I have worked at this site for some time now and have yet to actually publish a story. Why? My coworkers are brilliant culinary minds, titans of food science content industry, rigorous recipe developers, glorious food nerds to the nth degree; I am a retired theme park food critic who spends a lot of time online. And because Daniel says I must tamp down the insecurity in this lede, I’ll allow that there are many things I am well cut out for as the senior editorial director of Serious Eats…being one of the resident cooking experts is simply just not one of them.
My lack of technical proficiency with a knife will never not make me feel like the odd one out, but when we decided to relaunch product taste tests on the site for the first time in many years, I felt the playing field level beneath my feet. I creaked open the parts of me that’d long been shuttered: the ones that allowed me to crush through five-to-40 versions of a single food over the course of mere minutes and write about them in a way that helped people taste them too.
And I volunteered to handle this.
So here we are! The SE team has pulled together eight brands of strawberry ice cream you're likely to find in your local supermarket and methodically, empirically, scientifically! tasted its way through them all in a quest to identify the very best. And we loved every minute of doing it! Strawberry ice cream is a near-staff-wide favorite, enough so that we are all familiar with the brands in each others’ freezers, aware of all nightly banana split habits (and what exactly comprises each version), and Slacking about our very specific strawberry-meets-dairy cravings at least once a week.
Without further adieu: go-to strawberry ice creams and all their highlights and pitfalls.
Look, Ma! I’m bylined, etc. etc.
- Avenue A
- Van Leeuwen
- Turkey Hill
- Stop & Shop
At the risk of stating the obvious, superlative strawberry ice cream should taste like the frozen form of that classic pairing of strawberries and cream, with a ripe, jammy, and slightly tart red-berry flavor bathed in rich and subtly sweet dairy. The ice cream base should be infused with the flavor of strawberry and, if there are chunks of strawberry in the mix, they should be more tender than overtly icy. In short, it should taste of summer.
While sweet, strawberry ice cream should not be cloyingly so, as the flavor should be of natural ripe berries and not the artificial flavor of strawberry candies nor, worse, red medicine. All this to say: We evaluated each take on its aroma, texture, mix-in texture, and flavor. We exclusively ate it plain because we believe strawberry ice cream can and should be able to be eaten solo as a satisfying conclusion to just about any meal.
A winner absolutely no one was surprised about. In fact, Genevieve mentioned pre-tasting that if Haagen-Dazs didn’t turn out to be her preferred brand, she’d have "an identity crisis of gigantic proportions." Most tasters drew comparisons to their other favorite strawberry-and-cream combos (see: yogurts, milkshakes, shortcake), celebrating its gentle creaminess and consistent smoothness they didn’t find in too many other brands in this taste test. There was one stick (...sprinkle?) in the mud (.....pint?) who called his whole Haagen-Dazs-tasting experience "very OK," but exclamation points on everyone else’s tasting notes outnumbered other flavors’ notes 4:1.
Van Leeuwen: 3.2/5
Two common denominators across most feedback here: a crisp and pleasant tartness that recalled good-quality frozen yogurt (turns out strawberry ice cream should smell like kefir and strawberry preserves!) and a strawberry chunk-to-cream ratio. It was also one of very few ice creams with a detectable fruity aroma. Also, it’s pretty. Red speckles, jammy dust trails, pinched-cheek pink. Dreamy!
Turkey Hill: 2.9/5
Turkey Hill tasted the most stabilizer-heavy of our top picks; the panel found it to be well-aerated, the slightest bit stretchy, and just creamy enough. Most would’ve liked a bigger hit of strawberry flavor in the ice cream itself—the large chunks of strawberry woven throughout were doing most of the legwork there. One editor was spotted pushing hearty, icy strawberries to the side of the bowl with their spoon for later as a lil post-testing snack. I will not ask Turkey Hill for a cut when they come out with freeze-dried berry snacks, but I will take full credit for the idea when they do.
Another chunk-heavy contender, Breyer’s take on strawberry did a better job with marrying chunk size and chunk placement. That said, this is where we began tiptoeing over the line of ‘strawberry ice cream’ into ‘well-intentioned vanilla ice cream experiments with fruit’ territory. A scoop of Breyers strawberry as the a-la-mode component of some other dessert? Absolutely. Unaccompanied scoops of Breyers on a late summer afternoon when you’ve got a very specific craving for strawberry ice cream? Eh!
Stop & Shop: 2.56/5
Nobody didn’t like this quart (the only one that can be said for!). It ranked moderately well for flavor, aroma, and texture. It also, however, provided a very inconsistent mix-in experience. I noted "unmanageable" chunks and Genevieve got "strawberry candy"–-like bites. Jake and Yasmine, on the other hand, called their samples "essentially absent of mix-ins" and "pretty smooth," respectively. My bite made me hesitant to take more; Jake’s made him want to keep going in search of something other than the dairy base. We’re not mad! We’re just confused!
We all appreciated the body here—it was creamy, it scooped cleanly, and it sat well. That said, the flavor drew comparison to "sweet milk," cereal-bowl dregs, the last few bites of a fruit salad your aunt put in a bowl that shouldn’t ever hold that much watery health in one place. It was so very sweet!
Alright! OK! It collapsed on all of us within seconds, leaving saccharine foamy pink soup in its wake. There is a time and a place for sweetsweetsweet foamy pink soup, like, say at the end of a long amusement park day or…after a tonsil removal, maybe? But an ice cream taste test in which editors are analytically watching their spoons cut into their scoops is not necessarily one of them. Points for nostalgia, though—at least three editors knew exactly what they were eating the moment they bit.
Avenue A: 1.5/5
The color of our ice creams hadn’t even been a discussion until this point. In fact, when determining the criteria, we decided to leave a color category off our score sheets. And then we met Avenue A strawberry ice cream. A few verbatim notes on how we ate this with our eyes: "Inexcusable." "Pepto? Tums berry flavor?" "Horrifying." As for texture? "Very light and pillowy," "nothing!" "Gummy," and more. Anyway, it smelled nice!
Our Tasting Methodology
All taste tests are conducted completely blind and without discussion. Tasters taste samples in random order. For example, taster A may taste sample 1 first, while taster B will taste sample 6 first. This is to prevent palate fatigue from unfairly giving any one sample an advantage. Tasters are asked to fill out tasting sheets ranking the samples for various criteria that vary from sample to sample. All data is tabulated and results are calculated with no editorial input in order to give us the most impartial representation of actual results possible.