controversies? Like pineapple on pizza, there are some people who don’t think that chocolate and mint should go together, which is exactly what you get in every scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
To its detractors, this refreshing blend of mint and chocolate tastes like toothpaste. Personally, it isn’t my favorite ice cream flavor but I say to each his own!
5. Butter Pecan
Butter pecan ice cream is a rich, buttery, and nutty ice cream flavor that’s popular mostly in the US. It’s essentially vanilla ice cream enriched with whole pecans toasted in browned butter. Need I say more?
We absolutely love matcha. We consume it as often as we can whenever we visit Japan, especially in Kyoto.
Matcha refers to the finely ground powder made from green tea leaves. Aside from being an integral component in Japanese tea ceremonies, it’s a commonly used ingredient in many Japanese food products like cakes, cookies, crackers, and candy. Earthy and a bit grassy, it has a unique and complex flavor that’s difficult to describe.
Anything made with matcha is delicious but personally, I enjoy it most in green tea ice cream. You can enjoy matcha soft cream (soft serve ice cream) anywhere in Japan but the best comes from Uji, a small town between Kyoto and Nara. Eating matcha ice cream in any form is an absolute must in Japan.
I spent a good chunk of my early life in the States and one of my favorite things about the US was the eggnog. A Christmas holiday tradition, I remember getting my first sip of eggnog and thinking: “What in heaven’s name is this magical creation? It tastes just like liquid ice cream!”
Needless to say, if you’re a fan of that incredibly rich and creamy gift to humankind known as eggnog, then you’re going to love this ice cream. It already tastes like ice cream so it only makes sense to eat it as ice cream!
A quick side note, if you ever visit Mexico, then be sure to try rompope ice cream. Rompope is basically the Mexican version of eggnog.
Teaberry is another ice cream flavor that’s popular in the US, mostly in Pennsylvania. Because of its bright pink color, you’d think it was flavored with Pepto Bismol but it’s actually made from teaberries, a crimson-colored pea-sized fruit native to New England.
The teaberry is a polarizing fruit. Like mint chocolate chip, people either love or hate teaberry ice cream because of its intensely minty, almost medicinal flavor that tastes nothing like berries.
Food products made from teaberries aren’t as popular as they once were but teaberry ice cream is definitely something to look for on your next trip to Pennsylvania. Love it or hate it, you can at least say that you tried it.
Vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry are three of the most popular ice cream flavors so it only makes sense to combine them in this creamy mash-up known as Neapolitan ice cream. It consists of those three iconic flavors served side by side in the same container.
Neapolitan ice cream was invented in the 19th century and gets its name from its presumed origin of Naples. Italian immigrants brought their frozen-dessert-making skills to the US and created this three-flavor combination to resemble the Italian flag.
Tubs of ice cream made with two or more flavors are common now but Neapolitan ice cream was the first type of ice cream that combined three flavors.
10. Moose Tracks
Ice cream making is such big business in the US that you’ll often hear of branded flavors like Cherry Garcia and Phish Food. The flavors produced by Ben & Jerry’s are the most well-known but another famous ice cream flavor is Moose Tracks by the Denali Flavors company.
Moose Tracks is basically vanilla ice cream leveled up with peanut butter cups (or brownie bits) and their trademark Moose Tracks fudge. Aside from vanilla, it can be made with other ice cream flavors as well like chocolate and mint.
11. Rocky Road
Rocky Road is an established ice cream flavor in the US made with chocolate ice cream, nuts, and marshmallows. It’s said to have been invented by William Dreyer of the Dreyer’s ice cream company in the late 1920s.
According to the story, Dreyer and his partner named it “Rocky Road” to give Americans something to smile about after the Wall Street Crash of 1929.
I’m a big coffee drinker so it only follows that coffee is one of my favorite ice cream flavors. Perfect as an after-dinner indulgence, it’s made with eggs, cream, vanilla, and sugar infused with the awesomeness of finely ground coffee beans.
I used to be confused by mocha as a kid because I didn’t know what mocha meant. It tasted sort of like chocolate but it was lighter in color like milk coffee. As it turns out, it’s a combination of both.
Originally from Yemen, mocha basically refers to coffee drinks sweetened with chocolate.
Pistachio is another of my personal favorite flavors of ice cream. Known for its distinctively pale green color, it has a wonderfully nutty flavor derived from finely ground pistachios and almond paste.
15. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
I initially found chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream to be a bit strange when I first arrived in the US. I had never eaten raw cookie dough before and never would have thought of doing it had it not been for this ice cream flavor. As its name suggests, it’s essentially vanilla ice cream mixed in with unbaked chunks of chocolate chip cookie dough.
I didn’t know this until I started doing research for this article, but this ice cream flavor was apparently invented at the first Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop in Vermont in 1984.
