What Are the Best Toppings and Sauces for Ice Cream?

What Are The Best Toppings And Sauces For Ice Cream

What are the best toppings and sauces for ice cream? We all know that sprinkles and ice cream are the combo that goes together, but what other toppings and sauces should you offer in your ice cream store? As someone who has owned an ice cream shop for six years, I feel like I am well placed to answer this question. So, in this post I want to go over all those toppings and sauces you should be offering in your ice cream store, truck, or just at home.

Let’s dig in – what are the best toppings and sauces for ice cream?

What are the Best Toppings and Sauces for Ice Cream?

As a general rule, the best toppings for ice cream are:

  • Chocolate chips;
  • Nuts;
  • Fresh fruit;
  • Rainbow sprinkles; and
  • Oreos.

As a general rule, the best sauces for ice cream are:

  • Hot sauces – caramel, fudge, and butterscotch; and
  • Nut butter (peanut and almond).
What Are The Best Toppings And Sauces For Ice Cream - ice cream sauce

What Are the Best Sauces for Ice Cream?

When people think of the best sauces for ice cream, they tend to think of three main sauces – hot caramel, fudge, or butterscotch sauces.

However, also two ice cream sauces that I have found very popular in my ice cream shop are unsweetened almond butter and unsweetened peanut butter. With more and more consumers moving away from dairy and sugar, I have seen a move away from traditional sauces which are high in dairy and sugar towards more plant-based ice cream sauces. You can easily buy unsweetened almond butter on Amazon here and unsweetened peanut butter on Amazon here.

What About Fruit Sauces?

How about fruit sauces? Are fruit sauces popular to drizzle on ice cream? I have tried selling house-made fruit sauces before in my ice cream shop (for example raspberry and passion fruit) but they never sold well enough to justify keeping them on the menu. Some people loved these fruit sauces – but not enough to justify keeping them on the menu.

They also have higher amounts of waste as these sauces have a shorter shelf-life when made from fresh fruits.

What Do I offer in My Ice Cream Shop?

In my ice cream shop, I offer just two sauces – Peanut Butter and Almond Butter. The reason our ice cream shop offers just two sauces (unsweetened peanut and almond butter) and we don’t offer hot caramel, fudge, and butterscotch are:

  • Concept: These sauces don’t fit in with our ice cream concept (our customers want more plant-based ice cream sauces); and
  • Sales Tax: Hot sauces can impact whether you must charge sales tax depending on where you are based. We are based in California and do not have seating at our store (it is tiny) and so do not have to charge sales tax on our ice cream. If we served any hot sauces, we would have to charge sales tax whenever someone ordered ice cream with a hot sauce.
What Are The Best Toppings And Sauces For Ice Cream - ice cream sprinkles

What Is the Best Topping on Ice Cream?

In my six-year experience of owning an ice cream shop, the best toppings for ice cream are:

  • chocolate chips
  • Oreo Cookies
  • rainbow sprinkles

You can find examples of these types of ice cream toppings on Amazon here:

  • Chocolate Chips: these chocolate chips on Amazon are vegan, soy-free, and gluten-free and so can be enjoyed by everyone.
  • Oreo Cookies: Oreo pieces on Amazon (make sure to buy these Oreo pieces and not the whole Oreos – it saves your team having to manually break Oreos up).
  • Rainbow Sprinkles:  these rainbow sprinkles on Amazon are good value and exactly what you need in an ice cream shop.

When I first opened my ice cream shop, I didn’t think more traditional toppings would work. My ice cream concept is a healthier plant-based ice cream concept. In fact, we didn’t even offer Oreos or Rainbow Sprinkles when we first opened. However, a lot of our customers still wanted more traditional toppings. We kept getting so many requests for them that we decided to eventually add them to our topping selection.

What are the Least Popular Toppings?

In comparison, some of our worst/least popular topping decisions over the years are:

  • raisins
  • pumpkin seeds
  • dried cranberries.

What is the main takeaway from this? Well, when it comes to toppings people want the more traditional toppings. If you plan on being a healthier/specific ice cream concept (like Keto, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegan, etc.) – make sure you do these traditional toppings. Just make sure they fit into your concept so for example, vegan sprinkles, keto chocolate chips, etc.

Some Other Toppings Issues

Some other toppings issues we had over the years involved:

  • Having chocolate chips on our ice cream truck that didn’t have a fridge – they will melt.
  • Having chopped fresh mangos as a topping – the problem is there is such a short period of time when mangos are at their best and ripest. We received complaints about our mango topping not being ripe enough. We ended up pulling mango off the menu in the end.
  • Seasonal price of fruit (berries can be very expensive when they are not in season). For example, when strawberries are in season they can be as low as $1 a punnet. When they are not in season, they can be up to $5 a punnet.
  • Sliced banana going brown. If you want to offer freshly sliced banana you will have to slice it fresh for customers – otherwise your banana is going to go brown.
  • Dicing strawberries too small – the smaller the pieces of strawberries are sliced the quicker they will spoil.

What Compliments Ice Cream?

The toppings that compliment ice cream depending on what the ice cream flavor is, as well as what customers are looking for from their toppings.

