Carvel Ice Cream Flavors Ranked Worst To Best

For most of us non-ice cream entrepreneur peasants, having your vehicle break down on the side of the road means a lot of four-letter words and a lot of money spent on tow trucks and car repairs. But for one Tom Carvel, a king of ingenuity, a flat tire on his ice cream truck decades ago led him to sell a melty-yet-still-solid version of his frozen dessert that was preferred by customers. It would eventually become known as soft serve ice cream and help him lay the groundwork for an ice cream empire across the U.S.

This said ice cream kingdom, fittingly deemed Carvel, continues to create ice cream delights that keep people returning to its franchise castles. Among its offerings are hard scooped ice cream (which is made from the same formula as its OG soft serve), ice cream sandwich flying saucers, and, weirdly, a whale-shaped ice cream cake called Fudgie that was created somewhere along the way. Carvel's repertoire is a sacred space for all who love sweet and creamy treats. But today, we're going to charge Carvel's palace of ice cream fortitude to decide which of its flavors really deserve the title of ice cream royalty and which should be dethroned for a DQ blizzard.

We tried 12 Carvel ice cream flavors — two were soft serve and 10 were hard scooped if you want to get technical — at our local shoppe and ranked them from worst to first. Here are the dreamy and not-so-creamy results.

12. Mixed chocolate vanilla scooped

Chocolate and vanilla. These two flavors were meant to coexist in a beautiful, delightful harmony of tastes. Or at least we thought so before we tried Carvel's scooped vanilla and chocolate ice cream abomination.

Almost perfectly swirled, when we first dipped into this half-and-half cup of ice cream, our spoon clashed into a heap of chocolate. We found that the scooped chocolate was a lot more intense in flavor than its soft serve counterpart. The vanilla, however, was a dulled down, more solid take on its sweeter soft serve version. But when combined (because after all, this ice cream is quite literally meant to be eaten in vanilla and chocolate unity), both flavors tasted ... unremarkable.

Instead of melding together to reinforce each other's greatest attributes and create chocolate-vanilla serendipity, these two flavors almost canceled each other out when combined and became flavorless in a phenomenon of dessert behavior we've never quite witnessed before. And so we spat on Carvel's chocolate vanilla scoop for its ability to make us lose faith in this beloved flavor combo (pooh, pooh) and stuck it at the bottom of our list.

11. Chocolate chip cookie dough scooped

On the Carvel website, it claims it looked at a tray of glistening, tasty (not always safe to eat uncooked, but hey, we're not cops) cookie dough and decided that rather than baking it into its final form, it would "mix it with our ice cream instead." Well, apparently, Carvel actually chose to only throw, like, three pieces of cookie dough, into its ice cream and used the rest of it to make into some of its famed chipsters sandwiches.

Yes, Carvel's chocolate chip cookie dough scoop has an abundance of chocolate chips. The ice cream's vanilla base is also creamy and delectable. However, there are only a few chunks of cookie dough, and you have to work to find them. And when you do find them, you'll be sorely disappointed by their measly size. In fact, when we finally found a cookie dough piece and chomped down on it, it dissolved in our mouth before we even got a real chance to savor it.

The chocolate chip cookie dough scoop at least had a taste, making it better than the abominable last place loser on our list. However, the lack of cookie dough in an ice cream that claims the cookie dough name leaves this flavor in second to last place.

10. Oreo cookies and cream scooped

Carvel and milk's favorite cookie go back a ways. The two brands have been working together since at least 2013, and the Oreo cookies and cream scooped ice cream flavor is a frozen dessert love child from these two companies that ended up on Carvel's permanent menu.

Made to resemble the delicious taste of the creme filling that lies between the two Oreo cookie biscuits, this ice cream is supposed to be filled with chunks of chocolate wafers. However, while the base of this treat is indeed creamy and subtly sweet like Oreo's famous but not-so-secret ingredient, this dessert's scarce amount of Oreo cookie pieces is its Achilles heel.

Granted, there were more chunks of Oreo in this ice cream than there was cookie dough in the chocolate chip cookie dough companion. The Oreo cookie pieces, when they were there, were big and tear-inducingly delicious. However, there was still too much straight-up creme-flavored ice cream without any chocolate chunks in it for our liking. And so, while this ice cream is above cookie dough, it still borders on being almost pure vanilla ice cream when it should be, you know, Oreo ice cream. So, its lack of Oreo wafer goodness leaves it toward the bottom of our list.

