We’re Not Even Sure #9 Should Exist: The 9 Most Shockingly Unique World Ice Cream Flavors
We all scream for:
Once a treat reserved only for royalty and their very rich, ice cream is now a treat enjoyed around the world.
And boy oh boy does the world love ice cream!
They don’t necessarily love it in the flavors you’re used to seeing though. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Brief History Of Ice Cream In America
“American as apple pie” is a common saying, but maybe it should be “As American as ice cream.”
After all, like apple pie, Americans didn’t invent ice cream.
But there’s no denying that we sure do love it.
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Ice cream has been around in America since the colonial days.
The first documented appearance was in May 1744, when ice cream appeared on the dessert table for Governor Thomas Bladen’s guests in Maryland.
During his time as Ambassador to France, Thomas Jefferson fell in love with ice cream. He loved it so much that he brought a recipe for ice cream home from France.
On July 4, 1806, Thomas Jefferson hired a servant to work the ice cream maker at the President’s House.
Unique Ice Cream
In the United States, our ice cream still mostly resembles the original recipe Thomas Jefferson brought home from France.
Can you believe it?
That is milk, cream, eggs, and sugar, churned and frozen together in an ice-cold pot. Another variation is similar but without eggs.
While readily recognizable to Americans, these recipes are hardly the only ice creams out there.
The cool thing is:
There’s a ton of different ice cream recipes from around the world that explore the depths of this delicious frozen dessert.
Quite possibly one of the original ice cream recipes, booza is an ancient ice cream finding some new popularity in the West.
Booza – بوظة)
Kaimaki – Καϊμάκι
This ice cream has two unique qualities:
It’s resistant to melting. (Always a plus!)
It’s STRETCHY! (How fun!)
Unlike most Western ice cream recipes that whip air into ice cream, booza is pounded and stretched to help it gain its unique consistency.
Two critical ingredients also help it gain its stretch and heat-resistance salep (also known as sahlab) and mastic.
These two ingredients are difficult to find outside of the Meditteranean and the Middle East.
However, this ancient dessert is gaining more popularity in the West.
If you’re near Brooklyn, you can try this ancient-yet-new-to-the-West frozen treat at the Republic of Booza.
This shop offers traditional flavors like saffron and qashta, or candied cream. You can also find Western standard ice cream flavors like pistachio and vanilla.
But the shop also experiments with more contemporary and experimental ice cream flavors. Among their experimental and world-inspired flavors include horchata, mango and tajin, and salted oreo.
Shaved ice is a favorite treat, particularly in Asia.
The ice in these desserts is soft and feathery, shaved off of a large block. After its shaved, the ice is served with various sweet toppings.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Snow ice, also known as shaved snow, is a more recent take on this treat. It shaves down into soft, fluffy ribbons that are a perfect vehicle for all sorts of toppings.
Rather than just a block of plain ice, snow ice recipes often include milk, cream, and other flavorings. The addition of milk and cream makes this ice more flavorful and softer than standard shaved ice.
Snow ice comes in Western-friendly flavors like chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. Asian-inspired flavors like green tea, Thai tea, and taro are also available.
You can serve snow ice with more Asian-inspired toppings like tapioca pearls and sweet beans. Or you can try it with more Western-friendly toppings like whipped cream and cookie crumbs.
Legend has it that frozen custard was actually invented in 1919 and first gained popularity at New York City’s Coney Island.
There is some debate on whether it was Tom Carvel or the Kohr brothers that made the discovery.
From Coney Island, it made its way to the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1933. It has since been a part of the Midwestern heartland ever since.
Now, you might be asking:
“What sets frozen custard apart from standard ice cream?”
Here’s the deal:
Frozen custard incorporates egg yolks into its ingredients, lending to that all-important creamy consistency.
We’re not through yet, though.
Another divergence from typical ice cream is the temperature.
Frozen custard shops typically sell their wares somewhere between 15-degrees and 30-degrees Fahrenheit.
This slightly warmer than ice cream temperature makes it meltier and creamier than standard ice cream.
And, you may not know this but:
Milwaukee, Wisconsin bills itself as an unofficial frozen custard destination. The Visit Milwaukee website boasts that the city has the world’s largest concentration of custard shops.
Have you ever been stuck trying to decide between a big, heaping plate of pasta and a delicious, ice cream sundae?
If so, this is the dessert for you!
(Even if you’ve never had such a dilemma, it’s still worth a shot!)
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In 1970, Italian ice cream maker Dario Fontanella joined his family’s business: an ice cream shop in Mannheim, Germany.
He experimented some with ice cream wondering, “How well would ice cream shaped like spaghetti sell?”
It sells really well!
And of course, it does!
It’s a delicious treat, made with vanilla ice cream with strawberry sauce and white chocolate shavings.
What’s not to love?
Though Fontanella Eis in Mannheim first made the treat, you can now find spaghettieis all over Germany.
