Gussied-Up Ice Pops Should Be Your Go-To Summer Dessert

June 12, 2018

We've partnered with Peapod—the handy grocery service that can deliver ingredients straight to your door—to share recipes, tips, and tricks to help streamline your summer get-togethers. Here, we're highlighting one of our favorite warm weather treats: popsicles!

Before the season has even officially started, summer heat has already hit and the air in New York City, where I live, hangs heavy and hot. Lugging groceries back from the store (always an ordeal for city dwellers) becomes even more unpleasant you're sticky and sweaty. Cooking in a sweltering kitchen is undeniably a chore. And baking—usually my happy place—becomes the unhappiest of tasks. I loathe turning on the oven, but as a firm believer in the fact that a meal isn’t really over until you’ve had dessert, I'm looking to no-cook ways to satisfy my sweet tooth.

That’s where the humble popsicle comes in.

Forget lugging groceries by hand—Peapod can ship everything you need right to your home. Photo by Rocky Luten

Years of happy summer memories make popsicles a favorite: I can conjure up the feeling of anticipation before peeking into the freezer, or standing on tiptoes by the ice cream truck making my careful selection. Then the first cold bite, the juice melting down my hands, the sticky fingers afterwards.

Growing up, the best kind of summer popsicles were the homemade ones; my mom would always have a stash for us. Hers were simple affairs, sometimes nothing more than frozen lemonade made with a cheap plastic mold.

Now that I’m making my own popsicles, I’ve gone a little more experimental. My popsicle molds are known to make everything from frozen smoothie pops to boozy cocktail-inspired pops and beyond.

Peapod can make all your nostalgic popsicle dreams come true with fresh, organic produce and more. Photo by Rocky Luten

While they might not be the most obvious choice, popsicles are hands-down one of the easiest treats to make for summer entertaining. Whether it’s a backyard picnic or an elegant, sit-down dinner party, freeze up a batch for dessert and your guests won't be disappointed.

First of all, the nostalgia factor alone will make everyone happy. Second, popsicles are an excellent time-saver: you can make them far in advance and scratch the dessert prep off your list. Your guests will be impressed that you made popsicles from scratch; plus they’re hand-held so there are no plates to clean up afterward.

You can easily tailor them to the type of gathering and the audience (everyone loves popsicles, but you might want to save the more elaborate ones for the adults). Make sophisticated, fancied-up fruit pops with slices of real fruit inside for a dinner party; try a spirit-infused version for an outdoor cocktail party; or pick something fun and extra-sweet for a backyard barbecue, like these Strawberry Shortcake Pops.

Any liquid (except for high-proof alcohols) is pretty much fair game for freezing, so your options are wide open. Love smoothies? Freeze them! Like spritz cocktails? Turn them into a popsicle! Drink iced tea with lemonade? Throw some raspberries in and freeze it! The moral of the story is that everything is a little bit more fun, not to mention sweeter, in popsicle form.

My absolute favorite recipes to use for homemade popsicles are pretty simple, but easy to dress up if you fancy a flavor twist. Here are the best ones to start with:

Creamy and Dreamy

If you really want to be eating ice cream, try a creamier popsicle recipe with a milk or yogurt base, like these Roasted Banana Paletas, or even something that sounds crazy like a coconut milk–based corn pop, which are a favorite in Brazil. But play around—most flavors, from fruits to teas like Earl Grey, pair well with any type of milky base.

Fruit Forward

Take a look at what's in season—most fresh fruits are great in popsicles. When I make these Strawberry Coconut Ice Pops for a party—they're the ones pictured above, by the way—I like to coat the popsicles before serving with toasted coconut. (To make it stick, just brush the popsicles with a little water, then add the coconut!) For a more tart version, try these Strawberry, Rhubarb, and Lime Ice Pops...or skip the strawberries completely and play around with grapefruit (and edible flowers!) with this paletas recipe.

Spice Things Up

I love making these Blackberry, Rosemary, and Yogurt Ice Pops for parties. They’re sweet and fruity, but the rosemary makes them a little bit more sophisticated than your average dessert. I also keep this classic Fudgesicle recipe on heavy rotation in the summer, but if I’m entertaining, I often add a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne to make it spicier and a little more exciting.

adults only

Vietnamese Coffee Popsicles are a brilliant way to make your iced coffee even better. With sweetened condensed milk and strong coffee, these are fun for a picnic or a morning brunch. For popsicles of the boozier variety, stick with alcohols that are lower proof like beer, wine, and certain liqueurs. These Coconut Porter Paletas combine dark beer (a porter, stout, or brown ale) with toasted coconut and lime to make the perfect after-dinner, adult-friendly dessert.

Do you have a go-to popsicle recipe? Share it in the comments!

Before you start mixing up those pops, make sure you've got all the right ingredients. With help from our partner Peapod, an online grocery service, you can shop everything you need to DIY this frozen treat without leaving your house. And if you're looking for farm-fresh produce to inspire your creations, check out Peapod's local farm boxes—it's like getting the farmer's market delivered to your door.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.