9. Cake mix scooped

From birthday cake-flavored cookie dough to Goldfish crackers meant to taste like vanilla cupcakes, the general consensus among those producing such snacks is that, one, a birthday-flavored dessert must have sprinkles and, two, you can't call it Funfetti-flavored because that, friends, is trademarked. And like most celebration-flavored snacks, Carvel's cake mix flavor is supposed to taste like vanilla cake infused with happy sprinkles, hence its slightly yellow-cake-in-a-box-like color. However, the cake base doesn't really taste any different than plain ole vanilla ice cream. But the Carvel cake mix flavor does have one saving grace: its thick confetti sprinkle pieces.

The sprinkles are not only plentiful (so we never felt like we were just eating vanilla ice cream), but as we mentioned before, they are also wonderfully huge. Every bite is filled with magical sprinkle flavor that makes this frozen dessert feel like a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. Still, while the sprinkles carry this ice cream to Funfetti –  we mean birthday cake — flavored glory, its base that doesn't taste like cake leaves the Carvel cake mix flavor at the bottom half of our list.

8. Cold brew coffee scooped

Since the beginning of what can only be described as everyone's intense iced coffee itch, the cult of cold brew has been a real thing. And in 2019, Carvel introduced its very own cold brew coffee ice cream for cold brew fans to add to the pedestal of worship known as their stomach. Since then, Carvel has even gone on to release a caramel version of its coffee treat. But we're focusing on the OG cold brew frozen dessert.

Though it's silky smooth on the tongue despite being a hard ice cream, we're sad to say that the cold brew coffee ice cream is clearly made for someone who isn't a big coffee fan. The coffee flavor in this frozen dessert is subtle. In fact, when we first tried it, we were wondering where the cold brew taste was, and then it hit us. It's all in the aftertaste.

There is a wonderful coffee-filled flavor with an interesting texture. If the actual ice cream were as rich in flavor as its light-coffee backwash, then this ice cream might be higher on our list.

7. Chocolate soft serve

Since the day that the company's founder sold that first fateful warmer than usual ice cream, soft serve has been the bread and butter (or maybe more accurately the milk and butter) of Carvel. However, one of the two soft serve flavors that was available at our local location was simply not up to par with the other. And that's the chocolate.

Look, inherently, Carvel's chocolate soft serve is a pretty good ice cream. It's enticingly creamy, as soft serve ice cream should be, and it has a solid chocolate flavor. But that chocolate flavor, while delivering taste in a more tangible way than the cake batter ice cream base of the cake mix flavor does, just isn't chocolatey enough. In fact, it tastes like a slightly more chocolate version of the vanilla soft serve than a full-on chocolate dessert all its own. So while it's a perfectly fine flavor, the chocolate soft serve needs more cocoa intensity before it can be moved up our list.

6. Pistachio scooped

If you think loving pistachio makes you hip, cool, and underground, don't. Much like pineapple pizza (which over half of Americans enjoy, according to a Cinch Home Services survey), pistachio is a top ice cream flavor pretending it's an underdog. It's the flavor of choice of not one, not two, but three different states — New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, per an Instacart study. From the first look, Carvel's version of pistachio ice cream checks off a lot of the appropriate pistachio ice cream boxes. It's delightfully dark green and silky smooth, and it leaves ice cream lovers with a really nice crunch-like aftertaste.

However, while Carvel's scooped pistachio flavor is more intense and distinctive than its cold brew coffee and chocolate brethren, like the aforementioned wayward ice creams, after munching into this dessert, we found it was still more like a watered-down pistachio ice cream than the real, green-blooded thing. So in other words, the third verse is the same as the first. Please, Carvel, go more intense with your ice cream flavors.

5. Vanilla soft serve

In many ways, the vanilla flavor is to the ice cream world what the creation of Adam is to humankind. It's the starting point for countless ice cream desserts and also the base for quite literally all of the Carvel ice cream flavors. And after trying Carvel's claim to ice cream fame, we can only say that this is what soft serve vanilla ice cream was meant to be.

First of all, there's the texture. This vanilla ice cream is a creamy, smooth dream. And then, there's the flavor, which does anything but disappoint. Carvel's vanilla soft serve delivers an explosive taste, which is partially because it has a subtle sweetness, meaning it doesn't overwhelm your senses with a sugar rush. That way, you can fully take in its intense vanilla flavor.