  • Do you want an extra crunch? If so granola or graham crackers work well.
  • Do you want to add a savory element? Then sea salt, pink Himalayan salt, or mini pretzels work.
  • Want to tone down the ice cream sweetness and give an ice cream scoop a more substantial feel? Nut butter or chopped/sliced nuts work.
  • Want to add freshness and a refreshing aspect to ice cream? Fresh fruit toppings it is.
  • Want to add a warming wintery feel to your ice cream scoop? Warm caramel-butterscotch or fudge work perfectly.
  • Want to add both sweetness and a bit of crunch? Oreos pieces and chocolate chips it is.
  • Want to add colorful old-school nostalgia to your ice cream cone? Then Sprinkles are your best option like these ones on Amazon.
  • What toppings compliment ice cream also depends on the ice cream flavor. For example, freshly cut strawberries may be great with a scoop of vanilla, but not so much so with a scoop of coffee ice cream.
Everything You Need To Know About Gluten Free Ice Cream And Toppings - sprinkles

Healthier Ice Cream Toppings

The best healthy ice cream toppings include the following:

  • Nuts (crushed, sliced, whole) like sliced almonds, pecans, and crushed mixed nuts
  • Fresh fruit such as blueberries strawberries, raspberries, pineapple, blackberries, and sliced banana (make sure to slice banana fresh for customers)
  • Granola
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Chia seeds
  • Hardening chocolate magic shell made with coconut oil and a natural sweetener such as date or maple syrup
  • Chocolate-covered strawberries dipped in hardening chocolate shell
  • Crushed gluten-free cones (in my experience these Joy gluten-free sugar cones on Amazon are the tastiest and crunchiest gluten-free option)
  • Carob chips like these ones on Amazon – Carob Chips
  • Dried banana chips

In my six-year experience owning an ice cream shop, the only dried fruit that I have popular is dried banana chips. Raisins, cranberries, and other dried fruits have not proved popular.

What Are the Most Popular Healthier Ice Cream Toppings?

As a general rule, the most popular healthier ice cream toppings are:

– Fresh fruit

– Anything nut-based (sliced/whole nuts and nut butter)

– Carob chips. We have found carob chips to be extremely popular – not just for customers who want a healthier topping but also for customers ordering ice cream late at night and who do not want chocolate chips due to the caffeine content. You can buy carob chips on Amazon here.

Simple Ice Cream Toppings

As a general rule, the top five simple ice cream toppings are:

– Chocolate chips (available on Amazon here);

– Nuts (crushed assorted nuts like these on Amazon work best – Nut Topping

– Fruit

– Sprinkles (available on Amazon here)

– Oreos (available on Amazon here).

If you own an ice cream shop and you want to keep your toppings offering small and simple, I recommend just offering the above. In fact, if you want to keep it super simple you can even drop the fresh fruit and just stick with chocolate chips, nuts, sprinkles, and Oreo cookies.

Gourmet Ice Cream Toppings

Three gourmet ice cream toppings you can add to your scoop of ice cream or offer in your ice cream shop include:

  • Chocolate covered strawberries
  • Maraschino cherries – such as these Luxardo Gourmet Cocktail Maraschino cherries on Amazon
  • Pecans – Pecans are considered a luxury topping. They also appeal to the health-conscious crowd. We offer them in our ice cream shop. You can buy raw pecan pieces from Amazon here.

These three toppings offer a gourmet topping experience for customers to elevate their ice cream.

How Much Should I Charge for Toppings and Sauces

On average toppings can sell anywhere from $0.50-$2.00 a topping. In my experience, for non-gourmet toppings, you want to price them around the $0.75-$1.00 mark. Once you start going above $1.00 per topping, I notice customers starting to complain about the price.

For gourmet toppings, you want to charge $1.00-$2.00. These are more special toppings and so should reflect that in the price. For example, things like our house-made peanut butter cups (which we make ourselves) we charge $1.00 each for.

An alternative pricing system is to set toppings as a set price for a certain amount. For example, $2.00 for up to 3 toppings. Another way is to tier topping prices. For example, the first topping $1.00, the second topping $0.75, and the third topping $0.50.

A final way of pricing toppings is to charge by weight. This is mostly done in frozen yogurt stores. I don’t recommend it for an ice cream shop.

What Are The Best Toppings And Sauces For Ice Cream - popiscle toppings

What are the Best Toppings and Sauces for Ice Cream – The Final Lick

What are the best toppings and sauces for ice cream? Toppings are one of the extra fun parts of ice cream. They let you take a flavor and turn it into anything you want. You can either release your inner child and load it up with sprinkles, or perhaps you want to make some artisanal creation with some carob chips, salted pretzels, organic peanut butter, and Pink Himalayan Sea Salt. For an ice cream business, toppings are a way for you to increase your average sale price. You want to make sure you only have toppings that are always selling. If they aren’t selling, get rid of them. The only way to know what is popular and what isn’t is to be creative and try lots of different things.

Chilled Startup - Ice Cream Solves Everything

Time To Learn Some More

Want to learn more on your path to ice cream entrepreneur success. Then check out some of my other articles.

Chilled Startup Team

Since 2012, the Chilled Startup team has been in the ice cream business. From creating retail store ice cream concepts from scratch to ice cream trucks to selling ice cream pints wholesale to grocery store outlets to private and public events. We have even set up vegan and plant-based ice cream concepts. The ice cream business is one we understand inside and out.

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