Life

The Best Store Bought Vanilla Ice Creams, Blind Taste-Tested And Ranked

There’s nothing quite as satisfying on a blistering hot summer day as a perfect scoop of ice cream. Whether it’s on a cone, in a bowl, soft-served, or from a grocery store gallon-sized tub, every lick just seems to melt away the worries of the day while taking us back to those nostalgic moments of youth, when our biggest concerns were who would get the biggest scoop. All while cooling us down, of course.

Well, those hot days are upon us once again. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll be looking to indulge in the cold and silky sweet treat that is ice cream while you reminisce on summers past and prep whatever mayhem this one will bring.

To help you track down the perfect scoop, I accepted the monster undertaking of blind taste-testing 20 vanilla ice creams in a variety of styles. French vanilla, vanilla bean, non-dairy vanilla, and plain ‘ole vanilla — I sacrificed my blood sugar levels to narrow down which of our beloved ice cream brands hits the nail on the head when it comes to crafting incredibly rich and delicious vanilla offerings. (My personal go-to since childhood.)

To get this project started, I scoured grocery store freezer sections and online retailers for 20 store bought vanilla ice creams. I picked out some of the classic brands that have served Americans scoops for years and years, along with some of the newer creameries on the scene. Finally, with the help of my cousin — who shielded me from seeing anything beyond a scoop of ice cream in a bowl — I blindly ate a few spoonfuls of every ice cream, wrote notes on each, and then ranked them based on flavor, texture, and consistency.

All of the brands tested are easily accessible at grocery stores and online retailers across the country. I also included links to where you can purchase them online. Now let’s get to it!

Part 1: The Taste

Taste 1:

Via Janice Williams

Immediately I noticed how milky this ice cream was — quickly melting into a bowl of milk, and milky in taste as well. There was a freshness to it, and while it did smell of sweet and spicy vanilla, that wasn’t exactly the taste.

The ice cream was light with a Splenda-like sweetness.

Taste 2:

Via Janice Williams

This tastes like a scoop of vanilla ice cream you’d get from a random, cute little towny ice cream shop on the side of the road. It’s sweet and intense with vanilla extract flavor. The texture is soft, light, and the scoop melted entirely too quickly.

Eat this in a cone and you’re mother will never stop complaining over the mess you just made. This would be better in a bowl with sprinkles on top.

Taste 3:

Via Janice Williams

More of a yellow-colored vanilla ice cream than white, this scoop barely melts in the bowl, despite being utterly creamy and decadent. It’s rich in flavor with an almost caramel taste, like it was churned with real vanilla bean, sugar cane, and an extra dash of love. The scoop is dense but the ice cream isn’t heavy at all.

Where are the waffle cones when you need ‘em?

Taste 4:

Via Janice Williams

Stark white and dry, a spoon of this tastes like diet ice cream. The vanilla flavoring is potent but is there any sugar in here? The sweetness is pretty diluted, and the ice cream itself feels thin in the mouth, almost airy.

Taste 5:

Via Janice Williams

Now here is a clean vanilla ice cream, no unnecessary extras. On first taste, it’s simple, delicious vanilla ice cream that tastes like it’s made with actual vanilla and just the right amount of everything else that makes this flavor so damn good.

It’s firm, but light, and rich.

Taste 6:

Via Janice Williams

This ice cream is bone dry, like a frosty ice sickle infused with vanilla and sugar. It’s so dry, that it takes forever to eat — lick after lick this stuff takes its sweet time melting, for sure.

Taste-wise, it’s pure vanilla, no gimmicks. The ice cream is not overbearingly sweet either.

Taste 7:

Via Janice Williams

This is a soft and creamy ice cream dotted with vanilla bean specks. Vanilla game is strong here — like maybe it has some real french vanilla eggy quality and some vanilla extract — but it features an extra oomph that tastes like a spice blend of vanilla graham crackers and cream.

Definitely want this one out of a bowl — it’s pretty melty but it scores on all fronts for flavor.

