Ever wondered which brand has the best chocolate ice cream flavor? So did my wife and me. To settle the argument, we filled our freezer with six different brands of chocolate ice cream you can pick up at the supermarket. In a blind tasting, we stacked them up against each other to find the best. We invited my in-laws as well. We're looking for creaminess, texture, and how much it reminds us of real cocoa (obviously). We were surprised at how different each ice cream was! Let's take a look at the competition.
We reviewed four classic chocolate ice creams: Breyers Chocolate, Häagen-Dazs Chocolate, Blue Bell Dutch Chocolate, and Kroger's Private Selection Chocolate. We have two somewhat odd-ducks in the form of Häagen-Dazs Belgian Chocolate, and Talenti Double Dark. Both have chunks of chocolate and our taste test revealed the Talenti even had Vermouth as an ingredient. We decided it would be interesting to see how they compared to plain chocolate and kept them in the test.
Blue Bell Dutch Chocolate
Blue Bell is a family owned Texas creamery. When I moved to Texas 5 years ago, it quickly became clear there's some state-wide pride surrounding Blue Bell. A lot of pride! Despite being sold in a limited number of states, Blue Bell is the fourth highest-selling ice cream brand in the United States as a whole. It must be doing something right. Does it hold up in a blind taste test though? We're testing Dutch Chocolate. The ingredient list looks like this: Milk, Cream, Skim Milk, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cocoa (processed with Alkali), Cellulose Gum, Guar Gum, Carrageenan Gum, Carob Bean Gum, Salt.
We all agreed Blue Bell Dutch Chocolate has a very creamy texture. By no means is it trying to be a dark, sophisticated-tasting chocolate. I think it's actually way too light on the chocolate flavor altogether. Blue Bell Dutch Chocolate tastes almost icy. Any chocolate flavor disappears quickly with each bite. You could probably eat a whole tub of this and still not satisfy your chocolate craving. My mother-in-law said it reminded her of a Wendy's frosty, which we all agreed with. Blue Bell Chocolate is a very mild, malty ice cream with a pleasant texture.
In the past, Breyers was known for producing ice cream with a small number of all-natural ingredients. In recent years, their reputation has taken a hit with consumers. Parent company Unilever has reformulated many of its flavors with nontraditional, additive ingredients, significantly changing the taste and texture. I only learned about this while writing this article, but based on the ingredients list, I can't say that's true for the chocolate ice cream. The ingredient list is one of the shortest in this test: Milk, Cream, Sugar, Dutched Cocoa (processed with Alkali), Whey, Tara Gum, Natural Flavor.
Breyers Chocolate is the darkest ice cream in our test. Not necessarily a sign of a dark flavor but in this case it definitely is; The ice cream has a rich chocolate flavor. Something real chocolate fans like myself would appreciate! It's the least sweet in our test (also something I appreciate), but by no means bitter. The chocolate flavor also lingers longer. As for the texture, Breyer's Chocolate is the right level of creamy. It's easy to scoop without melting within a few minutes. The whole family enjoyed this.
Häagen-Dazs ice cream holds the distinction of being one of the few commercial ice cream brands not to use stabilizers such as guar gum, xanthan gum, or carrageenan. This translates to the shortest ingredient list of any ice cream in our test: Cream, Skim Milk, Sugar, Cocoa (processed with Alkali), Egg Yolks. That's it! Will that result in the best chocolate ice cream flavor? It certainly didn't harm the texture. Often, additives are intended to improve texture but Häagen-Dazs proves you don't need them. We all agreed this was a rich, smooth ice cream. My wife found it slightly gummy. There's a real chocolate taste here, albeit very mild. You can taste fresh milk but we wanted a little more chocolate.
Private Selection Chocolate
Kroger offers its gourmet brands under the Private Selection label. Let's see if that results in a premium chocolate ice cream, shall we? The ingredient list suggests a highly processed product full of additives: Milk, Cream, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Cocoa (processed with Alkali), Whey Protein Concentrate, Propylene Glycol, Monoesters, Guar Gum, Cellulose Gel, Mono- And Diglycerides, Locust Bean Gum, Cellulose Gum, Carrageenan. It's by no means an artisanal ice cream. If you're a conscious shopper that investigates what's in the stuff you buy, you would probably stay away from this.
We'd say Private Selection Chocolate is a stubborn ice cream. Stubborn? Yes! It's almost impossible to scoop, yet as soon as it's in a bowl it melts into a pudding in a matter of minutes. The texture is very gummy and you'll be left with a greasy film in your mouth. As far as flavors go, we get an overly-sweet, quite fake chocolate flavor. Just to remind you: This test was blind—we didn't even look at the ingredients until writing this article—but all of us were able to recognize the artificial flavor and highly processed nature of this ice cream.
