5 twists on traditional ice cream

These ice cream trends are breaking all the rules.

There’s nothing quite like topping off an idyllic summer day with a scoop of your favorite ice cream. Enjoying this chilly treat remains one of the best ways to cool off from the sweltering summer heat. Here are some of the most exciting ice cream trends to explore this summer—or all year-round.

Plant-based ice cream topped with fresh mint

Vegan variations

Whether they’re essential to your lifestyle or something you enjoy once in a while, vegan treats have never been better at mimicking their nonvegan counterparts.

“(Vegan options have) been an afterthought for so long, but the options people have today are amazing. It’s not a fad, and it’s not going away anytime soon,” says Alex Zavaleta, co-owner of Charm School Social Club in Richmond, Virginia. 

This retro parlor does more than just traditional ice creams, with vegan versions of PB&J, cherry limeade, chocolate cookie and peach. Top them off with vegan whipped cream or vegan marshmallow fluff.

“There’s a lot of science behind ice cream,” Zavaleta says. “We pride ourselves on the science behind what we do. With good science behind what you’re making, you can achieve almost any flavor.”

You don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy dairy-free desserts, and today there are more options than ever before.

Four rolled ice cream tacos topped with candy and cookies

Thai rolled tacos

Bangkok meets L.A. in this eye-catching fusion treat. California-based Sweet Rolled Tacos took the popular Thai street treat and combined it with a Cali-Mex staple: tacos. 

Fresh, sweetened cream is poured onto a cold plate that goes as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit. From there, the frozen cream is blended with various mix-ins, spread thin and scraped into small, thick rolls.

Owner Kenny Tran and his brother were already in the process of making waffles in-house when they came up with the idea to turn them into tacos. 

“My brother and I wanted to be different from other rolled ice cream places by reinventing them and bringing something new and refreshing to the table,” Tran says. “I think the fusion of cultural street foods is so popular because you get the best of both worlds.”

Sweet Rolled Tacos makes its ice cream fresh to order, and they have a window where customers can watch the entire process. From picking a flavor to anticipating that first bite as the ice cream is prepared—it’s an experience that can’t be missed.

Two macaron ice cream sandwiches

Surprising ice cream sandwiches

If you can wedge a scoop of ice cream between two things, it can be an ice cream sandwich. With this in mind, shops are mixing it up. 

The macaron ice cream sandwich shows what happens when a baker opens up an ice cream shop. Richmond bakery owner Morgan Botwinick opened Scoop so she could marry her signature baked goods with ice cream. 

“Ice cream is unique in that it’s really a treat,” Botwinick says. “Something like a muffin or other pastry could be considered breakfast, whereas ice cream is really just an indulgence.” 

Scoop also offers croissant ice cream sandwiches and more traditional cookie options. 

There are countless ways to explore and enjoy ice cream sandwiches. Ice cream wedged between donuts? Sounds good. Waffles? Yes, please. Bacon weaves? Why not? Shops around the country are getting creative. So explore what’s in your area, and give these creations a try.

Two chocolate smoothie bowls with toppings such as chia seeds

Smoothie bowls

Smoothie bowls are a popular offering for health-conscious consumers. Like traditional smoothies, they’re made from fresh fruit and other natural ingredients. Unlike smoothies, they’re very thick and served in bowls. 

Frozen fruit is churned in powerful blenders with some combination of cow’s milk, soy milk, oat milk, nut milk and fruit juice to produce a thick, spoonable treat. 

This basic formula can be expanded to include flavored protein powders, cacao, different fruits and even coffee. To finish it off, top with textural elements like granola, seeds, coconut flakes or cacao nibs.

As delicious as they are aesthetically pleasing, smoothie bowls make for a great alternative to ice cream when you want something sweet without the guilt.

When you want to treat yourself, do it with a fun, new twist on your favorite ice cream flavor. Which are you most excited to try?

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