Best caramel ice cream

After my recent foray into sparkling water ranking, I was drunk on the power of my new status as amateur food and beverage critic. What other edible substance was begging for the razor-sharp appraisal of one H. Harling Ross? I asked myself this very question whilst meandering the aisles of Whole Foods a couple weeks ago.

That’s when I felt a chill. Literally, I mean, because I had just stepped into the freezer section to locate the last item on my grocery list: a pint of salted caramel ice cream. As I surveyed the plethora of salted caramel frozen dessert options, I found myself paralyzed by choice. How is it that EVERY ice cream brand — even the cheaper ones — suddenly carried a salted caramel flavor option? Who does salted caramel think it is? Vanilla??

I pulled out my phone and Googled “best salted caramel ice cream.” At first I was disappointed that a proper salted caramel ice cream ranking didn’t seem to exist, but then I was inspired. I would provide the people with the salted caramel ice cream ranking they needed and deserved. It was fate.

I had two goals for the ranking:

1. Provide a comprehensive taste recap for the salted caramel contenders of ice cream brands you can find in a grocery store.
2. Answer the following question: when it comes to a flavor like salted caramel (i.e. kinda douche-y to begin with), does expensive really mean “better”? (Disclaimer: I know prices vary based on retailer and location, but the ones listed below are sourced from what I found available for purchase online).

So, I tried them all. Someone had to do it.

1. Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Core

I started with Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Core, a wild card take on salted caramel featuring a sweet cream ice cream base, blondie bites and — you guessed it — a “core” of pure, gooey salted caramel running through the middle. It was creamy and VERY sweet, almost disgustingly so. I would say it’s the kind of salted caramel profile tailor-made for post-midnight feasting after a long night out, when the slightly artificial taste of OMG SO MUCH SUGAR is actually really appealing.

Taste rating: 2/5
Price: $3.48

2. Haagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche

While Dulce de Leche isn’t technically salted caramel, I felt compelled to include this Haagen-Daz classic as a point of comparison. A combination of caramel and sweet cream ice cream swirled with ribbons of actual caramel, I would recommend it to any caramel purist who is “meh” on the salty-sweet aspect of a true salted caramel. Haagen-Daz Dulce de Leche is sweet but not in an overwhelming way like the Ben & Jerry’s, and I could definitely detect that telltale “burnt sugar” flavor signature to caramel.

Taste rating: 3/5
Price: $6.99

3. Steve’s Salty Caramel Ice Cream

For my third pint, I ventured into new territory with a brand I had never heard of before: Steve’s. It caught my eye at the grocery store because it advertised itself as gluten free, egg free, soy free, GMO free and rBGH free. (I had to look up that last one. Apparently it’s a genetically-engineered artificial hormone injected into dairy cows to make them produce more milk — ugh). I’m happy to report that I really, really liked the taste of this one. I would describe it as kind of mellow, almost buttery. One of the ingredients is “Jacobsen sea salt,” which, unlike regular sea salt, is hand-harvested from the cold and pristine waters of Netarts Bay on the Oregon Coast — and I’m not yanking your chain when I say I think I could tell the difference.

Taste rating: 4/5
Price: $7.99

4. Victory Garden Salted Caramel Goat Milk Gelato

For my fourth pint, I tucked into Victory Garden’s salted caramel gelato made with — wait for it — GOAT MILK. Betcha didn’t see that coming unless you did because it’s right above this paragraph.

This one was interesting. It was less creamy than the others — icier but not in an unpleasant way, kind of like sorbet. Very refreshing, especially if you’re in the mood for a lighter salted caramel treat.

Taste rating: 3/5
Price: $9.95

5. Talenti Sea Salt Caramel

Talenti’s Sea Salt Caramel was my fifth contender. If you haven’t been exposed to the Talenti gelato hype, I’m guessing you’ve been living on Mars for the past couple years. This brand is everywhere — Whole Foods, Stop & Shop, bodegas — you name it, and people are obsessed. I was excited when I turned the pint around and noticed that “caramel” was the first ingredient. Neat! (Usually “milk” is.) When I took a scoop with my spoon, I discovered another surprise: small chunks of chocolate-covered caramel mixed throughout. I’m a sucker for good ice cream mix-ins, so this was a real treat, and the flavor of the ice cream was delicious to boot.

