On any given Sunday, you’ll find me in the frozen food aisle of the grocery store. When my sweet tooth strikes, I find myself aimlessly scanning through the sea of ice cream, each carton vying for my attention with the promise of creamy, dreamy satisfaction. But with dozens of brands from which to choose, how do you know if you’re buying the right pint? After all, there’s no way to take a sample scoop.
Taste of Home wanted to help. Our team took on the challenge to find the best tasting chocolate ice cream among common supermarket brands. (Selfless, we know.)
To find the best of the best, we went to our local grocer and scooped up 10 of the most popular brands of ice cream. We decided that the best way to compare brands would be to test them by the quality of the most classic ice cream flavor: chocolate. Yep, plain-Jane chocolate. That means there were no swirls, cookie chunks, fluffy mallows or extra mix-ins. Just pure cocoa flavor. Here’s our lineup:
- Target Market Pantry Chocolate Ice Cream: $2.99
- Meijer Purple Cow Chocolate Ice Cream: $2.99
- Kemps Old Fashioned Chocolate Ice Cream:$3.39
- Breyers Chocolate Ice Cream: $3.49
- Blue Bunny Chocolate Ice Cream: $4.19
- Dean’s Country Fresh Classic Chocolate Ice Cream: $4.39
- Edy’s Chocolate Ice Cream: $4.39
- Cedar Crest Chocolate Ice Cream: $4.79
- Haagen-Dazs Chocolate Ice Cream: $4.75 (per pint, ½ quart) $11 per tub
- Halo Top Chocolate Ice Cream: $5.99 (per pint) $15 per tub
(Prices based on our Milwaukee stores. They might be higher or lower by you.)
Setting up the test
So how’d we choose the best ice cream? By taste, of course! (Fun fact: We taste test all of our recipes before they’re published. Check it out here.)
To gather a non-biased opinion, we decided to conduct a blind taste test.
We lined up scoops of each ice cream side-by-side, without any indication of branding, packaging or price. (Upscale brands or cool packaging can unfairly sway people’s opinion, even though it doesn’t have a thing to do with flavor.) The ice creams themselves were on trial.
We rounded up eight ice cream fanatics from around the office. These people think about food all day long (they create our magazines and books), so they have some qualified palates.
We considered two major characteristics: flavor and texture. We were looking for an ice cream that had a rich chocolate flavor and smooth, balanced texture. It should be something that we wouldn’t mind spooning straight from the tub or mixing into a milkshake.
With this criteria in mind, we started tasting, one by one. Each taste tester gave each scoop a rough score out of 10 (The higher the score, the better the scoop.)
#10: Halo Top
Without warning, we introduced the group to a low-calorie, high-protein ice cream. The strange beige coloring was the first signal that this ice cream was different from the rest.
Flavor: Compared with other brands, this ice cream tasted like a protein shake. The chocolate flavor was far too light to hold a candle to the rest.
Texture: Despite sitting out for the longest time, Halo Top remained remarkably dense and melted little.
Comments: “Tastes like salt.” “It’s weird that it held its shape.”
Average Rating: 2.4
#9: Purple Cow
Purple Cow ice cream from Meijer did not fare well. The judges dished out their most blunt remarks.
Flavor: This ice cream had a funny aftertaste, and people agreed that it tasted “old.”
Texture: The texture was way off. Its consistency was grainy and icy.
Comments: “Tastes like freezer-burn.” “It’s fluffy.”
Average Rating: 3.2
#8: Market Pantry
Our judges’ first remark was “Wow!” which was then quickly followed by, “That’s a sugar bomb!” This scoop disappointed many of our judges and received low ratings for both flavor and texture.
Flavor: This was our most sugar-packed scoop of the bunch. Many thought that it was unnecessarily sweet.
Texture: A spoonful of the stuff proved to be icy, with a slightly chalk-like quality.
Comments: “Yuck.” “Sugar blast!”
Average Rating: 4.2
Neither the flavor nor texture of this scoop delighted our judges. A kind taster suggested that it might work well in an ice cream cake because the chocolate flavor was so mild.
Flavor: Everyone agreed that this ice cream fell short. The flavor was described as cheap, chalky and lacking in the chocolate department.
Texture: The scoop had a strange, icy texture. It felt like the flavor evaporated once it hit your tongue. What’s more, the ice cream had held its shape in an almost unnatural way.
Comments: “Tastes chalky.” “No chocolate flavor.”
Average Rating: 5.4
The texture of this scoop was enjoyable, but the flavor received low marks. Our judges didn’t linger on this brand for long and were quick to get to the next.
Flavor: Many noted that this ice cream was on the sweeter end of the spectrum. Also, the chocolate tasted artificial and salty.