Taste 8:

Via Janice Williams

This is like official vanilla, or as I have written in my notes: “The mascot of vanilla ice cream if there ever was one.” There’s nothing artificial about the taste — there’s gotta be real, pure, straight-up vanilla bean in this. And it’s not sugary sweet like you may get diabetes after eating three scoops. It’s just right.

Perfectly creamy but dense enough to withstand sitting in a bowl for a few minutes without melting into a milkshake. And yet… it’s so incredibly flavorful with a rich, natural vanilla bean taste that it would make a killer milkshake, if you wanted.

Taste 9:

Via Janice Williams

Too melty and too soft, but it sure is tasty. This ice cream is buttery rich with woody vanilla bean flavor and an interesting note of honey and cake batter that brightens the whole thing up nicely. The flavor lasts throughout, whether it’s still in its solid form or not.

Taste 10:

Via Janice Williams

This ice cream is as creamy as custard and loaded with vanilla bean richness. It has a rather addictive quality with a woody, spiciness, and a little bit of zest on the backend that is forcing me to eat spoon after spoon until the ice cream is all gone.

It’s not as white or yellowy in color as the others I’ve tried, but it hits the mark on richness and texture.

Taste 11:

Via Janice Williams

Dry in texture but creamy in taste, this is definitely most unique vanilla ice cream. Sure, there’s some smatterings of chemical-tasting vanilla bean flavors throughout, but this ice cream also features a whole lot of… oat. It’s front-loaded with cinnamon that only seems to bring out the oat taste even more.

A slow melter, it’s pretty obvious this is a non-dairy option just from the taste.

Taste 12:

Via Janice Williams

This ice cream is dense but creamy in a way that seems like it’s made with more heavy cream than actual milk. There’s something real “vanilla-flavored” about this ice cream and it has an odd tangy, almost sour quality that lingers in your mouth after a lick.

Taste 13:

Via Janice Williams

Sweeeeeettttt like candy, but not in an artificial kind of way. This ice cream is riddled with natural-tasting vanilla bean — speckles of which are dotted in every spoonful. This ice cream tastes fresh and is well balanced with milk, cream, and sugar.

As far as texture goes, it somehow manages to be rather dry as clay yet totally creamy once it’s in your mouth.

Taste 14:

Via Janice Williams

According to my helper, this ice cream was no easy scooper (for what it’s worth, she was using a spoon instead of the traditional ice cream scoop). It’s a dry ice cream with an off-white color dotted with vanilla bean specks. It holds the cold well, but it doesn’t have that creaminess I usually look for in an ice cream.

It puts me in the mindset of a vanilla-flavored sorbet. But the flavor is consistent.

Taste 15:

Via Janice Williams

Well, this is…. interesting. The speckles in the ice cream tell my eyes that there’s vanilla bean in here, and there’s some faint remnant of that in the taste. But the main thing that I’m tasting here is… butter? It doesn’t have a creamy richness, per se, but rather a more buttery profile. And it tastes that way too.

Is this ice cream? It’s by far the oddest tasting vanilla I’ve ever had.

Taste 16:

Via Janice Williams

What sort of artificial ice cream is this?

This “ice cream” is so dry it’s almost like chalk. It literally crumbled into pieces in the bowl. Texture alone makes it pretty obvious that this is for sure one of the dairy-free options. That aside, the flavor has a slightly medicinal quality about it. The vanilla is there… kinda… but in a way that makes me feel like I maybe just took down a spoon full of vanilla-flavored cough syrup.

Taste 17:

Via Janice Williams

This ice cream is pleasantly rich and custardy. It has a strong vanilla flavor — like the same old same Madagascan vanilla bean and something else that I can’t quite put my finger on. But I like it. The ice cream doesn’t melt super quickly, and it’s got the body and texture to hold up well in a cone.

Taste 18:

Via Janice Williams

This ice cream tastes like a couple of coconuts got together with some vanilla beans and threw a party. The first thing you notice is the coconut flavor before the vanilla comes sauntering across your tastebuds. It’s dry but still creamy and has a nice slow melt.