Taste rating: 5/5
Price: $3.99

6. Whole Foods Caramel and Sea Salt Italian Gelato

For my penultimate rankee, I cracked open a container of Whole Foods Caramel and Sea Salt Italian Gelato. Apparently it’s made in small batches and quickly frozen before being imported from Italy, which is cool, but…

I hate to do this. I’m not in the business of bashing desserts, but as a budding food critic with a heart of gold, I have to be real with you guys: I did not like this one at all. It was WAY too sweet in a way that tasted fake, and the consistency was super airy — almost whipped, to the extent that it felt like I was eating ice cream that had been left out in the sun too long.

Taste rating: 1/5
Price: $6.00

7. Van Leeuwen Vegan Salted Caramel

I saved the Van Leeuwen pint for last because its East and West Village outposts are my favorite ice cream shops in NYC (so I knew I’d be ending on a high note). Van Leeuwen’s non-dairy flavors are what I would confidently call “vegan done right” — delicious and not at all compromising in flavor or creaminess just because they don’t contain eggs or real milk — and the salted caramel is no exception. The ingredients are coconut cream, cashews, coconut oil, cocoa butter, organic cane sugar, vanilla bean, maldon sea salt and organic carob butter. No preservatives or additives. It’s definitely pretty coconutty-tasting, but as a big coconut fan, I think this is actually a bonus.

Taste rating: 4/5
Price: $10.99

Talenti Sea Salt Caramel was the winner with a solid 5/5 rating — a satisfying answer to my initial question about taste-to-price correlation, given that Talenti was one of the cheaper pints.

If you’re not a fan of mix-ins and you prefer an ice cream with a smooth, subtle taste, I would still heartily recommend a pint of Steve’s, and if you’re lactose-intolerant or vegan, you truly can’t go wrong with Van Leeuwen’s, although it’s pricey AF.

Any suggestions for my next food and/or beverage ranking? Drop them in the comments below. I’m pretty sure I’m destined to be this generation’s Pete Wells.

Photography: Louisiana Mei Gelpi
Creation Direction: Emily Zirimis

Ice cream taste test champions

With its ability to spread knowledge as well as hatred, is the internet a positive force for mankind or a negative one? If God is good, why does he allow evil to exist? What is the essence of humanity — what makes us different from other animals?

Good questions, all. And hard to answer. But not as hard, or as inherently fascinating, as this: Who makes the best chocolate chip and salted caramel ice creams in the country?

Admit it: It’s a lot more interesting than pondering the problem of evil.

As with all great epistemological questions, we started with a general notion and worked our way to a specific: “Who makes the best ice cream in the country?” was eventually distilled into “What premium brands of ice cream available at grocery stores make the best chocolate chip and salted caramel ice creams?”

Finding volunteers to help with this quest was, as you might guess, not particularly difficult. Long lines of eager taste testers lined up in the newsroom to express their considered opinions about a topic of considerable interest to seemingly all of them.

“I’m definitely an expert on ice cream. As a lifetime aficionado. I have a refined palate. I have deep expertise in ice cream,” announced one tester who will here go unnamed although I really want to say who it was.

Other testers were just as certain about their abilities. If there is anything people are happy to discuss, it’s ice cream.

We ended up with 10 taste testers, including me, who agreed to sample both the chocolate chip and salted caramel flavors of five different brands — Häagen-Dazs, Talenti, Graeter’s, Oberweis and, as a control, the non-premium Edy’s. The tastings were not blind — we knew which ones we were trying — except for the first taster, the one with the expertise and the palate.

Ranked from best to worst, here were our judgments:

Photo by Morgan Timms, [email protected]

Salted Caramel Ice Cream


Homemade caramel ice cream with sea salt. The best salted caramel ice cream recipe!

Welcome to Ice Cream week here on Modern Honey! There are gourmet, handcrafted ice cream shops popping up everywhere around the country. Whenever I am traveling for work or for fun, I always search up the best bakeries and ice cream shops. I want to taste artisan ice cream made from whole, simple, real food ingredients.

