Ice cream is a classic dessert yet you can look to make it even more decadent with some extravagant toppings. That may be a serving of sauce or some chopped-up cookies, peanut butter cups, or simply a handful of chopped nuts.
Ice cream toppings can even take you back to your childhood if you were served strawberry sauce as a kid or enjoyed hot fudge over your ice cream sundae. Whichever one you choose, you can even make the toppings at home.
In this guide, we will look at the best ice cream toppings and provide over ten for you to choose from. There will also be a bonus section dedicated to natural ingredients.
1. Hot Fudge
Of course, you should expect to find hot fudge as an option in any ice cream shop yet you can make your own to serve at home.
Heat up some sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips while stirring constantly. Once melted, remove from the heat, stir in butter, and when it comes together you can store it in a jar.
A rich caramel sauce can work wonders with ice cream as it seems so subtle but adds decadence. It can be runny but it will almost certainly be sweet so try it with more rustic flavors that need sweetening up.
To make it yourself, heat up butter, milk, and brown sugar to a boil then remove from the heat and add vanilla extract then allow to cool.
If you thought that caramel sauce was rich enough then wait until it is salted. While hot fudge stands alone, salted caramel has become a more popular topping in recent times.
You could even make it yourself by heating up sugar until it melts and darkens into an amber color.
Remove from the heat and add butter then gradually add cream and salt, you can even create a batch of the stuff to bring it out when you want to jazz up some desserts or throw it into a coffee.
Just like marshmallows, you will need some unflavored gelatin, sugar, light corn syrup, salt, and vanilla extract to make melted marshmallow sauce. You should use a candy thermometer too to ensure you get the right consistency.
If you are looking to add another indulgent texture to your ice cream then opt for whipped cream simply by whipping up some heavy cream with sugar, and vanilla extract.
This might not be as thick as the ice cream scoop yet it can work really well to house your other toppings.
That may mean some chopped nuts, or maybe act as a buffer with a pouring of hot chocolate sauce. Then again, you could simply add a Maraschino cherry for that showy touch.
There should be an element of caution when using chocolate sauce, simply because it is so rich as it comes from heavy milk and chocolate chips. If you have an understated ice cream flavor then it can dominate your taste buds.
While it remains deliciously silky, you should opt for a hot serving. That could prove problematic as the sauce melts the ice cream before you really have had a chance to enjoy it, even then it stands up for taste alone.
There is a good chance that most of us have had strawberry sauce on our ice cream, most likely at a young age.
It is such a vibrant topping and it simply looks great when drizzled over ice cream though you can make it from strawberries, lemon juice, and granulated sugar.
There is a gooey and sticky texture, though you may also see a few strawberry seeds in there. The flavor works too as it deviates from the sweet to the tart and back again so can be mellowed out with vanilla ice cream.
8. Magic Shell
Nobody quite knows why the Magic Shell works so well. It is most likely the rich chocolate but maybe it is the sharp contrast of the snap of the chocolate with the smooth ice cream.
That snap comes from coconut oil which is creamy at room temperature yet freezes once it comes into contact with ice cream.
That produces a more than satisfying noise when you break it and with that rich chocolate flavor, it is a topping well worth seeking out.
Sprinkles can seem quite childish yet therein lies the appeal. They do not add much for taste yet they do come with a welcome crunch.
The main reason for having sprinkles on ice cream is simply to make it look good and there is not a lot wrong with that. For a classic serving, opt for rainbow sprinkles and you can make your own with your choice of food colorings.
As you should be aware, Cookies and Cream is one of the most popular flavors of ice cream, particularly in the US. That’s because the flavor of crushed Oreo cookies works so well with vanilla ice cream.
If you want to take the combination even further, add crushed Oreo cookies and the crunch of the cookie with the candy-esque filling is a topping you can return to again and again.
You could even make an Oreo Ice Cream Cake though you may just as well blitz some Oreo cookies in a food processor.
11. Cookie Dough
Yes, you can buy cookie dough in a tube from the store yet you can make it too. Basically, create the dough as you would normally with flour, brown sugar, white sugar, softened butter, vanilla extract, and water.
Mix until well blended, use some with ice cream or simply bake some cookies with it.
By adding some Peanut Butter Cups, you are taking your ice cream to a whole new level. There’s the moreish peanut butter filling and the soft chocolate so you may want to cut up a few cups.
The richness of the topping can enhance a relatively sedate flavor so try not to get it to compete with something too rich. After all, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
You could even make Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cups that have the chocolate topping but the filling is peanut butter ice cream.
Bonus Section: Natural Toppings
Some of these toppings can seem a bit much, a bit overwhelming. If you want your toppings to be more natural then take your pick between chopped nuts, fruit pieces, and honey.
Some roasted nuts can really add some well-earned crunch to a spoonful of ice cream. This works ideally with an ice cream serving that is naturally smooth as you do not want too many textures to deal with.
Plus, if the nuts are salted already then it can provide a flavor boost. Hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, and pistachios can be notably subtle though peanuts, almonds, and cashews can add new depths to your dessert.
There is a somewhat old-fashioned element to having chopped nuts on ice cream that it seems to be a staple offering.
You can even combine the chopped nuts with other toppings, notably chocolate or strawberry sauce yet it can still work well just on its own.
To perhaps offset the indulgent nature of the creamy dessert, add some fresh fruit to your ice cream. This is typically berries that can add a range of flavors to complement your chosen scoop.
Try cut-up strawberries, whole blueberries, raspberries, or even blackberries. A spoonful of fruit jelly also goes really well with ice cream and you can choose from some bold flavors.
As well as being a syrupy consistency, you can expect some deep flavors. Alternatively, if you want fruit with a bit of pizzazz, try a Maraschino cherry to dot on top of your ice cream.
As far as natural ingredients go, they do not come much more natural than honey. The nectar can bring an enviable sweetness to a serving of ice cream so try to opt for more nuanced flavors like vanilla or pistachio.
There does need to be some thought put into what to top your ice cream with. A lot of toppings can come with their own flavors so a lot would work with a subtle flavor like vanilla or pistachio.
However, if you have a more prominent flavor like chocolate or salted caramel, you can look to double up with the same sauce or simply opt for a more natural topping like chopped nuts or fruit.
Frequently Asked Questions
It should come as little surprise that chocolate sauce remains the most popular sauce to have as an ice cream topping. However, chopped nuts and sprinkles remain the most popular dry topping to put on ice cream.
If you are going all out for an ice cream sundae, you may already have a hot fudge or chocolate sauce involved.
The best toppings for ice cream sundaes are varied but should include mini marshmallows, Maraschino cherries, chocolate chips, and chocolate pretzels.