Despite its popularity in Germany, this rest of the world has yet to adopt this frozen faux food.
Luckily, it’s easy enough to recreate at home!
All you need is some good vanilla ice cream, strawberry sauce, and white chocolate shavings. You will also need a potato ricer.
Here’s how you make it: (This recipe is courtesy of The Kitchen.)
Place your potato ricer in the freezer for about half an hour to make it nice and cold.
Next, fill your potato ricer with some softened vanilla ice cream.
Press the ice cream through the ricer and onto a chilled bowl or plate.
Top your “spaghetti” with some strawberry sauce and white chocolate shavings.
Helado de paila
There’s something so satisfying about watching ice cream being made.
It’s almost hypnotic.
If you agree, you definitely need to scope out some helado de paila next time you are in Ecuador.
Though “helado” often is translated as “ice cream,” traditional helado de paila contains no dairy!]
Though “helado” often is translated as “ice cream,” traditional helado de paila contains no dairy!
The traditional ice cream flavors for helado de paila are Ecuadoran fruits.
Traditional Fruit Flavors for Helado de Paila
The frozen treat gets its name from the pan it’s made in. A paila is a shallow metal pan, used for cooking or serving food.
To make it, you need to get a paila pan. The larger pan on the bottom holds ice and salt. The smaller paila sits on top of the ice.
This is where the ice cream is made!
The ice cream maker will add the sweetened ingredients to the smaller pan and begin to spin it. As it turns, you use a wooden paddle to scrape the freezing mixture from the sides.
Like other frozen desserts, helado de paila can be served in a cup or cone. Some heladerias may serve it up in mini paila pans for a little bit of fun.
Liquid nitrogen ice cream
When making ice cream, the machine churns it while freezing.
This churning action breaks up the ice crystals and introduces air into the mixture, making it nice and creamy.
Even so, the ice crystals are still relatively large, and the air makes the ice cream lighter.
A new, fun way to get around that is to make ice cream with liquid nitrogen.
Liquid nitrogen instantly freezes the ice cream mixture, leading to a denser, creamier final product.
Leave it to science to make ice cream so much more fun!
Unique Ice Cream Shops
If you’re in the mood for scoping out some incredible and unique ice cream flavors, these are some shops around the US you HAVE to try.
Let’s dive in.
Salt and Straw
When it comes to unique ice cream flavors, Portland-based Salt and Straw practically redefined what you can make into ice cream.
Salt and Straw made its name on combining gourmet ingredients in ways that no one’s ever thought of before.
The company now has locations in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
Salt and Straw rolls out new flavors all the time. Their scoop shops each feature flavors unique to the geographical area, featuring local products.
For example, their Portland menu features:
Meanwhile, their Los Angeles shops feature these classic flavors:
Favorites get put on the company’s classic menus while some more unique offerings are only available for a limited time.
Some of Salt and Straw’s limited edition flavors have included:
Come to think of it, maybe that limited edition idea may actually be a good thing.
Gracie’s Ice Cream
A Boston original, Gracie’s Ice Cream is an ice cream shop with an ever-changing array of ice cream flavors for customers to try.
The ice cream flavors at Gracie’s will always include six of their standards but also have a unique mix of other, more experimental flavors.
Some of these experimental ice cream flavors include:
I’m ready, are you?
But wait, there is so much more!
Coolhaus is a Southern California based ice cream company with scoop shops in Culver City and Pasadena.
They also operate ice cream trucks around New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas.
Coolhaus features some fun flavors that you’re not likely to see everywhere.
One of their unique flavors is the Candy Cap Mushroom.
Yes, you read that right:
Mushroom flavor ice cream.
Candy cap mushrooms are a breed of mushroom that has a sweet flavor, somewhere between maple syrup and vanilla. This ice cream flavor is available in their scoop shops.
Other fun ice cream flavors at their scoop shops include:
9 Shocking And Unique World Ice Cream Flavors
Unique varieties of ice cream flavors are available all over.
Some of these flavors are for the uncommonly adventurous!
1. Tiger tail ice cream
Tiger tail is a regional ice cream flavor from Canada. It is orange ice cream with a black licorice swirl, thus making the “tiger tail.”
2. Superman ice cream
It’s a bird!
It’s a plane!
If you’ve never heard of this, don’t feel bad. This regional flavor is popular in the Upper Midwest, especially in Michigan, but virtually unknown elsewhere.
It features a mix of three comic book bright colors: blue, red, and yellow.
Each color has its own flavor.
Blue Moon is another regional flavor that has a mythos all its own. No one can agree what it tastes like or even know what it is.
Though there are some theories!
One thing’s for sure: it’s delicious. Try some next time you’re in the Upper Midwest!
3. Breast Milk Ice Cream
In 2011, a London ice cream shop took “all natural ingredients” to the extreme.
