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The Most Popular Ice Cream Flavor in Every Decade

I scream, you scream—well, you know the saying! Americans have loved to eat ice cream for well over a century. Here's a closer look at the most popular ice cream flavor from every decade.

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Homemade Neopolitan Ice Cream with Vanilla Chocolate and Strawberrybhofack2/Getty Images

1900s: Neapolitan

Neapolitan ice cream was very trendy in this decade. It’s made of several flavors of ice cream pressed together into one block to be sliced and served—a technique that originated in Naples, Italy. Though any ice cream flavor can be used, the most familiar Neapolitan combination features chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. This decade also saw the invention of the ice cream cone.

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Healthy homemade raw vegan banana and berry ice cream (icecream, nicecream) topped with organic blueberries - healthy vegetarian diet vegan raw fruit organic delicious dessert, dairy free, gluten freeMizina/Getty Images

1910s: Fruit Sherbet

This ice cream treat was also called water ice, iced punch or sorbet. It was a popular palate cleanser served at dinner parties between entrees. The sherbet typically consisted of fruit juice and water—sometimes liqueurs or milk were added, and they were sweetened with sugar or honey.

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Hand holding a scoop of chocolate marshmallow ice cream in a cone.Aiken Lao/Getty Images

1920s: Rocky Road

Aptly named for the rocky times of the late ’20s, Rocky Road ice cream was the creation of William Dreyer and Joseph Edy. (Do those names sound familiar?) Wanting to make a dessert to cheer people up during the bleak days of the Great Depression, the duo stirred marshmallow bits and chopped almonds into chocolate ice cream. Find more surprising Depression-era desserts.

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Adult men eating rum raisin ice creamKanawa_Studio/Getty Images

1930s: Rum Raisin

The repeal of Prohibition in the ’30s spurred the addition of spirits to desserts, including ice cream. We have Italy to thank for the rum and raisin flavor combination. In Sicily, rum-soaked Málaga raisins were stirred into vanilla gelato. This ice cream flavor regained in popularity in the ’70s and ’80s, too. Find your state’s most iconic ice cream flavor.

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Soft serve ice cream cone at the Market Square in the center of Helsinki, Finland on hot day in July 2018.Jekurantodistaja/Getty Images

1940s: Vanilla Soft Serve

The idea for soft serve ice cream happened by accident, after Tom Carvel’s ice cream truck broke down and he had to sell melting ice cream in a hurry. His customers loved the creamy texture, and Carvel ran with the idea. More soft serve stands quickly followed, including Dairy Queen and Tastee Freez.

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Stevia with pineapple ice cream balls decorated with pineapple slices and whole fruit on white backgroundMirjana Ristic/Getty Images

1950s: Pineapple

Pineapple was everywhere in the ’50s (think pineapple upside-down cake and countless Jell-O salads) thanks to the fascination with Hawaiian and Polynesian culture. So it’s no surprise that pineapple found its way into ice cream, too. Flavors in grocery store freezers included a pink pineapple sherbet, cherry pineapple and a vanilla, raspberry and orange-pineapple swirled ice cream.

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Delicious butter pecan ice cream served in a red bowl. Vintage wooden table background.leekris/Getty Images

1960s: Butter Pecan

Ice cream is already indulgent—but how about adding in real butter? Folks loved the buttery vanilla base dotted with toasted pecans. Howard Johnson’s , an iconic 1960s family restaurant chain, had Butter Pecan on its famous list of 28 ice cream flavors, which included two other popular ice creams of the decade: black raspberry and maple walnut. If you can’t get enough of this flavor, try these other butter pecan desserts.

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A delicious bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream.NicoleArnoldPhotography/Getty Images

1970s: Mint Chocolate Chip

We have England’s royal family to thank for this ice cream—well, sort of. English culinary student Marilyn Ricketts won a 1973 contest with her creation of mint ice cream dotted with chocolate chips, and won the honor to have it served at the wedding banquet of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips. It’s been an American favorite ever since. If it’s your favorite, then you’ll love these grasshopper-inspired desserts, too.

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Spoonful of Cherry GarciaCourtesy Ben & Jerry's

1980s: Cherry Garcia

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream ruled this decade with their social missions, rich, small-batch ice creams and eclectic flavors. Cherry Garcia, cherry ice cream swirled with juicy cherries and fudge flakes, was named for the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia and quickly became the most popular of those ’80s flavors.

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Ben & jerry's ice Cream, Chocolate Cookie Dough flavor, hugely popular American brandKevin Schafer/Getty Images

1990s: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

For all of us who snuck raw cookie dough out of the fridge, this flavor was the answer to our prayers! Ben & Jerry’s gave us this ice cream flavor as well, after getting the idea from an anonymous fan. Other brands quickly caught on, swirling chunks of cookie dough into their own vanilla ice cream.

Honorable Mention: Kids of the ’90s also grew up eating the “Ice Cream of the Future:” Dippin’ Dots!

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Birthday Cake Ice Cream decorated with candle. (Photo by: Anjelika Gretskaia/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)REDA&CO/Getty Images

2000s: Cake Batter

The ultra-sweet flavor of birthday cake made its way into candy, snack cakes and, of course, ice cream! In 2003, Coldstone Creamery introduced their Cake Batter ice cream, and it didn’t take long for other ice cream makers to jump on the bandwagon. There’s even a sugar-free version.

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Salted caramel ice creams on blue plateBartosz Luczak/Getty Images

2010s: Salted Caramel

The last decade saw a revolution in incorporating sweet and savory flavors. Thank goodness, because salted caramel in ice cream is pure genius! Ice cream flavors ran the gamut, from modest swirls of salted caramel to candy chunks, and even as a solid core in the pint. (Thanks again, Ben & Jerry’s!) To sample this one at home, make salted caramel sauce to serve over pumpkin ice cream.

Nancy Mock
Discovering restaurants, tasting bakery treats, finding inspiration in new flavors and regional specialties—no wonder Nancy loves being a food and travel writer. She and her family live in Vermont and enjoy all things food, as well as the beautiful outdoors, game nights, Avengers movies and plenty of maple syrup. Find Nancy’s writing and recipes at her website: Hungry Enough To Eat Six.

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