After being so inspired by many artisan ice cream shops, I wanted to create recipes at home that rival those you would find at the finest shops. This Salted Caramel Ice Cream recipe will go down as one of my very favorite recipes I have ever created. That may be a bold statement, but I was so excited when I nailed this recipe. I will explain the process and how I got to this perfect caramel ice cream recipe.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream is usually the best seller at most ice cream shops and for good reason. It is an all-around crowd pleaser because who doesn’t love caramel? The sea salt adds a touch of savory, balancing out the sweetness and becoming the ultimate salty-sweet combination.

This Sea Salt Caramel Ice Cream is only made with real and simple ingredients — heavy cream, whole milk, sugar, butter, and salt. The key is to get the sugar perfectly caramelized for a silky smooth caramel sauce. This is the base of flavor so the caramel has to be spot on.

The path to making the perfect caramel base…and it all starts with sugar. Salted Caramel Ice Cream can be made with a mild, rich caramel or a strong, deep browned butter and sugar caramel base. When I first made this salted caramel ice cream, I reached for a recipe from the famous ice cream shop, Molly Moo’s, in Seattle, Washington. I love their ice cream and wanted to create their best selling ice cream at home. What I discovered is that the sugar was caramelized to a point where it began to smoke and get almost bitter tasting. Some people may go crazy for that deep caramel but to me it almost tasted like burnt caramel.

I couldn’t go to sleep that night because I wanted to perfect it so badly. I got out of bed and went back to work! I decided to change a few things namely cooking the caramel for less time so it still becomes that buttery sticky sweet caramel without it becoming burnt. I was determined to create the ultimate homemade salted caramel ice cream recipe!

I melted and cooked down the sugars until a rich caramel developed and then added in butter, cream, and whole milk. I tasted the caramel ice cream base and it was a home run! There was definitely celebratory dancing going on in my kitchen at midnight! There may or may not have been some running man moves going on. I was thrilled to finally nail it! It was straight to the fridge to chill and me off to bed to wait until morning to add it to the ice cream maker.

I couldn’t wait to see how it turned out so I think I was churning ice cream at 5:45 am! Twenty-five minutes later, the ice cream was done and was a smooth soft-serve ice cream. I tasted it and started jumping up and down because it was THAT GOOD. It tasted just like some of the gourmet ice cream from the best ice cream shops in the country! I was one happy girl.

It was off to the freezer to harden up and I was counting down the minutes until I could eat it. It is velvety smooth, melt-in-your-mouth straight from the ice cream maker but if you want it hard enough to scoop, let it freeze for about 4 hours.

The results were a deep rich sea salt caramel that was perfectly creamy. This is achievable at home with only a few ingredients! I hope you love the best salted caramel ice cream recipe. Top it with a homemade caramel sauce.

How to make the Best Salted Caramel Ice Cream:

  1. Start with sugar and lemon juice in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. The key is to add the sugar 1/2 cup at a time. Let it dissolve before adding the next 1/2 cup.
  2. Once the sugar is completely dissolved and melted, stir in the butter. Use a whisk and back away since the sugars may splatter.
  3. After the butter is completely melted, reduce heat to medium-low and slowly whisk in heavy cream and whole milk. Remove from heat and pour mixture into bowl or loaf pan to chill in the refrigerator. Let chill for 1 to 2 hours.
  4. When the mixture is chilled, stir in sea salt. Pour into ice cream maker and make according to ice cream machine instructions. My favorite ice cream maker is the Cuisinart Ice Cream Machine.
  5. Once ice cream is done, transfer in a freezer safe container. Cover tightly and freezer until the ice cream is firm, at least 4 hours. Top with this homemade caramel sauce recipe.


