What’s the deal with all these ice cream flavors?

A few days ago an advertisement for Van Leeuwen’s Hidden Valley Ranch-flavored ice cream passed through my news feed. I showed it to my husband who replied, succinctly, “No.” This savory take on a beloved treat – matched with a major brand, in this case Kraft Foods – seems to be a growing trend. Not everyone is a fan, especially not Jesse Sparks, who says that stunt ice cream flavors need to stop.

a single scoop of chocolate ice cream sits inside a waffle cone. The background is a blank white canvas so the cone stands out.

Sparks has no beef with novel and imaginative ice cream flavors, but feels that the current crop, which includes the aforementioned ranch flavor and a chicken-and-waffles combo from Baskin-Robbins, have jumped the shark and seem to be more about shock value and viral potential rather than giving customers something they might enjoy eating. Apparently the ranch-flavored ice cream tastes so much like the salad dressing that even actors being paid to shill for it have trouble convincing viewers that they enjoy eating it.

As long as the ice cream garners the social media attention the brands crave, these flavor mashups are likely to continue. I’m never one to yuck someone else’s yum, but I find it hard to imagine that ranch-dressing ice cream will find a large enough audience to make it past the initial release. I’ve heard better things about the macaroni-and-cheese ice cream, which seems to have some staying power, although I will give that one a pass too. I’ll stick to something more traditional like The darkest chocolate ice cream in the world from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, pictured above. Has anyone seen or tried some of these savory ice cream flavors? What’s your verdict?

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  • rmpostonmfandt  on  March 17, 2023

    Minor correction to the post – the actors were trying to sell another crazy flavor called “Glass Onion” by Van Leeuwen. It sounds slightly less terrible(???) than ranch. Which I agree with your husband with a big ol’ “Nope.” 🙂

  • janecooksamiracle  on  March 17, 2023

    Stephen Colbert of the Late Show tried the Ranch one 😀 his face was a picture 😀

  • gamulholland  on  March 18, 2023

    I think Salt & Straw has contributed to this trend. I’ve been there, but I’ve never been brave enough to try anything that doesn’t sound like dessert. 🙂


  • EmilyR  on  March 19, 2023

    I’ll be the outlier… I’ve been to Malai, Salt & Straw, Jeni’s (I’m an Ohio girl after all), Van Leeuwen’s, and even one in Munich called Der verrückte Eismacher (the crazy ice cream maker) where I tried sausage and mustard ice creams. https://dvem.z-connection.de/

    Last year I stalked down Van Leeuwen’s assortment at Walmart of all places (it was a 30 minute drive away and I brought a cooler). I love the experience of trying new things and some of the assortment was a bit wacky – the Kraft mac + cheese, elderflower, hot honey, spirulina matcha… we had a tasting party with friends – complete with those fun color changing spoons and guessed the flavors and rated them. It’s really a lot of fun and a great way to get kids to stretch their comfort zones. Even picky eaters aren’t going to turn down ice cream! I love the great memories it makes, but I am a bit sad the Kraft mac + cheese isn’t more accessible. It’s actually quite good!

  • EmilyR  on  March 19, 2023

    …oh, and pizza ice cream! That’s another delicious one from Van Leeuwen.

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