This summer has been sweat-trickling-down-my-back, hair-looks-like-I-stuck-my-finger-in-an-electrical-socket, need-to-drink-more-water-than-a-camel levels of hot. And it sucks. I have literally shown up to dinners, doctor’s appointments, work events and even dates looking more like a sopping wet mop than a human.
But to distract from the consequences of high temperatures and excess humidity, I’ve relied on good ol’ ice cream to quell the discomfort (and anger, frankly) that I’ve been experiencing on a daily basis. Surprisingly, I’ve ditched my typical cookie dough, caramel, peanut butter-laden concoctions in place of seasonal strawberry. And damn — I forgot just how great this flavor really is with its harmonious balance of sweetness, creaminess and tartness.
Chad Townsend, co-founder of Pittsburgh-based Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream, agrees: “Strawberry ice cream manages to be an outlier while still being accessible. It’s pink and red and fun and happy. But despite being so visually different, it’s still recognizable and safe.”
“The fun pink color really opens the door and the familiar berry flavor gets you to stick around,” he adds.
While I knew strawberry was the most popular ice cream flavor after reviewing vanilla and chocolate, I was surprised to see just how many options were available on Amazon Fresh and in my local grocery store.
“You won’t find a good store-bought strawberry ice cream without reading the list of ingredients first,” advises Townsend. “It doesn’t matter how much you might like the same brand’s vanilla ice cream, or their chocolate or whatever; and it doesn’t matter how tasty the berries on the label might look: If it contains artificial flavorings or numbered red dyes, skip it.”
In fact, Townsend shares that some manufacturers simply toss in a few berries for texture but incorporate additives to keep costs low.
So I grabbed the eight most readily available pints and half-gallons I could find and got to tasting. Here’s the scoop on how they stacked up.
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I’m usually a big fan of Edy’s whipped and almost fluffy consistency, but this reminded me more of fruit-flavored Reddi-wip than a craveworthy ice cream. I even had to check the label and see if it was actually marketed as frozen yogurt because I was convinced I purchased the wrong item (or something new that they were pushing). The strawberry flavor was also subtle (unlike the sweat stains on my shirt this month) and I couldn’t get past its general chalkiness and unwelcomed sourness. A major womp, womp if you ask me.
I wanted to hate this. Those artificial-looking strawberry “jelly” swirls would have excited me as a 7 year old, but adult me knew they were brimming with preservatives and hard-to-pronounce ingredients. And while this tasted nothing like fresh strawberries, I still enjoyed it … kind of. I mean, there are six other options on this list that ranked higher and there were elements of this that tasted fake and processed, but I liked it … I think? Ugh. I still can’t completely make up my mind on this one, which is why I have no other choice but to place it so low. I hate uncertainty!
If tartness is what you seek, then tartness is what you’ll get with this uber-cheap option from Walmart. I will say that the texture threw me a bit, though. Rather than being silky-smooth, it had a grit to it that reminded me of freezer burn (which is not the most appetizing, obviously). That said, it retails for less than $3 for a half-gallon. So if I’m struggling to make coin one month and am craving something sweet, I’m opting for this guy and not the Costco-sized tub of chocolate-covered pretzels that are typically my go-to in times of need.
This was solid. Did I feel like slapping an “organic” label on things made it taste any more delicious? Certainly not. But did I feel like I was getting a product that was straightforward, balanced and satisfying at a moment’s notice? Absolutely. And for that reason alone, I housed the pure pint in one sitting and called it a successful day.
This didn’t make a ginormous impact, but I kind of appreciated its light and airy quality. After all, strawberry is a fairly standard and palatable fruit flavor and when the sun has sweat dripping down your face like you’ve just eaten a ghost pepper dipped in chili oil, a delicate flavor is what you crave. I only wish the notes of strawberry were a touch stronger and then it would have ranked significantly higher. But overall, I’d definitely add this to my shopping cart again in the future.
What Blue Bell lacked in purity (looking at you, corn syrup and color dyes), it made up for in an intense yet scrumptious flavor. This Barbie-pink tub’s loud exterior matched its interior with a bold and bright iteration of the timeless classic that tasted very strawberry-forward, refreshing, delightfully tangy and something most of us wouldn’t scoff at on a humid day. But if you’re an ice cream traditionalist and only want to see cream, sugar, fruit and milk in the ingredient lineup, this won’t be the one for you.
You may be most familiar with Tillamook’s line of decadent cheeses, but ice cream is where the dairy brand really shines. And its strawberry variety is no exception, boasting a buttery, luxuriously soft mouthfeel that could easily elicit Homer Simpson’s signature mouth drool. I had nothing negative to say about this ice cream — my No. 1 pick edged it out only because it was so outrageously luscious and delectable that I simply couldn’t allow it to take anything but top honors. So Tillamook gets a well-deserved silver medal that could easily be mistaken for platinum because it’s that good.
This pint was, admittedly, so decadent that only a spoonful or two sufficed in satisfying my sweet tooth. And while that may typically dock points when it comes to these taste tests (because I like to eat things in excess, thank you very much), the quality was just so freakin’ phenomenal that nothing could beat it. It tasted the most like strawberry (you actually crunch into seeds) and the consistency was both velvety and — you guessed it — exceptionally creamy. I typically ignore Häagen-Dazs while I’m perusing the freezer section because I write it off as boring and one-noted, but sometimes it takes a taste test like this one to remember that the brand offers simple, mainstream, no-frill flavors in a premium product and at a great price.