I heard on Clark Howard a few weeks ago that Consumer Reports claimed that Costco has the best widely available vanilla ice cream. That seemed like a worthwhile thing to test, especially with another niece coming to visit for her Golden Ticket trip. So we collected several big brands and the three of us tried them (several times).
Publix Vanilla Flavored Lowfat: The perennial purchase in our household. Easily the cheapest option and most healthy/least deadly. It has a more icey and less creamy texture but that is to be expected with the reduction in fat. All three of us agree that the flavor is very nice. I can tell you from years of experience, if you are going to mix stuff like chocolate syrup, peanut butter, mint, etc. into vanilla ice cream, this is a great one to use.
Breyers French Vanilla: Very airy. This was the one we got as kids when we wanted the good stuff. It doesn’t hold up against the others. No bad tastes, but no great ones either. I may actually slightly prefer the Publix to this but that would be splitting hairs.
Blue Bell Natural Vanilla Bean: Outstanding. Both Melanie and I picked this as our favorite. I never noticed how good it was eating it by itself, but it is noticeably better than the rest in a head-to-head comparison. I don’t know if anyone would say it is the best ice cream they ever ate but I think one would be very hard pressed to find a better vanilla.
Häagen-Dazs Gelato Vanilla Bean: I could not find plain vanilla Häagen-Dazs ice cream so I chose this gelato. The three of us would all say that this was a high-quality product with a “good” taste, but it is an unusual taste, almost like a vanilla pie if that existed. My niece and I really enjoyed it but Melanie’s mouth was expecting vanilla ice cream and would not accept it.
Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla: I would have been much more amazed if this one didn’t do well. As you can see from the chart all three palettes thought this one was great and is probably the safest choice if you want to please a lot of people. Great flavor and great texture. For Melanie and I, I think Blue Bell probably just has a bit more flavor and this one is a bit more plain.
Kirkland Super Premium Vanilla Ice Cream: …and finally the pretender to the throne and catalyst for this article. Can the Costco store brand beat the rest? In our test, not even a chance. There is no question that this one is the very creamiest and has a nice vanilla flavor, but it comes with a nasty surprise – an aftertaste of mothballs. I don’t know if we just got a bad batch but I really noticed this while the other two testers didn’t. I’ve since gone back and tried this cream on its own on different days with the same yucky results. One of our testers gave this her second place choice while I would not ever choose this ice cream again, so there is wide room flavor interpretation apparently.
To summarize, Blue Bell is the winner of our tiny sample size test but Ben & Jerry’s is the safest bet if you are looking for excellence. If you want to try something different and potentially delicious, get the Häagen-Dazs Gelato. For day-to-day eating, it is really hard to beat Publix lowfat for cost and health.
Now maybe you’d like to pair this ice cream with the best brownies?
Click here for the best brownie mix as well as the best homemade recipe.
Maybe this talk of ice cream inspires you to make your own? We have some no-hassle recipes.
Click here for the best homemade vanilla and our favorite combo creams.
Click here for the best homemade chocolate ice cream.