When Halo Top hit shelves in 2012, the ice cream scene froze over. Suddenly, between industry giants (hello, Ben and Jerry), there was a sleek newcomer with a design-forward logo and a signature gold top. But the most startling difference between the ice creams of the past and this new ice cream, which appeared to be from the future, was not the color of its top. Smack in the middle of Halo Top’s pint, in large, proud text, was the calorie information.
This was unheard of. Traditionally, ice creams adhered to the "we won’t tell if you don’t" mentality. The nutrition info was there if you looked, but why would you look? As marketing efforts encouraged, we largely avoided any number that was associated with ice cream. We deserved to indulge, and once the decision had been made to dig through the freezer for a pint, it was simply not the time or place to calorie count. Right?
Wrong. Or at least, according to Halo Top. The frozen treat is "light ice cream that actually tastes like ice cream." You can feel okay about counting calories and indulging at the same time: with Halo Top, there’s simply fewer calories to count. The brand has seen a lot of success, and in just nine years, they’ve gone from the original four flavors to a current lineup of 25.
But that doesn’t mean every flavor is as good as the last. Read on for our verdict on that.
19. Peaches & Cream
Okay, look. We are all about new ideas and can get behind serious innovation when it comes to flavor. But one thing we are not quite as keen to get behind? A mass-produced ice cream, which brands itself as health-conscious, incorporating actual peach bits into their pints. That’s right, with Halo Top’s Peaches & Cream flavor, the iconic ice creamer went all the way — and it turns out, "all the way" doesn’t always bode well.
The peach bits, while an admirable effort to be thorough, are confusing for a few reasons. First of all, they don’t really seem to fit with the smooth, creamsicle vibe that the rest of the pint boasts. Secondly, they can hardly be fresh, considering the fact that they are literally packed into a delicacy that sits in the freezer aisle. Our main qualm, though, is not with that dissonance or with the way the peaches don’t fit the otherwise silky vibe. No, the bigger issue here is by far texture. When you’re sitting down to have a few spoonfuls of ice cream, are you looking for random, chewy bits of fruit to swallow with your scoops?
Neither are we.
It’s somewhat odd that a pure and plain flavor could have such a dismal rating, right? Without tasting, we might think so too. But having experienced the dull, dry, faded flavor of Halo Top’s chocolate, we are sure that this bad boy deserves to be squarely at the end of the list. It’s nothing against chocolate itself; usually, we’re fans of the classic. It’s about Halo Top’s approach.
Often when you crack open a pint of Halo Top, you’ll see a bit of freezer burn around the edges. Not a problem, until you excitedly dig in and get a bite that is, well, a good percentage freezer burn. What’s worse is when you then realize: this freezer burn doesn’t taste all that different than the flakey chocolate spoonfuls that you get on bites two and three.
Before Halo Top, alternative "healthy" ice cream brands were notorious for terribly dry and unflavored texture. Unfortunately, Halo Top’s chocolate flavor comes closest to sharing the same fate.
17. Mint Chip
Confession time: this could be a personal issue. Here at Mashed, some of us aren’t huge fans of mint chip ice cream to begin with. Mint and sweet together? Who dreamt up that combo, and why did it ever become widely accepted, instead of being deemed a number one food violation?
So it was difficult for us to fairly rank this flavor, which does an okay job emulating a traditional, calorie-laden mint chocolate chip ice cream. But when even the mint chip lovers didn’t jump to its defense, we figured our impression was less swayed by personal distaste and more just a reflection of a lack of flavor on Halo Top’s part. We know Halo Top has more faith in this flavor than we do — in February 2019, it was announced as one of the first four to be launched as a Halo Top Pop. But that doesn’t change our opinion that, if you’re debating which low-calorie pint to grab, there are at least 16 better flavors of Halo Top you could go with.
16. Cookies and Cream
Although our team is not as split on the cookies and cream flavor in general as we are on mint chocolate chip (the former is just naturally less divisive than the latter), Halo Top’s Cookies and Cream rendition garnered much of the same criticism as its take on mint chocolate chip did. The main issue here was the fact that, when you think of cookies and cream, you envision a burst of not only flavor but also of texture.
At first, Halo Top’s flavor seems like it will deliver on both: when you rip back the protective seal, there’s plenty to look at. However, when actually scooped and swallowed, it’s clear that the look of this Cookies and Cream dessert is where the draw ends. It lacks any kind of flavor — the vanilla ice cream is less creamy than other vanilla-based Halo Top flavors, and there are definitely not many notes of cookie at all. There’s also no texture. Those flakes of chocolate are far too small to actually bring anything to the table, making for an overall disappointing experience.
