Forget your basic chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. Read on for 30 crazy flavors from around the world, made with uncommon ingredients ranging from beets and goat cheese to curry powder and chorizo.
Goat cheese beet swirl from Sweet Action Ice Cream in Denver
The inspiration for this combo came from Samantha Kopicko's daily meal of a spinach, beet and goat cheese salad, which she decided to turn into a rich dessert. Well, almost — she skipped the spinach. Made with a goat cheese base and housemade beet syrup, it's earthy and creamy, and mixes sweet and savory flavors. "Luckily," says Kopicko, "it tastes nothing like that salad, but it does hit some of the same notes."
Aran donn from Murphy's Ice Cream in Ireland
At Murphy's Ice Cream in the picturesque Irish town of Dingle, owners Kieran and Sean Murphy turn classic Irish foods and ingredients into ice cream flavors. Such is the case with the aran donn, or caramelized brown bread. "Brown bread ice cream is a traditional, although rare, dessert," says Kieran. "In hard times in Ireland food wasn’t wasted and old bread was reused in soups or dessert." The couple make the dish with Irish brown bread that's caramelized with dark brown sugar. "It’s not one of our best-sellers," she tells us, "but its proponents like it so much that there is war every time we try to remove it." Other flavors they have experimented with include blue cheese with shallot, Christmas pudding, spicy clove and smoked salmon, the latter being their self-described "worst creation ever."
Rosewater from Mashti Malone in Hollywood, CA
Using flavors from Iran like saffron, cardamom, pomegranate and sahlab (the dried root of an orchid), owners Mashti and Mehdi Shirvani make some seriously exotic flavors at this Hollywood shop. Think rose sorbet with sour cherry, ginger-rosewater and Turkish coffee ice cream. Fun fact: The name of the shop, part Persian and part Irish, is a nod to the space's former tenant, Mugsy Malone.
White chocolate banana curry from Black Dog Gelato in Chicago
What do you get when you melt bananas with white chocolate and fragrant curry powder? This strange but addictive ice cream, which brings to mind Indian take-out and summer nights at grandma's house. But that’s not the only unique flavor shop owner and gelato genius Jessica Oloroso had made since the store opened six years ago. She's worked with figs, sesame seeds and chocolate to create an Asian-inspired gelato, and her cucumber rosewater sorbet proves an interesting combination of fresh vegetables with a summery floral essence. In fact, she's inspired by whatever the local farmers bring her.
Durian from Chinatown Ice Cream Factory in New York
Whether you love it or hate it, durian is one of the star flavors at this 39-year-old Chinatown shop. Surprisingly, the taste proves tamer than one might expect, taking on the sweeter, more custard-like aspects of the notorious fruit. This isn’t owner Philip Seid's only bold flavor. Other options include red bean, black sesame and Zen butter, which tastes like a bowl of cold sesame noodles with peanut sauce.
Ube macapuno from 2nd City in New York
When chef Jordan Andino opened his NYC restaurant this year, he brought a taste of his Filipino roots with him. This flavor combines ube (purple yam) and macapuno (young coconut), two traditional ingredients found all over the Philippines. The result is a semi-savory ice cream that tastes tropical and homey, with a stunning purple color sure to turn heads.
Jackfruit from Hotel Saravanaa Bhavan in India
If you have never had jackfruit before, you should know it tastes like gourmet Juicy Fruit gum, in the best possible way. If you happen to be in Chennai or Delhi, stop by this Indian chain for a taste. While you're there, make sure to try the watermelon flavor too.
Sweet corn from Sweet Rose Creamery in California
This mini-chain churns out seasonal treats using organic products and tons of ingredients from the local farmer's market. Many of the unique offerings come from the mind of ice cream master Shiho Yoshikawa, who has worked with co-owners Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan since they opened their first shop in Santa Monica in 2010. The sweet corn flavor only comes out when corn is in season, but it's totally worth the wait. Surprised to hear that? Turns out it's one of the shop’s most popular items. As a bonus, they also add pieces of fresh kernels throughout the treat.
