Vanilla remains America’s ice cream flavor of choice, but in 2019 Americans are also screaming for ice cream that’s made with hummus, avocado, oat milk, or high-protein ingredients. Whether during the summer (such as to celebrate National Ice Cream Month in July) or any time of year, you can enjoy 2019’s tasty trends and up-and-coming flavor crazes throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world.
Ice cream: where sweet meets healthy
Milk, cream, and flavorings meld into the delectable frozen treat we call ice cream. Often regarded as a sweet indulgence, ice cream can contain various nutrients such as calcium, carbohydrates, vitamins, phosphorus, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folate.
The global ice cream market, which was worth $57.7 billion in 2018, registered a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.5% from 2011 to 2018. Ice cream is expected to continue to grow in popularity, with a projected CAGR of 8.0% from 2019 to 2024 and a total global market expected to surpass an estimated $91.2 billion by 2024. That’s a whole lot of ice cream!
The heart of this growth is a combination of two factors.
- Innovative ice cream producers are expanding into healthier and dairy-free, plant-based ice creams, with bases that include chickpeas, tahini, coconut, avocado, or other unconventional ingredients.
- The public wants and is more accepting of ice creams that aren’t just sweet indulgences but also nutrient-dense snacks.
While these newer ice creams aren’t (yet) as ubiquitous as chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, they are making their way onto restaurant menus and into freezer aisles. Let’s break down the latest trends.
High protein ice cream
Protein-rich foods are all the rage. Now your bowl of ice cream can be high protein too. While there are plenty of other ways to get a hefty dose of protein, high-protein ice creams such as Halo Top are a fun way to enjoy a frozen treat when you’re watching your macros. Typically made by removing fat and sugar, this new generation of ice cream cuts calories while boosting the amount of protein per serving.
Throughout the first half of 2018 alone, 10 percent of new ice cream launches made claims about being high in protein or featuring added protein. For people who thought watching their waistlines or packing on muscle would have to mean chucking their ice cream scoop, high-protein ice creams are providing a sweet spot between indulgence and nutrition. They’re a reminder that while people want to treat themselves, they also want their sweets to offer more than flavor.
Hummus ice cream
Most of us think of hummus as a savory, garlicky dip. At its heart, though, hummus is simply pureed chickpeas, tahini (the savory-bitter, oil-rich, peanut-butter-like paste made from sesame seeds), and typically lemon juice, salt, and olive oil. The smooth, rich texture of pureed chickpeas and tahini has sparked what may seem an unlikely inspiration: hummus ice cream.
Instead of garlic, lemon, and olive oil, ice cream makers such as New York’s Hummus & Pita Co mix a base of tahini and chickpeas with non-dairy milks (such as almond), sweetening fruits (such as bananas and dates instead of white table sugar), and even traditional flavors such as chocolate.
With a creamy, rich texture, the hummus base also provides the notable nutritional benefits of chickpeas including protein, healthy fats, antioxidants, and fiber. Often made vegan, dairy free, and gluten free, these ice creams are often a safe option for people with certain health or dietary restrictions.
Avocado ice cream
Forget spreading avocado on your toast. How about dipping your spoon into some avocado ice cream instead?
Legumes aren’t the only surprising base for modern ice cream. When seeking something healthy and full of delicious yet nutritious fats, avocados provide another surprising, innovative, delicious base for ice cream.
For people with allergies or sensitivities to dairy, nuts, or legumes (or people with concerns about negative health effects or GMOs often associated with soy or dairy products), avocados offer a healthy new way to enjoy ice cream. Producers such as Cado are pioneering an ice cream that ignores dairy, nuts, and legumes altogether. Avocados are naturally vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free. Plus their rich, satisfying texture comes from the same heart-healthy oils that have made avocados renowned as a nutritional powerhouse.
Oat milk ice cream
Last year may very well have been the year of oat milk. (It’s even been championed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). That has set up 2019 to be the year of oat milk ice cream.
In addition to foaming like dairy milk for espresso drinks, oat milk also melds beautifully with other ingredients to make rich, flavorful, plant-based ice creams. Brands such as Oatly and So Delicious are working to expand their lines of oat milk-based ice creams and other frozen desserts. Flavors such as peanut butter and raspberry, apple and brown sugar, and oatmeal raisin cookie chunk with molasses are all on their way to a growing number of frozen dessert sections.
In addition to being dairy-free and vegan, the oats in oat milk ice creams also benefit heart health. With a texture similar to dairy milk, oat milk ice cream is perhaps an easier transition for people who can’t (or choose not to) have traditional ice cream.
Turkish ice cream
Love taffy? Then it’s time you tracked down some Turkish-style ice cream, also known as dondurma. With a harder texture and more resistance to melting in high temperatures compared to the varieties we traditionally eat in the U.S., Turkish ice cream may be your new favorite way to enjoy ice cream this summer.
Made with a natural mastic (a chewy gum, or resin, that comes from a Mediterranean tree related to the pistachio) and believed to have originated from the Turkish region of Maraş, Turkish-style ice cream combines sweet flavor with a stretchy, sticky, and creamy consistency. It can even be so chewy, you may need a fork and knife to eat it. That thick texture traditionally comes from salep, a powder made from a type of Turkish orchid. (Versions made in the U.S. are generally be made with a different type of thickener, such as guar gum.) Turkish ice cream is typically made with cow’s milk and sugar. Common flavors include cacao, pistachio, and hazelnut—and go great along with some baklava.
Organic ice cream
Many consumers seek out organic labels on everything from produce to meat and grains. Now a growing number of Americans are looking for a USDA organic label on their ice cream too.
In the U.S., organic ice cream is required to be made from organic milk produced by cows that receive at least 30% of their food from pasture grazing. Some producers go above and beyond those requirements, such as year-round grazing, to back up additional claims on flavor, texture, richness, and/or the addition of probiotics. The main benefits touted for organic milk include the absence synthetic pesticides, hormones, or other non-organic or artificial substances.
In addition to organically-produced milk, ice cream ingredients (right down to stabilizers and sweeteners) can come from organic sources, too. (Note that ingredients such as salt and water have no organic labeling, so won’t have “organic” listed, but some ingredients, such as the stabilizer guar gum, can be organic, is used in small amounts, and makes ice cream creamy).
Savory ice cream
Bored with sweet? Coast to coast, some ice cream producers have made room for savory ice creams. While sweetness may often still be a component, you may also find smoky, spicy, or other savory flavors and ingredients mixed in, such as:
- Goat cheese
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Brussels sprouts
- Gorgonzola cheese
- Fresh peas
- Foie gras
Some savory ice creams emphasize balancing sweetness with other flavors or textures. Some may be fiery surprises. No matter what, they’ll be unique—and certainly a fresh departure from the standard carton of Neapolitan.
Coconut water soft serve
Whether at a scoop shop, the ice cream section of your favorite market, or your office freezer it’s getting easier to find many of the different ice cream styles above.
Fear not. Soft-serve has not been left behind—especially for people who seeking a dairy-free ice cream beyond soy or nuts. Producers such as CocoWhip have created coconut water-based soft-serve full of not only flavor but probiotics, too. From its origins in Australia, CocoWhip is making its way to the U.S. via stores such as Whole Foods. Flavors include original coconut, açai, cacao, berry, minty matcha, and mango with turmeric—with more variations and flavors on the way.
New ways to scream for ice cream
Sweet or savory, made with hummus, avocado, or coconut—no matter how (or where) you scoop it, you can dish up a novel bowl of ice cream that can even be good for you too.