I scream, you scream, we all scream for … Tar ice cream? Okay, so maybe “we all” don’t. But some people do. A lot of people, in fact. Lobster, foie gras, and cicada, too. Next time you’re craving an ice-cold cone, why not step out of your vanilla/chocolate comfort zone to try one of these 26 unique types of ice creams from around the world when traveling.
The most traditional helado ice cream has become one of the most popular desserts in Argentina. There are hundreds of flavors but Argentina's most traditional and popular one is dulce de leche, which has become popular abroad, especially in the US. It is more like Italy's gelato-softer and creamier than American ice cream. A standard Argentine cone or cup contains two different flavors of ice cream.
2Chinese Fried Ice-Cream
Fried ice cream is a dessert made from a breaded scoop of ice cream that is quickly deep-fried creating a warm, crispy shell around the still-cold ice cream. There are conflicting stories about the dessert's origin. Some claim that it was first served during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, where the ice cream sundae was also invented. Though in 1894, a Philadelphia company was given credit for its invention describing: "A small, solid [cake] of the ice cream is enveloped in a thin sheet of pie crust and then dipped into boiling lard or butter to cook the outside to a crisp.” In the United States, fried ice cream has been associated with Asian cuisine, appearing in reviews of Chinese restaurants in the "Dining Out" section of the New York Times in the 1970s. Fried ice cream is served at a lot of street food stalls in Beijing.
In a place with freezing temperatures, it’s hard to imagine a need for a cool-down dessert, but “Eskimo ice cream” is a popular local treat in Alaska. Traditionally, this native dish includes meat and fat from animals like seals, moose, and caribou, although nowadays Crisco is a common substitute for animal fat. But seasonal ingredients like salmonberries and blueberries are still used in the modern version.
4Finnish Tar Ice-Cream
In the North of Europe, Finland included, tar is produced by burning wood in a pile. It was already being used centuries ago in these Nordic and Scandinavian countries to coat ships… and as medicine. Finns have a saying: “If sauna, vodka, and tar don’t help, the illness is fatal.” The reason behind this expression is that tar is also a microbicide agent. Tar is used as an additive and as a flavoring ingredient. It gives a smoky flavor to the dish you add it to, such as ice creams, beers, licorice and sweets.
Spaghettieis is a German ice cream dish made to look like a plate of spaghetti. In the dish, vanilla ice cream is extruded through a modified press, giving it the appearance of spaghetti. It is then placed over whipped cream and topped with strawberry sauce (to simulate tomato sauce) and either coconut flakes, grated almonds, or white chocolate shavings to represent the parmesan cheese. Besides the usual dish with strawberry sauce, one may also find variations like ice cream with dark chocolate ice cream and nuts, simulating Spaghetti Carbonara instead of Spaghetti Bolognese.
6French Foie Gras Ice Cream
Leave it to the French to turn their ice cream into a delicacy. While the world continues to debate the cruelty of making foie gras -- over-fattened duck liver -- we think everyone can be in agreement that ice cream doesn’t need to include over-the-top ingredients to taste gourmet. You had us at vanilla.
7Greek Pagoto Kataifi cocoa
One of the most unique Greek ice cream recipes is Pagoto Kataifi cocoa which is made from the shredded filo dough pastry that resembles angel's hair pasta, similar to vermicelli but much thinner.
India has a domestic ice cream product known as "Kulfi" or "Matka Kulfi", which is famous in small towns and villages. It is a mix of condensed milk, sugar and exotic flavors like saffron and cardamom. This has a dense texture more similar to custard than ice cream. Traditionally, this cool treat was only found in India’s street markets, kept frozen in earthenware pots of ice and salt. Now its popularity is so widespread, you can find it in Whole Foods’ frozen-food aisles.
9Thai Stir-Fried Ice Cream Roll
Stir-fried ice cream is made by pouring milk on a chilled pan. It is a common dessert in South East Asia, typically in Thailand. The milk is mixed with other toppings for example fruits, chocolate, they are then being stirred and rolled on the chilled pan.
10Iranian Bastani Akbar Mashti
Akbar Mashti was an enterprising young man who created this recipe back in the 1920s. It’s a blend of crunchy pistachios, heady rose water, and fragrant saffron. The texture is stretchier than regular ice cream because the powdered root of wild orchid (Orchis mascula) or salep is used in the custard. Salep is sold in packets in Middle Eastern shops. In Iran, the ice cream is scooped in between two delicate, almost transparent, rice wafers – like a sandwich.
Faloodeh is a Persian sorbet made of thin vermicelli noodles frozen with corn starch, rose water, lime juice, and often ground pistachios. It is a traditional dessert in Iran and Afghanistan. It was brought to the Indian subcontinent during the Mughal period. Faloodeh is one of the earliest forms of frozen desserts, having existed as early as 400 BC. Ice was brought down from high mountains and stored in tall refrigerated buildings called yakhchals, which were kept cool by windcatchers.
12Israeli Halva Ice Cream
Halva is a sweet candy-like treat made from sesame seeds mashed into a sugar-and-honey paste, which is common in many Israeli dishes. On a hot day in Tel Aviv, cooling off with Halva ice cream is a popular pastime.
13Japanese Mochi Ice Cream
This frozen treat fuses “the most American of treats (ice cream) and the most Japanese of desserts (mochi)” into an international taste sensation. The frozen sweet consists of golf-ball-sized mochi (sticky rice pounded into a soft texture) with an ice-cream filling in flavors like green tea and red bean. This popular Asian-American fusion dessert can be found in grocery stores all over the world.
Sorbetes is a Philippine version for common ice cream usually peddled from carts that roam streets in the Philippines. It is also commonly called 'dirty ice cream' because it is sold along the streets exposing it to pollution and that the factory where it comes from is usually unknown; though it is not really "dirty" as the name implies. It is usually served with a small wafer or sugar cones and recently, bread buns.
If you want to piss off an Italian, call gelato “ice cream.” While the two are quite similar in their deliciousness, gelato is typically denser and milkier than traditional ice cream. Gelato also contains less fat than ice cream, since it uses more milk than cream.
16Philippine Cheese Ice Cream
Two comfort foods mix in this classic Filipino dessert, cheese ice cream. Once sold only by street vendors, today it’s crafted with real cheddar cheese by the brand Magnolia and sold in grocery stores all over the Philippines.
17Spanish Limón Helado
In Spain, Limón Helado is a very traditional dessert which is consumed during Christmas. Some consume it stuffed inside a lemon and others use champagne glasses.
18Swedish Salty Licorice
In Stockholm, at a shop called Glasshus, you can get this charcoal colored ice cream concoction. It’s super salty, and the black licorice flavor is very strong.
19Scottish Haggis Ice Cream
Mackie’s of Scotland created their specialty, a haggis-laced custard with swirls of marmalade, in honor of Burns Day. The January 25 holiday celebrates the Scottish poet Robert Burns, who is most well-known writing the poem that became the classic New Year’s song Auld Lang Syne. Less well-known, however, might be Burns’s “Address to a Haggis.” As a tribute, suppers during Burns Day include a reading of the poem and, of course, a main course of the sheep’s stomach stuffed with suet, oatmeal, and offal.
20Philippines Crocodile Egg Ice Cream
In Davo City, Philippines, you can try crocodile egg ice cream. According to the shop owner, crocodile eggs are lower in cholesterol than chicken eggs. So believe it or not, this is a healthier choice.
21Japanese Pit Viper Ice Cream
This ice-cream features ground up snake. Pit vipers are a real problem in Japan, with some 2,000 to 3,000 people every year bitten by the venomous mamushi and Okinawan habu snakes. Unfortunately for the snakes, they're also regarded by the Japanese as an aphrodisiac and have consequently found themselves offered up in both ice cream and even alcohol. It is said to taste like almonds and garlic.
22Maine Lobster Ice-Cream
The one and only lobster ice cream originated from a shop in Bar Harbor, Maine, that offered the buttered crustacean as a flavor to prove to its customers that all of its ice cream was homemade.
23Japanese Squid Ink Ice Cream
Squid ink is the main ingredient in this “tasty” treat, popular in seaside towns along the Japanese coastlines. Perhaps the disconcerting thing about squid ink ice cream is that it's jet black. The taste has been described as sweet, salty, fishy and alarmingly metallic.
24Missourian Cicada Ice Cream
With plenty of recipes online for consuming cicadas, it makes sense that the large insect would also find its way into ice cream. Back in 2011, one such parlor in the Midwest decided to offer its customers just that – complete with cicada wings as a garnish. Apparently, people loved it, saying that they tasted like peanuts. You'll get your next opportunity to try it in 2024 when the next batch of cicadas emerges to become ice cream.
Turkish Dondurma Ice Cream is resistant to melting and is so stretchy that you can skip with it. Dondurma typically includes the ingredients cream, whipped cream, salep, mastic, and sugar. It is believed to originate from the city and region of Maraş and hence also known as Maraş ice cream.