The Best Topping for Ice Cream Sundaes, According to Pastry Chef Christina Tosi

published Jul 15, 2023
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scoops of pistachio ice cream in a white bowl, with two other bowls with the same kind of ice cream next to it, and three silver spoons lying beside the bowls.
Credit: Photo: Eric Kleinberg; Food Stylist: Kristina Vanni

Like many people, Christina Tosi’s love of ice cream sundaes starts with a family tradition. When she was growing up, the award-winning chef, host of Netlix’s Bake Squad, and founder of sweet (and occasionally savory) shop Milk Bar spent Thursday nights at the local Dairy Queen or Baskin Robbins with her family — that is, if she and her siblings had behaved.

“My mom would bring us, and normally wouldn’t order anything; she would wait for us to not finish our cone or cup, then dig in,” says Tosi. “But one day, she was clearly in the work weeds and once we were done making our choices she stepped right up to the counter, ordered a banana split with hot fudge sauce.” 

“I had never seen anything quite like it,” she adds. “It was huge: Two banana halves, three scoops of ice cream, all covered in a ridiculous amount of hot fudge, some whipped cream and a cherry on top. Watching my mom’s mood transform as she sat quietly, ate in peace, eyes closed. That is the magic of a great ice cream sundae; that is the power of dessert.”

Credit: Faith Durand

Why You Should Always Have a Jar of Hot Fudge on Hand

To this day she always likes to have a jar of hot fudge on hand. “Simple and straightforward in its approach, fudge sauce delivers big on flavor and comfort,” explains Tosi. “The warmth of the fudge, the naughtiness of the goo it delivers, draped across a scoop of cold ice cream — the story writes itself.” And honestly, she’s in good company. Hot fudge is the top three topping, according to Instacart (behind chocolate sauce and sprinkles), and sales for it peak in July. So, right now!

Typically Tosi’s move is to DIY it with this super-simple Bake Club recipe — because when the urge for a hot fudge sundae strikes, time is of the essence. But! If she’s not making it from scratch, she heads to her favorite local ice cream shop, creamer, or roadside custard stand and orders the fudge sauce to take home and use. She also always has some sort of cookie in the pantry, like Oreos, to crush up (or, her new move, adding some of Milk Bar’s crunchy cookies, which launched this spring).

She recommends giving the hot fudge a quick spin in the microwave — 15 to 30 seconds — for warmth, and using it for more than just the topping on your sundae. “At the [Milk Bar] bakeries we squeeze some sauce into the bottom of the cup before swirling the ice cream and then over the top for an extra wink! Guarantees a little hot fudge with every bite.” Just like we like it.

Beyond the bowl, you can find Tosi making quick work of the fudge-filled jar: “I’ve been known to drizzle it on cake, swirl it into my coffee for a mocha move, [or] mix it up to make a glass of chocolate milk for my little one (and, if I am honest, me).” 

Looking for a grocery store option? Try Mrs. Richardson’s Hot Fudge. “It’s thick, rich, and chocolaty,” says The Kitchn staff writer and recipe developer, Patty Catalano. “They also have a good caramel sauce.”

Buy: Mrs. Richardson’s Hot Fudge, $4.99 for 16 ounces at Instacart

What’s your go-to ice cream topping? Tell us about it in the comments below.