In this report
July 2010 Ratings
Talk the talk

Creams of the crop

Last reviewed: July 2010

Exotic choices such as Boston Cream Pie (Ben & Jerry's), Birthday Party (Blue Bunny), and Amaretto Almond Crunch (Häagen-Dazs) might turn heads, but vanilla and chocolate are still the nation's favorite ice cream flavors. Our trained tasters tried 13 vanillas and 11 chocolates with various amounts of fat.

Seven rated Excellent, and six of those are Häagen-Dazs or Ben & Jerry’s; the seventh is Archer Farms Belgian Chocolate (Target). All are dense and creamy, with strong, high-quality flavors. The Excellent vanillas have a big dairy and real vanilla taste. Among the Excellent chocolates, Archer Farms has an intense, complex chocolate flavor enhanced by bits of dark chocolate; both Häagen-Dazs chocolates have a big dairy flavor; and Ben & Jerry's has a strong chocolate flavor but is a touch icy.

Lower-rated ice creams are less creamy and less flavorful, with flaws such as an artificial taste or gumminess. It seems to be harder to make a high-quality vanilla ice cream than a high-quality chocolate. The chocolate flavor might help mask mistakes.

The tastiness of the top-rated products comes at a cost—they're full of calories and fat. And most are pretty pricey, 97 cents to $1.16 per half-cup serving. But Archer Farms costs 33 cents per serving.

Bottom line

For a special treat, try one of the top-rated ice creams. If more healthful fare is your goal, and anything cold and sweet will do, try a light or fat-free ice cream, which has far fewer calories and less fat.