Texture: On the flip side, this scoop was much creamier than other brands. The melt quality was a benefit. The ice cream had the texture of a soft-serve.
Comments: “Fake.” “Salty.” “Far too sweet.”
Average Rating: 5.6
Although it’s one of our most popular–and pricey–brands, Haagen-Dazs didn’t live up to expectations. Judges thought it was so-so. The ice cream had a noticeably lighter appearance than the rest, and unfortunately, it was also lighter in flavor.
Flavor: Compared with other brands, this scoop had a slight cinnamon flavor, tasting similar that of a Mexican hot chocolate.
Texture: The texture was nice and creamy.
Comments: “The spice takes away from the chocolate flavor.” “Almost spicy!”
Average Rating: 6.1
This ice cream’s flavor was less intense, and some described it as being “delicate.” Not amazing, but not terrible either!
Flavor: For this scoop, the flavor was hard to find. It tasted like a very subtle dark chocolate.
Texture: There was a chalky texture to this scoop, which quickly dried out our mouths. Water please!
Comments: “Bitter aftertaste.” “Kind of like dark chocolate.”
Average Rating: 6.4
#3: Cedar Crest
Unbeknownst to the testers, this ice cream was from a Wisconsin company. Taste of Home is in Milwaukee, so we had to see if the dairy state could live up to its reputation! This scoop definitely packed that creamy flavor, leaping bounds above the rest of the pack.
Flavor: It had a rich, milk-chocolate taste. The judges pointed out that there was a slight caramel note, too. For some, this flavor was a good thing, but others were less enthused.
Texture: Cedar Crest stayed firm in its scoop. It had a dense texture, which melted slowly in your mouth.
Comments: “Definitely milk chocolate.” “Had some caramel undertones…I’m not a fan of caramel.” “Not enough chocolate flavor.”
Average Rating: 8
#2: Blue Bunny
This extra-rich ice cream definitely impressed our judges. As we gathered around the table, the smiles grew with each spoonful. It just nearly reached our top pick.
Flavor: After comparing with other ice creams, this scoop had a deep chocolate flavor with a slight chalky aftertaste. My hunch is that this was from the cocoa powder.
Texture: The ice cream was smooth and creamy, just like good ice cream should be. Despite sitting out of the freezer for a few minutes, the scoop held up firmly.
Comments: “It’s like an old time-y Dutch chocolate ice cream.” “Rich!”
Average Rating: 8.8
The winner here was clear. Edy’s chocolate delight was a standout among the bunch. The flavor and texture were so good that a few judges went back for seconds.
Flavor: This ice cream was rich, creamy and packed with strong, dark-chocolate notes. The intense flavor hit all the marks on our cocoa radar.
Texture: The scoop stayed firm on your spoon but melted ever-so-softly in your mouth. Some called it the smoothest ice cream by far.
Comments: “Super rich with dark chocolate notes.” “I ate it ALL.” “Really creamy.”
Average Rating: 8.9
With full bellies, the tasting was complete. I honestly couldn’t believe how much ice cream we had consumed. Here’s a quick recap:
From highest to the lowest score: Edy’s, Blue Bunny, Cedar Crest, Breyers, Haagen-Dazs, Kemps, Dean’s, Market Pantry, Purple Cow and finally, Halo Top.
Surprised? So were we. Here are our biggest takeaways:
Price doesn’t necessitate quality.
I was shocked when I realized that an expensive ice cream like Haagen-Dazs didn’t make the top three (it finished fifth). Ahead of it were more economical brands such as Breyers, which is almost a quarter of the cost. I’ll definitely think twice before spending big bucks on a name brand again.
When it comes to flavor, low-calorie ice cream doesn’t hold up.
That a “healthy” ice cream like Halo Top came in last place wasn’t a huge surprise. Because it’s low-fat, there’s simply no chance that it’ll have that same creamy, delicious flavor as, say, Blue Bunny or Edy’s. It’s worth noting, though, that Halo Top clocks in it at just 280 calories per pint. (That’s nearly half the calories of Edy’s!)
As a hostess, I wouldn’t try to serve this ice cream for a crowd, but knowing its guilt-free nutrition facts, I may just sneak a scoop or two for myself.
Everyone’s best is different.
Flavor is super subjective. In this tiny test group, some judges didn’t care for caramel, while others adored it. Some preferred a soft scoop, while others liked their ice cream firm and frozen. The only way to know your favorite is to try it yourself.
Want the ultimate ice cream? Make it from scratch! This way you can customize it to your personal preferences. Learn the simplest way to make great-tasting ice cream here. No ice cream machine necessary.