After hearing rave reviews from the “Get Up On This” podcast, as well as my co-worker/food blogger Stacia, Neil and I decided to try out Halo Top ice cream. By some devilish manipulation of nature, this ice cream reportedly packs about a quarter of the calories of decadent ice creams like Ben & Jerry’s, without tasting like sad ice juice.
I was worried Halo Top was made out of Real Housewife tears and carcinogens, but I was pleasantly surprised by its simple ingredient label. Classic ingredients like milk, cream and eggs join up with trendy health goddess ingredients like erythritol and prebiotic fiber to deliver a concoction low in sugar and high in protein. Apparently, it’s healthy enough that GQ writer Shane Snow lived off of it exclusively for 10 days straight, with the green light from a dietitian.
Once I tried a couple flavors, I knew I had found my next official tasting subject. 17 flavors and $102 later, here is my final ranking. Keep in mind that taste is subjective. If you wildly disagree, feel free to leave your counter-ranking in the comments.
1. Red Velvet
This flavor is rich, sweet and delicious, and contains little brownie chunks. It doesn’t need to, but it does. Totally worth the extra 30 calories.
2. Black Cherry
Black cherry is a real dark horse ice cream flavor. I almost never remember it exists, but when the option for it is on the table, I almost always take it. This rendition is as good as any black cherry ice cream you’d wait in line for on a hot day.
This was the first Halo Top I tried, and it was enough to convince me to hand the brand at least $6 every week for the rest of my life. It’s great on its own, but also perfect for topping with raspberries and whipped cream.
I don’t know if I would ever have picked up this flavor if I wasn’t doing this ranking. I like s’mores, kind of, but they remind me of Girl Scout Camp and I find marshmallows gross. This ice cream flavor didn’t pay off too much on my idea of s’mores, which is good for me but may be bad for others. Instead, it is dotted with dark chocolate chips and has a rich, graham cracker taste that is absolutely delicious. It feels kind of adult and sophisticated for some reason, which is the opposite of a typical, gooey s’mores ice cream.
5. Peanut Butter Cup
Chocolate peanut butter ice cream is my favorite, so I had high hopes for this flavor of Halo Top. Its base has a rich peanut butter flavor, and it actually surprises you with the occasional chunk of frozen peanut butter. Delicious.
6. Birthday Cake
If I was ranking Halo Top flavors in order of FUN, this one would be number one. The flavor is perfect, without being sickly sweet like what you’d get at Cold Stone Creamery. Plus it has sprinkles. That said, it’s a bit too abstracted from actual food for me to eat on a regular basis.
7. Oatmeal Cookie
I would never pick this flavor out myself. It just sounds kinda grandma-ish. That said, Neil and I were both pleasantly surprised by it. The oatmeal chunks gave it some real bite, which was delicious. At first I thought it was shredded coconut. It also has a nice cinnamon flavor, making me think it would be delicious on apple pie.
8. Lemon Cake
I expected to hate this flavor, as lemon ice cream makes me think of those sour sorbet ice things that were temporarily cool in the 90’s. This flavor, however, is much creamier and richer. Think lemon merengue pie. It goes great with a dollop of whipped cream.
9. Chocolate Mocha Chip
I got suuuuuper sick of coffee-flavored ice cream by overdosing on Caribou popsicles as a kid and haven’t looked back since. I was pleasantly surprised by the mocha chip flavor, which offers a rich chocolate depth.
10. Sea Salt Caramel
If I were, say, making this whole review up out of my head instead of diligently eating my way through 17 pints of ice cream, I may have put this as #1. I love sea salt caramel ice cream, especially from Izzy’s. Halo Top’s sea salt caramel ice cream is in no way bad—it’s quite delicious. That said, I would pick Peanut Butter Cup over it any day since they look almost the same and taste similar, except for PBC contains chunks of peanut butter. The fact that there is something else similar, and better, than Sea Salt Caramel caused it to careen down to number ten.
This flavor reminded me of enjoying pink milk at the State Fair as a kid. It’s sweet, innocent and surprisingly rich. I probably wouldn’t buy it often, but I would never say no to it.
12. Chocolate Almond Crunch
I almost published this review a few days ago and then realized I had forgotten this flavor. I managed to find it at Lund’s and try it stat. I found it a bit too rich in flavor extract taste, but loved the toasted almonds. Neil liked the flavor but hated the almond bits. The most divisive flavor? Maybe! The most forgettable? Probably.
13. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Another classic ice cream flavor that is easy to mess up. I bought this flavor and S’mores at the same time and expected to prefer this one. I was wrong. While it is tasty, it is more basic than many other Halo Top flavors, and it does not pack enough actual chunks of cookie dough.
I saved this one until the end because vanilla isn’t my fave. If I’m going to have vanilla ice cream, I would generally prefer soft serve. Then at least it has a yogurt-y tartness. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by vanilla Halo Top. It has little flecks of vanilla bean inside of it, making it already feel more authentic than most varieties. It does have a bit too rich of an extract taste, but it went very well with the raspberries and pomegranate seeds I topped it with. It would be perfect for adding to a pie or cake as well.
Once, I watched a nature documentary about monkeys breaking into a sweets shop to steal a bunch of pistachio bars and then immediately went in search of pistachio ice cream. Those monkeys were NOT wrong about pistachio desserts being tasty. I’m glad Halo Top has a pistachio flavor, and it is a solid one. That said, it contains no pistachio chunks, which makes it hard to compete with some of Halo Top’s other, better flavors.
16. Mint Chip
I’m usually a major mint chip ice cream fan, but this one is not my favorite. First of all, it’s not green. Would it have been so hard to make it green? I once made mint chip ice cream using nothing but bananas, mint, cacao nibs and coconut milk, and it was green. Secondly, it only has like five chips. On a positive note, it is light and refreshing. I might call it a more “culinary” take on mint chip.
17. Cookies & Cream
This flavor is last, but not least. While it is a solid cookies & cream option, it had too much of a certain flavor that Neil and I both noticed. It reminded me of when I tried substituting rum extract for vanilla extract. There’s a rich, odd boozines to it.
In the process, we noticed a couple things universal to Halo Top:
You need to leave it out for 15 minutes or so before eating it. Just take it out while you’re eating dinner and it will be ready by the time you’re done.
Every flavor of Halo Top is better than most store-brought ice creams. The flavors that I ranked last I still liked quite a bit, and will probably still buy. Halo Top costs around $6 per pint, and it is a premium product, not just a healthier option. The flavor is more culinary and adult than most ice creams, and is worth the extra $$.
The ice creams you like best for the chunks will not be your favorite Halo Top flavors. Think about why you like your favorite kind of ice cream. Is it because of the texture of what you bite into? If this is what you’re looking for, Halo Top’s answer to it may not live up your expectation. Part of how they keep the calories down and ingredients clean is by eliminating the chunks of cookie dough, nuts or syrup. They’re still present in many flavors, but in much, much smaller amounts. That said, the flavors you don’t expect to have texture/chunks sometimes do, and these got especially high rankings from me.
The ingredients in different flavors vary quite a bit. While overall the label is clean and simple, double check if you have any food sensitivities. Red Velvet, for example, is not gluten-free.
I hope this review helped you navigate the chilly shelves of Halo Top you’re sure to encounter soon!