15. Strawberry Cheesecake
This is another flavor that Halo Top had enough faith in to honor as one of the first four flavors of their iconic ice cream pops. And, just like Mint Chip, it’s another flavor where we simply have to disagree.
The concept here is great. A fruity flavor, with swirls of graham cracker (okay!) and pieces of cheesecake. Sounds delicious, and well worth the slightly-heftier 360 calories, right? Not in our book. Although in theory, this flavor, which launched around the same time as fellow fruity fail Peaches & Cream, has a lot of good going on, in practice, it does not all come together for one cohesive pint. We felt that the cheesecake bits — could you call them curds? — were far too infrequently occurring to even be fairly listed on the label, and that the strawberry base didn’t have enough of a pop to make up for it.
14. Red Velvet
Have you heard the popular theory that red velvet is just chocolate, with food coloring? It’s not true when it comes to cake, but after tasting Halo Top’s Red Velvet rendition, we’re convinced it might be legitimate in terms of Halo Top flavors. This pint is just as bland and unflavored as its chocolate counterpart, which is disappointing considering its uniqueness.
We know we’ve done our fair share of complaining about Halo Top add-ins: the peaches are odd, the cheesecake curds are too infrequent. But in general, the rule of thumb when it comes to Halo Top is that the add-ins are the most exciting (and often the most flavor-packed) part. With this red velvet pint, they are absolutely its only saving grace. Compared to other flavors, there are a lot more add-ins of "red velvet cake" in this one. We’re fairly certain the bits are actually just brownie pieces, but regardless, we’re down to pretend if Halo Top is.
13. Caramel Macchiato
Coffee ice cream is not for everyone. It’s certainly not for all of us on the Mashed team. But we went into this one with open hearts, ready to be swayed by Halo Top’s Caramel Macchiato flavor.
The issue here, more than anything, is the name. This is much more just macchiato flavored — the caramel swirls are incredibly rare and their flavor does not carry through to the rest of the pint. Basically, indulging in this one is like having coffee ice cream with a occasional burst of caramel topping. We’re talking super occasional, though: maybe five bites out of the entire pint are noticeably caramel-induced.
If you like coffee ice cream, there’s nothing wrong with this flavor. It’s creamier than many of its counterparts and does a fair interpretation of a macchiato. Plus, given the choice, wouldn’t you rather buzz around on a sugar rush than a on caffeine one?
12. Chocolate Mocha Chip
A second coffee flavor from Halo Top! (Was there a need for two? We’re not sure.) Was this a reaction to the semi-failure of the Caramel Macchiato variety? Perhaps. After all, the Chocolate Mocha Chip does edge out its fellow coffee flavor — but only slightly.
This guy has bits of chocolate in it, which is always a plus. The base itself is thicker and creamier than the regular chocolate (thankfully!). But the espresso taste leaves a lot to be desired. It is unmistakably bitter, and more reminiscent of black coffee than any mocha-infused treat. At 320 calories, this is one of the more indulgent Halo Top flavors — it definitely packs a stronger calorie punch than the Caramel Macchiato, which might be why it takes the lead in the ranking as well.
In general, we are still slightly confused about the concept of coffee ice cream. Coffee and ice cream just seem like very different concepts, meant to be consumed for different reasons and at different (specifically, opposite) times of day. But if it floats your boat (some folks even add coffee grounds to their ice cream), and you’re looking for the best Halo Top version, opt for the Chocolate Mocha Chip.
11. Sea Salt Caramel
Alright, so we’re not trying to stir up an ice cream brawl by not placing this popular favorite in the top ten. In other Halo Top rankings across the depths of the internet, it’s often found in the top three. But here’s the thing: Halo Top as a brand is evolving rapidly. Between 2015 and 2016 alone, the company’s sales spiked 2,500%, and they have now expanded across the entire globe. With that crazy growth, naturally, comes more unique flavor innovation. And as far as we’re concerned, Sea Salt Caramel is a pretty boring, average flavor.
Call us crazy, but there is just nothing to write home about here. It’s especially sweet, and somewhat salty, yes. But that taste combination is a tale as old as time, and just because Halo Top hopped on the bandwagon doesn’t mean that there’s anything exceptional about their version. The one accolade we will give this flavor is that when compared with lower-ranking options on this list, the mix-ins are not lacking. There are caramel swirls all over this baby — you won’t get a bite without one.
