We Tried 10 Brands to Find the Best Vanilla Ice Cream

Looking for the best vanilla ice cream? So was our Test Kitchen! We tested 10 brands to find the very best. Trust us, our favorites deserve a spot in your freezer.

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Test Kitchen Preferred The Best vanilla ice creamClaire Krieger/Taste of Home

When you’re craving something sweet and indulgent, is there anything better than your favorite dessert topped with a generous scoop of ice cream? Or a sundae loaded up with all your favorite toppings? Or even just a sweet and simple ice cream cone? We say definitely not!

In efforts to make those apple pies a la mode and milkshakes taste their most delicious, our Test Kitchen put 10 popular brands to the test to find the best vanilla ice cream.

What Makes the Best Vanilla Ice Cream

In our Test Kitchen’s search for the best vanilla ice cream, they kept a few criteria in mind:

  • Flavor: The ice cream should taste strongly of real vanilla (not faux vanilla flavoring).
  • Texture: A great ice cream should be smooth and creamy—not icy or gritty.
  • Appearance: Our Test Kitchen wanted a vanilla ice cream that looked tempting and delicious—bonus points for flecks of real vanilla beans!

With these key factors in mind, our testing team tried ten popular brands in a blind test. Testers kept in mind that this ice cream should taste delicious on its own but also make a great ingredient in some of our go-to ice cream desserts.

Want to learn more about how our Test Kitchen chooses their favorite ice cream products and tools? Check out our testing methods.

Our Test Kitchen Preferred Vanilla Ice Cream Brands

After sampling ten brands and getting more than a few brain freezes, our Test Kitchen thought that three ice creams really rose to the top. Here are our Test Kitchen’s top picks.

Best for Kids: Blue Bunny Vanilla Ice Cream

Blue Bunny Vanilla Ice CreamVia walmart.com

Sometimes you take a bite of something and just know that the kiddos in your life would love it. Such is the case with Blue Bunny’s vanilla ice cream. This ice cream was rich and creamy. We gave it high ratings for its indulgent texture. As for the flavor, this vanilla ice cream reminded us of treats from the ice cream truck and hot summer days slurping ice cream from cones—meaning it was delicious and nostalgic but just a bit artificial (but in that way you sometimes crave and in the way that kids just adore). Dish it out with one of the best ice cream scoops.

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Most Vanilla Flavor: 365 Everyday Value Vanilla Ice Cream

365 EVERYDAY VALUE® Vanilla Ice Cream, 1.5 quartVia wholefoodsmarket.com

If you’re a serious vanilla lover—the kind of person that keeps multiple bottles of extract in their pantry—add Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value vanilla ice cream to your cart. This ice cream tasted of real vanilla beans (not vanilla flavoring—there is a difference). These scoops were well balanced: sweet but not cloying, flavorful but not overwhelming. This option was a bit less creamy than other options but very flavorful.

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The Richest Vanilla Ice Cream: Trader Joe’s French Vanilla

Trader Joes French Vanilla Ice CreamVia Trader Joe's

The ice cream that had us wanting a double scoop was undoubtedly Trader Joe’s. Out of all the vanilla ice cream brands, TJs gained the highest marks for its exceptionally creamy, almost buttery, texture. The vanilla flavor in each serving was also very apparent—we noticed that it tasted authentic (no phony vanilla flavor here!). While the taste was obvious and incredibly lush, it wasn’t overpowering in any way. That not-too-subtle and not-too-strong balance is hard to find, but it’s exactly what you want for serving with your favorite chocolate cake, homemade pie or just topped with some sprinkles.

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What to Make with Vanilla Ice Cream

It goes without saying: You don’t need to make anything with vanilla ice cream. Each of these brands was great right out of the container without a single topping. However, ice cream desserts—be they over-the-top milkshakes, ice cream cakes or vintage-style baked Alaskas—are some of the most decadent around. With the right ice cream, all of these treats turn from tempting to positively irresistible. Just look at all the creative ways you can make use of vanilla ice cream. If you prefer to make your own ice cream, learn how to make ice cream without a machine!

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Any way you scoop it, our Test Kitchen Preferred ice creams are freezer-worthy and ready to be added to your favorite ice cream desserts, like this cherry-chocolate ice cream pies. We’re sure you won’t be able to resist all the layers of fudge and pops of dark sweet cherries in every melty, creamy frozen bite.

Still hungry? Learn more about sweet, creamy treats in our ultimate ice cream guide.

Note: This blind taste test was performed by our staffers and was not part of a sponsorship. All opinions shared are our own, and have not been influenced by advertisers.

Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.