Raid Your Grocery Store for These 10 Smart, Unexpected Ice Cream Toppings

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Andrea D’Agosto)

I have a weakness for ice cream that reaches its peak in the summertime, but the ice cream itself is only the half of it: I am a sucker for great toppings. Even as an adult, I insist on chocolate sprinkles when I visit my local ice cream shop because I am convinced they make the ice cream better.

But what if you have outgrown sprinkles, and are hungry for something new and a little crazy to dress your ice cream sundae? Your humble grocery store is a treasure trove of delightful toppings, and I am not talking about hot fudge sauce and maraschino cherries.

We dug into every aisle of the grocery store to find the ultimate ice cream toppings. Consider it an excuse to eat more ice cream this summer, because I know I am.

(Image credit: Andrea D’Agosto)

The ice cream flavors we call out for each topping are merely suggestions, so don’t hesitate to experiment with others you know and love — and certainly don’t feel like you need a recipe for any of this. Building ice cream sundaes is knowledge your brain (but more likely, your stomach) is born with.

1. Olive Oil + Sliced Peaches

Olive oil on dessert, you ask? Yes, please trust us on this one. Just a drizzle of the fruity oil adds a welcomed savory note to classic peaches and cream. But this isn’t the time to pull out the jug used for everyday cooking. Instead, reach for a small bottle of high-quality extra-virgin olive oil that’s best used for finishing.

2. Smashed Caramel Corn

Caramel and chocolate have always been the best of friends, and here’s more proof. Crush a big handful and sprinkle it over a big bowl of chocolate ice cream to achieve the perfect balance of sweet, sticky, and crunchy.

(Image credit: Andrea D’Agosto)

3. Chopped Salted Pistachios + Fig Jam

This combination is simple sophistication at its finest.

Fig jam

4. Tahini + Maple

Forget peanut butter sauce. Instead, pour some tahini in a bowl, stir in a good spoonful of maple syrup, and you’ve got an alternative that’s not only surprising, but also satisfying, thanks to the salty-sweet combination. It’s awesome on vanilla, but also pretty fabulous on coffee or chocolate.

5. Balsamic-Soaked Strawberries

Balsamic vinegar actually helps bring out the sweetness of strawberries — the combination is a classic Italian pairing. Toss sliced strawberries with a little balsamic and pile the mixture high on strawberry ice cream for summer in a bowl.

6. Crushed Pretzels + Caramel Sauce

Caramel and chocolate strike again, but this time pretzels want to get in on the action. And who can blame them, really, since their salty crunch makes the situation that much more interesting?

7. Marshmallow Fluff + Peanut Butter

Celebrate the kid in you with this twist on the classic sandwich. First, spoon a big dollop of fluff over your ice cream. Then warm a little peanut butter in the microwave for 10 seconds to make it pourable, and pour it right on top of the fluff. It probably doesn’t need to be said that chocolate ice cream loves this combination as well as vanilla, but we’ll say it anyway.

8. Crushed Cheetos

Maybe you haven’t eaten Cheetos since elementary school or maybe you shamelessly bought a bag from the vending machine yesterday afternoon. Either way, let’s talk about how they’re an unexpected winner on ice cream. This is one of those weird food combinations you might not want to tell your friends about, but at the same time you do because the salty-sweet mash-up deserves to be shared.

9. Canned Apple Pie Filling

Think of this as a reverse apple pie à la mode — minus the pie crust. It’s a whole lot simpler than the classic version, too, since you don’t actually have to go and bake a pie. We highly recommend warming up the filling before pouring it over your ice cream for optimum enjoyment.

10. Molasses + Chili Powder

Molasses is all too often forgot about in a world of honey and maple syrup, which is a shame, because its deep, dark, slightly bitter flavor shouldn’t be missed. Drizzle a little over sweet chocolate ice cream, followed by just a dusting of spicy chili powder, and it will likely be the most complex sundae you’ve ever had — and that’s a good thing.

What’s your favorite unexpected topping for ice cream?