Why then, is this ice cream not further up the list? This vanilla ice cream is outrageously good, but there are simply other ice creams at Carvel throwing more interesting flavor parties. Sorry, OG vanilla.

4. Cherry vanilla scooped

Every ice cream lover knows that no sundae, split, or milkshake is complete without the proverbial and literal cherry on top. And Carvel's cherry vanilla scooped ice cream has red cherries all over it.

This Carvel flavor is the answer to two taste problems we've had with the ice cream giant so far. First, there were several Carvel treats that didn't deliver on the amount of add-ins. However, our fourth-place Carvel flavor is filled to the brim with delicious, fresh red cherries that permeate your mouth with bright juicy flavor. In fact, even when you're not biting into a juicy cherry, you'll be enjoying vanilla ice cream infused with sweet cherry juice. Second, while vanilla is a very good-tasting flavor for what it is, by adding red cherries to the classic recipe, the creamy taste of this traditional flavor is elevated with fruity goodness and crunchy texture.

All in all, the cherry vanilla flavor is a true Carvel standout. However, our top three picks are the elite of Carvel's ice cream flavors.

3. Strawberry scooped

The trinity of top ice cream flavors usually has vanilla stacked on top, chocolate second, and strawberry coming in last. We see this in Neapolitan ice cream and in the famed banana split. However, every ice cream gets its day. And today is strawberry ice cream's moment because this time, Carvel's delectable take on the flavor outshines its vanilla and chocolate brethren.

While the Carvel strawberry ice cream has no add-ins, quite frankly, it doesn't need them. That's what sets it apart from the cherry vanilla flavor. See, the cherries in the aforementioned flavor are the interesting taste crutch that the sweet but subtle vanilla needs to stand on to make a flavor impact. Meanwhile, this ice cream's flavor is a non-stop strawberry ice cream palooza.

When you bite into a scoop of this light pink frozen dessert, you'll be seeing, breathing, and dreaming about fresh strawberries. We are not exaggerating when we say this is hands down some of the best ice strawberry ice cream we've ever had. Creamy and light, it is a crowd-pleaser. Carvel's strawberry ice cream comes in third on our list, though, not because of any shortcomings it had but because of how delicious our top two Carvel ice cream flavors are.

2. Mint chocolate chip scooped

Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies. York Peppermint Patties. Pepperidge Farm Mint Chocolate Cookies. It's time we add another treat to the hall of mint and chocolate dessert fame. Our second-place winner and perfecter of the flavor power of mint and chocolate is Carvel's mint chocolate chip scooped ice cream.

When we tasted this dessert, we quickly discovered that not only is the mint flavor of the base incredibly strong, leaving that signature peppermint sting on your tongue, but the chocolate chips are also generously spread throughout the ice cream. There was not one bite of this ice cream where that great mint base didn't mix with sweet chocolaty goodness to fill our mouth with York Peppermint Pattie-level flavor.

The elements of the strawberry's intense flavor base and cherry vanilla's masterful add-ins all combine into Carvel's mint chocolate chip scooped ice cream to create an otherworldly ice cream experience. However, our No. 1 Carvel's ice cream flavor is both full of tasty delight and an entirely unique-to-Carvel flavor experience.

1. Cotton candy scooped

Cotton candy flavored ice cream usually takes a pretty universal form. Light and sugary, its blue and pink flavors are swirled together into a cotton-candy-esque frozen dessert. But those pitiful ice creams are only pretending to be a perfect replica of one of the most famous treats you look forward to getting at the fair. Will the real cotton candy ice cream stand up? Yes, Carvel's cotton candy ice cream is quite literally cotton candy reincarnated into a second, dare we say, tastier life as ice cream.

A light pink ice cream filled to the brim with thick, round sprinkles, every bite you take out of Carvel's cotton candy ice cream is saturated with both the fluffy cotton candy flavor of its base and its crunchy, fun add-ins. Most miraculously, however, its light flavor combined with the texture of its round sprinkles remind us of that crunchy, bunched-up part of cotton candy that we all know and love.

Full of round sprinkles and bursting with unmistakable cotton candy flavor, Carvel's cotton candy ice cream is a fan favorite. It's a carnival in your mouth. So call us blasphemous, but when you head to Carvel, skip the soft serve. Our No. 1 pick for Carvel's must-have treat is its hard-scooped cotton candy ice cream.