How to make a better ice cream sundae, with recipes and easy tips

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It is unknown when and where the first ice cream sundae was made, but I want to thank whoever topped scoops of ice cream with sauce for this wonderful invention. Ever since that first glorious concoction, people have taken the sundae for outrageous heights.

I favor a more minimalist approach. No, there aren’t really any rules when it comes to building an ice cream sundae – however you build it, it’s sure to be a tasty treat – but I encourage you to exercise restraint so there aren’t too many competing flavors and textures, resulting in a muddy mess.

How to create the ice cream of your dreams

The tips below will help you create a better ice cream sundae, enjoy it alone or set up an ice cream sundae bar for a crowd. And I’ve also included a few recipes if you feel inspired to make the ice cream, sauce, or toppings yourself.

The standard sundae glass is a classic for a reason. Tall, not too wide serving dishes are great for creating layers of flavor and texture – a must for a great sundae. If you don’t have those specific dishes, you can build your sundae into a drinking glass, mug, or bowl with tall sides for the same effect. To prevent the ice cream from melting too quickly, put the dishes in the freezer at least an hour before serving to help keep the cuts cold.

For an individual portion, two to three scoops of ice cream are enough. Vanilla and chocolate are always good options, but any creamy frozen dessert flavor can be used. And you don’t have to stick to just one flavor – feel free to mix and match whatever flavors work for you. Maybe chocolate and coffee, or strawberry and pistachio? The only limit is your imagination, but I’d limit myself to a maximum of two different flavors, so there’s not too much competition.

Also, while I love ice cream with mixes, I’d be careful before using one with a ton of added ingredients when building a sundae. Once the sauces, toppings, and finishing touches are added, you don’t want too much going on in the finished product. Here are some ice cream recipes to get you started:

Vanilla ice cream. The key to this recipe is goat’s milk, which gives this custard-based ice cream a luxuriously creamy texture and just a little tanginess.

S’mores Ice Cream. Toasted graham cracker pieces and marshmallow fluff folded into chocolate ice cream channel a campfire classic in this recipe. When using it in a sundae, add a toasted marshmallow on top for a nice finishing touch.

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Mint ice cream with chocolate chips. Mint and chocolate are a classic combination. You can reinforce this pairing in a sundae with crushed fine mints, chopped Andean chocolate mints, or York peppermint patties.

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It’s not a sundae without sauce. As with the gelato itself, stick to one, maybe two sauces so the flavors don’t get too muddled. When building, put some sauce between the scoops of ice cream – and maybe also at the bottom of the glass – for better distribution.

Dark Chocolate Syrup. Yes, a drizzle of tangy fudge sauce is classic. But if you are going to make it yourself, this dark chocolate syrup is more versatile in its use.

The 2-ingredient chocolate shell is an easy way to upgrade your ice cream

Go-To Salted Caramel Sauce. Unlike personalities, a caramel sauce improves with a bit of bitterness. If you prefer a sweeter, fluffier sauce, don’t let the sugar brown so much.

Watch: How to Make Caramel Sauce

Strawberry sauce. This recipe calls for frozen fruit, which means you can make it any time of year to drizzle over sundaes, cakes, French toast and more.

While the toppings obviously add flavor – don’t forget the savory and savory items – I’m more excited about the textures they can introduce to a sundae. Here are a few :

  • Crisp: toasted nuts, granola, chopped candy bars, crushed pretzels, cookie pieces, potato chips, bacon
  • Soft: brownies, dried fruits, gummies, grated coconut
  • Fluffy: whipped cream, fresh cream, marshmallow fluff, yogurt
  • Juicy: various fruits and berries

Ultimate Brownies. If brownie sundaes are your thing, then a great brownie made from scratch is the way to go. These are thick, chewy and chocolatey.

Maple Spicy Glazed Nuts. These nuts have a warming effect thanks to the cinnamon and cayenne pepper, and they add a nice crunch to any sundae.

How to Toast Nuts on the Stove, Oven, or Microwave

Crunchy clusters of nuts and seeds. Although this recipe is marketed for adding crunch to salads, these clusters of nuts and seeds would also be at home on a few scoops of ice cream.

Chocolate Chilli Deep Fryer Granola is our crunchy go-to

Unlike Coco Chanel who tells you to take one thing off before you leave the house, when it comes to sundaes, one last bit of flair – be it sprinkles, chocolate shavings, fresh herbs and/or a piece of fruit – can be the (literal) icing on the cake to go from good to great. So, while I encourage restraint, don’t be afraid to finish on a high.


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