- Sarah Schmalbruch / INSIDER
- Even chefs can’t resist tossing a pint of ice cream into their cart.
- We asked chefs for their favorite grocery-store ice creams.
- From Ben & Jerry’s to Häagen-Dazs, here are their picks.
At the end of a long and stressful day, the best medicine for whatever ails you often comes in the form of a cozy couch, a sturdy spoon, and a pint of your favorite ice cream. While “bad ice cream” definitely sounds like an oxymoron, it stands to reason that certain brands and flavors of store-bought dairy desserts must be better than others. But how can you tell which ones are worth your time and cash?
To get to the bottom of this question, we went straight to the experts. Nine professional chefs shared their all-time favorite ice creams, all of which you can find at a regular grocery store.
Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean is simple but has quality ingredients.
- Facebook/ Häagen-Dazs
“My gold standard for store-bought ice cream is Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean. The bean is key! [This ice cream is] widely available, but it’s a cult favorite, so you may have to dig around the freezer case to find it. It has a true vanilla flavor and doesn’t have a ton of suspect ingredients. [It’s a] classic for a reason, and it’s perfect by itself or alongside your favorite dessert ([for me, that’s] blueberry crisp),” Langan told INSIDER.
Häagen-Dazs also makes a strawberry ice cream with natural fruit flavor and plenty of nostalgia value.
- Facebook/ Häagen-Dazs
Pastry chef Stacey Needham of Red Star Tavern in Portland, Oregon also favors Haagen-Dazs, but she names strawberry as her preferred flavor. “I find [Haagen-Dazs Strawberry] to be less sweet than other ice creams. [It’s] naturally creamy, and it has a true strawberry flavor. It just tastes like summer to me, with flecks of real strawberry throughout the ice cream,” Needham said.
Talenti offers luxe gelato flavors like Caramel Cookie Crunch.
Gelato seems like a dessert exclusive to fancy Italian restaurants and super-expensive specialty shops … but brands like Talenti seek to make it more affordable and widely-available by stocking it at grocery stores. Chefs appreciate Talenti’s unctuous texture and rich flavors- like Caramel Cookie Crunch, a particular favorite of iPic Entertainment’s corporate executive pastry chef, LA-based James Rosselle.
“The quality of the [Talenti] ice cream/gelato is absolutely exceptional. The vanilla bean ice cream blended with caramel swirl and cookie crunch hits all the right notes from a pastry viewpoint: creamy & crunchy! One pint of the Caramel Cookie Crunch really does disappear quickly- I only wish they made it in a quart size!” Rosselle said.
The banana pudding ice cream from Prairie Farms bears many flavor similarities to its namesake dessert.
- artisteer/ iStock
Ice cream varieties that channel other popular desserts can be spectacular triumphs .. .or, in some cases, tragic disappointments. Luckily, the Banana Pudding ice cream from Prairie Farms falls in the first category, according to Joshua House, the pastry chef The Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri. This Midwestern brand sells its ice creams at Wal-Mart, making it easy to find.
“I’m a sucker for all Prairie Farms ice cream, but their Banana Pudding flavor is definitely my favorite. I enjoy it so much because it reminds me of the banana pudding I ate growing up. Plus, I love supporting Prairie Farms, since it is a local brand. So, what’s not to love?” House told INSIDER.
First devised by Stephen Colbert during his “The Late Show” hosting tenure, Ben and Jerry’s AmeriCone Dream is an enduring hit.
- Facebook/ Ben & Jerry’s
Ben & Jerry’s are certainly no strangers to special-edition ice creams, but sometimes, a limited-release flavor becomes such a sensation that the Vermont-based creamery chooses to make it part of their regular rotation.
Such was the case with AmeriCone Dream, a flavor created by former “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert in 2007. Made from a vanilla base, AmeriCone Dream also includes fudge-covered waffle pieces and a caramel swirl.
Pastry chef Ron Paprocki of Gotham Bar & Grill in NYC considers AmeriCone Dream a must-try, adding that “it’s like an ice cream cone in a [pint]! What’s even sweeter is that all proceeds go to a charity [the Stephen Colbert AmeriCone Dream Fund] supporting disadvantaged children, veterans, and environmental causes.”
More than any other flavor, Cherry Garcia defines the Ben & Jerry’s brand, and for very good reason.
- Facebook/ Ben & Jerry’s
Composed of cherry ice cream, black cherries, and chocolate flakes, Cherry Garcia has been a Ben & Jerry’s staple since 1987.
Corporate chef Daniel England of OMG Hospitality in San Diego, California said that, when asked to pick his favorite grocery-store ice cream, “hands-down, [it’s] Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia, probably because it was my father’s favorite. Plus, they were only sold in small containers, which was ideal when we were kids since we were only allowed a few bites.
“Today, I could easily finish a tub in one sitting. I mean, it’s cherry ice cream with black cherries and chocolate fudge! And not to mention, [it’s] a tribute to the late Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.”
A popular treat in Europe, Magnum ice cream bars can now be purchased stateside.
- Facebook/ Magnum
Hand-held ice cream pops coated in rich milk chocolate, Magnum bars have been a massive success overseas since the late 1980s. As of 2011, Americans can also partake of these delicious dessert treats, a fact that chef and owner Firoz Thanawalla of Chef’s Satchel in Houston, Texas celebrates.
“[Magnum bars are] a winner for their velvety [and] creamy texture, [and the] coating of milk chocolate pairs up [with the ice cream for] a perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness, [inspiring] everlasting greed for more,” Thanawalla explained.