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After Taste-Testing And Ranking These 8 Popular Ice Cream Brands, I Realized That My Previous Favorite Was, In Fact, Simply Not Good

Take it from me: There's a solid chance your favorite ice cream might not be as delicious as you think.

Listen up, y'all. We've officially reached the "oh, I guess it's 90º now" threshold here in New York City, and I can't walk down the street without sweating through all of my clothes. That can only mean one thing: It's ice cream season. 🍦

Ross Yoder

We all have our favorite flavors, formats, and toppings, but when it really comes down to it, I've never met a cone or cup (or let's be real, entire pint) that I didn't love. That said, I'm also entirely guilty of tending to just buy whatever ice cream is on sale. This year, I decided to do myself and all of you a massive, pre-summer favor: I taste-tested the most popular ice cream brands to determine the best of the best, and though my stomach is still pretty mad at me, the results were absolutely worth it.

Ross holding a spoonful of ice cream in front of his face with text that says, "does it het any better? (no, it does not)"
Ross Yoder
The Ice Creams:
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While pondering ice cream flavors to test, I struggled more than I usually do. Other products I've taste-tested, like marinara sauce and boxed mac 'n' cheese, are pretty limited in their flavor offerings...but ice cream flavors? The limit does not exist. Vanilla? Too boring. Chocolate? Way too polarizing. And when we start to enter the world of ice cream flavors with mix-ins, things can get pretty wild.

All roads and schools of thought led me back to one flavor in particular, which just so happens to be my personal favorite: cookies 'n' cream. Why cookies 'n' cream? I've got two reasons in particular:

• The vast majority of ice cream brands out there use a simple vanilla base for their cookies 'n' creams, so I figured that this flavor would be a solid indicator of the overall quality of the vanilla ice cream itself — how smooth and creamy it is, its general sweetness level, and if it delivers in the flavor department.

• The Oreo-adjacent chocolate cookies are also a relatively straightforward mix-in — no swirls of anything, and nothing complicated. To that end, I concluded that the individual flavors of the various elements would be easy to distinguish from one another, and I also realized that cookies 'n' cream would likely be a great barometer for how much each brand gives you when it comes to the mix-ins. Let's be real, if they're generous with their chocolate cookies, they're probably not going to rip you off on their cookie dough or cake batter or chocolate chips.

So, with cookies 'n' cream in mind, I did my research and landed on eight of the most popular brands I could find, making sure to gather varieties in three distinct categories. First up, the widely available standards:

Various ice cream packages on a table
Ross Yoder

• Turkey Hill

• Friendly's

• Breyers

• Edy's*

*in some parts of the US, you'll know this one as Dreyer's


Next, the "middle-of-the-road" options when it comes to price and perceived quality:

Ice cream packages on a table
Ross Yoder

• Whole Foods' 365

• Häagen-Dazs

(It's worth noting here that while I intended to try Ben & Jerry's Sweet Cream & Cookies, it's one of their flavors that's no longer available in grocery stores.)


And finally, we've got the premium brands. These two definitely come at a higher price point, but they're still available in most stores.

Ice cream packages on a table
Ross Yoder

Van Leeuwen

• Tillamook


The Taste Test:
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It's not that cookies 'n' cream varieties look all that different from one another, but I still had to make sure that this was a blind taste test. As someone with definite allegiances to some brands over others — I hate to admit it, but I'm a bit of an Edy's boy — I knew that the only fair way to conduct this taste test was if I couldn't actively see the ice creams I was trying. Enter: my partner, Josh. (And a very heavy duty sleep mask.)

Ross, Josh, and a dog, with text that reads, "(no ice cream for this one)"
Ross Yoder

At first, we tried the method where he handed me a spoon and a teeny tiny ramekin filled with ice cream, but it quickly proved...less efficient than I imagined. So, we switched to the ultra-precise "hand me a pre-scooped ice cream spoon" method, and it worked like a damn dream. (Perhaps, in retrospect, the sleep mask was overkill...but it sure was fun.)

Ross Yoder

And just to get technical for a moment, I do want to add that each of the ice creams were taken out of the freezer for about 10 minutes before Josh scooped and served them, and I set my freezer on a slightly warmer setting 24 hours in advance. No one likes rock hard ice cream, so this method allowed each brand to reach its creamiest potential.