5 from 1 voteSalted Caramel Ice Cream The best homemade salted caramel ice cream in the world! The perfect salty-sweet combination. Course: Ice Cream Cuisine: Italian Author: Melissa Stadler, Modern Honey Ingredients

  • 1/4 teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 1/2 cups Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • 3 cups Heavy Cream
  • 1 cup Whole Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Salt


  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, over medium-high heat, add sugar and lemon juice Add the sugar 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Let it dissolve before adding the next 1/2 cup.
  2. Once the sugar is completely dissolved and melted, stir in the butter. Use a whisk and back away since the sugars may splatter.
  3. After the butter is completely melted, reduce heat to medium-low and slowly whisk in heavy cream and whole milk. Remove from heat and pour mixture into a bowl to chill in the refrigerator. Let chill for 1 to 2 hours.
  4. When the mixture is chilled, stir in sea salt. Pour into ice cream maker and make according to ice cream machine instructions.
  5. Once ice cream is done, transfer in a freezer safe container. Cover tightly and freezer until the ice cream is firm at least 4 hours. Overnight is ideal.
  6. *Adapted from Molly Moo’s Ice Cream Shop Cookbook

I hope you love this perfect sea salt caramel ice cream recipe!

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Carmen’s Best vs. Merry Moo: Which Local Ice Cream Brand Does Salted Caramel Better?

The local artisanal ice cream scene has never looked so promising—what with a growing number of players taking on the craft of making real ice cream from scratch and with great ingredients that you’ll be left thinking, “Ben & Jerry’s who?”. Two local companies in particular stand out, having helped further the said movement during their introduction in the early part of the decade (around 2010, to be exact): Paco Magsaysay’s Carmen’s Best, and Kelvin Ngo’s Merry Moo. Both proudly utilize locally-sourced dairy (from their own farm, in the case of the former), offer more flavors than the standard vanilla/chocolate/strawberry (although those are available too), and are now sold almost everywhere while offering a quality much better than to your run-off-the-mill, overrun– and filler-laden commercially-sold tubs of ice cream at the supermarket. More interestingly, both brands offer their own respective takes on a particular flavor that had especially enjoyed its time in the limelight around the time of their launch: salted caramel, which both brands happen to consider to be their signature variant. But how do they differ, and which brand do we think does it better?

Carmen’s Best’s Salted Caramel

Of a paler shade of tan among the two, Carmen’s Best takes on a more subdued approach to their salted caramel. A spoonful on the tongue doesn’t immediately burst with strong flavors; what predominates, rather, is its creaminess. But its namesake flavor does reveal itself in a gradual progression as the ice cream melts: the complexity of the caramel (which is just at the right amount of deep), the characteristic richness of butter (which comes at a generous amount), and just enough salt to act as a savory counterpoint. Amazingly, this ice cream manages to not be too sweet (especially considering caramel, at its core, is made with burnt sugar); and though rich in flavor with a smooth melt on the tongue and not at all airy, its relatively thin, streamlined melt keeps it from feeling cloying.

Merry Moo’s Sea Salt Caramel

Merry Moo’s take is the darker scoop of the two, coming close to a tawny brown. Though the general flavor profile and level of sweetness is similar to that of Carmen’s Best, you get—as you’d predict from the color—a slightly darker caramel with a deeper burnt-sugar note and a stronger hit of salt. But it’s not as smooth or buttery, with traces of a starchy, powdery feel that gets in the way of its creaminess. While this doesn’t completely make it unpleasant to eat, and isn’t as noticeable when allowed to thaw for a few minutes, it does put Merry Moo at a textural disadvantage compared to the silkier version of Carmen’s Best.

The Verdict

Though similar in concept, both brands offer different strong points. Carmen’s Best captivates us texture-wise, and its silky-smooth, buttery ice cream makes for a more sophisticated treat. Meanwhile, Merry Moo offers a bigger boom of darker, saltier caramel that makes it a hit with the caramel lovers of the team. It was tough—but after much deliberation, the team agreed that although Merry Moo does win on caramel potency, more is not necessarily better. The better balance of flavors and superb consistency on Carmen’s Best makes for better overall ice cream to which we must give the award. That said, Merry Moo’s is by no means a bad scoop—both brands deserve to be recognized for upping the game of the Filipino artisanal ice cream scene, helping the nation realize once and for all that local can be great in its own right.

Have you tried Carmen’s Best and Merry Moo’s products? Which take on salted caramel ice cream do you prefer? Sound off on the comments below.

