Pick of the Pints: The Best Vanilla Ice Cream
Get your scoops ready! We found the very best vanilla ice cream from the grocery store.
Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
Who Makes the Best Vanilla Ice Cream?
If there’s one thing to always keep stocked in your freezer (besides a good frozen pizza), it’s a pint of the best vanilla ice cream.
A great basic like this is essential for topping your favorite treats to make an a la mode dessert. Vanilla ice cream is also the foundation for many ice cream cakes and ice cream drinks—not to mention it’s darn good on its own.
So who makes the best vanilla ice cream? Our Test Kitchen team put 11 brands to the test to find the tastiest options for your next banana split.
How We Tested Vanilla Ice Cream
Our team researched the most popular grocery store ice creams and settled on a lineup of 11 different brands for this taste test. To ensure no one was biased, the identities of each were kept hidden during the test. Each ice cream was judged according to these standard sampling criteria:
- Appearance: A good ice cream should look like you want to dive in spoon first. Vanilla ice cream can range from a snowy white to a buttery yellow—all are good in our Test Kitchen’s book. Some ice creams also have vanilla bean flecks. These often indicate an extra boost of flavor, but not always!
- Texture: Ice cream should be creamy and smooth—not icy or overly aerated.
- Flavor: Our team’s goal is to find ice creams that taste of real vanilla extract and vanilla bean. Imitations are not allowed here!
Here’s a quick scoop on our favorites:
Haagen Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream
We’ll say it, Haagen Dazs makes great ice cream. The brand’s chocolate ice cream was named one of our Test Kitchen’s favorites in a past test, and now Haagen Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream is officially one of the best vanilla options.
So what makes this ice cream one of the best? This review from the Test Kitchen’s Shannon Norris says it all: “It’s the closest to homemade that I’ve tasted.”
So what does that mean? It means that this Haagen Dazs delivers an impactful vanilla flavor without too much sweetness. Instead, this ice cream is velvety with plenty of vanilla flavor that makes you want to skip the ice cream scoop and dive right into the pint spoon first.
Van Leeuwen Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
For a super lush and creamy frozen treat, our team agrees that you can’t beat Van Leeuwen Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.
What really makes Van Leeuwen stand out, though, is the consistency. Sarah Farmer, head of the Test Kitchen, says, “The texture is delightfully creamy.” This sentiment was echoed by every other taster in this test.
So what’s the secret to Van Leeuwen’s lush texture? Egg yolks. This brand is actually labeled as French ice cream (another name for frozen custard) because it contains a higher percentage of egg yolks than standard ice creams in the frozen section. Egg yolks help provide a smoother, richer texture—always welcome when you’re craving a decadent treat.
Best Vanilla Flavor
Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Ice Cream
While Ben & Jerry’s has made a name for itself with far-out flavors like Phish Food and Cherry Garcia, this test reminded our team that this brand also makes phenomenal basics. Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Ice Cream got high praise for its top-notch flavor.
Per the Test Kitchen’s Mark Neufang, “The vanilla is very distinct, almost buttery with some warmth to it.”
Our team suspects this unique and deep flavor comes from Ben & Jerry’s recipe—a formula that uses not only vanilla extract but vanilla beans as well. This extraordinary taste makes this pint worth enjoying on its own, but Mark says “I think this would be especially good with pie as it would melt beautifully and provide a good creamy contrast to fruit.”
This brand of ice cream does have a firmer texture than others, so you’ll want to check out these tips for softening ice cream before you scoop.
Blue Bunny Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Premium brands ranked highly in this taste test, but one classic ice cream rounded out our top picks: Blue Bunny Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.
A tub of Blue Bunny is a great choice for when you’re going to be scooping a lot of ice cream for homemade milkshakes, an ice cream social or just a recipe that needs a decent amount of ice cream. You’ll find that a 48-ounce container of Blue Bunny runs about $4.50 at the grocery store—that’s less than it costs for just 16 ounces of other ice cream brands.
But Blue Bunny isn’t delicious for a budget option; it really is darn tasty in its own right. “It has a very fragrant vanilla flavor,” says Mark. “It makes it taste a bit more homemade than other options—always a good thing.”
And the texture of this ice cream is also satisfying. Scoops of ice cream are dense and creamy. Plus, each spoonful reveals light flecks of vanilla bean—always a bonus in our books.
Check Out More Test Kitchen-Preferred Products
Our Test Kitchen is constantly testing food, kitchen gadgets and cleaning gear looking for brands that deserve the right to be called Test Kitchen-Preferred.
If you want to fill your pantry and fridge with the best products, check out these tests: