The Best Ice Cream Topping of the Summer Is Also the Most Unexpected

published Jun 30, 2019
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Credit: Meghan Splawn

Apologies in advance that I’ve kept this delicious secret from you for so long. It’s just that this particular tip for topping ice cream feels so bizarre that I didn’t think to share it with anyone for years. I certainly wouldn’t have believed that a deeply savory pantry staple would change how I feel about plain vanilla ice cream forever. However bizarre, it seems unfair not to tell you. You’ve got the best vanilla ice cream topper in your pantry right now, and it doesn’t require any cooking, mixing, or fixing from you.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Soy Sauce Makes the Most Delicious Ice Cream Topper

Yes, soy sauce! A few years ago at a culinary conference, a cup of plain vanilla ice cream drizzled with soy sauce was thrust upon me. Crazy as the idea seemed, the deeply umami and salty notes of the soy sauce mingled delightfully with the sweet, creamy ice cream, giving way to a nutty, caramel-like flavor in each bite. It was the kind of flavor that I thought about for a long time after tasting it.

Now I regularly enjoy soy sauce on ice cream at home, and here’s my advice: Splurge on premium vanilla ice cream (or butter pecan!) and add just the tiniest drizzle of soy sauce. Err on the side of less soy sauce and add more in drops as you go to avoid overwhelming the ice cream. If you’re feeling industrious, you can even add a drizzle of soy sauce to homemade ice cream as it finishes churning.

If my memory serves me right, it was the fine folks at Kikkoman who introduced me to this delicious combo, and their classic green bottle works really well on vanilla ice cream. But if you find yourself with a speciality bottle of soy sauce (I’m currently nursing a bottle of this smoked shoyu), this is certainly the best use for it outside of rice and stir-fried vegetables.