The now defunct shop Icecreamists in London’s trendy Covenant Garden shopping district offered a flavor called “Baby Gaga.”
The signature ingredient in this flavor? Breast milk.
As in, human breast milk.
And why not?
“It’s pure, it’s natural, it’s organic, and it’s free range,” said Icecreamist’s owner Matt O’Connor in an interview. “If it’s good enough for our kids, it’s good enough to use in our ice cream.”
The signature ingredient came from volunteers, found via Internet ad.
As far as health concerns, Icecreamists assured its customers that their donations were fully within the United Kingdom’s National Health System’s standards.
If you want to try some for yourself, the shop is long gone. (But the idea is now likely etched in your memory forever!)
Mackie’s 19.2 is an ice cream shop in Aberdeen, Scotland. The shop itself claims to have over 725,000 flavor combinations.
But perhaps the most interesting one would be that of Scotland’s national dish: haggis.
Haggis is a savory meat pudding, made of sheep organs stuffed into a sheep’s stomach.
Among non-Scots, haggis is an acquired taste.
It happens to be banned in the United States.
Mackie’s sold the haggis ice cream through January 2019 in honor of Burns Night, an evening celebration of Scottish poet, Robert Burns.
One of the poems Robert Burns wrote Address to a Haggis:
5. Japanese savory ice creams
If you want to find some truly unique ice cream flavors, Japan is the place to go.
While most people think of ice cream as a dessert, there’s something to be said about exploring the savory side of it.
Are you ready for savory ice cream?
Just keep reading. You’re going to want to see this through.
Here’s a video of a Spanish speaker trying eel flavored ice cream in Ikebukuro.
(Spoiler: He liked it!)
Here’s another video of two friends trying out a bunch of different ice creams including miso ramen, cow tongue, and potato!
Other savory ice cream flavors you can find in Japan include:
6. Garlic ice cream
The town of Gilroy in California is a place you can smell miles before you can see it. It’s famous for one thing: garlic.
At the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, you can chow down on just about anything and everything garlic flavored.
One of their biggest draws is the garlic ice cream.
The omnipresent, classic garlic ice cream is a vanilla soft-serve flavored with garlic powder.
Over the years, past Gilroy Garlic Festivals years included other garlic ice cream combinations like chocolate garlic and roasted almond garlic ice creams.
7. Pet bird-flavored ice cream
Torimi Cafe is an animal cafe in Japan where you can hang out with your favorite types of pet birds.
And now you can eat like them, too!
In May 2013, Torimi released three special “pet bird” flavored ice creams for a limited release at an Osaka area department store.
These flavors included:
You’re not really eating pets.
These ice creams are flavored with the birds’ favorite treats, such as fruits and various types of seeds.
The initial department store run was a success! You can now sample these ice cream flavors on the Torimi Cafe menu for ¥450 (approximately $4) each.
And we’re still not done with savory ice cream!
Ice cream gets its delicious flavor in most part from its high fat and sugar content.
If you’re on a diet, best to save it for a cheat day.
Or better yet, make it a CHEAT-OH day.
This soft serve treat featured vanilla soft-serve dusted with Cheetos crumbs.
I don’t know about you, but I’m simultaneously horrified AND hungry.
(Please tell me I’m not the only one.)
We all know that ice cream is full of fat and sugar.
But how about a little extra dose of protein?
Stay with me here:
That’s exactly what one Missouri ice cream shop added during a cicada invasion.
A periodic Bug Problem
Periodical cicadas are cicadas that come out of dormancy every 13 or 17 years, depending on the brood.
In 2011, the world’s most massive cicada brood began its 13-year mating cycle.
That summer, much of the Southeastern United States found itself thick with the bugs.
Just imagine that.
Interestingly, cicadas are edible. Biologist Isa Betancourt even calls them the “shrimp of the land,” noting that they are high in protein and low in fat.
Jenna Jadin, an entomologist who literally wrote the book on cooking at eating cicada, notes that they cicadas are in the same phylum as lobsters.
Think about it like this:
Eating bugs isn’t that odd if you like seafood.
With that in mind, why pass up free ingredients literally falling from the sky?
Let them eat bugs?
So while the South was in the grips of the cicada mating invasion, Sparky’s ice cream shop decided to make the best of the situation.
Now get this:
They caught some of the insects and made them into ice cream.
Can you imagine?
Still, though, when asked what the cicada ice cream tasted like, reports said the bugs tasted like peanuts.
Unfortunately, the health department put a stop to the new flavor almost immediately.
Health regulations don’t have any guidelines on how to cook cicada.
Who Knew Ice Cream Is So Diverse?
Ice cream, like many foods, is a reflection of the community that makes it.
From its ancient origins to modern takes, ice cream is a food with a long history and a bright future.
What ice cream flavors do you think you want to try? Did any of the unique ice cream types jump out at you?
Let us know what you want to try in the comments!