From salty bacon and potato chips to spicy peppers and fruity olive oil, these savory ice cream toppings (and mix-ins) are unconventional but delicious.
Now that it’s summer, you’ve probably been chowing down on a lot of ice cream (dairy-free or otherwise). But maybe you’ve had your fair share of chocolate or vanilla. Or even if you’ve experimented with more complex flavors (strawberry cheesecake ice cream, anyone?), maybe you want something a little less…sweet.
Savory desserts are always a tricky, seemingly oxymoronic proposition, but now you can have it both ways. Whether you like salt, spice, or anything in between, here are some unexpected ways to elevate your ice cream game, whether you’re making ice cream or buying a pint. Add an extra kick to your next sundae with these unconventional toppings.
Let’s start with a basic topping, one that you probably have sitting in your kitchen cabinets already—pretzels. They’re a great way to add a salty crunch to any sundae. Pretzels work particularly well with salted caramel, chocolate, and/or peanut butter ice cream as they give the sweetness an extra dimension.
Fresh herbs are a summer staple. But beyond the standard salads and sandwiches they’re typically used in, they can also be used with dessert. Basil is especially versatile and pairs best with lemon ice cream, giving it a fragrant, peppery punch that complements citrus particularly well.
This may be the least-familiar item on this list, but moringa ice cream is definitely an intriguing option. A so-called superfood, moringa powder boasts a bunch of health benefits, and has an earthy, spicy flavor—but in this recipe, rich coconut milk and avocado help smooth it out, while sugar sweetens the deal and mint and lime juice keep things fresh.
Banyan Botanicals Moringa Leaf Powder (1/2 lb), $17.94 on Amazon
Play around with this nutritious green powder and reap all the benefits.
Booze up your ice cream with bourbon. The liquor lends a biting edge that’s perfect for a more adult take on malts, milkshakes, and floats. Get our Bourbon Stout Milkshake recipe and see for yourself. Or just pour a shot over a sundae and call it a day.
Elevate your ice cream with a smoky hint of bacon. Add a drizzle of maple syrup to keep with the breakfast theme. Check out this bacon sundae recipe for the perfect way to top off your brunch. And be sure to see our tips for perfect crisp bacon every time.
Sesame & Tahini
Sesame has a deeply savory flavor but is great used in desserts—just look to ancient favorite halvah as an example. You can incorporate that roasty, slightly bitter flavor into your ice cream in various ways: Top your ice cream with the aforementioned halvah or swirl tahini (ground sesame paste) into the mix, or just use toasted sesame seeds or sesame brittle as a garnish. Whole Foods even has a Coconut Black Sesame ice cream flavor, so you can pick up a pint of that for your next sundae.
Related Reading: We Ranked the Best New Whole Foods 365 Ice Cream Flavors
If you can’t get enough of spicy flavors, try adding hot pepper on top of your ice cream. We’re partial to habanero paired with vanilla and pineapple sauce. But if you want something with a little more zing, use chili powder, which is best paired with chocolate.
Related Reading: An Illustrated Guide to Peppers
For a truly tongue-tingling treat, you can also try spooning chili oil or chili crisp over vanilla. Use a store-bought brand, or make this Homemade Chili Oil recipe with what’s in your pantry right now.
Try breaking up potato chips for extra salt and crunch, or if you’re feeling especially hungry, just scoop globs of ice cream and chocolate syrup onto individual chips. Think of it as dessert nachos.
This one might sound completely strange and unnecessary, but some people swear by it. By coating ice cream with a couple teaspoons of olive oil, preferably that of the extra virgin variety and a high-quality offering with distinctive fruity or peppery notes, you get a slick, rich texture and inspired taste. Add a pinch of sea salt and you will never think of vanilla as boring or plain ever again.
Related Video: How to Make Easy Mason Jar Ice Cream