The Ice Cream That’s Black As Charcoal

May  2, 2017

Last month, Little Damage, a soft serve joint that opened in Los Angeles in February, unveiled a flavor it’s dubbed Almond Charcoal. It’s made with almonds and activated charcoal, giving it a tar-black appearance and a slightly metallic-looking finish. Following this flavor's rather meteoric success, Little Damage swapped it out for another, equally arresting vanilla and charcoal variety, Black Roses, last week.

🖤 food for your mood 🖤 Wednesday Adams would approve! 📸: @helloitsroxie @little.damage #littledamage

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▪️ SAY GOODBYE TO ALMOND CHARCOAL ▪️tomorrow @little.damage is putting in BLACK ROSES 🌹⚫️

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You are what you eat! Our Black Roses flavor gets its color naturally from charcoal! 🖤 lick it up at @little.damage @bobbymarc

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Finally, ice cream to match your soul 🖤 the @little.damage Black Roses 🌹 be sure to get in line by 10:30PM! 📸: @m_o_d_a

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Black ice cream isn’t anything new, of course. Japan is home to black sesame ice cream and squid ink soft serve. And last summer, both Morgenstern’s over in Manhattan and Prohibition Creamery in Austin debuted black coconut ash ice cream, which has a similarly morbid aesthetic.

But pitch-black ice cream is enjoying a resurgence thanks to Little Damage, and I’m personally pretty jazzed about it. There's no way around it—those photos are gorgeous. Perhaps my affinity to these photos is colored by Starbucks' Unicorn Frappucino and similar color wheel disasters that have captured the popular imagination. Black soft serve is a welcome foil to the Unicorn Frappucino. Of the recent trends that have seized Instagram feeds, it's basically the only one I’m willing to fully endorse.

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Ever have black ice cream? Let us know in the comments.

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Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


Frederique M. July 14, 2017
but but! What's wrong with just white vanilla soft serve? Why does it NEED to be any other color? And I agree.. AC is for aquariums, not food!
Lucia W. May 30, 2017
Clementine's Creamery in St. Louis makes a "Black Ash Cherry" flavor that is out of control good - the cherry flavor isn't overly sweet and kind of has a slow release, but then you get a bite of a sour cherry and the whole thing together is really just perfection - even its grey hue :)
jonah May 10, 2017
sounds good i would eat it......
Martin B. May 3, 2017
I agree with Courtney. Activated charcoal is used (in surprisingly small amounts) in A&Es (ERs in the States) to treat overdoses and poisonings. Anyone taking critical medication orally should avoid any product containing activated charcoal. I used to bake black sourdoughs made with AC until a hospital doctor customer took me to one side and explained the implications of selling it. I hate to think what damage is being done by the recent fad for brushing teeth with AC.
Courtney M. May 3, 2017
Activated charcoal can bind to medicines, such as birth control, heart meds, blood thinners, rendering them ineffective. Don't eat things with charcoal in them. It's a Really Bad Idea.
creamtea May 2, 2017
The jury is still out on whether charcoal is a carcinogen. I'll pass.
Whiteantlers May 2, 2017
I've had black sesame ice cream which is actually grey. Love the stuff.
Miriam B. May 2, 2017
Years ago, Baskin Robbins had licorice ice cream and it was delicious.
Mary W. May 2, 2017
It was Baskin Robbins. I thought is was Velvet Freeze. I wish they would make it again!!
Mary W. May 2, 2017
I use to get licorice ice cream at a parlor here in Kansas City. I would love a recipe if anyone has one.
Bluearmadillo May 2, 2017
I made David Lebovitz Anise Ice cream