Taste 19:

Via Janice Williams

Of all the vanilla beans, none have been speckled as much as this one. And my eyes aren’t misleading me either — this ice cream is a vanilla overload! It’s like licking vanilla beans and gulping down a cup of sugary delicious cream. That’s how booming this joint is with vanilla. This is a wet ice cream. It’s incredibly smooth and rich, and the sweet sugar lingers long after a bite.

Taste 20:

Via Janice Williams

Texture is dry and frosty. Let my helper tell it, you can hear the spoon scooping out the ice cream.

It may not look all that creamy — and even after a few minutes sitting in the bowl, it’s slow to melt — but let me tell you, take a lick of this and it’s pure cream jam-packed with vanilla flavor. Is that molasses I’m tasting? This ice cream has an extra dose of sweetness that makes the texture a total non-factor.

Part 2: The Ranking

20. So Delicious Dairy Free Vanilla Bean — Taste 16

Via Janice Williams

Average Price: $8/1 pint

The Ice Cream:

There you have it people: Ice cream made with organic coconut milk, coconut oil, cane sugar, and — according to the ingredients — actual specks of vanilla bean instead of actual full-on vanilla bean.

It’s gluten-free and vegan and tastes every bit of it.

Bottom Line:

I know that we need dairy-free options for the dairy-free folks in this world, but OMG there just has to be better grade fake ice cream that doesn’t involve animal milk or cream.

19. LeSalle Vanilla — Taste 12

Via Janice Williams

Average Price: $4/1 pint

The Ice Cream:

Since 1969, LaSalle has been selling pints of ice cream along with dozens of other pre-packaged frozen foods. And if you’re ever in the New York City area, you can visit their ice cream shop in the Bronx for scoops and single servings.

Bottom Line:

This isn’t bad ice cream, but the twang on the backend of the lick is a little off-putting, to say the least.

18. Cado Vanilla Bean Non-Dairy Desert — Taste 15

Target

Average Price: $7/1 pint

The Ice Cream:

Well whadyaknow? An ice cream made from avocado? Millennials rejoice.

This treat is also made with real Madagascan vanilla beans along with vanilla bean paste, sea salt, avocado oil, water, organic cane sugar, tapioca starch, organic guar gum, and organic gum acacia.

Bottom Line:

No wonder this ice cream was unlike any other ice cream I’ve ever tasted. It’s completely dairy-free and made with one of the richest, most filling, buttery, green fruits that ever existed.

17. Tillamook Old Fashioned Vanilla Ice Cream — Taste 1

Walmart

Average Price: $6/1.5qt

The Ice Cream:

Out of Tillamook, Oregon comes this vanilla ice cream made with milk produced by real cows on Tillamook’s farms. Along with skim milk, regular milk, and cream, the ice cream is comprised of pasteurized egg yolks and natural flavorings including vanilla extract.

Bottom line:

This was just too milky of an ice cream for me. The cow’s milk taste just kind of overpowered everything. Although the vanilla flavoring seemed natural, overall it felt like something was missing.

16. Edy’s / Dreyer’s Classic Vanilla Slow Churned — Taste 4

Consumer Reports

Average Price: $5/1.5qt

The Ice Cream:

One of America’s oldest ice cream companies, Edy’s (on the East Coast) / Dreyer’s (West Coast) has been making various flavors of ice cream since 1928. Their classic take on vanilla, which is a favorite of Edy’s / Dreyer’s fans, is made with simple ingredients like fresh milk and cream with an emphasis on staying on the lighter side.

For example, each serving (about a half-cup) is only 100 calories and three grams of sugar.

Bottom Line:

Disclaimer: I’ve never really been a fan of Edy’s. Bias aside, there’s simply just better vanilla ice cream. But this is a good one for those who want to enjoy a sweet treat without all the sugar.

