Five Best Store-Bought Vanilla Ice Creams for National Ice Cream Month

Some people love rocky road. Others love chocolate chip or even Superman (remember that flavor?). But me? I love vanilla. Something about the purity of flavors in a good scoop of vanilla ice cream is irresistible. You can taste everything: the velvety cream, the sweet sugar, the lightly floral vanilla beans. There's a reason the most popular flavor of ice cream is vanilla. Whether it's topping a pie or just eaten straight from the carton, everyone loves it. Of course, there's always the stigma that vanilla is plain. Boring. And true enough, decent vanilla ice cream is nothing special. But exemplary vanilla? That's otherworldly.

So in order to better point you toward vanilla Valhalla, here are my top five store-bought vanilla ice creams.

5. Publix Premium French Vanilla -- Cheap ice cream is usually

bad ice cream. But I've got to say, the Publix Premium brand does some

pretty good things with the frozen treat. Unlike Breyer's, Edy's, and

other store-bought regularities, Publix's vanilla is not whipped so

much that it basically becomes frozen air. It's thick and creamy, with

plenty of vanilla flavor (even though said flavor comes purely from

vanilla extract). An affordable, easy-to-find option when you don't

have many. The custardy French vanilla is an improvement over the

homestyle version.

4. Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla -- Most people coo over Blue Bell

ice cream, especially when used to make milk shakes. And there's a

reason you'd pick its vanilla as a milk shake base: Exceptionally

smooth with great vanilla flavor, it's an ice cream that you can really

stand by. Blue Bell's been around since 1907, meaning these cats are

doing something right. 

3. Ben & Jerry's Vanilla -- Best-known for its creatively

named and dressed flavors like Phish Food and Cherry Garcia, Ben &

Jerry's also makes some damned fine vanilla. It's made from fair-trade-certified beans and plenty of all-natural ingredients with little in

the way of preservatives or corn syrups or what have you. The flavor is

pure cream -- like the richest whole milk you could find, laced with

just enough vanilla to smooth out the finish.

2. Julie's Organic Vanilla -- Remember that ice cream you got

with your school lunch, the kind with the little paper tab used to lift

off the top? Julie's Organic Vanilla reminds me of that stuff in the

best of ways. This vanilla is impossibly smooth and milky, almost pure

white, like a clump of snow. The vanilla flavor could be stronger, but

the texture is so good it makes up for it.

1. Häagen-Dazs Five Vanilla Bean -- If every other ice cream on

this list rates an 8 or 9 out of 10, Häagen-Dazs' newest line of ice

creams would rate a 20. The "Five" in the name denotes that this ice

cream is made with only five ingredients total: cream, milk, sugar,

eggs, and vanilla beans. The result is so pure-tasting, it's almost like

you churned it in your kitchen yourself. HD makes a bunch of other

"Five" flavors, and they're all stellar too -- the mint chocolate chip

has got to be the best version to ever grace the planet.

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John Linn