Your Guide to the Best Argentine Ice Cream
When people think of Argentina they often think of key food groups such as red wine and steak, but there’s an important food group they’ve forgotten… ice cream or ( Helado in Argentine Spanish ). Some of you may say that ice cream is not a food group, but frankly, you’re wrong.
Some of you may also think that ice cream is a summer food. Wrong, again. Anytime is ice cream time and trust me, it fixes everything: Feeling a bit homesick? Have a scoop of ice cream. Didn’t understand what was going on in your Spanish class? Have a scoop of ice cream. Your date was a bit of a dud? Have a scoop of ice cream!
I could go on, but I think you’ve got the picture. Beware though, not all ice cream is created equal and a bad experience can take you right back to missing home.
To try to put together a list that claims to offer you the ‘best’ is a big call, but I’ve done the hard yards so you don’t have to. In fact, I’ve been researching this blog topic for weeks.
I’ve tried to conduct my ‘research’ in a scholarly and scientific way so it will stand up to critical examination.
- Ensure an adequate sample size
- Have a ‘control’ flavor. I chose dulce de leche as it is my favorite flavor in THE WORLD, besides red wine and broccoli (but not together, that would just be weird!)
- Collate the results
- Have my results peer-reviewed.
The sample size:
Buenos Aires has many artisanal heladerías (ice cream shops) from small family businesses to large chains. On average I’ve tried 2 heladerías each week, so my sample size is roughly 22. Most of my visits have been in Palermo, Recoleta or Belgrano. I initially excluded the chains including Freddo and Persicco, but they’re popular brands for a reason and their quality warrants inclusion.
At this point, I really should mention that if you intend to embark on such research you need to increase your exercise otherwise soon enough you’ll be buying yourself a new wardrobe or falling into a diabetic coma.
Learn Spanish in Buenos Aires!
Another trick I quickly discovered to keep those Calories somewhat under control is to indulge only in the cono, which is the small cone, but if you really want to lash out, order the cucurucho. If you prefer a waffle cup, ask for a capelina or a vaso if you prefer a paper cup.
The control flavor:
The control flavor is the one which doesn’t change. It may seem boring to have the same flavor all the time, but this is essential for comparative purposes (remember, this is a scientific study). A typical serving regardless of the size allows 2 flavors, so the key is to pick the one you won’t mind eating again and again as the control. I have a ridiculously sweet tooth, so I had to choose between chocolate and dulce de leche. I can eat chocolate ice cream anywhere in the world, but dulce de leche is quintessentially Argentine.
The first point I will make is that all of the ice cream was delicious with a smooth, velvety texture and is slightly softer than is normal at home. Combine the sensuous texture with amazing flavors and you will momentarily forget all of your worries.
The choices can be a little overwhelming but I have found they categorize the options into 4:
- Cremas – made with dairy and these tend to be based on vanilla ice cream with flavors and textures added such as fruits, nuts and coconut
- Chocolates – made with dairy. Straight chocolate is sensational but to take it to the next level try the Chocolate Amargo (bitter chocolate) it cuts through the sweetness of the dulce de leche. Other options include chocolate ice cream with various nuts, dulce de leche or chocolate brownie, because too much chocolate is never enough.
- Dulce de leche – made with dairy like chocolate have many others added such as brownies, nuts. For me, this is the flavor which cannot be beaten.
- Frutales – typically, but not always made with water not dairy. My favorites of the fruit varieties were frambuesa (raspberry) and limón (lemon). If you’re going to try the fruit selections, I suggest you go to Jauja for a comprehensive and different range.
If you’re unsure, taste; the last thing you want to do is make a rash decision and regret it later.
I was going to try to narrow my list down to 6, but that has proven way too difficult, so here my favorite ice cream shops (heladerías), in no particular order of preference:
- Rapa Nui – Arenales 2301, Barrio Norte
- Tufic – Guatemala 4597, Palermo Soho
- Fratello – Av Coronel Díaz 1521, Palermo (very close to Vamos Spanish Academy, so call in after class and treat yourself)
- Buffala – Av Pueyrredon 2100, Recoleta
- Tino Helados – Av Díaz Vélez 4520, Villa Crespo
- Ladobueno – Ciudad de La Paz 407, Belgrano
- Jauja – Cerviño 3901, Palermo
- Saverio – Av. San Juan 2816, San Cristobal
- Freddo – chain with many locations
- Persicco – chain with many locations
Like all good research, my peers reviewed my list and my methodology. Basically, this was just an opportunity for a few friends to get together and sample more ice cream…all in the name of quality control, of course.
My final point. Many heladerías will home deliver. Yep, home delivery of ice cream is normal in Argentina!. I have so far resisted the urge as I figure if I am going to consumer frozen milk, sugar and chocolate, I should at least get off my backside and walk to the ice cream shop. But it’s good to know the option is there!