8 Chains That Serve the Best Vanilla Ice Cream
Whether it's because of the delicious simplicity or massive nostalgia, Americans are absolutely infatuated with vanilla ice cream. In a survey from data research company YouGov last year, more respondents said they liked vanilla ice cream than any other ice cream flavor. The fact that consumers still love vanilla even when so many other creative flavors are available is a testament to just how popular it is.
Luckily for all of the vanilla lovers in this country, it's almost impossible to walk into an ice cream shop or fast-food chain without finding a version of the beloved flavor. And some chains are going above and beyond by crafting ultra-flavorful and creamy vanilla scoops.
From fast-food brands to artisanal ice cream companies, here are the eight chains that serve the absolute best vanilla ice cream.
Andy's Frozen Custard
Andy's serves up frozen treats that are a step above what you'll find at many ice cream shops. That's because the chain's specialty isn't actually ice cream, but frozen custard.
For the uninitiated, frozen custard is an ultra-creamy and luxurious frozen treat that's richer than ice cream thanks to the addition of egg yolks. Andy's take on classic vanilla frozen custard is a combination of cream, sugar, vanilla extract, "and a few other trade secrets." So while eating frozen custard isn't technically good for you, you can head to Andy's with the confidence that you'll get something simple, high-quality, and tasty, whenever you decide to indulge.
You can enjoy the frozen vanilla custard as is, of course. But if you wanted to elevate your dessert even more, consider ordering one of Andy's concretes or sundaes that pair that creamy vanilla custard with craveworthy flavors and toppings.
Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
Customers who walk into one of the scoop shops from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams might be distracted by all of the other creative, crave-worthy flavors like Gooey Buttercake and Brown Butter Almond Brittle. But if you're on the hunt for some simple yet top-tier vanilla ice cream, fans say that Jeni's version is a cut above the rest.
Jeni's Honey Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is made with thoughtfully sourced ingredients like fair-trade vanilla beans, grass-grazed milk from small Ohio dairies, and a touch of honey from a family-owned farm in Ohio. The result is a vanilla ice cream that's just a little more complex and high-quality than what most people are probably used to.
"As far as straight vanilla ice cream goes, this is well above average," a customer wrote in a review on Jeni's website.
Jeni's has expanded to more than 65 ice cream shops throughout the country since the first store opened in 2022. If you're not lucky enough to live near one of those locations, you can also find Jeni's ice creams in many grocery store freezer sections.
The name Oberweis may not ring many bells for many people outside the Midwest. But if you love vanilla ice cream—or any ice cream, for that matter—this regional dairy company should be on your bucket list.
All of the ice cream at Oberweis has the coveted "super premium" designation, which means that the ice cream is denser, creamier, and higher quality than stuff with lower grades. While the chain has a ton of great flavors to choose from, the classic vanilla will always be a standout. It's made in small batches using Madagascar bourbon vanilla, sugar, and fresh cream, then served up to hungry customers at one of Oberweis' many scoop shops throughout the Midwest.
Andy's isn't the only chain that serves up some great frozen vanilla custard. That creamy, luxurious dessert is also a menu standout at the Midwestern burger chain Culver's.
A major part of Culver's food philosophy is only using fresh, high-quality ingredients. So the beef for its famous Butterburgers is never frozen, and the fresh dairy for its creamy frozen vanilla custard comes from family farms. Additionally, the custard is churned on-site and in small batches at Culver's restaurants throughout the day. This means that customers don't have to worry about sacrificing quality or freshness just because they're eating at a fast-food joint.
You can grab a plain scoop of this frozen custard plain in a dish or cone. Or, you can up the indulgence factor by ordering one of the blended Concrete Mixers, sundaes, or shakes that feature the vanilla custard.
Van Leeuwen defies the notion that vanilla ice cream has to be basic or boring. The New York brand's classic Vanilla Bean French Ice Cream gets its signature flavor from ground Tahitian vanilla beans for an intense vanilla flavor. The ice cream itself is also very high-quality and only made with a few simple ingredients like milk, cream, cane sugar, egg yolks, and salt. So, if you order yourself one of these vanilla scoops, you can be confident that you're getting something thoughtfully made and worth the calories.
If you're not close enough to one of Van Leeuwen's 40-plus ice cream shops in New York, New Jersey, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, and Texas, not all is lost. The brand's ice cream is also available in many grocery stores and the company ships nationwide.
Häagen-Dazs is one of the most iconic ice cream chains in the country, so it's no surprise that this brand has a great classic vanilla ice cream.
The beauty of Häagen-Dazs' vanilla ice cream is its simplicity. The flavor only features five total ingredients: cream, milk, eggs, sugar, and Madagascar vanilla. According to customers, this no-fuss philosophy makes for some of the best vanilla ice cream that money can buy.
"The vanilla is pure heaven in my book on its own or over the cobbler my wife makes. It has a luscious texture and a great mouth feel," a customer wrote in a review on the brand's website.
The secret behind Shake Shake's namesake milkshakes? While only the company truly knows the answer to that question, the fact that it uses frozen custard in its shakes has to be part of the equation.
Shake Shack keeps it simple with its frozen custard lineup, only offering chocolate and vanilla. Still, that frozen vanilla custard is a step above other vanilla ice creams because of the extra creamy, luxurious texture, and the fact that it is made in house every single day.
You can grab a scoop of this indulgent frozen dessert as is, or have your nearest Shake Shack blend it into one of the chain's popular shakes.
Salt & Straw
While Salt & Straw may be best known for its more creative and outrageous flavors like Pear & Blue Cheese and Arbequina Olive Oil, this ice cream chain also put a lot of thought into developing its Double Fold Vanilla ice cream.
The name of this ice cream was inspired by the double-strength vanilla extract that Salt & Straw uses from a brand called Singing Dog Vanilla. That double-strength extract is made with twice as many vanilla beans as usual, giving Salt & Straw's vanilla ice cream an extra potent vanilla flavor. The strong vanilla flavor gets paired with Salt & Straw's simple yet high quality ice cream, which is extra creamy and rich thanks to an especially high butterfat content.
Salt & Straw currently has more than 20 ice cream shops across the country, but the chain also delivers nationwide for the customers who aren't close enough to one of those stores.