21 Top Ice Cream Brands, Ranked By Flavor And Quality

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Ice cream is one of life's great foods. You do not want to get stuck with sub-par ice cream when searching for your perfect pint — or, even worse, a frozen dairy dessert that is only masquerading as ice cream. The USDA has stringent laws around what can be labeled "ice cream" and what must bear the "frozen dairy dessert" marker. In the ice cream aisle, the good stuff is often stocked alongside the not-so-good.

A lot goes into figuring out what's worth it and what's not. While ingredients are one important factor, good ice cream should be measured in more than just what goes into it. Texture is another thing to take into consideration, as a lighter, fluffier ice cream may, in fact, mean that there is less of that good stuff in the container and more air taking up space.

No need to worry about looking at every ice cream label before making a decision, though: As with our ranking of America's most popular ice cream chains and the nation's most popular ice cream flavors, we've compiled the ultimate guide to the ice cream aisle options of your average grocery store. Our ranking heavily relies on the quality of ingredients and the taste; check the end of the article for more info on our methodology. Without further ado, these are the top ice cream brands.

21. Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's has a ton of different ice cream flavors, which should put it towards the top of our list. But unfortunately, none of these flavors are very good. The grocery chain boasts plenty of other tasty treats, but here, it went for quantity over quality — so much so that you might want to skip Trader Joe's ice cream altogether if you like a delicious dessert.

The brand's unique flavors often don't taste like they're supposed to. For example, fans on Reddit say that the s'mores flavor tastes either just like chocolate ice cream, or overall disgusting and not like s'mores at all. There have also been complaints about the ice cream's texture: The pints tend to melt and refreeze a lot due to how the chain stores them. This makes the ice cream hard and icy, which isn't the best combo. Trader Joe's vegan ice cream tastes pretty bad as well — a true sin in a world with more and more excellent vegan ice cream options. For all these reasons, we have to rank this brand last on our list.

20. Blue Bunny

The first brand — coming in last in our ranking — is Blue Bunny. An adorable mascot is not enough to save this company from the bottom of the list. The main reason? Many Blue Bunny products are technically not ice cream. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has specific rules on what can and can not be called "ice cream." According to the USDA, ice cream must not weigh less than 4.5 lbs per gallon and contain at least 20% milk solids and 10% milk fat. Blue Bunny does not reach these metrics. The company refers to their products as "frozen dairy dessert." Blue Bunny confections seem less appetizing now, don't they?

In addition to this, the ingredient list for even the Homemade Vanilla is long, and despite that, does not actually include vanilla, only "natural and artificial flavors." All this, and the flavor just doesn't deliver. Blue Bunny will not find its way into our cones anytime soon.

19. Halo Top

In second-to-last place is Halo Top. Sure, it is technically ice cream based on USDA standards, but that does not change the taste. Halo Top prides itself on being "light ice cream that actually tastes like ice cream." The company makes low-sugar, high-protein ice cream that comes in at a shockingly low caloric count. The Vanilla Bean variety, for example, has just 290 calories per pint. That is less than some other companies' ice creams have per serving. In addition, the company offers a wide range of flavors, including vegan flavors and ice cream bars.

Does all of this seem too good to be true? Indeed, it is. Despite the company's claim, Halo Top light ice cream does not taste like ice cream. Or at least, it does not taste only like ice cream. In order to create a creamy ice cream that meets the company's objectives and can still be considered ice cream, Halo Top includes a lot of artificial and non-sugar sweeteners, such as erythritol and stevia. They also add thickeners, such as corn fiber. All of this results in an ice cream that just tastes off and leaves you with a distinctive aftertaste. Halo Top is good if you have specific dietary needs, but it's is not our top pick for a pint.

