Top 20 Greatest Ice Cream Flavors of All Time
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
I scream, you scream, we all scream for — well, you know. For this list, we'll be looking at the most delicious, popular and satisfying ice cream flavors out there. Our countdown includes chocolate, vanilla, salted caramel, coffee, cookies n' cream, and more!
Script Written by Michael Wynands
Top 20 Greatest Ice Cream Flavors of All Time
I scream, you scream, we all scream for — well, you know. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 20 Greatest Ice Cream Flavors of All Time.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most delicious, popular and satisfying ice cream flavors out there. Please note, we will not be including brand-specific flavors. Instead we’re prioritizing more traditional options that are likely to be found in the frozen section of the grocery store and independent ice cream parlors alike.
#20: Birthday Cake
There are countless types of cake that can be used to celebrate an occasion. As such, this flavor of ice cream is sometimes a source of confusion among the uninitiated. But most people would agree that the quintessential birthday cake is a vanilla sponge with rainbow sprinkles - and that’s what this cult favorite ice cream flavor aims to replicate. More than just vanilla ice cream with sprinkles on top, however, birthday cake ice cream has a more batter and/or frosting-like flavor to it, and the sprinkles are fully mixed in. Some variations even have a frosting ripple in there!
Though it might sound like a bit of niche choice to western consumers, mango ice cream is actually hugely popular in many asian countries. It’s particularly big in India, where, in addition to mango ice cream, you can also get a similar, ice cream-related frozen treat called mango kulfi. Now, fruit flavors often get relegated to the sorbet section, but while we appreciate the refreshing qualities of sorbet, mango is one fruit that really benefits from the creaminess of dairy. On a hot sunny day, mango ice cream (or kulfi) makes for a treat that’s bright in both flavor and appearance, and which never fails to hit the spot.
#18: Rocky Road
From fruity goodness to fluffy delight! Rocky Road is one of the most popular alternative ice cream flavors out there, delighting millions with its messiness! The traditional combo of chocolate, nuts and marshmallow is the simplest of sensations that seems to work wonderfully every time we try it! A flavor that flourished in 1930s America thanks to ice cream mogul William Dreyer, it was given its fun name in the hopes that it would "give folks something to smile about in the midst of the Great Depression.” Well, we’re certainly grinning now.
Like mango, coconut’s status as a fruit means that it’s quite prominent in the sorbet section. But in recent years, it feels like coconut’s star has really risen within the ice cream world too. A clean, distinct, sweet flavor, coconut makes for a perfectly refreshing lick of ice cream. And because coconut is a fruit with inherently creamy qualities, it really lends itself to the format. In fact, coconut milk is a popular base for dairy-free ice creams, which makes it a favorite for vegan ice cream lovers or those who are lactose intolerant. Though perfectly delicious in its own right, coconut ice can equally serve as a base for more elaborate flavors.
#16: Cotton Candy
Are you of the opinion that coconut is too subtle or safe of a flavor? Then this one’s for you! A childhood favorite for many a sweet tooth, this sugary ice cream takes the time-honored carnival favorite and gives it the perfect makeover for a hot summer day. Cotton candy is just sugar that’s been liquified and spun into fine strands. Then, to get that bright coloring, a dye is added, which also gives it that distinctive cotton taste of “blue raspberry” and “pink vanilla”. The combination of blue and pink, transposed into balls of ice cream, never fails to put a smile on your face. Each lick is like a trip to an amusement park!
An oldie, but a goodie, butterscotch is something we tend to take for granted. Unless you’re a foodie or really into sweets, chances are you have no idea what the difference is between caramel, toffee and butterscotch. Though they’re all made from a base of sugar, butterscotch uses brown sugar, not white. And as for toffee, it's really just butterscotch that’s been cooked longer! So what you’re tasting in butterscotch is butter, brown sugar, vanilla, cream and salt. It’s a winning recipe, and one that seems tailor-made to be consumed in the form of ice cream!
We’re generally steering clear of “trendy” ice cream flavors on this list, but the popularity of matcha, sometimes referred to as “green tea ice cream” is really only new to western consumers. It’s long been a mainstay in japanese markets; the rest of the world was just slow to get wise to it! What we love about matcha is that it’s uncommonly well-balanced. Yes, it has got a sweetness to it, but the distinct flavor matcha (a powder made from green tea leaves) also gives the ice cream a subtle bitterness that feels like a real departure from the other flavors on our list.
#13: Salted Caramel
Though it's certainly got some qualities in common with butterscotch, we felt that salted caramel deserves an entry of its very own. First off, the flavor, across various applications (not just ice cream) has become hugely popular in recent years. And while you may dismiss it as just another sweet tooth trend, we think it’s here to stay. Salted caramel is special because it shines a light on something often overlooked by the average consumer: salt is key to successfully making a standout sweet treat. Salted caramel is great wherever it’s applied, but paired with the smooth, creamy, refreshing quality of ice cream, it shines especially bright. Rippled or fully mixed in, it's always great!
Chocolate and ice cream are a match made in heaven, but for those who like a little something extra in the textural department, brownie ice cream is just what the doctor ordered. (That’s a joke, we sincerely doubt any legitimate medical professional is handing out prescriptions for something this decadent.) Brownie ice cream comes in a vanilla or chocolate base and has brownie mixed in throughout. Typically, you’re not only getting a brownie dusting, but also large chunks of brownie. If you’re really lucky, there might even be some ripples of fudge to emulate a brownie topping!