Savannah buttermint from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream in Ohio
Since 2002, owner Jeni Britton Bauer has been creating intriguing combinations, including this flavor inspired by the delicate white chocolates commonly served at Southern weddings, as well as old-school buttermint candies. Combining peppermint with sea salt, butter and white chocolate flecks, the pale dessert offers a refreshing richness, the perfect after-dinner treat on a sticky summer night.
Ricanelas from Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco
For this flavor, inspired by a Mexican cookie, owners Kris Hoogerhyde and Anne Walker blend cinnamon and snickerdoodles into a handmade vanilla ice cream base. Another popular flavor is the brown sugar with ginger caramel, a sweet treat with an unexpected kick to it.
Hawaiian pizza from Hanjip in Los Angeles
At his Korean BBQ restaurant, chef Chris Oh combines pineapple ice cream and — yup — Spam between two freshly-baked white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. If that's not strange enough for you, he's also working on an ice cream for Coolhaus dubbed Korean Chili Fries — red bean ice cream and french fries sandwiched between cookies made with butterscotch, pretzels and potato chips.
Tutu’s Anniversary Flavor from Lappert’s in Hawaii
At Mary Pratt’s darling ice cream chain, this flavor came about after the owners were thinking about what the local tutus (grandmas) might like for a special occasion. Coconut ice cream gets layered with fresh passion fruit and raspberry sorbet. The shop also offers rich Kona coffee ice cream made with house-roasted local beans, as well as the Heavenly Hana, chock full of macadamia nuts, Hawaiian sea salt, chocolate-covered almonds and dark chocolate ice cream.
Double creme de la Gruyere and meringues from Movenpick in Switzerland
This particular flavor draws inspiration from a popular Swiss dessert. It starts with an über-creamy base, which is then peppered with light meringue and a hint of caramel. Alas, despite the name, there are no chunks of cheese, but it's unlike any ice cream you've tasted.
Smurf gelato from Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg, New Jersey
At first glance, the powder blue, marshmallow-topped gelato gleaming in a silver bin doesn’t look like something an adult should be eating. And in fact, pastry cook Jessie Podgurski designed the flavor with kids in mind. But after one bite, people of every age are likely to declare this combo of sweet cream, rich chocolate and fluffy marshmallow "smurftastic!"
The Artist Formally Known As Ice Cream from Pastaria in St. Louis
In honor of the late, great Prince, chef Anne Croy of Pastaria has whipped up this appropriately purple gelato, which gets its bold color from fresh-pressed blueberry and beet juice. For the "guitar strings," Croy adds flash-fried bucatini noodles. Finally, to cap things off in royal style, it gets a sprinkling of gold leaf.
Lemongrass with salted black licorice and olive from Smyth and The Loyalist in Chicago
When it comes to ice cream, chef Karen Urie Shields is full of untraditional ideas. At her just-opened Chicago restaurant, the dessert menu features flavors such as caramelized parsnip with nutmeg; sour chocolate; basil and mint; egg yolk; and lemongrass laced with salted black licorice and olive oil. The latter has a bright, fresh flavor that gets even deeper when combined with the mysterious taste of anise and briny hint of sea salt.
Gochujang soft-serve from Sujeo in Madison, WI
Would you try a spicy ice cream topped with sprinkles and Korean pork floss? For his latest addition to the dessert menu, chef Tory Miller says he was inspired by Korean cuisine's blend of hot and sweet flavors. While gochujang chile paste is certainly spicy, it also has a sweetness that's perfectly suited to ice cream. As for the pork floss and sprinkles, that's mostly for show.
Loco Coco from Sebastian Joe's Ice Cream in Minneapolis
Since 1984, this darling shop has been delighting the Twin Cities with unusual flavors. The Loco Coco infuses a simple strawberry base with a hint of coconut and a dose of cayenne pepper. Other unexpected ingredients used on the menu: freshly ground anise, black pepper, sunflower butter and streusel.
Foie gras from Philippe Faur in France
Sweets master Philippe Faur created this dish with foie gras supplier Maison Rougié. He suggests you treat the ice cream as an accompaniment to other dishes, whether as a topping for fresh bread or steak or melted into warm chestnut soup. This isn't the first time Faur has created strange ice creams: He's previously made flavors with caviar, Roquefort, basil and mustard.