16. Cookies n’ Cream
Cookies n’ cream is another ice cream flavor that’s easy to love. It’s basically vanilla ice cream mixed in with crumbled bits of chocolate sandwich cookies like Oreos. It’s great as ice cream but in my opinion, it’s even better as a milkshake.
17. Ube (My Favorite Ice Cream Flavor!)
I may be biased but ube is my favorite flavor of ice cream. Ube or purple yam is an ingredient from the Philippines that’s taken the world by storm thanks to its sweet earthy flavor and lovely purple color. Like matcha, its color makes it perfectly suited for Instagram.
Ube is used as the main ingredient in many desserts like cakes, cookies, and croissants but in my opinion, ube ice cream is the best. It’s often the crowning ingredient on halo-halo, a popular Filipino dessert made with shaved ice, condensed milk, and other ingredients like sweetened beans, coconut strips, and sugar palm fruit.
Butterscotch – a caramel-like sweet made with brown sugar and butter – is the driving ingredient in this luscious flavor of ice cream. Like caramel, butterscotch sauce has long been used as an ice cream topping though it works just as well when incorporated into the ice cream itself.
If you like butterscotch ice cream, then you need to try the Indian version. Butterscotch is one of the most popular ice cream flavors in India where it’s often topped with crunchy pralines.
Indian butterscotch ice cream differs from western versions in that it’s made with milk instead of cream. It also contains less sugar and is made with additional spices and aromatics like cardamom, saffron, and rosewater.
19. Salted Caramel
Caramel is very similar to butterscotch except it’s made with granulated white sugar instead of brown sugar. The sugar is caramelized and mixed with cream, salt, and other ingredients to make a sauce that’s used as a topping or flavoring for ice cream.
Caramel ice cream is delicious but salted caramel ice cream may be even better. As its name suggests, it’s made with more salt which helps to enhance and bring out the flavor of the caramel.
20. Cherry Garcia
As previously mentioned, Cherry Garcia is one of Ben & Jerry’s most iconic ice cream flavors. Named after the late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, it was produced in 1987 and remains the company’s most famous fan-suggested flavor of ice cream. I’m not a fan of the Grateful Dead but I do remember being impressed by the name. Clever!
When it first came out, it started off as cherry vanilla ice cream but today, it’s made with cherry ice cream mixed in with cherry bits and chocolate flakes.
21. Chunky Monkey
Chunky Monkey is another famous flavor from Ben & Jerry’s. As you can probably guess from its name, it’s made with a base of banana ice cream filled with fudge chunks and walnuts.
Like Cherry Garcia, this now iconic Chunky Monkey flavor was created from a suggestion made by an anonymous customer.
22. Queso (Cheese)
Queso or cheese is another of my personal favorite flavors of ice cream. It may not be as popular in the west but it’s long been one of the most common flavors of street ice cream in the Philippines.
To some people, ice cream with cheese may sound odd and slightly off-putting, but it actually works. It’s the perfect combination of salty, sharp, creamy, and sweet.
Strawberry may be the most popular fruit-based flavor in the west, but visit the tropics and you’ll find ice cream made with fruits like coconut, durian, soursop, and mamey.
Personally, my favorite is mango. The Philippines is known for having the best mangoes in the world, which probably influences my preference. A little.
Visit Bangkok and you’ll quickly realize that coconut is the most popular ice cream flavor in Thailand. It’s a heavenly, tropical blend of egg yolks, heavy cream, and sugar enriched with sweetened shreds of coconut, coconut milk, and coconut cream.
25. Bubble Gum
Last but not least is perhaps the oddest ice cream flavor on this list, at least to non-Americans. In other parts of the world, “bubble gum” and “ice cream” don’t belong in the same sentence together but in the US, it’s an iconic ice cream flavor.
This brightly-hued blue and/or pink flavor of All-American ice cream is made with bubble gum flavoring and whole gumballs. I read up on what “bubble gum flavoring” actually means and as it turns out, it’s made from a unique blend of chemicals that smell like fruit.
Hey, if ice cream can be made with grasshoppers and squid ink, then why not bubble gum?
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST ICE CREAM FLAVORS
With all the existing flavors out in the market today, and with all the new flavors being created tomorrow, it’s impossible to come up with a definitive list of the best ice cream flavors. These lists are inherently subjective which is part of what makes them fun to compile and compare. Everyone’s list will be different and that’s perfectly ok.
While doing research for this article, I read about a few concoctions that I had never heard of like peanut butter and jelly ice cream, Eskimo ice cream, and Tonight Dough. Eskimo ice cream or Akutuq sounds especially intriguing. Made with caribou fat, seal oil, and berries, it’s something that we’ll definitely look for should we ever find ourselves in Alaska.
Bizarre food intrigues me so I may follow up this article with a list of the world’s weirdest ice cream flavors. Until then, I hope you enjoyed reading this article and feel free to chime in with your own favorites below. Thank you!
Cover photo by gorkemdemir. Stock images via Depositphotos.
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