After tasting all eight ice creams, I jotted down my initial thoughts on each, including (but not limited to) what I thought of the cookies-to-ice cream ratio, how smooth and/or creamy the ice cream itself was, and the overall sweetness level. Plus, ya know, if I liked it or not — and trust me, there were many I didn't!

Ross Yoder

Due to my side-hustle as a recipe developer, I'm very used to jotting down in-the-moment notes and information using good ol' paper and pen, and that's the method I found to work best when it came to capturing my super specific thoughts. I also guessed which brands I was tasting as I tried them, and I was occasionally correct! (But usually wrong.)

Ross Yoder

After all eight cookies 'n' creams had been tasted, I ranked them from worst to best. I also decided that I'd filled my ice cream quota for the month, but that's beside the point. Keep in mind: I still didn't know which was which, so I was truly just ranking numbers at this point.

Ross Yoder

When my partner revealed the order in which I tasted all of the ice creams, I did some brief mental gymnastics to figure out how my ranking translated into the actual brands. Ultimately, it translated into "my entire life has been a lie," and quite frankly, I'm probably as low-key shocked and upset at some of these rankings as you will be.

This is my definitive ranking of cookies 'n' cream ice creams — from worst to best.

And remember: Food is subjective! My tastebuds won't necessarily agree with yours, and vice versa. That's a good thing. I'm just here to offer a little bit of insight wherever I can. Differing food opinions make the world go 'round!

The Results
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8. Häagen-Dazs — I know, I know. I'm mad at me for this hot take, too...but let me present my case: WHERE. WERE. THE. COOKIES?

Pint of Haagen-Dazs ice cream with notes that say: Where are the cookies?
Ross Yoder

Let me be very clear that this one shocked me to my core — so much so that when my partner told me I ranked Häagen-Dazs in last place, I thought about tweaking my ranking for fear of the hate I'll likely get. But that didn't seem fair. So let me tell you a little bit about why I really, reaaaally did not like this one.

To start, this was not cookies 'n' cream. A more accurate name would be "half a cookie crumbled up with lots of cream," and after you take in the photo below, I think you'll agree with me. Of all the ice creams I tasted, Häagen-Dazs had the worst cookie-to-ice cream ratio by far, but that wasn't the only disappointing element...

A pint of Haagen-Dazs cookies 'n' cream ice cream
Ross Yoder

On top of the seriously disappointing cookie situation, I found the ice cream itself to be totally lackluster. For a brand known for their rich and creamy vanilla ice cream (heck, I've heard lots of people swear that their vanilla is the best vanilla!), I found it to be aggressively hard. Like, so hard I had to chew it — and remember, I took all of these ice creams out of the fridge at the same time to let them thaw a bit.

In terms of the vanilla flavor, it was hardly there. The sweetness level? Also off! I don't love an overly-sweet dessert, but I'd say this one wasn't sweet enough. And perhaps the most puzzling to me was the texture. I found this ice cream to be the least creamy of the bunch, and the texture was borderline icy. It wasn't the icy texture that you get when a pint has clearly been thawed and re-frozen — it was more subtle than that, but it still wasn't very appealing to me. If I had to guess, I'd imagine that it has something to do with skim milk being the second ingredient listed, which has the highest water content of milk varieties...but that's just my two cents.

🍦 OVERALL RATING: 3/10 🍦

It was the iciest variety I tried, it wasn't sweet enough, and the cookies were...hardly there at all. Considering the high price point of this ice cream (and the fact that you'll get less than a pint), I'd likely steer clear of this one...but hey, you do you.

7. Whole Foods' 365 — It's not awful by any means, but considering "bland" would be my first descriptor, I found it to be entirely forgettable. The cookies were also all wrong. (Let me explain.)

365 ice cream with notes that say, "weirdly not sweet enough :("
Ross Yoder

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I genuinely love most of the Whole Foods 365 products, and since their generic line also tends to be pretty cost-effective, they're some of the cheapest groceries I can find in my neighborhood in NYC. They've had some highs and lows in these taste tests (like a mouthwatering salsa but a wildly disappointing frozen pizza), but I'm sad to report that their ice cream is definitely not a winner.

Nothing about this ice cream wowed me, and while it tied for the cheapest product I bought, factoring in the price per ounce made it more expensive than many of the other brands — though I do appreciate that they give you a full pint (whereas the other "pints" I tasted were actually two ounces short). The cookies in this one were also a total miss, IMHO...