18. Blue Bell

Next on our list is Blue Bell ice cream. Once again, we have an adorable logo, this time featuring a cow being led by a small child. But we will not be suckered in by this wholesome country scene. According to the Blue Bell website, the company was founded in 1907 and literally delivered ice cream via horse and buggy. From this imagery, you may get the impression that Blue Bell is a pure ice cream made from the cream of freshly milked cows, pure sugar, and natural flavors lovingly churned to perfection. This is not the case, though. 

While sugar and cream are ingredients, so are high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and thickening gums. And the taste suffers because of it. Blue Bell falters from simply being mediocre. There is nothing outright offensive about the flavor. But for the price tag of $8.99 for a half gallon, we are much more likely to find our mediocre ice cream fix elsewhere.

17. Edy's/Dreyer's

This brings us to Edy's/Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, a better, but still not great, option for mediocre ice cream. To clear up any confusion, we want to assure you that despite having two names, Edy's and Dreyer's ice cream are, in fact, the same company. According to their website, the company was founded by William Dreyer, an ice cream maker, and Joseph Edy, a candy maker. The pair began as a hit ice cream-making duo.

William Dreyer had grand dreams and opened a brand new ice cream factory on the West Coast, rebranded as "Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream Inc." After an acquisition in 1977, it was decided that the company would keep the name Dreyer's in the west and Edy's in the east of the U.S., using the Rocky Mountains as the divide.

The company has certainly made its mark on the ice cream world, premiering flavors such as Rocky Road and Cookies and Cream. But still, Edy's/Dreyer's ice cream is not perfect. It still contains corn syrup and artificial flavors — but is tastier and often cheaper than Blue Bell.

16. Friendly's

At $3.97 as of this writing, Friendly's is practically a bargain. There is a reason for that, though. The Friendly's ingredient list includes all the usual things you might not want in your ice cream: corn syrup, thickeners, colorings, and the like. We still feel confident saying that Friendly's ice cream is not the worst you can do, but also still solidly in the bottom half of our ranking.

The Friendly's company proclaims to pride itself on using "high quality, locally sourced ingredients." This may be true, but we are not sure if corn syrup is really in the spirit of "locally sourced." Friendly's may use local and high-quality dairy products, but with all the additives, a good bit of that quality gets lost. The company also proudly states that they use some of the founder's original recipe, which does seem likely to be true: You can't make ice cream without cream and milk.

It is not all negative, though. Friendly's ice cream is perfectly serviceable. Friendly's has an extensive range of flavors, some of which are static, but many of which come seasonally. For the price and selection alone, they should not be entirely overlooked in the ice cream aisle.

15. Breyer's

Popular ice cream brand Breyer's is the first step into the world of not-terrible ice cream. You have to be willing to look through all the options and pick only the good ones, though.

Breyer's has a lovely selection of affordable products. They are pretty tasty too. The problem is that the good and the bad are all lumped together in a way that makes it incredibly hard to distinguish. Breyer's Natural Vanilla and Homemade Vanilla are both pretty decent vanilla ice creams. But then you come to Breyer's Extra Cream Vanilla, which you might think is just as good, only to see the dreaded "frozen dairy dessert" label at the bottom. That's right: It's not even ice cream! 

Why does Breyer's need three different kinds of vanilla, one of which is not even ice cream? We don't know. We assume just to frustrate consumers. The company offers a large repertoire of varieties, all passable ice cream flavors, but you have to watch out for the trickster selections that are non-ice cream. Breyer's would likely do better to focus on their better creations, rather than lumping them all in together.

14. Magnum

Magnum is what would happen if someone who really wanted to be a chocolatier was forced to open an ice cream factory instead. Magnum is great if you like chocolate, but that's really the only thing it has going for it.

Magnum's chocolate is high quality, which we would expect from a Belgian company. (You can't base your entire identity around being surrounded by chocolate and then not deliver.) Each pint comes with a thick layer of chocolate on top that the consumer gets to satisfyingly crack through before taking the first bite of actual ice cream. The chocolate is sourced sustainably through the Rainforest Alliance, according to the company's website.

