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Best Overall: Cuisinart Snow Cone Maker
This handy little machine uses standard ice cubes to make shaved ice quickly—it can make enough ice to fill up to five cones per minute. And operates with a simple on-off switch, so it’s simple enough for anyone to use.
All of the parts that come in contact with food are BPA-free and the ice bin is removable for easy cleaning – but since you’re just running ice through it, you can just wipe it dry and tuck it away. This is small enough to fit on your counter or store easily when it’s not in use and the bright red color is festive.
This has a pop-out tray that holds four cones, which makes filling them easy—or use it for serving the finished cones. The ice maker includes four reusable cones, which are great for family treats at home, plus 12 disposable paper cones for eating on the run. Recipes are included, but if you want pre-made syrups you’ll need to order them separately while you’re getting extra paper cones for serving at your next barbecue.
"The ice held its shape nicely, even when doused in syrup, and it had a crunchy texture that reminded me of the snow cones I bought from the ice cream truck when I was younger." — Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Best High-End: SNOWIE 2 Snow Cone Machine
The Snowie company is a maker of commercial shaved ice machine that cost thousands of dollars, so they’ve included some of those commercial features into this machine that’s designed and priced for home use. It makes enough ice for a single snow cone in about three seconds and the angled dispensing system lets you fill the snow cone directly and create the familiar domed top with ease.
Of course, if you don’t want to fill cones, just put a bowl under the chute to collect ice. This uses standard ice cubes, so you don’t need to freeze special shapes and it’s designed to look at home on your counter, right next to the coffee machine.
This includes six sample-sized bottles of syrup to get you started, but you’ll likely need to buy more to keep the party going. It also includes eight reusable and dishwasher safe “Snowie Shovel” spoons. This is the second version of this machine, and users have noted that it is definitely an improved model.
"The 'snow' created by the Little Snowie Max is unbelievably soft and fluffy—it truly reminded me of freshly fallen snow!" — Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Best Kit: Hawaiian Shaved Ice Shaved Ice and Snow Cone Machine Party Package
This festive machine includes everything you need to get the party going, with no need to shop for extras. It includes three, 16-ounce bottles of shaved ice syrup (cherry, grape, and blue raspberry) that the manufacturer says is the same brand used at many shaved ice stands, so you’ll have the authentic flavor at home. It also includes 25 plastic spoon straws, 25 paper snow cone cups, and three pourers for the bottles that make serving easy.
To operate, just press on top to start shaving the ice. By pressing harder or easier, the texture of the shaved ice changes, so it might take some practice to figure out exactly what texture you prefer.
Two lidless containers are included for making ice “pucks” that fit into the machine. Each puck makes about two cones, so it’s advised to make the pucks in advance and store them in a zip-top plastic bag in the freezer, so you’ll have enough on hand for a party or a snow cone emergency. Since the containers don’t have lids, they can’t be stacked in the freezer (and you need to place them where they won’t tip). This machine can also use standard ice cubes, but the finished quality won’t be quite as good.
"One of the best things about this particular unit is that it’s small and lightweight enough to tuck away into a cupboard." — Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Best Budget: Nostalgia Snow Cone Maker
The design of this snow cone maker resembles an old-fashioned push-cart, with two wheels, two legs, and a handle—but it fits neatly on your kitchen counter. It’s playful, but the white and gold coloring adds some class.
The ice collects in a clear enclosed bin that holds enough for about 20 snow cones, while a shelf in front holds two cones for filling and serving. The machine uses standard ice cubes and turns on when the lid is locked in place, which makes it very safe to operate. Each ice refill makes enough shaved ice for about three snow cones in about 30 seconds, so no one will be waiting long for their treats.
This comes with two reusable plastic cones and an ice scoop, but it does not include flavorings. An upgraded kit is available that includes spoon straws, paper cups, two flavorings, and a squeeze bottle.
Best Manual: Time for Treats Manual Snow Cone Maker
This manual ice shaver means you can make snow cones wherever you go, as long as you have ice on hand—so bring the machine, pack your cooler with ice, and make snow cones on a picnic, at the beach or in your backyard.
This includes three lidded ice molds for making the ideal ice shape for use in this machine, but you can also use regular ice cubes. The molds are stackable and the lids keep them from spilling in the freezer, so you won’t make a mess if you bump them while reaching for the frozen peas. For big parties, make the ice ahead of time and freeze it in zip-top plastic bags.
This relies on human cranking to shave the ice, so it might not be ideal for making snow cones for the entire neighborhood unless everyone’s taking a turn shaving their own ice.
Best Commercial-Grade: ZENY Electric Stainless Steel Snow Cone Maker
Snow cones are just the start of what can be made with this industrial stainless steel machine. It can also shave enough ice to make margaritas, slushies, and more for a crowd. It's super speedy and efficient, producing 143 pounds of shaved ice per hour. Though rated for commercial use, it's great for in-home use as well.
The ZENY has a heavy base, so you can confidently crush ice without worrying about the unit sliding around or creating extra noise (though note that this is not by any means a quiet machine—it does crush ice, after all). Other safety features include a water-resistant on/off switch and auto-shutoff when the hopper is open.
Reviewers rave about its durability, safety features, and speed, as well as its ability to produce uniform ice shavings. One complaint is that the bowl is on the smaller side, meaning messy overflow at times.
