Just as there are hundreds of ice cream flavors, there is also an endless array of toppings.
While we used to look forward to classic toppings like a drizzle of hot fudge, a dollop of whipped cream and a maraschino cherry, modern ice cream shops, and froyo franchises have topping bars with every type of candy, sauce, fruit, and nut imaginable.
Many creameries feature weekly specials on extravagant sundaes modeled after other desserts. As creativity burgeons in the ice cream industry, you’ll see new and unusual ice cream toppings that will surprise you.
Whether they’ll be good or bad surprises is anyone’s guess! Read on to discover my list of 25 unusual & strange ice cream toppings.
Unusual Ice Cream Toppings
Check out some weird ice cream toppings that you just might love!
Pickles are the antithesis of ice cream. Where ice cream is soft, creamy, and sweet, pickles are crunchy, sour, and salty.
They say opposites attract, but this might be the exception to the rule!
To me, pickles and ice cream sound like a pairing born of a pregnancy craving.
Check out different types of pickles to try on your next sundae!
Wasabi peas have a spicy heat that you can feel in your nose, like horseradish.
However, the first taste is slightly sweet. I also love their crunch.
In the case of spicy-sweet wasabi peas, ice cream could help emphasize the sweetness while cooling the spicy heat.
There are plenty of wasabi ice cream recipes out there to explore.
I’m not a drinker, but I’d order an Old Fashioned just to enjoy the rich brandied cherry garnish.
Brandied cherries taste nearly like cherry liquor, with a thick sweet syrup that has a delightfully smokey alcoholic aftertaste.
These would taste wonderful mixed into a Belgian chocolate ice cream for a frozen take on a Black Forest cake.
Unsweetened Toasted Coconut
While shredded, sweetened coconut is a common topping and dessert ingredient, unsweetened toasted coconut usually gets reserved for savory dishes like stir-fries.
The best-kept secret about coconut is that you don’t need sugar at all.
Toasting unsweetened coconut makes it nutty and delicious, accentuating the rich coconut flavor. Ice cream is all the sweetness coconut needs.
Pearls are gelatinous tapioca balls used in Asian milk tea traditions.
They come in various flavors, from tropical fruit to coffee. I love the gooey texture that effectively soaks up the liquid surrounding them.
They’d be perfect ice cream toppers. I’d love chocolate pearls over coconut-milk ice cream.
Honey is so delicious, and no two jars are alike.
Depending on the climate and ecology of your local honey purveyor, its flavor profile ranges from floral to citrus.
The best part about honey is that it never goes bad! I’d drizzle honey over a tart ice cream or sorbet. I think it’d taste great over lemon gelato.
My go-to food stand at a county fair or farmer’s market is caramel corn.
Who can resist the smell of freshly popped popcorn and caramelized sugar?
I wonder if combining caramel corn with ice cream would detract from the fresh, hot crunch of caramel corn.
Candied Lemon Peel
Lemon peels, like all citrus peels, are incredibly bitter.
That said, we grate citrus peels for a citrus-oil infusion in plenty of desserts.
Candied lemon peel infuses the peel with sugar, almost turning it into a lemon-flavored gummy.
They are delicate coils that would turn any ordinary scoop of ice cream into a work of art.
Broken nut brittle is an unusual topping I can get behind.
It’d be hard not to eat all the brittle before it reaches a mound of ice cream.
Nut brittles come with a cream and caramel binder and a simple syrup binder.
I would crush up sugar-pecan brittle over chocolate chip ice cream.
Pepitas is the Spanish word for pumpkin seeds. They’re flat, oblong, green seeds that puff up when they’re toasted.
They are nutty yet light and airy. Toasting them changes the flavor and consistency for the better.
Toasted pepitas would taste great over cinnamon and vanilla-flavored ice cream with apple compote.
Reducing fruit into a compote brings out its sugars and enhances its proprietary flavor.
I’m used to making compote with fruit that spoils easily, like peaches.
I’m sure pineapple compote is as delicious as it sounds. I’d love to try it over tropical-flavored ice cream like coconut or banana.
Check out other fruit preserves and compotes you can use!
Balsamic may be a type of vinegar, but it’s certainly the sweetest type.
There are aged balsamic and balsamic reductions that are perfectly sweet and thick, like syrup.
You’ll see a balsamic ice cream topping at fancy restaurants, marketed as haute cuisine.
You may roll your eyes, but this is one topping worth trying. It tastes fantastic over strawberry ice cream.
Edible Lavender Florets
Edible lavender florets are dried lavender flowers.
Not only are they a beautiful periwinkle color, but they add a unique floral flavor and a delicate crunch to your ice cream.
Plus, you can save some florets for your post-ice cream tea. Lavender florets would go well with vanilla or sweet cream ice cream. They’ll also dye the melted remnants light purple!
My favorite vice is dipping French fries in a thick chocolate milkshake.