That being said, Magnum offers a limited selection of flavors, all of which are chocolate-based. So if you are not a chocolate fan, you are out of luck. Additionally, after cracking through the chocolate layer, the rest of the ice cream can be hit or miss, as the flavors are not really that exciting. The company started as a chocolate-coated ice cream bar company, and the ice cream in each pint is reminiscent of that. It is light and sweet and not much else. With Magnum, you come for the chocolate and stay for the chocolate.

13. Turkey Hill

Turkey Hill is another brand with some good and not-so-good flavors, and sussing them out can be a bit of a chore. However, at least Turkey Hill clearly tells you which of the products are frozen dairy desserts and which are actually classified as ice cream, via the company's website.

Looking specifically at the company's ice creams, Turkey Hill offers a wide range of flavors. But it also falls into the same trap as Breyer's: That is, Turkey Hill offers different flavors that appear to be repeats but that taste vastly different and include different ingredients. Turkey Hill Vanilla Bean is just meh. It has a lot of added ingredients that are unnecessary and does nothing to improve its flavor. But Turkey Hill Simply Natural Vanilla Bean is a whole different story. This stuff only includes the ingredients needed to make ice cream, nothing more. It is flavored with vanilla beans. It is light and delightful. If Turkey Hill could capture the magic of the Simply Natural line with all their ice creams, they would rank higher.

12. Baskin-Robbins

As described on its website, Baskin-Robbins was founded by two people who loved ice cream and wanted it all the time — every day, in fact. Which is why they decided to make the 31 original flavors, or so the legend goes. Today, the company boasts over 1,400 flavors. It does not matter what kind of ice cream you like; they are sure to have a flavor for you. The variety of flavors available is really why Baskin-Robbins made it into the top 10 of our list.

The ice cream has some additives in it, which we do not love. We think ice cream should stand on its own with quality ingredients and a good churn. But at $2.50 a pint as of publication, it is tasty and cheaper than going to a brick-and-mortar ice cream shop. And with so many flavors to choose from, we can forgive the ice cream for not being as good. And you are probably not getting a Baskin-Robbins pints for a run-of-the-mill flavor anyway.

11. Serendipity

Serendipity ice cream began life at the Serendipity3 restaurant in New York in the 1950s, according to the Serendipity website. Like Baskin-Robbins, this is another brand you are not going to for your garden-variety flavors. In fact, if you are looking for straight chocolate or vanilla, you are bound for disappointment. Serendipity offers unique flavors like Unicorn Bliss and pop culture-inspired flavors such as the "Friends" Central Perk Coffee Almond Fudge.

The ice cream is good, but we do feel the company is relying too hard on its quirkiness rather than producing the best ice cream in the world. But this ice cream definitely still has its place. It is sweet and fatty, the two main aspects of ice cream. But it really does not hit the mark of exceptional ice cream, which, considering a single pint will run you $10, is really a shame. Overall, it's a good product, but does not seem worth the price tag.

10. Hood

Hood is a popular regional ice cream brand in New England, which is why you might not have heard of it. Well, it's actually a dairy brand that sells ice cream; Hood started as a milk delivery service in 1846. The brand has lots of different options across quart and 1.5 quart options, plus ice cream sandwiches and mini-sized treats too. Hood offers standard flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and cookies and cream, but also many hometown flavors to serve its New England audience, like Red Sox Green Monster Mint and 7th Inning Stretch Peanut Crunch. 

While Hood's flavors are generally accepted as pretty tasty, it nabs a spot in the middle of our rankings because some of its offerings aren't actually ice cream. Instead, they are either frozen yogurt or a "frozen dairy dessert." There are also a few low-quality ingredients like corn syrup present, which brings it down a bit. So while Hood is pretty good, it's not the best.

9. Graeter's

Graeter's just barely missed out on the top five, but only because of the steep competition.