A pint of ice cream with a spoon in it
Ross Yoder

Let's get real for a second: The cookies are supposed to emulate Oreos. Period. Of all the cookies I tasted, these were the furthest from what I expected. They were too soft, not at all sweet, and almost resembled a chocolate whoopie pie. The ice cream itself was also pretty bland, sadly, so pair that uninteresting ice cream with soft, textureless cookies, and I can't say I'd buy this one again.

To give credit where credit is due, I will say that this was the only organic ice cream I tried. So, if eating organic foods is important to you, this one wasn't bad by any means! Truth be told, I'd eat any bowl of ice cream placed before me, but if buying organic isn't a priority for you, I'll happily steer you in the direction of another better (and cheaper) brand.

🍦 OVERALL RATING: 3.5/10 🍦

The good? It's organic! The not-so good? The cookies tasted more like whoopie pies, they had hardly any texture, and the ice cream itself was seriously lacking when it came to overall flavor. You do get a full pint for your money, which is rare in the world of ice creams, but it's still not very cost-effective when you consider the price per ounce.

6. Edy's — It could be the overwhelming sweetness, or it could be the fact that I found the flavors to be a bit muddy, but not even a better-than-average texture could save this one from its sad fate.

A pine of Edy's ice cream with notes that read, "texture is okay here, but not the flavor"
Ross Yoder

As a self-proclaimed Edy's (or Dreyer's) lover, this one stings. It was my go-to for a while, maybe because we had it a lot growing up, but I don't think it'll be my go-to for much longer.

For starters, it tasted a bit "muddy." Or honestly, what I mean by that is it had an off taste to it — which, to be clear, wasn't really present in any of the other ice creams I tasted. As I noted, it had the flavor of something you left in the freezer for juuuust a little too long, and it was enough to really affect the overall taste. It also had a hint of that very particular "artificial sugar" aftertaste to it, which was certainly confusing in that they list "no artificial colors or flavors" on their packaging.

A pine of ice cream with a spoon in it
Ross Yoder

I will say that the texture of this one was definitely better than average, and considering the lack of cookies in the Häagen-Dazs version and the puzzling nature of the Whole Foods cookies, I found the Edy's cookies to be pretty pleasant! While they were certainly on the small side, there were lots of 'em. They didn't overhaul my feelings on the ice cream overall, however, so Edy's still falls into the bottom half of the contenders.

🍦 OVERALL RATING: 4/10 🍦

The flavors in this one were certainly off, and even though the cookie pieces were more plentiful (and more pleasant) than the two contenders before it, it's just not enough to make up for that "muddy" taste.

5. Turkey Hill — It didn't exactly wow me, but it was the first ice cream to make me think, "huh, this is tasty!" A mixture of pretty standard elements all around placed this one squarely in the middle, but it's not at all bad!

Turkey Hill ice cream with text that reads, "Not my new fave, but totally acceptable"
Ross Yoder

I feel like I'm in the 1% of people who have never tried Turkey Hill ice cream before, and I have to admit — it was pretty good! Compared to the worst and best ice cream brands I tried, I think the various elements that comprised this one were pretty middle of the road in terms of their flavor, texture, and perceived quality, which made it a totally solid choice.

Similar to the Whole Foods cookies 'n' cream, I found these cookies to be a bit soft for my taste (and they didn't add a whole lot of texture), but unlike the Whole Foods pint, the flavor of them was 100% correct.

A pint of ice cream with a spoon in it
Ross Yoder

I also noted that even though it wasn't "earth-shatteringly" creamy, Turkey Hill's ice cream was certainly the creamiest I tasted up to this point, which was a pleasant and very welcome surprise. With just 10 minutes of resting on the counter before serving, it was pleasantly soft without being a melty mess, and there wasn't any noticeable iciness, either.

🍦 OVERALL RATING: 6/10 🍦

Turkey Hill is the first ice cream on this list that I'd happily buy again, even if it didn't absolutely wow me in any way. Every element was solid, from the cookies to the overall flavor to the texture of the ice cream itself.

4. Friendly's — Similar to Turkey Hill, it didn't change my life, but a superb cookie-to-ice cream ratio and its creamy texture made this one genuinely pleasant — and there's one REALLY awesome thing about it.