Everybody loves ice-cream, right? As we bask in the last rays (and/or torrential rains) of the British summer, it seems only fitting to end the holidays with a spoon firmly stuck into a tub of frozen cream and swirly sweet “bits”. We asked the big high-street players to send us their best rivals to that Guardian food desk – nay, national – favourite, Ben & Jerry’s Caramel Chew Chew. But how did the own brands compare? Heston Blumenthal, look away now …

Ben & Jerry’s Caramel Chew Chew, (Sainsbury’s, £4.70)

Ben and Jerry’s Caremel Chew Chew. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

You know the drill: thick, dense ice-cream; well-distributed swirls of intense caramel (the listed salt presumably giving it its slight savoury edge); rich, chocolatey caramel cups that, crucially, melt readily; and, overall, an ice-cream of smooth, fulsome flavours that stops just short of sickliness. As Ben or Jerry might say, it’s a doozy.

Marks & Spencer, The Ultimate Caramel Ice-Cream, £4.50

Marks & Spencer’s caramel ice-cream. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

A grownup, bits-free caramel ice-cream made in the West Country with whole milk and whipping cream. The caramel flavour is a little meek and it finishes with a curious twang (there is salt and concentrated lemon juice in there, which may explain that). A cashmere jumper of an ice-cream: silky-smooth and supposedly sophisticated but, ultimately, rather boring.

Waitrose, Heston from Waitrose Salted Caramel Popcorn Ice-Cream, £4.49

Heston’s salted caramel popcorn ice-cream. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

“All your cinema favourites rolled into one …” to create a, well, horrific video nasty. You know how eating popcorn is a bit like eating bird feed and Styrofoam? Well, imagine that in an ice-cream also packed with hard shards of salted caramel. True, they have a great treacly, brown sugar flavour, but it is a textural nightmare. Like The Godfather III or Sex Lives of the Potato Men, this is what happens when no one has the backbone to take the talent to one side and say: “You know what, Heston? This is a rubbish idea.”

Aldi, Gianni’s Cheeky Monkey Ice-Cream, £1.99

Gianni’s Cheeky monkey ice-cream. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

“Chocolate flavour dairy ice-cream with a marshmallow flavour sauce, caramel flavoured sauce and chocolate flavour monkey face shapes.” Note: everything in that list is a “flavour” of, a doppelganger for not the actual thing. That can be nice. The dark, cocoa powder profile of the incredibly dense ice-cream is not unpleasant. The “marshmallow” sauce, however, is terrible. Those “chocolate flavour” faces taste cheap and oily but melt readily and, hey, while a zoologist might quibble, they do look reasonably like monkeys. The whole shebang gets sickly quickly.
For kids? 6/10. Adults? 4/10

Sainsbury’s, Taste the Difference Toffee and Honeycomb Ice-Cream, £4

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference toffee and honeycomb ice-cream. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Cynically, you may read the blurb – “farmhouse … Devon … handmade toffee sauce … milk from Jersey cows … fresh, natural ingredients …” – and roll your eyes. But taste it and you will eat, if not your words, then a large portion. This is extra-thick, supra-creamy ice-cream that has its own coolly understated toffee flavour, but it is those thick seams of toffee sauce – salted, beautifully rich, long on dark muscovado notes – that are sensational. I found scant “crisp honeycomb”; it appeared to have melted into the ice-cream. Nonetheless, a mature alternative to Caramel Chew Chew.

Tesco Finest West Country Fudge Ice-Cream, £3

Tesco Finest West Country fudge ice-cream. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Lustrously thick, velvety ice-cream whose fudgy flavour is well modulated. It becomes gradually more concentrated as you progress through the ice-cream, yielding fudge pieces to a knockout sauce – which, although supposedly rippled, does tend to collect in swirled cores. Should you want to mix’n’match, Tesco Finest’s chocolate (£3) is also impressive: 70% Tanzanian cocoa solids give it a fruity, black forest gateau-like character.

Asda, Chewy Chewy Caramel, £2

Asda’s Chewy caramel ice-cream. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Full marks for testing the patience of Ben & Jerry’s lawyers with that name, but the ice-cream itself feels a little thin and overly aerated (its chief ingredient appears to be reconstituted skimmed milk). It is also “loaded” with nearly 27% toffee sauce (excellent), caramel pieces and milk chocolate caramel cups, but those cups lack instant meltability (real chocolate, see?) and the sauce is timid.