Best for Parties: Nostalgia Retro Snow Cone Maker
Whether kids or just kids at heart, guests will get a kick out of this retro-inspired snow cone machine. Feed regular ice cubes into the chopper, and stainless steel blades will turn them into frozen fluff fit for sweet treats. Though the chopper doesn't hold much ice (meaning you'll have to continuously feed it), the tank has a 160-ounce capacity—enough for 20 8-ounce snow cones.
A side door allows access to the bin, though some reviewers note that it feels a bit flimsy and difficult to latch, and the hole itself may not be big enough for large hands to fit inside. Thanks to a safety switch, this maker is not only fun for kids but also safe. Like the other Nostalgia product on this list, the side shelf holds two snow cones, making it easy to add fun designs with syrups.
Best Ice Shaver: Great Northern Popcorn Company Hawaiian Shaved Ice Machine
Don't let the name fool you: Great Northern Popcorn Company offers more than just popcorn makers. The brand is known for its high-quality concession equipment, including this seriously solid ice shaver. With its adjustable, stainless steel blades and 1/3 HP motor, this machine can demolish 6 pounds of ice per minute (that's more than 350 pounds per hour). Feed it ice blocks up to 8 x 6.5 inches.
Measuring 15 x 12 x 30.5, this model does take up a fair amount of counter space, and it has a big price tag to match, but if you've got the storage (and the budget), you'll be rewarded with a heavy-duty unit and fluffy, consistent ice for snow cones and more.
Despite its cheery design, keep in mind that this ice maker is no toy. Essentially a drill press, there is no shield, and the blades are quite sharp, so it should be used with caution around kids.
What to Look for When Buying a Snow Cone Maker
By Sara Tane
The most accessible, affordable, and smallest type is a manual snow cone maker. Most manual models allow you to make snow cones wherever you go as long as you have ice on hand—no electric outlet needed. Keep in mind that this uses hand power and elbow grease to crank through ice. If you just need to make a few snow cones for a small group, this is a great, budget-friendly choice. But if you want to save your energy and let a machine do the work, an electric snow cone maker is your best bet. These vary in wattage, capacity, and speed, but they all prevent you from having to hand-crank through several blocks of ice. Commercial electric snow cone makers can be quite heavy and loud; unless you need to make a lot of cones in a short period of time, this might be more than what you’re looking for. Another factor to keep in mind is that there are sharp blades, heavy machinery, and mechanical lifts involved in these appliances—so use them with the utmost caution.
Snow cone makers are available in a wide range of sizes—from a countertop appliance to a standalone cart with wheels for festivals and parties. What you’re planning to use the machine for, how frequently you plan to use it, and how much space you have to store it when it’s not in use are all important considerations. If you want something impressive for gatherings, something larger might be a fun piece—if you have space. If you just want something that can shave ice or if you're tight on space, something more compact—like a manual snow cone maker—would be a better option.
You also want to consider the look of the machine before purchasing. Some models are party-ready—they're brightly colored, have fun designs, and a few even resemble an old-fashioned pushcart with two wheels, two legs, and a handle. While the look of the machine doesn’t affect its performance, it’s certainly something to consider if you’re shopping to entertain.
When it comes to a brand new snow cone maker, you can pay anywhere from $15 to $300, so knowing what you’re looking for is crucial to find a machine within your budget that you’ll actually use. You'll find mostly the smaller-capacity manual and countertop machines at the cheaper end of the spectrum. If you’re looking to invest a little bit more money, consider commercial-grade models that have a high wattage and larger capacities. But if you want to cut costs and only want to commit to the machine for a day, you can also look into renting if it's available in your area. (This is a great option to have if this is for a one-time party or celebration.)
What is the difference between shaved ice and snow cones?
A common misconception is that shaved ice and snow cones are interchangeable; this is actually not the case. Snow cones have crunchy ice, which means that a lot of the syrup poured over the ice collects at the bottom of the cone for a sugary rush at the end. Shaved ice, on the other hand, is when the ice (after being shaved from a block of ice) is very fluffy, almost like snow. This means that the syrup is better distributed throughout the treat. This difference between the two—and which an appliance can make—is important to keep in mind when shopping.
What accessories do you need for a snow cone machine?
Of course, you can’t make delicious snow cones without a variety of syrups and sugars to flavor your ice. Syrups are available in variety packs, or you can also buy them by the gallon. Other fun accessories are straws and cones. Typically, straws have a tiny spoon on one end, which gives you the option to slurp or spoon your snow cone. The paper cones, crucial for any snow cone eating experience, are sold in bulk so you can stock up. Some even come with fun prints. They also come in different sizes, but most are around 6 ounces, so think about how big or small you want your cones to be.
How do you clean a snow cone machine?
To give your machine a thorough cleaning, make a vinegar and water solution in a spray bottle and spray the shaving plate, ice chamber, and ice chute to make sure there’s no residual ice or sugar in the machine. Never immerse it in water and avoid using soap. Always practice care and caution when cleaning near the blade and the dispensing chute. When it’s time to clean the machine, always unplug it and let it cool down first.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is an expert on all things food, from desserts and cookbooks to cooking gadgets. She's also an author of her own cookbook, Make Ahead Bread, and loves to test out her favorite kitchen gadgets and appliances. In fact, she's tested over 90 products for The Spruce Eats.