10. Vanilla Bean
Oh, Vanilla Bean. This flavor is one of the first we ever tried from Halo Top, and we’re probably not alone in that. It’s a useful one when comparing Halo Top to regular ice cream, because it’s simply so generic. And we, like many others, have found that this generic flavor comes to play.
Don’t get us wrong, it is somewhat bland. But coming in tenth out of 19 flavors puts it plainly in the middle of our ranking, which means that we are officially at the transition point between flavors we don’t recommend, and those that we do.
So what’s the draw, with Vanilla Bean? First, its versatility. Instead of worrying about odd flavors or add-ins, vanilla is a flavor that can be paired with any other dessert without fear. This makes it a great alternative, rather than its own entity — for example, instead of grabbing Häagen-Dazs’ vanilla ice cream to go with your birthday cake, you could sub in Halo Top’s for some calories reprieve. Your guests probably won’t notice unless you tell them, which brings us to Vanilla Bean’s second big draw. While the chocolate flavor has a texture that leaves something to be desired, vanilla is truly indistinguishable from a regular, less-healthy vanilla option. It’s just as creamy and delicious.
9. Oatmeal Cookie
Before taste testing, we were split on this one. On one hand, why have oatmeal cookie flavored ice cream when you could just have regular cookie flavored? Or better yet, cookie dough? Oatmeal cookie seems like an unnecessarily healthy option, considering Halo Top is already healthier than alternative ice cream brands.
But on the other hand, we were a fan of the monochromatic packaging from the beginning. Perhaps more importantly, we had heard great things about the flavor. One Amazon reviewer, Chrissy, put it best: "Oatmeal cookie is one of my favorite Halo Top flavors. There’s plenty of oatmeal pieces in the ice cream, resulting in an authentic oatmeal experience in ice cream form. A bit sweet but not overly so. I seriously sigh in pleasure while eating this flavor sometimes."
It doesn’t get much better than sighs of pleasure while scooping from a pint. And overall, we agree with Chrissy. The Oatmeal Cookie option is especially true to its flavor, and surprisingly enjoyable.
8. Birthday Cake
The birthday cake flavor is a fan favorite from Halo Top, and they know it. The flavor is irresistibly marketable: ice cream with sprinkles in it? That’s hard to beat, and also, somewhat rare. Not every competing ice cream brand, healthy or not, has a Birthday Cake flavor to stack up against Halo Top’s.
Perhaps the most Instagrammed flavor of any Halo Top variety, this legend comes in an adorable rainbow-flecked pint. It’s outside looks very similar to its inside, actually. Beyond just looks, though, the winning aspect of this Halo Top flavor is its sweetness. The sweet overload is not for everyone — some say that the notes of Stevia are way too noticeable, here — but we appreciated it. If you’re going for a treat anyway, why not go for an extra-sugary one? It’s 300 calories per pint, which makes it not even the heaviest flavor. Go ahead and dig in and include it as a side to the actual birthday cake recipe you’re putting together!
Wow, this one is divisive. We are personal fans of the Halo Top Pistachio flavor — it’s actually a bit of a freezer staple around here. At 240 calories, it’s one of the lowest-cal flavors, and in many ways, you can taste that. The pistachio is light and airy, while also still tasting a lot like any other brand’s less-healthy take on the flavor. There aren’t any add-ins here, which all things considered, was probably a good call on Halo Top’s part. As any pistachio ice cream fan knows, you’re not really looking for anything too closely reminiscent of the tree nut when you start scooping. Had there been bits of actual pistachio nuts in here, it likely would have ranked lower.
When we did a quick Google to back up our love of the pistachio flavor, we were shocked to find that the general public does not agree. People are not thrilled by the plainness of this flavor, and reactions range from indifference to deeming it not strong enough to wishing it had pistachio bits in it. Agree to disagree.
We like this one because we like graham cracker. Often, in flavor recreations, the graham cracker aspect of the s’more is either largely overlooked or forgotten altogether. This is crazy for two reasons: first, when you think about it, graham cracker is absolutely the most important aspect of any s’more — it literally holds the whole thing together. And second, why would anyone want to skimp out on graham cracker? It’s easy to incorporate, transforms a flavor instantly, and adds an interesting texture unlike anything else.
Halo Top graciously leans into the graham cracker game, filling their s’mores flavored delight with the sweet dust. They also add a liberal amount of chocolate chips, and aim to make the ice cream more marshmallow-reminiscent by sweetening it (which quite frankly works really well). This is definitely one of the heavier flavors of Halo Top, and while it doesn’t taste like as much of a summer treat as an actual s’more itself might, it’s still well worth scooping into.