Vegetable ice cream salad at Dirt Candy in New York City
Chef Amanda Cohen is a whiz with produce, even when she's making ice cream. This magical dessert features lettuce, yellow beets, cucumbers, grilled radicchio and goat cheese, all made into a menage of ice creams and sorbets. From there she tops the "salad" with walnut cake croutons, maraschino grapefruit and dill sprinkles. With this dish, you won't have any trouble getting the kids to eat their veggies.
Maple syrup–roasted macadamia nut from Nitrogenie
With locations all over the world, from United Kingdom to Germany to Hawaii, this mini chain whips up intense flavors like this one made with gooey maple syrup ice cream and salty, crunchy nuts from Queensland. Other crazy options include miso and brown sugar, and lemon and bitters. Another neat aspect to this shop, aside from their wacky flavors, is that their ice cream is made with liquid nitrogen.
Yogurt lemon-apple with lingonberries from 18 Smaker in Sweden
The 18 smaker (flavors) at this homey Swedish sweets shop change daily, but chances are you'll find this flavor on the menu. The owners start with fresh yogurt and blend it into a creamy base, lacing it with lemon zest, tart green apple and the Swedish staple food, lingonberries. It's almost like having a parfait for dessert, in the best possible way. Other intriguing options include grilled pineapple with vanilla, apple-tinged Calvados and salty licorice.
Sweet BBQ swirl from Tin Pot Creamery in California
All the ice cream here is made French-style and gets churned in a gelato machine, which helps minimize air bubbles and results in a denser, creamier product. It took seven tries to perfect this savory concoction, which features housemade sauce swirled through a smoke-infused base. Bonus: The shop also ships nationwide through Foody Direct.
Whiskey prune from Simmo’s Ice Creamery in Australia
This Aussie chain specializing in wacky flavors forgoes eggs and uses local Jersey cow milk. For the whiskey prune, smooth mascarpone ice cream with whiskey-soaked prunes is swirled with a whiskey ripple. Other flavors to try include forestberry yogurt and apple pie.
Fish sauce caramel with palm sugar from Salt & Straw in Los Angeles and Portland, OR
In true Portland style, this shop describes its small-batch ice cream program as farm-to-cone, meaning they only use all-natural dairy with the best local, sustainable and organic ingredients. For a flavor roller coaster, try this savory creation made with fermented anchovy sauce, Asian palm sugar and molasses.
Tequila ice cream from Las Ventanas al Paraíso in Mexico
What better way to relax than to indulge in a heaping cup of tequila-laced ice cream poolside? Yes, we think they have the right idea at this Rosewood Hotel in Baja. Of course, if you don’t want to indulge by the pool, take it up to your luxurious room, nibble a spoonful at the chic bar, or grab it to go and lick your way to the Sea of Cortez.
Secret Breakfast from Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco
This tiny shop in SF's Mission District helped popularize the artisanal, weird-flavored ice cream movement. Unique flavors on offer include hibiscus-beet sorbet, foie gras and butter beer, but perhaps the most famous is the Secret Breakfast (which, thanks to the shop's cookbook, isn’t so much of a secret anymore). Bourbon and corn flakes combine for a crunchy, sweet sensation. Follow it up with a scoop of another breakfast-ready flavor, Vietnamese coffee.
The Tipsy Lux from Sherry B Dessert Studio in New York
For this decadent flavor, cream cheese and Madagascar Bourbon vanilla combine for a super-rich ice cream base. Next, liquor-soaked Luxardo cherries, house-made almond brittle and gooey amaretto-infused dark chocolate hot fudge are folded into the mixture. It's crazy, delicious and perhaps not something to consume before a driving test.
Daily specials from OddFellows Ice Cream Factory in Brooklyn
We can’t choose a favorite flavor at this ice cream shop in Williamsburg — they change almost every day. But among contention would certainly be miso butterscotch cherry, PBJ with toast chunks, manchego with pineapple, and chorizo caramel swirl (pictured). If you've heard of it, they'll make it into ice cream.
Garden-flavored ice cream at Fenocchio in France
Since 1966, this charming store in Nice has been dishing out 94 flavors. Of course you'll find the classics — vanilla, chocolate, strawberry — but what really stands out are unique options like lavender jasmine and tomato, and basil, thyme and rosemary. It's like an English garden in a cup.