Things you never thought to add to your ice cream

Ice cream is a guilty pleasure for a lot of people, and in 2016, analysts compiled around 30 million Tweets about ice cream to find out just what was each state's favorite flavor. Chocolate and vanilla were such overwhelming favorites that they weren't even counted in the final numbers, while others — strawberry, brownie, and cookie dough — are probably on your list of favorites, too. Sometimes you're in the mood for something a little bit different, though, and ice cream is the perfect canvas to create a whole variety of different tastes, combinations, and flavors.

Espresso

Coffee ice cream might be on the list of favorite flavors for states like California, Colorado, and Oregon, but even if you've had — and love — coffee ice cream, you may have never considered dishing up a dessert with actual coffee. According to this recipe from Fine Dining Lovers, that's exactly what you need to do. They suggest starting with homemade vanilla ice cream with real vanilla pod and seeds, but honestly, that's not necessary. It's the espresso you're probably going to be interested in, and they say a dish of ice cream with piping hot espresso poured over it is the way to go. The combination of hot and cold is an amazing win, and it'll transform even that tub of vanilla ice cream into something much more fun.

Fried chicken

In 2016, Japan unveiled an absolutely delectable dessert at their Karaage Festival, a whole event dedicated to fried chicken. As you can probably guess, that dessert was fried chicken ice cream, and once the idea got out, the Western world was not going to be without it.

Coolhaus, a food truck dedicated to serving up the best — and weirdest — types of ice cream, came up with their take on fried chicken and waffles ice cream and yes, it calls for actual fried chicken skins along with some familiar seasonings — like sage and cayenne — and real maple syrup. It's a guaranteed win with anyone who likes fried chicken, and if you're looking for something completely out-of-this-world to bring to the summer's inevitable string of backyard barbecues, this might just be it.

Alternately, you can whip up some fried chicken and caramel sauce to drizzle over any kind of ice cream you want. Saveur has a recipe for this bizarrely tasty ice cream topping, and it's safe to say it's going to change your idea of what belongs on an ice cream sundae.

Chili

Chili and chocolate are a well-documented match made in heaven, and if you're partial to chocolate you can definitely give it a go (as with this recipe for chocolate chili ice cream with a side of cobbler from Macheesmo). There's no reason to stop there, though, and the heat of chili goes with a variety of ice cream flavors you might not have even considered.

If you happen to have an ice cream maker — which is an amazing investment and more affordable than you might expect — there's no end to the experiments that can happen. The Kitchn has this recipe for mango chili ice cream, inspired by the sweet and savory combination that's found in many dishes of southeast Asia. For those who are looking for something light with just a kick of heat, there's also this chili, lime, and lemongrass ice cream from Good to Know, which might just be the perfect dessert for the end of a warm summer's evening. Purists can check out this recipe for chili ice cream, which uses pure chili powder with just a dash of vanilla, some honey, and white chocolate.

If you don't want to make the ice cream itself, don't fret. The Spruce has a recipe for Thai sweet chili and caramel topping that's easy to make, calls for only a handful of ingredients, and is amazing over vanilla ice cream.

Radish

Skeptical? There's no need to be! There are plenty of things you might find in your fridge to put on top of your ice cream, and if you've never tried slices of radishes, it's possible you're missing out on something you're sure to love.

Veggie Desserts suggests this method for making maple roasted radishes, and it only takes about 15 minutes in the oven to turn those raw radishes into slices filled with maple goodness.

Radishes are a great idea for the more health-conscious, and Honestly Healthy Food uses them — along with raspberries, agave, and rice milk — to make a sweet but healthy sorbet that just might give you your ice cream fix while not ruining your diet.

Popcorn

There's something magical about the combination of sweet and salty — which is why peanuts are a staple ice cream topping. For a little bit of variety, try sprinkling your ice cream with a generous helping of popcorn.

That's not to say you should just dump some microwave popcorn on your ice cream, though. There are some absolutely brilliant ideas out there on just how to make the most of this wonderfully weird treat. Barefeet in the Kitchen has an easy recipe for turning plain old air-popped popcorn into salted caramel popcorn that would be great on vanilla ice cream. Some chocolate chips and drizzled chocolate or caramel sauce can make this the perfect combination of salty and sweet.

Candied bacon

You've probably heard everything's better with bacon, and that goes for ice cream, too. Blogger David Lebovitz did some serious experimentation with candied bacon for ice cream, and he found that a simple coating of brown sugar was the best way to go. He used coffee, but maple or pecan ice cream would also be amazing with this sweet-yet-savory topping.

A Happy Food Dance suggests making the candied bacon a bit differently, adding some butter and sugar to the process. They also add a caramel drizzle over their final product, mixing chunks of candied bacon into the vanilla-flavored swirl of ice cream as it cools and freezes. You're absolutely not going to go wrong to make a few extra pieces, though, and what presentation can't be improved by including a whole piece of candied bacon!

Jalapeno

Jalapeno definitely imparts a distinct love-or-hate taste to anything it's used in, and people who love it really love it. Fortunately, there are plenty of recipes perfect for adding the spicy kick of jalapeno to not only dinner, but dessert.

This jalapeno and lime ice cream is the perfect after-dinner treat, and it might be the most unexpected way to finish off any Tex-Mex meal. The recipe comes courtesy of The Queso, and it calls for all the typical ice cream ingredients like honey, heavy cream, and whole milk. A finely chopped jalapeno adds a spicy heat that's countered by lime zest, and they also note that this one can be as spicy or as mild as you like with simple variations in how much jalapeno you add. There are plenty of other flavors that pair nicely with jalapeno, and this recipe from The Splendid Table adds avocado to the mix. For families who count mint among their favorite kinds of ice cream, Ice Cream Nation suggests adding some finely chopped jalapenos to a batch of mint ice cream for a whole new flavor that's sure to be a win.

