Among my friends, I’ve been given the moniker of ice cream lady because I am a full-on ice cream fanatic. To say I love ice cream is an understatement. It’s my favorite food and an entire food group for me. And when it comes to freezer staples, I always have a pint or two of vanilla ice cream around. Any dessert gets elevated when you add a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream on top—a pineapple crumble, grilled peaches, skillet brownies, a blank canvas for roasted summer fruits—so of course I wanted to know: what is the best vanilla ice cream brand?
When the idea of testing the OG flavor side by side from some of my favorite brands, I was all in. When I’m in Texas, I am a Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla stan, aka I am the most brand loyal BB fan out there. However, in Minnesota, I don’t have access to my favorite vanilla and with an assortment of national brands to choose from in the freezer aisle, I usually just pick whichever one is on sale that week.
Challenge in hand, I headed into the grocery store, grabbed one of each vanilla bean ice creams from the shelf, carried all eight with me to the register—a truly comical scene but hey, I was willing to do it for y’all—and got to work. I gathered my trusted taste-testers— my friend, Kristin who is a Haagen-Dazs loyalist and was also curious if any brand could beat out her favorite; her husband, Mark who always provides honest and critical feedback; and my friend, Ka who worked at an ice cream shop for almost eight years. This was the ice cream taste test dream team.
As with our other taste-offs, (see previously: blueberry muffin bake-off, pumpkin bread bake-off, ginger molasses cookie bake-off, and dark chocolate taste-off) we set off to blind-taste each brand and rank our favorites.
Obviously, there was no baking/cooking involved in this taste-off, so each ice cream was tasted without knowing the brand and with palette cleansers in between.
- Flavor: It seems obvious that we would all be looking for vanilla flavor. But the key callout was that everyone wanted the vanilla to taste natural, be upfront, and have a nice clean flavor. The ice cream shouldn’t be too sweet and should be vanilla bean forward without any artificial taste/weird aftertastes/etc.
- Texture: Most of us agreed that we like it when the ice cream has some chew but also melts creamy while eating. The ice cream shouldn’t be icy in texture and should be nice and smooth. A light fluffy texture was also something that our taste team agreed can be nice with vanilla ice cream.
While I used to think all vanilla ice creams were created equal, this taste-off proved otherwise. All of these ice creams are good and would make good fruit crisp or brownie toppers, but there were some scoops that just tasted better and would also make for a great midnight ice cream treat.
So without further ado, keep scrolling for the winner of the vanilla ice cream taste-off!
#8 Graeter’s Madagascar Vanilla Bean:
As a huge fan of the Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip and Mint Chocolate Chip (if you’ve had either, you know the giant chunks of chocolate in both are out of this world perfect), this was the most disappointing result. All four of us ranked this ice cream last on our list for a general dislike of the flavor that left a kind of off after-taste. None of us went back for seconds on this one.
#7 Ben and Jerry’s Vanilla:
Again, as a B&J’s Smores Ice Cream Stan (one of my all-time favorite flavors), this was not a fun ranking. The texture was very smooth but all four of us said the vanilla flavor was not super-forward and reminded us more of sweet milk than anything else. Nothing more to say, but we will all stick to B&J’s for fun mix-ins and flavors rather than the basic vanilla.
#6 CoolHaus Best of Both World’s Vanilla:
We were all surprised that this one ranked lower because, as the packaging says, there are two different kinds of vanilla in this ice cream, but the flavor was almost too sweet and tasted more like milk than vanilla. While this one did have the most vanilla bean flecks, the sweetness was just a little overpowering. The texture was good, nice, and creamy, but overall, the vanilla flavor expectation let us down.
#5 Alden’s Organic Vanilla Bean:
While the texture of this ice cream was nice and fluffy, we all felt that the vanilla flavor was slightly artificial even though there aren’t any natural flavors in the ice cream. The flavor was also slightly sweet that kept us from coming back to this one.
#4 Talenti Madagascar Vanilla Bean
Okay yes, technically, this was gelato and not ice cream (there’s a difference), but overall, we all enjoyed the slightly thicker ‘frozen yogurt’ vibes and very smooth texture of this one. We all wanted the vanilla flavor to be punched up a bit, but the texture helped pull this one up in the rank.
#3 Whole Foods 365 Organic Vanilla Bean
This was the surprise brand of the taste test. The ice cream had a nice chew while also being very smooth and creamy as it melted. The flavor was a nice subtle vanilla, almost what we described as a clean vanilla flavor, and wasn’t too sweet. This even ranked as Ka’s number one flavor! Overall, we were all pleasantly surprised and enjoyed this pint.
#2 Tilamook Vanilla Bean
I love all things Tillamook—cheeses, butter, sour cream, all of it—and this ice cream was no different. The appearance and texture of this ice cream definitely leans towards the fluffier side, and just felt very light compared to the other ice creams in addition to a nice creaminess. The vanilla flavor was nice, and while the ice cream leans slightly sweeter, it wasn’t too overpowering. This one also melted beautifully and I can’t wait to do a big scoop of this vanilla over desserts this summer.
#1 Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean
To Kristin’s credit, her first reaction after trying this one during our test was “I think this is the Haagen-Dazs”. (I did tell y’all she was very brand loyal.)
All four of us raved about the texture of this one. It was nice and creamy with a great natural vanilla bean flavor that really owned it’s vanilla flavor. That’s what really set this one apart! It was the overall blend of the flavor and creamy, thick, texture that had all of us coming to this one as a top contender. I mean, it is a classic, and we all agreed this is the one that we would want atop all our summertime desserts and to eat straight out of the pint.
This might have been the most fun taste-off yet! I’ll never turn away any ice cream, but when I’m not home in Texas, I’ve got some new favorites that I’ll keep stashed in the freezer.
Are there any ice cream brands that are your must-trys? Share your favorite store-bought vanilla ice cream brand below.