According to the Graeter's website, Louis Charles Graeter started selling ice cream in 1870. The company has had a long time to perfect the art of ice cream making, and while it is not exactly perfect, Graeter's does make a truly excellent ice cream.

Graeter's ice cream is thick and luxurious. While cheaper ice creams are often packed with air, Graeter's feels and tastes substantial. The company does not heavily rely on artificial flavors, though the Madagascar Vanilla Bean ice cream does contain thickeners. Now, if you want to enjoy this ice cream at home, you can order it from the company's website — at roughly $13 per pint. While the ice cream is good, it's not that good. We recommend finding it in one of the Graeter's stores or at a local grocery store, where the price is around a much more reasonable $6.49 as of this writing.

8. McConnell's

McConnell's, known as McC's to fans, started as a dairy company in Santa Barbara, California in 1934. The brand started making ice cream in the 1970s, and fully modernized its process in 2013. Although it's available in most states, McConnell's still hasn't found its way into many grocery stores, meaning you might have to travel a little ways to find it. It's worth it, though.

McConnell's ice cream is widely regarded as very tasty. It uses impressive ingredients, like Guittard cocoa and real cane sugar, which many brands don't bother with. In addition to its classic and vegan flavors, it also has an entire organic line. This immense number of options and commitment to excellent ingredients bumped McConnell's higher up on our list.

It is not all the way at the top, though, because of its price. This isn't a shock, really, given its high quality ingredients and the fact that it seems to be a smaller business, especially compared to some of the international brands on this list. Still, you can expect to pay about $12 per pint, which is pretty expensive for a sweet treat.

7. Talenti

Talenti is absolutely stunning. The texture is like velvet. The flavors are impeccable. We even love the clear packaging that allows you to see the mouth-watering frozen treat inside. So why did we not rank it higher than a perfectly respectable No. 5? Well, we ranked it where we did for one simple reason: It is not technically ice cream. 

Now, we know what you're thinking: There is no way Talenti, the amazing brand with its rich and expensive pints, is making a "frozen dairy dessert." Rest assured, that is not the case. What the company is making, though, is gelato. Gelato, according to Talenti, is made from a higher milk to cream ratio. Therefore, it is denser, and tends to be slightly sweeter. This explains why indulging in a pint of Talenti is like eating frozen silk. But, as it stands, it is not a traditional ice cream, though it does meet the legal definition of ice cream.

6. Ben & Jerry's

What happens when two best friends go out on a whim and take an ice cream-making course at Penn State University? Well, obviously they go ahead and open an internationally successful ice cream business! Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were friends from junior high school (via The Collegian) when they learned to make ice cream and started their business in a converted gas station (via Ben & Jerry's). Since then, their business has expanded, and is now practically synonymous with bad break-ups and the munchies.

Unlike Serendipity, Ben & Jerry's does offer classic flavors. While Ben & Jerry's plain flavors like vanilla are good, their wacky flavors are where they shine. Flavors like Americone Dream and Cherry Garcia are just a couple of the iconic offerings from this brand. It is impossible to get bored eating Ben & Jerry's. The ice cream is thick and always packed with delicious treats.

It should be no surprise that a company founded by two hippies is also socially conscious. The company uses their ice cream platform to highlight issues such as divesting from systems that criminalize Black communities. Overall, we are never disappointed with a pint of Ben & Jerry's.

5. Salt & Straw

Salt & Straw is an attention-grabbing ice cream brand increasingly available across the United States. Superfans outside its scoop shop radius can also purchase the ice cream online. This is excellent news, as Salt & Straw is a seriously awesome brand. It stands out thanks to its small range of unique flavors. Instead of plain strawberry, customers can try strawberry honey balsamic with black pepper. Or, if you want to branch out from the typical ice cream experience, you can indulge in something like pear and blue cheese or honey and lavender. Every option bursts with real, true flavor.

