What's Better than Fried Ice Cream, with No Frying Involved?

June 23, 2016

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Fried ice cream shouldn't exist. It's the Lucky the Dog of the frozen dessert world: Its existence makes no sense. How can a dog be hit by a car—more than once! 2000 miles away from home! in outer space!—and live to tell the tale, panting happily the whole time? How can ice cream survive a dunk in hot oil?!

It shouldn't live, and yet...

This is not technically fried ice cream. Read on to find out what it really is. Photo by Mark Weinberg

While fried ice cream does exist in the world at large (and once, long ago, in my college dining hall, of all places!), it does not—and, I would surmise, should not—have a place in your home kitchen. You're setting yourself up for disappointment. (And have you read the news lately? If you're anything like me, your emotional state is too fragile for that kind of uncertainty.)

This seems scary. I wouldn't do this! Would you?

So may we present a much easier path towards fried-like ice cream, which I first stumbled across on the website She Wears Many Hats. Unfried ice cream, as Amy Johnson of SWMH calls it, is not as rich or decadent, and it doesn't have that same hot-and-cold, heaven-and-hell thing going on.

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But! But it gives you the same effect—an even distribution of toppings that hug all parts of the ice cream's surface—with no chance of your precious Naked Chocolate Ice Cream for Lovers melting into a vat of hot oil.

Plus, it's (1) incredibly easy to do and (2) ideal for making in advance for a big group: Prepare all your ice cream balls, then store them in a freezer: When your rowdy friends or relatives come over later that day, you'll have a much less messy, much more... curated ice cream sundae set-up.

Chocolate ice cream works just as well as vanilla. (Who would have thought?!) Photo by Mark Weinberg

Here's how to do it:

1). Scoop your ice cream.
Store-bought or homemade—who will know once you cover it in toppings? Use your favorite scooper. (This fancy one truly makes flawless scoops.)

2). Get it in the freezer.
Manipulating your ice cream in any way warms it up (sad but true). So scoop directly onto a parchment- or wax paper-lined baking sheet, then place it back into the freezer until it's firmed back up. (If you're a really fast worker undaunted by drippy ice cream, skip this step at your own risk.)

3). Prep your toppings.
Crush animal crackers, pretzels, Oreos, Fritos, graham crackers, corn flakes. Chop toasted nuts and candied ginger. Gather sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, coconut flakes, sprinkles of all types. Add spices like cinnamon and cardamom. Add crunch with toasted sesame seeds or raw sugar.

Ready to roll! Photo by Mark Weinberg

4). Give the ice cream scoops a roll-around.
Dump the toppings in a shallow bowl, a baking dish, or a sheet pan with rims, then roll each ball of ice cream through them so that all sides are evenly speckled. (You may have to let the scoops soften up—just a tiny bit!—so that their surfaces are sticky enough to pick up your toppings.)

Pair toppings and ice cream flavors as you see fit. Ours went like this:

  • Strawberry frozen yogurt + crushed animal crackers and colored sugar
  • Chocolate ice cream + crushed pretzels and Oreos
  • Olive oil gelato + corn flakes, brown sugar, and toasted sliced almonds
  • Carrot cake ice cream + crushed graham crackers and coconut flakes
Ta-da! Easy at that. Photo by Mark Weinberg

5). Back to the freezer.
I know this part is painful, but you'll thank yourself later, when you can present a tray of colorful, coated ice cream scoops to your party guests.

It's another stint in the freezer for you all! Photo by Mark Weinberg

6). Serve!
The rest of the toppings—honey, hot fudge, whipped cream, fresh fruit—come now. You know what to do next:

Photo by Mark Weinberg

Are you one of those brave souls who's actually fried ice cream at home? Share your experience in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • petalpusher
  • Helen R.
    Helen R.
  • Christina Montenegro
    Christina Montenegro
  • i
  • SS
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


petalpusher June 24, 2016
Thanks Sarah, these ideas are so much better than actually making fried ice cream. I'm going for key lime sorbet rolled in crushed wasabi peas and ginger snaps....
Helen R. June 24, 2016
I have fried ice cream. I read about fried ice cream in the 1970 's in a Magic Kingdom Key Club magazine given to me by my uncle. They served it in a restaurant in a resort of Disneyworld in Florida. I so wanted to taste it I concocted my own recipe using cookie dough and vanilla ice cream. Freeze ice cream really hard, coat with sugar cookie dough (quickly), freeze again, deep fry in a fryer or wok until cookie is done, about 15-20 sec (?) to a min? (I don't have my recipe in front of me). Serve immediately with chocolate or other sauce, whipped cream... very rich. The hot and cold are awesome, but it was tricky. I was just pleased, as a teen, to have pulled that off. :) Will have to try your version some time soon.
Christina M. June 24, 2016
Could you "fry" or toast the toppings somehow and then use them to coat the ice cream - might that give you the fried flavor?
petalpusher June 24, 2016
I would go to McDonald's and buy several hash browns and chop those up slightly cooled to roll your scoops of ice cream in. That would certainly give you the fried flavor.
Jem R. June 24, 2016
ive made fried ice cream balls at restaurants. I was thinking that pre frying might be the way to go, too. We never did this two step freezing business mentioned in this recipe. It seems unnecessary. Make the ball, roll it in cinnamon sugar and cornflakes, and then freeze it. Deep fry for 5-10 seconds. If I were trying to recreate it at home, I would toast/fry up some coating, make the balls, coat, and freeze. When it came time to serve, I'd let the balls warm up a wee bit, and the roll them in some reserved coating so that not all of the coating would be frozen. And I couldn't forget the drizzle of honey and whipped cream. I'm so trying this ASAP.
i June 24, 2016
Carrot cake ice cream + crushed graham crackers! (heart eye emoji)
SS June 24, 2016
I made fried ice cream a few years ago for my son's birthday party, and it was delicious. I don't do a lot of frying, but this wasn't particularly messy or problematic. I found a well-reviewed recipe online that seemed like what I had eaten in restaurants. Similar process to above: freeze scoops--coat scoops with egg whites then roll in topping (crushed cornflakes mixed w/cinnamon)--freeze for 3 hours--fry for about 15 seconds--serve w/toppings. Your ideas above sound great....but not the same as FRIED ice cream! :)
petalpusher June 24, 2016
thank goodness!