5. Blueberry Crumble
What a beautiful idea for a Halo Top flavor. Is the Blueberry Crumble high(er) in calories? Yes. Is it a straight up delicacy that’s absolutely worth it? Also yes.
There are so many ways Halo Top could have gone when developing this fruity flavor, which came out around the same time as the Peaches & Cream (a.k.a. the verifiable worst) and the Strawberry Cheesecake (a.k.a. just okay). The route they decided on was nothing short of genius. This ice cream has a sweet, incredibly creamy base, with blueberry pie filling and chunks of pie crust mixed in. It tastes like having a slice of pie with ice cream, except it comes all in one under-400-calorie pint, which is both convenient and healthier.
You can smell the blueberry flavor from the moment you slip off the gold top. It is incredibly rich, and out-flavors even non-healthy blueberry ice cream competitors. We can’t recommend this wonder enough, especially as summer gets closer and we all begin to make our annual return to the fruity realm.
4. Peanut Butter Cup
An absolute Halo Top classic: the Peanut Butter Cup flavor. It feels like this one has been around since the very beginning, and as long-time lovers of this flavor know, it is much more similar to the inside of a peanut butter cup than to the entire thing. If you dig into the Peanut Butter Cup expecting bits of chocolate, you will be sorely disappointed. But if you start scooping with an open mind, you’ll find a wonderfully creamy, truly peanut butter-flavored ice cream, along with pretty evenly-spaced layers of actual peanut butter. And, if you’re anything like us, it’s the hunt for more of those thin layers of peanut butter that will keep you going.
Peanut butter fans will adore this flavor. And even if you’re iffy on the spread itself, this fourth-place Halo Top flavor is worth trying. Anyone can appreciate the pure balance of salty and sweet that’s going on here.
3. Chocolate Caramel Brownie
There is no way to compete with the array of flavors this Halo Top variety combines. Chocolate, caramel, and brownie? That’s practically the Holy Trinity of dessert.
Halo Top conquers the combination by starting with a chocolate base. Something about the chocolate ice cream in this pint tastes creamier and heartier than the plain chocolate does. The light ice cream experts then mix in chunks of brownie and caramel swirls. There could be more mix-ins, yes (a popular refrain when it comes to Halo Top), but these brownie bits and caramel swirls are so delicious and exciting that the amount Halo Top does include suffices in quenching any sweet tooth.
If you like chocolate ice cream, and are looking for the best chocolate-based flavor of Halo Top, go with this one. It’s better than the plain chocolate, and while the brownies and caramel mix-ins are noticeable, they aren’t strong enough to distract or dominate the flavor profile.
2. Candy Bar
When Halo Top’s Candy Bar flavor launched in 2017, we were eager to try it. Any flavor called Candy Bar would grab our attention, but the design on this pint was especially promising. Bits of semi-crushed peanuts deck the label, atop a thick swirl of caramel and a deep shade of chocolate.
It is rare that an ice cream ever lives up to its label, and with Halo Top especially, the pint’s innards hardly ever outweigh its design (which is more a reflection of stellar design on Halo Top’s part than of bad flavor). But with this legend, for the first time, it’s not even close. The ice cream is absolutely the main event. Candy Bar has the most mix-ins we’ve ever seen in a Halo Top flavor, making for a light ice cream that is legitimately indistinguishable from a non-light variety. The caramel swirls are consistent, and the peanuts add a crunch to every bite.
Although Halo Top technically named this flavor after a generic candy bar, it’s pretty clear that it is meant to emulate a Snickers. Hungry? Grab a pint.
1. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
It’s hard to sum up the level of love, loyalty, and also straight-up lust we have for this flavor. From the moment it first came out, Halo Top’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough has been the answer to our unhealthiest craving: raw cookie dough. For years — decades, even — there was no way to spin a cookie dough habit as anything less than terribly unhealthy. There was the Salmonella cookie dough factor, yes, but also just the staggering sugar and calorie stats. Plus, especially late at night, it was too easy and tempting to eat just one more spoonful.
Never eaten raw cookie dough from a tub with a spoon? Don’t start now — you no longer need to sacrifice your health to indulge the habit. Instead, you can turn to the equally-addicting, but much less unhealthy, alternative: Halo Top Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. This ice cream, which centers around a creamy vanilla base, is absolutely littered with small, round bits of cookie dough. We have been known to pick around the vanilla to get to the largest chunks of dough, but no matter how conventionally or unconventionally you eat it, this flavor will leave you satisfied on another level.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ranks as the number one Halo Top flavor, and for many, it may just rank as the number one go-to ice cream overall. It’s that incredible.