The sweet-tart burst of ripe, juicy strawberries stirred into sweet, frozen cream is a summer pleasure unlike any other. It’s light and refreshing and tastes like summer on a spoon. It’s no surprise that strawberry ice cream is the third most popular ice cream flavor.
Trivia buffs may be interested to know that strawberry ice cream has deep roots in presidential history. It’s believed the icy treat was inspired by freed slave Sallie Shadd, then popularized when Dolley Madison served a giant mound of it at President James Madison’s second inauguration in 1813.
As anyone who has tried to make their own strawberry ice cream knows, it’s not an easy task. Too many berries turn the ice cream hard and icy. A dearth of berries is a flavor bust, but big frozen berries escalate brain-freeze. And how much sugar to add to the mix is always a mystery, as it depends on the sweetness of the berries.
The great news is that there are some astoundingly luscious options on store shelves — many made locally — that are ready to be scooped. The best versions are infused with ripe strawberry flavor and have fresh chunks of mashed berry throughout. The worst are oozy pink sugar bombs laced with chemically-engineered flavorings that lack even a trace of fresh strawberry flavor.
Here’s the scoop on the bright, creamy bites of berry-forward deliciousness — and the sticky pink scoops that no one is screaming for. Nutrition details refer to 2/3 cup of ice cream.
Tillamook Oregon Strawberry Ice Cream
Natural pink color and bold strawberry flavor — from lots of strawberry puree — deliver a sweet bite that leads to another and another. This is strawberry ice cream at its very best. 200 calories, 10 g fat, 45 mg sodium, 24 g sugar, 3 g protein. $5.49 for 1.5 quarts at Sprouts. (4 stars)
365 Organic Strawberry Ice Cream
A generous scoop of mashed berries and rich, sweet cream spiked with vanilla make this a decadent, silky bite. 170 calories, 9 g fat, 40 mg sodium, 20 g sugar, 4 g protein. $5.65 for a pint at Whole Foods. (4 stars)
Breyer’s Strawberry Ice Cream
Those who prefer a light, cream-forward bite pocked with lots of berries will appreciate this classic, homemade-style mix. 190 calories, 9 g fat, 60 mg sodium, 23 g sugar, 3 g protein. $5.99 for 1.5 quarts at Lucky. (3½ stars)
Haagen-Dazs Strawberry Ice Cream
There is no lack of strawberries in this thick, flavorful ice cream, but it’s important to know that it has a frozen yogurt-like flavor that’s reminiscent of cheesecake. 310 calories, 19 g fat, 65 mg sodium, 28 g sugar, 5 g protein. $5.19 for 14 ounces at Lucky. (3 stars)
Straus Family Creamery Organic Strawberry Ice Cream
This dense, seedy blend is packed with strawberry flavor, but it’s a bit gritty due to the, you know, seeds. 270 calories, 16 g fat, 25 mg sodium, 27 g sugar, 4 g protein. $4.99 for a pint at Safeway. (3 stars)
Turkey Hill Premium Strawberries and Cream
Bright, fresh berries stirred into ice milk-style ice cream make for a light, minimally sweet dessert. A bit more berry flavor in the ice cream itself would be a win. 160 calories, 7 g fat, 65 mg sodium, 18 g sugar, 2 g protein. $5.49 for 48 ounces at Safeway. (2½ stars)
Alden’s Organic Strawberry Ice Cream
Despite the lack of berries in this light pink mix, it has decent flavor. It’s ordinary, but OK. 200 calories, 11 g fat, 30 mg sodium, 20 g sugar, 2 g protein. $6.99 for 1.5 quarts at Sprouts Market. (2½ stars)
Baskin Robbins Very Berry Strawberry Ice Cream
Tons of berries bring lots of fruitiness to this ice cream, but it’s simply too sweet. 210 calories, 10 g fat, 65 mg sodium, 22 g sugar, 3 g protein. $4.99 for 14 ounces at Safeway. (2 stars)
Humboldt Creamery Organic Strawberry
Extra-thick cream and too much sugar overpower the flavor of the berries and turn the texture unpleasantly cloying. 240 calories, 13 g fat, 50 mg sodium, 25 g sugar, 4 g protein. $5.19 for a pint at Raley’s. (1½ stars)
Dreyer’s Strawberry Ice Cream
Kids might smile at a bright pink scoop of this, but it’s super airy and lacks strawberry flavor. 150 calories, 7 g fat, 45 mg sodium, 17 g sugar, 2 g protein. $6.99 for 1.5 quarts at Raley’s. (1 star)
Signature Select Strawberry Ice Cream
This soft, nearly berry-free ice cream is a serious flavor fail. It tastes like neither cream nor berries, thanks to its many gums, starches and stabilizers. 180 calories, 8 g fat, 35 mg sodium, 21 g sugar, 2 g protein. $4.99 for 1.5 quarts at Safeway. (½ a star)
Sunnyside Farms Premium Strawberry Ice Cream
It looks like strawberry ice cream, but it’s definitely not. A spoonful of this is like eating marshmallow fluff straight from the jar — except it’s pink and laced with imitation flavor. 180 calories, 10 g fat, 35 mg sodium, 20 g sugar, 3 g protein. $5.19 for 1.5 quarts at Raley’s. (½ a star)
Reviews are based on product samples purchased by this newspaper or provided by manufacturers. Contact Jolene Thym at [email protected] Read more Taste-off columns at www.mercurynews.com/tag/taste-off.