Tomatoes Are The Underestimated Fruit You Should Put In Ice Cream

Across the world, ice cream is a dessert staple. From classic vanilla to Oreo fudge sundae, ice cream can curb even the most serious sweet tooth. However, ice cream flavors aren't limited to sugary palates — many varieties are made with salty, savory, and peppery flavors like salted caramel and pretzel, black pepper, and even olive oil. But there's one summery flavor that requires a juicy red fruit, and it's not strawberry or cherry: it's tomato.

While tomatoes are most often associated with burger toppings and Caprese salads, they actually make for a surprisingly refreshing and tangy batch of ice cream. Although it might sound unusual, many cultures across history have enjoyed this funky flavor. Tomato ice cream was popular in the Soviet Union in the 70s and is still popular across Korea and in Italy where it's called gelato al pomodoro.

The ice cream base provides a creamy landscape that complements the bright flavors of tomatoes — sweetness balanced by the tomato's tangy, slightly acidic undertones. There are many ways to make tomato ice cream, but at its simplest, you can blend your custard base with puréed tomatoes or tomato paste in an ice cream machine to create a frozen dessert that tastes like a summer garden. Because tomatoes walk the line between sweet and savory, tomato ice cream pairs well with herbs and other flavors.

Customizing tomato ice cream

You can experiment with various ways to incorporate your tomatoes into — or onto — your ice cream. Caramelize your tomatoes into a compote with butter, a touch of sugar, and herbs, and either mix it into your custard base or serve it warm on a bowl of vanilla. Go the savory route and take advantage of the juiciness of tomatoes to make a tomato granita.

On the sweet side, tomato ice cream is lively and sophisticated on its own, but there are plenty of ways to enhance the dessert with complementary ingredients. One of the easiest ways to liven it up is to garnish it with fresh basil, which brings an aromatic flair to each bite. For a more enduring basil kick, try churning in basil syrup or honey as you make the ice cream. No basil? Mint is an excellent substitute. Another way to elevate tomato ice cream is by adding a touch of sea salt and pepper.

Drizzle balsamic glaze onto a scoop of tomato ice cream — these two ingredients are a tried-and-true culinary pairing that brings depth and complexity to the ice cream. Or add some fruity richness with a fig and balsamic reduction. You can also use a scoop of tomato ice cream to cap off olive oil cake, summery cobblers, or grilled peaches, for a refreshing blend of unusual dessert flavors.