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The Best Chocolate Ice Cream You Can Buy at the Store

Epicurious logo Epicurious 7/13/2018 Joe Sevier
a variety of food on a plate © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Joe Sevier

My colleagues insist that the very best brand of chocolate ice cream comes from Friendly's all-natural line. And while I think it's a great option, if you ask me, my colleagues are crazy, because the ice cream that I picked from the lineup of 15 nationally available brands was much darker and more deeply flavored than Friendly's (more on that below). But therein lies the ultimate question: are you a dark chocolate person or a milk chocolate person?

Either way, you're in luck, because in our recent taste test we determined the best of both types of chocolate ice cream. Surprisingly, our ultimate winner is neither—call it an all-purpose chocolate if you will. Our methodology and the full list of ice creams tasted is at the bottom of the page; first, the rankings:

The Absolute Best Chocolate Ice Cream: Naturally Friendly's

While you could consider Friendly's natural chocolate ice cream offering a darker option, it's nowhere near as rich as those labelled "dark chocolate." It's also not as light as the ice creams labelled "milk chocolate." For that reason I'm calling it a middle-of-the-road chocolate, and the flavor is better for it. It has both rich, nuanced chocolate flavor and an airy lightness that make it refreshing. Associate editor Emily Johnson called it "the quintessential chocolate ice cream," while food director Rhoda Boone praised its "ideal creamy texture."

BUY IT: Naturally Friendly's Premium Chocolate Ice Cream, $5 for 1 1/2 quarts on Instacart

The Best Milk Chocolate Ice Cream: Graeter's

There are some people who just want their chocolate ice cream to taste like a Wendy's frosty. For those people, Graeter's is coming to a store near you. Of the milk chocolate varieties we tried, Graeter's had the most complex chocolate flavor, but that didn't take away from its supreme milky, creaminess. And while it'll definitely give you those familiar childhood vibes, we'd wager it tastes better than that frosty ever did.

BUY IT: Graeter's Dutch Milk Chocolate Ice Cream, $80 for a six-pint sampler pack at Williams Sonoma

The Fudgiest Chocolate Ice Cream: Van Leeuwen

A new-to-the-supermarket brand that's been kicking around New York and LA for years, Van Leeuwen's chocolate ice cream is so rich, dark and delicious that it's practically like eating frozen fudge. Without question, it was my personal favorite from this round of tastings. Rhoda also loved its "clean and classic dark chocolate flavor," which has fruity/berry notes that round things out. I couldn't get over how wonderfully fudgy the texture was. Like most ice creams, it's best if you let it sit on the counter for a bit before digging in—straight out of the freezer it's slightly cocoa-powdery on the tongue, but once it starts melting around the edges, it can't be beat.

BUY IT: Van Leeuwen Chocolate Ice Cream, $89 for a six-pint sampler pack at Goldbelly

many different types of food on a table: It's just a sweet, sweet fantasy, baby, when I close my eyes you come and take me on and on and on. © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Joe Sevier It's just a sweet, sweet fantasy, baby, when I close my eyes you come and take me on and on and on.

Other Chocolate Ice Creams We Liked

Trader Joe's Ultra Chocolate was a dark option we liked. It wasn't quite as rich as Van Leeuwen's, but it received high marks for texture and nuanced flavor. We also tasted Blue Bunny, primarily because their more natural vanilla bean flavor won our vanilla ice cream taste test. Unfortunately, they don't offer a less-stablizer-packed chocolate option and I personally found that it had a gummy texture and oily finish. Several of my colleagues, however—namely Anna Stockwell—thought it had a "nice, custardy milk chocolate flavor" and praised its nostalgic creaminess.

What We Were Looking For

Like that vanilla ice cream taste test, we wanted to find a more natural chocolate ice cream: something with minimal stabilizers and no artificial sweeteners. But we didn't rule out stabilizers completely, because they contribute to superior scoopability and longevity.

Going in we knew we would need to taste the milk chocolate and dark chocolate specimens separately, but both had to have real chocolate flavor—nuanced with complex background flavor that came from the chocolate itself and not artificial agents. We chose only plain chocolate ice creams (including labels that called out Belgian, Dutch, milk, and more), but avoided any ice cream with nuts, chips, ripples, or other mix-ins.

Finally, all selections had to be available in grocery stores, and while some of our winners may not be present across all states, they are making their way into more and more markets, and can be purchased online.

How We Tested

All ice creams were scooped into separate chilled bowls and left in the freezer until the tasting commenced. They were sampled blind by a panel of Epicurious editors and staff in order from lightest to darkest, since chocolate experts generally recommend tasting in a similar order when sampling bars.

The Other Ice Creams We Tasted

We also tasted, in alphabetical order:

Related gallery: 30 Cooling Ice Pop Recipes to Beat the Summer Heat

All products featured on Epicurious are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn a small affiliate commission.


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