Frenchy fries as ice cream toppings are the logical next step. It saves you the hassle of making a milkshake.
The most important thing for me with French fries, whether they’re an ice cream topping or not is that they’re nice and crispy.
Drizzling a fatty oil over a fat-laden cream seems redundant, but olive oil is an unusual ice cream topping with a large following.
High-quality Italian extra virgin olive oil will add an earthy and rich contrast to sweet, creamy ice cream. I recommend drizzling it over pistachio gelato.
Crystalized ginger is a spicy delicacy with a granulated sugar outer layer that cedes into a gummy, chewy flesh.
It’s a concentrated ginger flavor that has a fun texture. I recommend cutting it up into small pieces, as a little goes a long way.
I think crystalized ginger would taste good over mascarpone ice cream.
Gingersnaps are a classic fall treat made with rich molasses, powdered ginger, cinnamon, and clove.
They have a chewy, dense texture that won’t crumble with the absorption of milk or cream.
Crushing gingersnaps over pumpkin spice ice cream or coffee ice cream would be a crowd-pleaser at a holiday party.
Lemon curd is a thick, creamy custard made with egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
Lemon meringue pie and lemon bars are the most classic examples of lemon curd usage.
The egg yolks add heft and silkiness, while the juice and zest add a zingy tang.
Lemon curd would taste great with vanilla ice cream and a sprinkle of crushed graham crackers.
Cocoa nibs are the unprocessed beans of the cacao plant from which chocolate originated.
However, chocolate uses toasted cacao mixed with plenty of sugar and milk.
Cocoa nibs have a chocolate flavor without a sweet taste.
I think they would taste incredible with sweet ice creams like sweet cream or cinnamon-infused Mexican vanilla.
Peach preserves combine jelly and compote, featuring a gelatinous texture and large chunks of peach.
I love yellow peach preserves because they have a bit more tartness.
I think peach preserves would pair well with raspberry sherbet as a take on the classic Peach Melba dessert.
Vanilla Fleur de Sel
Fleur de sel is a crusty, grainy sea salt that has gained popularity as a finishing garnish for salty and sweet foods.
The large grains of salt give you an intense burst of saltiness. Salt is an integral ingredient in any dessert as it compliments and balances sugar.
You’ll see salted caramel or sea salt and almond dark chocolate bars at any grocery store.
Vanilla fleur de sel is especially unique, adding the unmistakable vanilla flavor to salt. I would use it over caramel ice cream.
Salted Spanish Peanuts
Salted Spanish peanuts, also known as Valencia peanuts, are long, thin, and oil-roasted peanuts.
They are among the best-tasting peanuts in the world and the perfect bar snack.
I love peanut-inspired desserts, from peanut butter cups to peanut butter frozen yogurt.
I recommend sprinkling salted Spanish peanuts over dark chocolate ice cream.
Grade B Maple Syrup
Grade B Maple Syrup is the richest, darkest form of maple syrup, harvested at the end of the season.
It, therefore, has a ticker, darker, more mineral-rich composition. Maple syrup is my favorite sweetener, and Grade B is the cream of the crop.
I would drizzle it over a cinnamon and vanilla-flavored ice cream.
Bacon is the height of savory decadence and pairs perfectly with sweet ingredients.
If you’ve ever had maple syrup seep from your pancakes onto the side of bacon, you know how delicious the sweet and savory combination can be.
Sprinkling bacon bits over maple-flavored ice cream sounds like the best kind of “unusual.”
Ground Coffee / Espresso
There’s no better smell than the one that emits from an open bag of freshly ground coffee.
It’s the smell that I taste with each sip in the morning. That said, I hate when I swallow remnants of coffee grounds that have managed to float to the bottom of my mug.
I’m thus skeptical about adding them to ice cream. I think the grainy texture would outweigh the delicious coffee flavor seeping into the creamy ice cream, but some people swear by it.
I think I’d prefer a shot of brewed espresso affogato style!
Unusual Ice Cream Toppings
- Wasabi Peas
- Brandied cherries
- Unsweetened coconut, toasted
- Chocolate pearls
- Local honey
- Caramel Corn
- Candied lemon peel
- Nut brittle, broken into pieces
- Toasted pepitas
- Pineapple compote
- Edible lavender florets
- French Fries
- Olive Oil
- Crystalized ginger
- Crushed gingersnaps
- Lemon curd
- Cocoa nibs
- Peach preserves
- Vanilla fleur de sel
- Salted Spanish peanuts
- Grade B maple syrup
- Ground Coffee/Espresso
The next time you plan an ice cream party or head to your local ice cream parlor, try thinking outside the box.
Any option from my list of unusual ice cream toppings will offer an exciting culinary experience.
You could also pair these unusual toppings with some of the weirdest ice cream flavors we’ve heard of for a unique treat.