Friendly's ice cream with text that reads, "cookies aren't huge, but lots of them and a bit in every bite!"
Ross Yoder

Friendly's has a nostalgia factor like none other, but after doing this blind taste-test, I can confirm that, nostalgia aside, Friendly's still makes a pretty mean carton of ice cream. While it wouldn't be hard for me to confuse this one with Turkey Hill (and my overall "meh!" feelings about each are nearly identical), Friendly's budget-friendly price point made it a total standout for me.

At just $.09 per ounce (more than four times cheaper than Häagen-Dazs), I thought this one was pretty exceptional. It was also marginally creamier than the Turkey Hill cookies 'n' cream, which was already pretty good to begin with. Like Turkey Hill, the cookie pieces could've been a little bit bigger, but there were still plenty of cookie pieces throughout, and no bite went without that delicious chocolaty crunch.

A pint of ice cream with a spoon in it
Ross Yoder

An obvious feature to note here is the practically blaring "CONTAINS A BIOENGINEERED FOOD INGREDIENT" stamp on the container's lid. IMO, it's no cause for panic (though I'm certainly no doctor or health professional, so you do you). It's just part of the USDA's new labeling requirements for genetically-modified foods that went into effect in January.

(TL;DR: "bioengineered" = GMO, and yes, there are GMOs in more foods than you probably realize — this new requirement just makes them more obvious to the consumer.)

🍦 OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10 🍦

If you don't buy it for the nostalgia factor alone, buy it because it's the cheapest ice cream I found (when you look at the cost per ounce). I don't really think any particular aspect of it will blow you away, but as the most cost-effective of the bunch, I was definitely impressed.

3. Breyers — Cookie lovers, this one was made for you. Breyers does not mess around when it comes to the cookies, and that wasn't the only great part about it.

Package of Breyers ice cream with text that reads, "also pretty dark creamy"
Ross Yoder

Confession: I grew up eating Breyers strawberry ice cream, whose sweetness I can't handle as an adult, so I had low expectations going in. And considering the brand was somehow the hardest ice cream to find in NYC (baffling, I know), I already had a bone to pick with them. However, after actually trying it, this one blew me away for multiple reasons — the first being those absolutely unbelievable cookie chunks.

They advertise 20% more cookie pieces, though whether that's compared to previous recipes they've used or just the "industry standard" is unclear. Either way, they're NOT wrong, because y'all...these cookies are exceptional. There were lots of cookies in every single bite, and the pieces themselves were the largest and most substantial of any brand that I tasted.

A pint of ice cream with text that says, "(there's some ice cream coverage on these cookies, but trust me, they were PLENTIFUL...and huge.)"
Ross Yoder

The raves don't stop with the cookies, either. I found the ice cream to be surprisingly creamy and smooth. It was also one of the sweeter varieties that I tasted, but as someone who's sensitive to overly-sweet foods in the first place, you have my word that it didn't bother me one bit.

🍦 OVERALL RATING: 8/10 🍦

I may have had low hopes for this one, but it simply blew me away. If the cookies are your favorite part of cookies 'n' cream (and they probably are, TBH), this is definitely the ice cream for you. The ice cream itself wasn't as delicious as my #1 and #2 picks, but it was still incredibly satisfying and smooth.

2. Van Leeuwen — Expensive, it is! It was easily the priciest of all the ice cream brands I tried, but it was also the most complex when it came to flavor (which made it worth every penny).

A pint of Van Leeuwen ice cream with notes that say, "lots of complex flavor."
Ross Yoder

In my never-ending quest to actually guess the brands I'm tasting, Van Leeuwen  was one of the only brands I got correct, and honestly, I think it was fairly obvious. Van Leeuwen started in 2008 as a small ice cream truck in Brooklyn, New York, and they've since scaled into a much larger operation with ice cream that's available nationwide. Even with that much growth, they've stayed committed to using high-quality ingredients, and that was obvious to me as soon as I got a taste of their ice cream.

The biggest win here was the overall complexity and depth of flavor, which isn't really something I've ever said about ice cream before. As I noted, I've "simply never tasted ice cream like this," and compared to every single one of the brands I tried, the flavor of Van Leeuwen's ice cream definitely stands out. The ice cream itself is obviously exceptional, but it tastes way better than plain old vanilla — it's wildly rich, and I even tasted caramel-like notes as I ate it. TBH, I noticed something different and exciting in every single bite I took.