For these bold options alone, Salt & Straw earns a solid spot in our rankings. What moved it even closer to the top is its commitment to using whole, natural ingredients for its sweet treats. You will only find milk, cream, sugar, and few flavoring and binding agents in each pint. This simplicity keeps the ice cream vibrant, fresh, and altogether excellent.

4. Tillamook

Now we have Tillamook, which makes seriously creamy ice cream. Whether you want traditional ice cream or a more egg yolk-forward frozen custard, Tillamook is there for you.

The company has been going strong since 1909 and has been churning out quality products since the company's start. The flavors are delicious. The vanilla, in particular, is lovely. If we had one complaint, though, it is that Tillamook, like so many others, seems to rely on thickening gums in order to make the ice cream as creamy and thick as it should be. This is a smidge disappointing, because the company has mastered its flavors. If the company could remove the thickeners and keep the consistency and quality up, then they would have a home run with their ice cream. As such, the ice cream is not quite in the very top tier, but we would still never turn down a bowl of Tillamook ice cream.

3. Van Leeuwen

Van Leeuwen started in 2008 as a New York City ice cream truck run by three friends. Since then the brand has grown to the point that it can now be found in grocery stores across the country. Van Leeuwen has lots of flavors available that deviate from run-of-the-mill ice cream options. You can indulge in black cherry chip, marionberry cheesecake, and even Earl Grey tea. The brand also has vegan options with similarly innovative flavors. They're all pretty delicious, too.

This variety, and Van Leeuwen's commitment to natural ingredients (like beet juice concentrate for coloring instead of artificial dyes), puts it pretty high on our list. The only reason it doesn't rank higher is because the price of this ice cream tends to be pretty steep, at $12 for just under 14oz. This is the only thing holding it back, though. Consider budgeting to accommodate its high price point every once in a while.

2. Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream

Jeni Britton — who consumers know simply as "Jeni" — is functionally the grand empress of the ice cream world (via Jeni's). She even wrote one of the premier books on ice cream making, for which she won a James Beard award, to prove it. Britton founded her company 20 years ago, and what started as an artsy passion project turned into an ice cream store, which turned into an ice cream empire. And we are so glad it did!

The flavors are interesting, to say the least. The ingredients are real. And while you will likely pay $12.00 a pint if you order online, you will likely pay closer to $7.99 if you're able to score some from a big box store like Target. We know this is still expensive, but trust us, it is worth it. The flavors go so far beyond the ordinary — even Jeni's vanilla ice cream is made extraordinary with the addition of honey. Jeni's ice cream is truly a unique ice cream experience.

1. Haagen-Dazs

What does Häagen-Dazs mean? Absolutely nothing, according to the company. That does not matter, though. Häagen-Dazs was founded by Reuben and Rose Mattus, who immigrated to the United States from Poland and wanted to make the best ice cream possible. They started with three simple flavors: vanilla, strawberry, and coffee. The couple was so dedicated to making the best ice cream that they spent six years locating the best kind of strawberries for their strawberry ice cream. And in our tasting experience, it is still the best strawberry ice cream around.

All that work has surely paid off. Häagen-Dazs ice cream is luxury at its finest. The company now offers a truly wide range of flavors, including an entire line of dairy-free ice cream that is sublime. Häagen-Dazs' classic vanilla bean ice cream is just cream, milk, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean — nothing else. The company does not rely on artificial flavors or additional thickeners. To this day, its original three flavors are still the best on the market. Producing quality ice cream in both classic and new flavor choices at a reasonable price of $4.69 per pint as of publication puts Häagen-Dazs at the top of our list. 

How we ranked the ice cream brands

To rank these ice creams, we took a close look at the ingredients used. Do the ice creams contain natural ingredients or lots of artificial flavors? Do they have to use thickening agents to improve texture and other similar elements? Flavor was also of paramount importance. We considered both the excellence of each ice cream's taste and each brand's variety of options. Texture was also key. Where we lacked personal experience, we consulted online forums, like Reddit. We also considered the price when determining value, although it was a comparatively small factor.