15. Oat-ly Vanilla Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert — Taste 11

Oatly

Average Price: $6/1 pint

The Ice Cream:

Here’s an option for those of us who live dairy-free lives: Ice cream made from water, oats, sugar, vanilla seeds and natural flavorings, and various other ingredients I can’t pronounce. The folks at Oatly have given consumers the oat milk, and now here it is in its solid and creamy form.

Bottom Line:

If you’re a member of Team Oat Milk, then this is for you. If not, there are better options out to come.

14. Halo Top Vanilla Bean — Taste 14

Amazon

Average Price: $7/1 pint

The Ice Cream:

There are only 290 calories in an entire pint of this stuff. No wonder it’s such a light ice cream. It’s made with “ultrafiltered” skim milk — whatever that means — along with regular skim milk, cream, and sugar. But you can thank the real ground vanilla beans for that quality flavor.

Bottom Line:

Are there better vanilla ice creams? You bet there are. But this is a good alternative for someone looking to cut back on all the calories.

13. Adirondack Creamery French Vanilla Ice Cream — Taste 17

Instacart

Average Price: $8/1 pint

The Ice Cream:

This ice cream from upstate New York does include vanilla extract, but its flavoring comes with a twist. Instead of sourcing vanilla from Madagascar like everybody else, Adirondack Creamy uses a blend of vanillas from Madagascar AND Tahiti.

Bottom Line:

This is the ice cream to buy when you’re in the mood for vanilla but looking for something with a little extra pizzazz than the standard.

12. Friendly’s Homemade Vanilla — Taste 2

Walmart

Average Price: $4/1.5qt

The Ice Cream:

Yet another American staple, Friendly’s started out as an ice cream shop in 1935. It’s progressed to a full-fledged restaurant chain with locations all across the country where you can get crazy good sundaes to go alongside your big beefy cheeseburgers. The company has been distributing tubs of ice cream at various grocery stores in the U.S. since 1987

Bottom Line:

This is exactly the type of ice cream you want to eat during a road trip pit stop or on your way home from a day at the beach or a park. No better, no worse.

11. Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream — Taste 6

Haagen Dazs

Average Price: $8/1 pint

The Ice Cream:

Pure sweet cream and vanilla from Madagascar is what has allowed Häagen-Dazs’ classic vanilla ice cream to remain a fan favorite for more than five decades. In fact, vanilla was one of the first three flavors the ice cream company debuted when it first launched in 1960.

Bottom Line:

This is good ice cream. The only reason why it’s not higher on this list is that it takes forever to eat. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, is it?

10. Coconut Bliss Madagascan Vanilla Bean — Taste 18

Amazon

Average Price: $9/1 pint

The Ice Cream:

Coconut milk, coconut syrup, coconut cream, coconut crazy! If you’re going to make a completely plant-based ice cream, this is one of the better ways to do it. Other goodies included in this dream cream include certified organic vanilla beans and vanilla extract.

Oh, and I should mention even the packaging on this ice cream is bio-based and made out of non-GMO sugar cane husks.

Bottom Line:

Sweet and sustainable? Sign me right on up!

9. Talenti Madagascan Vanilla Bean — Taste 10

Talenti Gelato

Average Price: $7/1 pint

The Ice Cream:

Talenti slow cooks real Madagascan vanilla beans in milk, cream, and sugar for 45 minutes with a process called bain-marie. That’s how the gelato maintains such lusciously decadent texture with maximum flavor. They even incorporate a little lemon zest to help bring out the richness of the vanilla.

Bottom Line:

Who says you need to travel all the way to Italy for some quality gelato? Talenti gets the job done with this vanilla ice cream, and it won’t cost you any flight miles to get it.

8. Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla — Taste 5

Ben & Jerry

Average Price: $8/1 pint

The Ice Cream:

You would never guess that Ben & Jerry’s started out with just two guys (Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield) slanging ice cream out of a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont in 1978. Flash forward some 40 years later, and the ice cream company is an American staple, making a plethora of funky fun flavors — but the vanilla is still the bee’s knees.

Bottom Line:

What’s not to love about Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream? This is one of those mindless purchases that you can always count on to be top quality.

