We Tasted 9 Vanilla Ice Creams to Find Our Favorite, and the Results Might Surprise You

This taste test proves that vanilla is anything but boring.

vanilla ice cream taste test
Photo: Corinne Mucha/Dotdash Meredith

Be it peach cobbler or blueberry galettes in the summer, an apple pie in the winter, or an anytime birthday cake, vanilla ice cream is the go-to flavor you'll always reach for. And who are we kidding? No excuse even needed for a scoop.

Whether you're dressing it up with fresh cut strawberries, sprinkles, or smashed Oreos (my family's favorite) or keeping it pure, you can't go wrong with a generous helping of the original ice cream flavor.

Vanilla is often thought of as "boring," but I'm declaring that this under-appreciated flavor is anything but basic, and I'm here to prove it. The debate over the superior ice cream (vanilla or chocolate) typically draws some heated opinions, revealing fierce loyalties. Rarely does someone hesitate when asked if they prefer vanilla or chocolate—as if this preference is somehow wired in our DNA.

There are many nuances to the vanilla flavor, and as with anything, everyone has their own opinions (and brands they will ride-or-die for), so some of these results might surprise you—especially for many of you Southerners who claim Blue Bell as the cream of the crop.

How We Tested

Ten of our editors did a blind taste test of nine different store-bought vanilla ice creams to determine which brands are the fan favorites. I pre-scooped the ice cream to ensure no one bias their answers after seeing the container. With the playing field leveled, they tasted and recorded their comments about each brand, ranked each 1 to 5, and picked an overall favorite.

Vanilla Ice Cream Brands We Tried

  • Breyer's Extra Creamy Vanilla
  • Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean
  • Edy's Slow Churned Vanilla
  • Ben & Jerry's Vanilla
  • Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla
  • Walmart Great Value Vanilla
  • Mayfield Vanilla Bean
  • Publix Premium Vanilla
  • Talenti Organic Oak-Aged Vanilla Gelato

The Contenders

Talenti Organic Oak-Aged Vanilla Gelato

This pint boasts of bourbon vanilla and hints of oak that left some of our tasters with herbal, fall-flavor, and almost spicy notes on their palate. This option was marked as a favorite by one tester but ranked last compared to the other vanillas. In my humble opinion, this Talenti didn't get a fair trial due to its' uniqueness of flavor—perhaps less classified as a vanilla.

Edy's Slow Churned Vanilla

Edy's was chosen as a top favorite by two editors but ranked second to last overall. Many testers claimed the vanilla flavor did not taste authentic or that it was too creamy and fluffy for their liking; however, one taster remarked, "It is a good vanilla for not a vanilla person."

Mayfield Vanilla Bean

"This one tastes like what I grew up eating," claimed the taster who boasted Mayfield Vanilla as their favorite. It is fluffy and studded with vanilla specks making it attractive upon first glance; yet it lacks the pure vanilla flavor resulting in a neutral option.

Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla

Ah, the ever-faithful Blue Bell. Where would we be without you? The true fans were put to the test in this blind tasting. As it turns out, the beloved Southern brand wasn't most treasured by anyone, ranking sixth overall. "I know this is Blue Bell from the color, and honestly it's not my favorite," elaborated one editor. Most testers noted it tasted classic with good vanilla flavor and color (but almost too yellow), while one commented, "It is very creamy leaning towards a custard flavor."

Walmart Great Value Vanilla

Almost tying for fourth (and preferred for one editor), the Walmart brand was affirmed to be good on a pie due to its mild flavor and thicker texture. One taster claimed, "It tastes like the base of cookies & cream," which sounds good to me! It's a great option for those who don't like their vanilla too sweet, but still want a creamy texture.

Ben & Jerry's Vanilla

Visually, this ice cream is the purest white, extra creamy, and still touts visible vanilla bean flecks. Coming in fourth, Ben & Jerry's earned remarks that had a more savory than sweet flavor and reminded tasters of soft serve (in a good way). "It tastes like a good summer afternoon," wrote one. This classic done right would be great in a float, topping a slice of pie, or all on its own.

Breyer's Extra Creamy Vanilla

Breyer's is about as classic as it gets. It earned high marks as third (and most popular for one tester), although it didn't secure the title of the favorite vanilla. Testers rated this as a good creaminess with a subtle and standard vanilla that has less vanilla flavor than the Breyer's Natural Vanilla but one they'd eat all day. Also, to be noted, the Breyer's stayed a good consistency while other brands started to melt, making it a great choice if the tub will be sitting out for a while.

Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean

Testers ranked Häagen-Dazs second overall with two editors claiming it as their favorite. One tested noted, "The yellowish, creamier color makes it seem more natural," while another claimed though it has good vanilla flavor, it is not strong enough. The consistency is smooth and tastes old-fashioned.

Drumroll, Please... Our Favorite

Publix Premium Vanilla

Many testers we're shocked when I revealed the Publix Premium Vanilla was ranked as a favorite by half of the crew. With visible flecks of vanilla, "It is the perfect complement to any cake," one editor noted while another claimed, "Spot on vanilla flavor with the perfect texture." Not to mention, for a half-gallon tub, it's quite a good deal.

If this taste test taught me one thing, it's that vanilla is anything but boring. I rediscovered the complexity of vanilla—each of the samples had subtle differences making them distinct and unique. There truly is a vanilla for every occasion.

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