A pint of ice cream with a spoon in it
Ross Yoder

The cookies themselves were also just so darn good. The cookies had the slightest hint of salt in them, which really elevated all of the flavors. They even stayed delightfully crisp, which I can't say of many of the other varieties.

Yes, Van Leeuwen ice cream is definitely expensive, and it's certainly the priciest of all the varieties I tried. But in my opinion, I felt like it was well worth the money. It's maybe not the greatest purchase to go alongside a slice of cake or pie (where it's not the main event), but for a standalone scoop of ice cream that'll truly blow you away, I couldn't recommend it more.

🍦 OVERALL RATING: 9/10 🍦

There's no denying that this stuff is expensive, but there's also no denying that it's unlike any ice cream I've ever tasted before. The flavors are rich and complex, and each and every bite I took tasted special. There's really no other way to put it.

1. Tillamook — I wasn't aware ice cream could be this creamy, dreamy, or just so darn delicious. Tillamook is truly excellent (in several ways), and even as a "premium" option, you get a lot for your money.

A pint of Tillamook ice cream with notes that read, "Cookies awesome, too - generous pieces, lots of texture (not too soft)"
Ross Yoder

I've always known Tillamook as the cheese company. Tillamook cheddar? Simply excellent! But from now on, I'm gonna start thinking of them as the ice cream company. I've seen this carton in the freezer section for many years now and never thought to try it. Now, I'm wishing I could turn back time and only choose Tillamook, because folks, this is hands down the best ice cream I have EVER tried.

Similar to Van Leeuwen's cookies 'n' cream, there aren't a whole lot of ingredients in this one, so the quality really stands out. They even mention on the carton that they use "more cream than is legally required," since the FDA actually requires that products include at least 10% dairy milk fat to qualify as an "ice cream," not a "frozen dairy dessert." Whether it's the additional cream or some other magic they're doing over in Oregon, this was without a doubt the creamiest, smoothest, and fluffiest ice cream I've ever tried.

A pint of ice cream with a spoon in it
Ross Yoder

In terms of the cookies themselves, I was also incredibly happy with these ones. Like Van Leeuwen's cookies, these ones had a delightfully salty bite to them, which contrasted nicely with the suuuuper fluffy, just-sweet-enough ice cream. The cookie pieces might not have been as massive as those in Breyers, but I still found the amount of cookies in this one to be perfectly acceptable. And honestly, the texture of this one made it worth it no matter the size or amount of mix-ins present. Seriously, folks — the fluffiness of this ice cream simply cannot be described!

Texture aside, I thought that Tillamook did an excellent job of creating a super balanced product. Nothing about it was "too much" or "too little" — it was just sweet enough without being overpowering and that rich dairy flavor was there without feeling like I was chugging a gallon of heavy cream. So, yeah, I really have no shame in letting you know that my partner and I finished this carton just a day later (🙃), and I might just be a Tillamook convert for life, no matter the flavor. (It's also worth noting that in terms of price, you'll get four times as much ice cream as Van Leeuwen for an entire dollar less.)

Ross holds a pint of Tillamook ice cream with text. that reads "absolute bliss."
Ross Yoder

🍦 OVERALL RATING: 10/10 🍦

Buy it for the comparatively budget-friendly price, buy it because the ice cream itself is ridiculously smooth and fluffy (seriously, the best I've ever tasted), or buy it for the gorgeously salty bite of the cookies. Whatever your reasons, I don't care. Just buy it. Trust me.

If you're as curious as I am when it comes to grocery store products and which ones are actually worth buying, feel free to peruse my past grocery store taste tests. Even better, if you have recommendations for what I should taste, review, and rank next, I'm all ears! Drop your suggestions in the comments below, and I'll read through 'em as I finish up these eight massive containers of ice cream. 👇

A bunch of cartons of ice cream in the freezer
Ross Yoder

(Eating all of this may take me all summer, but it is a challenge I am HONORED to accept.)

For more on all things ice cream, check out our video over on Tasty's TikTok.

@tasty

your favorite ice cream miiight not be as delicious as you think... @Ross Yoder #edys #vanleeuwen #tillamook #cookiesandcream #friendlys #haagendazs

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