Häagen-Dazs Belgian Chocolate
Our final two ice creams are a bit different. They have pieces of chocolate mixed in and they don't necessarily want to accomplish a classic chocolate flavor. Let's first look at the ingredients of the Häagen-Dazs Belgian Chocolate: Cream, Skim Milk, Dark Belgian Chocolate, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin, Vanilla. Quite different from the classic Häagen-Dazs Chocolate we also tasted.
We found Häagen-Dazs Belgian Chocolate to be as creamy and smooth as the more traditional Häagen-Dazs Chocolate. The chocolate shavings added a little extra texture, something everyone except my mother-in-law appreciated. Whether or not you're a fan of pieces in your ice cream, Häagen-Dazs brilliantly decided to go with shavings. This makes that the chocolate bits melt right along with the ice cream and don't leave you with a mouthful of bits (something we'll come back to later). We appreciated the strong chocolate flavor (a little surprising, given the lack of chocolate 'oomph' in the other Häagen-Dazs). The dark chocolate shavings make this a winner to us, but they also add a fruity Belgian chocolate flavor. We'd pick this any day over the classic chocolate from the same brand but if you're looking for plain chocolate, this might not be for you.
Talenti Double Dark Chocolate
Our last product is label a gelato on the container. A gelato typically has less fat content than ice cream, uses more milk than cream, and has more eggs (yes, I looked that up). Talenti Double Dark also has Vermouth as one of the ingredients, which we didn't realize when we picked it up for our test. So it wouldn't be fair to include it in a direct comparison with the others. Still, we thought it would be interesting to share our thoughts. Perhaps it will help you decide if you prefer a classic chocolate ice cream or something a little more 'sophisticated'.
Whether you want to call it ice cream or gelato, Talenti Double Dark is easy to scoop and has a great texture. As you would expect (and if you care), it's denser than ice cream. As for flavor: The liquor comes through big-time. To the point where you wonder if this is supposed to taste like this. We felt it almost lacked any chocolate flavor. There are pieces of chocolate mixed in. Unfortunately, they don't add any chocolate flavor. The chocolate bits are relatively large and take a while to melt. Long after the ice cream is gone, you still have a mouthful of chunks. My mother-in-law described it as eating wax. I agree.
The ingredients: Milk, Sugar, Cream, Chocolate, Egg and Egg Yolk, Dextrose, Cocoa (processed with Alkali), Vermouth, Milk Fat, Cocoa Butter, Carob Gum, Chocolate (processed with Alkali), Soy Lecithin, Vanilla Extract. Talenti positions itself as a premium gelato, so you may not know that it's just another Unilever brand.
While Blue Bell and Häagen-Dazs were close in flavor and texture, we found pretty big differences in the ice creams we bought. The Talenti Double Dark Chocolate was by far our least favorite; it's not entirely fair to compare it to classic chocolate ice creams because it's trying to accomplish something else, but Vermouth would be a better name than Double Dark Chocolate to describe the flavor. Kroger's Private Selection landed in the last place. The custardy consistency makes it a stretch to call it ice cream. Its chocolate flavor is intense but very artificial. Pass. Next, we have the Häagen-Dazs Chocolate and Blue Bell Dutch Chocolate. Both have a very mild chocolate flavor but are equally enjoyable to eat, even without a wow-factor. Top picks for my mother-in-law.
So, did we agree on what the best chocolate ice cream flavor is? My wife, father-in-law, and I really enjoyed the flavors that were going on in the Häagen-Dazs Belgian Chocolate. The chocolate shavings added a lot of excitement. My mother-in-law wasn't a fan of the shavings and the flavor is definitely not 'classic chocolate'.That makes Breyers our favorite chocolate ice cream. It has the perfect texture and rich chocolate flavor. We all enjoyed it tremendously. We highly recommend Breyers Chocolate. If you think of yourself as a bit more sophisticated, you should definitely give the Häagen-Dazs Belgian Chocolate a try.
That makes Breyers our favorite chocolate ice cream. It has the perfect texture and a rich chocolate flavor. We all enjoyed it tremendously. We were all surprised when we revealed it. Breyers is the kind of brand I would never pick from all the more exciting sounding, better-marketed brands. Give it a try! If you think of yourself as a bit more sophisticated, you should definitely give the Häagen-Dazs Belgian Chocolate a try.
What's your favorite chocolate ice cream flavor? Let us know in the comments!