#11: Chocolate Chip
It’s a classic, and it’s a classic for a reason! The cocoa bean forms the foundation for a very vast majority of confectionary products, and ice cream is not about to buck the trend! In this instance, the chocolate flavor is found in extra bits of the good stuff in chip form, poking out of a usually vanilla product... Of course, for the more daring diners amongst us, double chocolate chip places the pieces in a chocolatey base ice cream... You really can never have too much of a good thing!
Is this cheating? Maybe! But if eating three different flavors of ice cream from a single container is wrong, then we don’t want to be right. Sometimes referred to as Harlequin ice cream because of its color scheme, neapolitan, as we know it today, dates back to the late 19th century. Fun fact: first brought to America by Italian immigrants, neapolitan ice cream was traditionally made with vanilla, strawberry and pistachio as an ode to the flag of its home country. For many years the flavors were actually somewhat interchangeable, but today, popular consensus dictates that neapolitan be made up of the now classic trinity: vanilla, strawberry and chocolate.
It seems an odd occurrence that the pistachio nut should ever have been tested as a flavor at all... But aren’t we glad it was! An inherently stylish sort of ice cream, pistachio has a sweet, rich and nutty flavor that’ll leave YOU green with envy every time you see someone enjoying it without you. As we mentioned, its distinctive green coloring meant that Pistachio was often included as a flavor within the traditional ‘Neapolitan’ ice cream; but it’s an amazing flavor in its own right. And you’d be nuts not to think so!
#8: Moose Tracks
We were admittedly divided as to whether we should include this one. Don’t get us wrong, it’s freaking delicious, but it is a bit of a gray area in terms of criteria. Moose Tracks is a trademarked recipe invented by the Denali Flavors company. However, unlike say, “Cherry Garcia”, Moose Tracks isn’t made by a single company. Moose Tracks is licensed to numerous brands and as such, it feels like fair game. And that’s good because it’d be a crime not to include it. Moose Tracks is vanilla ice cream with tiny peanut butter cups and chocolate fudge. We’ve got a soft spot for a wide variety of peanut butter ice creams, especially those that pair it with chocolate, but Moose Tracks is a winning formula.
Everyone’s favorite “wake up” remedy in the morning makes for the perfect dessert too! Coffee is a confectionary flavor that can divide consumers, but it deserves its spot in our top ten all the same! Coffee ice cream first emerged in the 19th century as part of a parfait, but today it’s a staple on its own all around the world. Granted, coffee is probably a flavor more popular with adults than kids - sophisticated, mature, and with a touch of creamy class. OK, we made all that up, it’s just delicious damn it! (Is anyone else getting really hungry, by the way?)
Sometimes going back to basics is the best thing to do... And that’s certainly the case with strawberry ice cream! A flavor that was reportedly served during the inauguration of America’s fourth president James Madison, it dates back at least as far as 1813! There aren’t too many things that remain popular for over 200 years, but those things that do must be well worth it... And strawberry ice cream is exactly that! It’s an iconic taste of summer, whether in a scoop, a bar, a pie, or as part of Neapolitan!
#5: Mint Chocolate Chip
Our next flavor is outside of the box, but not outside of the box enough to be scary! Mint Chocolate Chip is the ice cream of choice for those that fancy a break from their norm! It’s sweet... It’s refreshing... It’s everything ice cream should be! Often made with a simple peppermint or spearmint flavoring, the product is occasionally produced using the liqueur crème de menthe. Alcoholic or not so, there’s an edge to this ice cream that’ll have you going back for seconds!
#4: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Because we’ve all been little kids, most of us have baked cookies (or something similar...), and nearly all of us have eaten the doughy goodness before it’s been put in the oven to set! Blend that flavor into vanilla ice cream, and you have yourself the tastiest of treats! An invention largely attributed to the world famous ‘Ben and Jerry’s’ brand in the early-1990s, its glory is in its gooeyness! Anyone who says they don’t like Cookie Dough is either lying, or very, very strange!
#3: Cookies ‘n’ Cream
When buying ice cream your sweet tooth is already awash with anticipation... Ice cream with cookies in it, and your taste buds are bouncing... It’s true: we live in a world where that amount of joy can be scooped into a bowl or perched atop a cone! With many inventors claiming this creation as their own beginning in the late-‘70s, Cookies and Cream was a top five finisher in in 1983 as one of the fave flavors. A flavor widely associated with the Oreo brand in particular, it’s a ten out of ten in texture and taste, but it’s been just frozen out of top spot today!
Where would we be without chocolate? And without chocolate ice cream in particular? The USA’s second most common flavor behind vanilla, and one of the earliest known ice cream options ever invented (conceived even before vanilla!), it dominates the frozen dessert aisle of most supermarkets, and with good reason! With its earliest versions published in Italy during the late-1600s, but gaining popularity in the U.S. in the late-1800s, chocolate ice cream has been around for a very long time, and it’ll be around for a long time more! Versatile as they come, it’s great on its own, or as the base of other top 10 tastes like rocky road. Now, best go out and buy your favorite flavor... Enjoy!
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
Simple & Straightforward, But Silky Smooth When Done Right
Rosy Pink in Color with Chewy Chunky of Fruit
For Those Who Prefer a More Complex Flavor Profile
Just kidding! Don’t get us wrong, we respect the humble avocado and its many, many uses, but our top ice cream flavor… it most certainly is not.
The cornerstone of everything ice cream, the world would be a much bleaker place without vanilla flavor! Sure, it’s simple... But that’s because it doesn’t need to fancify itself! As close to ice cream in its original form as you’re gonna get... It compliments just about every other dessert known to man, but also satisfies as a solo dish! Should you care to mix things up a mite, then the extra creamy flavors of French Vanilla could be for you... Either way, this flavor rules – so much so that even Thomas Jefferson concocted his own recipe back in the 1780s!