Black licorice and anise

According to Inspiration Kitchen, you don't even have to like black licorice to be able to appreciate black licorice ice cream, and that's a good thing. Black licorice and anise are truly love-or-hate flavors, but this is one that you shouldn't skip if you're not sure. Along with their recipe for this epic-looking black ice cream (your next Halloween centerpiece, perhaps), they note that they don't even like black licorice… but would drive miles and miles for it in ice cream version.

Fine Cooking has another take. Their recipe calls for only a bit of aniseed to add an extra bit of flavor to an ice cream that's filled with sweetness from honey, sugar, and figs.

Potato chips

Not only will adding potato chips to your ice cream mean you're getting the best of both salty and sweet worlds, but there's also something about the contrasting textures that help make this one an absolute win. With so many different varieties of chips and varieties of ice cream there's plenty of ways to mix and match to your own tastes, but there are some epic suggestions just waiting for you to try.

PopSugar has this recipe for a potato chip crumble that's ideal for making and sprinkling over any dish of ice cream. Chicago-based chef Stephanie Izard suggests using wavy cheddar chips to go along with the brown sugar and oats, but it's a simple enough substitution to use any kind of chip you want.

Kimchi Mom has an entirely different variation on the potato chip and ice cream idea, and suggests this recipe for making chocolate-covered potato chips to along with your ice cream. While thick cut chips work better, there's no reason that you can't cover some chili-flavored chips to go with your chocolate ice cream. It's one idea that's going to keep you experimenting.

Guinness

It doesn't have to be St. Patrick's Day to enjoy a bit of Ireland, and there's an easy way to do it every time you have some ice cream. Baker Bettie has done all the hard work to come up with a super-simple way to turn a few bottles of Guinness into a syrup that can be drizzled over any sundae or mixed into a float for a taste that's absolutely unrivaled.

If you're starting from scratch, you can also include Guinness right from the beginning in some homemade ice cream. Use this recipe from All Recipes or use it with your favorite, basic, go-to recipe for ice cream (and if you have an ice cream maker, you know you have your favorite basic recipe ready to go). Adjust for taste, and no matter how much Guinness you decide to add (and how much you decide to sample while you're waiting), this is the perfect idea for your next grown-up party or backyard barbecue.

Ginger

There are gingerbread cookies and gingerbread cakes, so what about ginger ice cream? If your family isn't fond of the super-sweetness that comes with most ice cream flavors, adding some ginger syrup might be the perfect way to make a dessert that's going to please everyone. Delia Online has this recipe for a ginger ice cream that combines ginger both in the ice cream and over it. It calls for folding cubed pieces of stem ginger into the ice cream before freezing it, and you can also top your ice cream with a bit of the ginger syrup.

Ginger and orange are a flavor combination that's hugely popular, and if you try this orange-ginger sauce recipe from Better Homes and Gardens, you'll find out exactly why. For those looking for a complete shortcut to adding some ginger topping, Epicurious has a recipe for an incredibly simple syrup made with only ginger, sugar, and water. Keep it in your fridge for when you need a fix.

Burnt toast

Burnt toast is usually tossed outside for the birds. But there's actually a use for it, and if you crumble some of your burnt toast over your ice cream, you might just find yourself serving up dessert for breakfast and not feeling the least bit guilty about it.

Trend Hunter suggests something completely and totally simple to give plain scoops of vanilla ice cream a whole new flavor. Butter up a thick slice of your favorite bread, add a few scoops of ice cream, and top it off with some burnt toast crumbs to add a smoky flavor. Add some jam if you like, a drizzle of honey, or a splash of maple syrup to finish off this simple reason to have ice cream for breakfast.

Wasabi paste and peas

The natural cold state of ice cream makes it the ideal background for hot and spicy flavors, and even though it might seem unthinkable to add wasabi to your favorite vanilla, it absolutely isn't. Not Quite Nigella has a super easy recipe for wasabi ice cream that you can easily adjust depending on how much you like wasabi and how hot you want the final product to be. Add just a dash or add a lot, serve with peanuts, and you'll have a dessert that's going to have you picking up an extra tube of wasabi paste next time you're at the grocery store.

There are other options for adding wasabi to your ice cream, too, and Green Evi has whipped up a wasabi and cucumber ice cream that has its wasabi heat cut not only by the freshness of cucumber but also by the coconut milk instead of the usual heavy cream. That makes this one not only light but vegan, too, and it's such an amazing combination of flavors that even steadfast non-vegans will be asking you for the recipe.

Poppy Talk has another suggestion for adding a kick of wasabi to your ice cream, and they suggest grinding wasabi peas into a powder then using that as a dusting for your ice cream.

Green tea

Green tea has a distinctive but mild flavor, and that makes it a delicate accompaniment to a dish of ice cream, especially if you're not in the mood for something super sweet. Jackie Gordon has put together this recipe for a matcha and green tea cream sauce that's easy to whip up and stow away in the fridge for later.

If you're looking for a little more of that green tea flavor, try this tasty recipe from Hummingbird High. Not only is it filled with a huge amount of matcha green tea flavor, but finishing it off with a chocolate sauce sweetens it up to just the right amount.

Green tea is one of those flavors that lends itself to all sorts of accompaniments, and there's no end to the opportunities here. Serious Eats has a green tea ice cream recipe that calls for a dash of jasmine tea leaves to give it a floral taste, and you could do the same thing with literally any other type of tea. Lavender? Rose? Blueberry? This recipe is so versatile that it's a great backdrop that lends itself to all kinds of experimentation, guaranteeing a perfect dessert every time.