7. Van Leeuwen Vegan Vanilla Bean — Taste 20

Instacart

Average Price: $12/1 pint

The Ice Cream:

Van Leeuwen makes their vegan ice cream with cashew milk and a blend of coconut oil and coconut cream. The vanilla is cold ground and straight from the bean, and it’s sourced from Tahiti.

Bottom Line:

Van Leeuwen’s vegan vanilla bean clears up any misconceptions that vegan sweet treats can’t be as good as the real thing.

6. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Honey Vanilla Bean — Taste 9

Jeni

Average Price: $12/1 pint

The Ice Cream:

This ice cream is made with Fair Trade vanilla beans and vanilla extract and milk from grass-grazed cows in Ohio. Even the honey comes from Ohio, made by the good folks at Deer Creek Honey. Jenni’s also uses nonfat milk, cream, cane sugar, tapioca syrup, and a pinch of sea salt to achieve its balanced, sweet flavor.

Bottom Line:

This would be bomb with a slice of birthday cake.

5. Van Leeuwen Vanilla Bean— Taste 13

Instacart

Average Price: $12/1 pint

The Ice Cream:

I don’t know who Van Leeuwen is, but the person/figure/entity sure does know their shit when it comes to vanilla ice cream. The reason why this ice cream achieves peak decadence is probably that it’s made with milk, cream, egg yolks, and salt in addition to the cold-ground Tahitian vanilla beans and vanilla extract.

Bottom Line:

This gets a bump above the vegan option because of the pure rich and creaminess this ice cream exudes. What that cream, milk, and egg yolk does for this just can’t be overlooked, and it’s clearly not easily replicated. Sorry, vegans.

4. Turkey Hill All Natural Vanilla Bean — Taste 7

Kroger

Average Price: $4/1 pint

The Ice Cream:

All the milk and cream used in Turkey Hill’s vanilla bean ice cream comes from cows from their own dairy farm in Conestoga, Pennsylvania. It’s made with natural vanilla beans, and you can even see speckles of the spice mixed into every scoop.

Bottom Line:

When you’re sweet tooth is kicking in hard, this is the ice cream you’re going to want already waiting for you in the fridge.

3. Hood New England Homemade Vanilla Flavored — Taste 3

Walmart

Average Price: $7/1.5qt

The Ice Cream:

It all started in 1846 when Harvey P. Hood started selling his own premium-quality milk in New England. Now, more than a century later, the Hood company produces a number of dairy products including cheese, sour cream, eggnog and, yes, absolutely incredibly sweet and creamy ice cream.

Bottom Line:

Give me an ice cream with flexibility, and I’ll give you my heart. Whether it’s in a cone, in a bowl, alongside a slice of cake, or on top of a piece of pie, Hood’s vanilla is satisfaction guaranteed.

2. Coolhaus Best of Both Worlds Vanilla — Taste 19

Instacart

Average Price: $12/1 pint

The Ice Cream:

This creamery only launched production in 2008, but it’s already contending with the OG’s of ice cream. It features a marriage of Madagascan and Tahitian vanilla bean flavoring and extracts to reach that booming level of vanilla piquancy. Regular milk and non-fat milk, cream, organic cane sugar, guar gum, carob bean gum, acacia gum and a bit of salt do all the rest.

Bottom Line:

This is a vanilla lover’s dream.

1. Breyer’s Natural Vanilla — Taste 8

Breyers

Average Price: $4/1.5qt

The Ice Cream:

Breyer’s uses non-GMO sourced ingredients and Rainforest Alliance Certified vanilla beans to concoct this gold standard of vanilla ice cream. Even the milk and cream come from Grade-A American cows that aren’t injected with any weird artificial growth hormones.

Who says you gotta be a hipster brand to be good these days? Breyer’s is a classic. They’re in every grocery aisle. And I’m telling you right now: they’re the best.

Bottom Line:

There’s a reason why Breyer’s is the number one ice cream in America, and that’s because it’s damn good, plain and simple, deeply satisfying vanilla ice cream.

×