vanilla ice cream on wooden surface
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Ice Cream Taste Test: Which Vanilla Ice Cream Comes Out on Top?

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vanilla ice cream on wooden surface
Diana Taliun/istockphoto

Back to Basics

Think of an ice cream flavor out there and some brand has probably made it. Kraft macaroni and cheese ice cream? Done. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos ice cream? That’s a mash-up we didn’t know we needed. Even cannabis ice cream is picking up steam. But if you’re looking for a solid, everyday dessert, there’s nothing more classic than vanilla ice cream. Still, there’s a lot of vanilla ice cream — both good and bad — out there, and we wanted to find the cream of the crop. After sampling eight different vanilla varieties, we named a winner — plus found a few more pints worth picking up at the grocery store.


​​Prices and availability are subject to change.


Related: We Tasted 13 Frozen Pizzas and This Is the Best

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Methodology

When selecting which ice cream brands to try, we chose companies that could be found in grocery stores across the country. We also sampled both budget and pricier brands, though we didn’t venture into “artisan ice cream” territory, which can hover around $10 per pint. In the end, we selected eight ice cream brands to try: 

  • Hood
  • Tilamook
  • Ben & Jerry's
  • 365 by Whole Foods Market
  • Breyer’s
  • Häagen-Dazs
  • Oatly
  • Turkey Hill

We chose to focus on vanilla ice cream, though some brands offer a few vanilla options (homemade vanilla, old-fashioned vanilla, vanilla bean), in which case we tried whichever one was closest to a classic vanilla. During the taste test, we rated each ice cream on a scale of 1 to 10, taking into consideration characteristics like vanilla flavor, consistency, and mouthfeel. We’ve ranked them all here, starting with our best overall winner and ending with a non-dairy alternative.


Related: How Do These Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups Compare to Reese's?

Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Ice Cream
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Best Overall: Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Ice Cream

$4.29/pint from Instacart

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“Vermont’s Finest” reads the slogan on pints of Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Ice Cream, but it might as well read “America’s Finest.” This was our runaway favorite of the group: perfectly creamy and indulgent, with a rich vanilla flavor that lingers long after each spoonful. Headquartered in South Burlington, Vermont, Ben & Jerry’s gets its cream from ​​the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery in nearby St. Albans, Vermont; the quality of cream in each scoop is noticeable from the first bite. Ben & Jerry’s primarily sells its ice cream in pints, so you’ll have to pick up a few of them for your next ice cream party. 


Related: 20 Things You Didn't Know About Ben & Jerry's

Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
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Best Vanilla Bean: Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

$4.29/pint from Instacart

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Can an ice cream taste fancy? If so, Häagen-Dazs’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream almost begs to be served in a crystal-cut glass with a silver spoon. Another favorite among the tasters, the ice cream delivers a clean, bright vanilla flavor that would work well with sliced strawberries on top. Despite having one of the highest sugar contents in the group, it’s not cloyingly sweet, and instead leaves an almost flowery finish. In short? It tastes like summer, if you spent your summers at a fancy villa in the Hamptons — which is fitting, because despite its Scandinavian-esque name, Häagen-Dazs was actually founded in New York.


Related: Irresistible Ice Cream Flavors You Can Get at the Grocery Store

Turkey Hill Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
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Best Budget Pick: Turkey Hill Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

$5.79/1.5 quarts from Instacart

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Touting “farm fresh milk and cream,” Turkey Hill’s Homemade Vanilla is a crowd-pleaser (and an affordable pick to boot). It’s got all the makings of a great, classic standby, with a vanilla bean flavor that shines through, a light aftertaste, and a consistency that’s neither too thick nor too icy. Tasters noted it would be great in milkshakes, but also on slices of freshly-made fruit pie.  


Tillamook Old-Fashioned Vanilla Ice Cream
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Best Classic Flavor: Tillamook Old-Fashioned Vanilla Ice Cream

$4.99/1.5 quarts from Target

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Dairy behemoth Tillamook is known for its cheese, butter, yogurt, and, since 1947, ice cream — and it makes really, really good ice cream. Unlike the other brands in our taste test, Tillamook features a peel-off foil on its cartons, revealing an incredibly creamy, rich ice cream underneath. While the vanilla flavor isn’t particularly prominent here, its texture is thicker than most, almost inviting you to bite into it (beware of brain freeze!). It’s a classic, comforting option that works great in milkshakes, as an à la mode addition, or simply served as a couple scoops in a bowl. 


Whole Foods Market Organic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
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Best Organic Pick: 365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

$4.49/pint from Amazon

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The usual ice cream selection at Whole Foods is often made up of artisan brands that charge close to $10 per pint. But the supermarket’s 365 Organic Vanilla Bean is a more budget-friendly pick if you’re also looking for organic ingredients, including organic milk, cream, cane sugar, nonfat dry milk, and vanilla beans. It’s not the best option out there — in fact, we found this ice cream somewhat lacking in flavor, with a sticky texture that was unappetizing. But if organic is a must-have, this 365 option should do the trick. 


Hood Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
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Good for Sundaes: Hood Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

$5.79/1.5 quarts from Instacart

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Hood is a well-known name in the dairy world, its ice cream made with premium Hood milk and cream. Though Hood’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream wasn’t our favorite — we found it slightly synthetic-tasting, with an indiscernible flavor that did not include the vanilla bean it promised on its packaging — we could see it serving as a good base ice cream for sundaes, piled high with hot fudge, whipped cream, and various pieces of candy. Hood’s ice cream also has the fewest grams of sugar per serving among the ice creams we tried, so if a lower sugar content is appealing, this brand delivers.


Breyers Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
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Take It or Leave It: Breyers Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

$5.19/1.5 quarts from Instacart

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Our feelings on Breyers, a much-loved ice cream brand founded in Philadelphia in 1866, mirrored Hood’s vanilla ice cream. A slightly synthetic taste lingers after each spoonful and the ice cream has an almost oily texture; if Häagen-Dazs tastes “fancy,” Breyers certainly lands on the other end of the spectrum. Still, we recognize it’s a go-to for plenty of families, and it’s certainly not the worst option out there. If you’ve got hot fudge to drizzle over it, it makes for a solid dessert. 


Oatly Vanilla Ice Cream
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Dairy-Free Alternative: Oatly Vanilla Ice Cream

$5.79/pint from Instacart

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There’s been an explosion of dairy-free ice creams in recent years, including brands like SO Delicious, Halo Top, and NadaMoo. While many of them claim to taste “just like real ice cream,” Oatly’s Vanilla Ice Cream thoroughly embraces its origins and tastes, well, a lot like oats. Its nutty-like flavor means it’s great in an affogato (espresso poured over ice cream), and the fact that it’s dairy-, nut-, and gluten-free makes it accessible to a larger audience. We were split on whether we enjoyed the oat-forward flavor, but the consistency of the ice cream was spot-on, and we agreed it would make a unique addition to your freezer.


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