Who doesn’t love a snow cone? They’re a favorite at fairs and carnivals, but what if you want one at home? They’re just ice and flavorings, which seems simple, but getting the ice texture right is tricky. You might be able to crush ice in your blender for frozen drinks, but that’s not quite the same thing as the fine, fluffy ice in a snow cone. Snow cone makers don’t chop or crush ice; they shave it into thin bits—essentially, snowflakes.
It's hard to get that perfect snow cone texture without a dedicated ice-shaving machine, but fortunately there are lots of options out there. You can find them at affordable prices, or you can buy a higher-end model that can shave ice all day long for the entire neighborhood. From commercial-grade machines to manual models, we rounded up the best snow cone makers.
Cuisinart Snow Cone Maker
Uses standard ice cubes
Classic snow cone texture
No syrups included
Not ideal for single servings
Ice bin can fall out
This handy little machine uses standard ice cubes to make snow cones quickly—it can shave enough ice in one minute for up to five cones. All you do is load in the ice and press down on the handle to shave it into the attached bin—there aren't any settings to worry about besides on and off. A pop-out tray holds four cones at a time for easy filling with shaved ice, flavoring with syrups, and serving.
Our home tester reports that the Cuisinart was exceptionally easy to set up and start using. The large bin lets you serve up multiple cones quickly, though since the machine comes with only four reusable cones and a dozen disposable paper ones, you'll need to order some extra cones before you throw your next party. The set also doesn't include any syrups, so you'll also need to buy some bottled snow cone syrups or make your own. The instruction booklet also includes recipes, and our reviewer really enjoyed the piña colada syrup she tried out.
This is a high-volume snow cone maker and great for a big group, but it's pretty tough to use for just a single cone. It dispenses ice into a bin rather than directly into the cone, and digging a little bit of ice out of the corners of the bin is difficult. All of the parts of this machine that come in contact with food are BPA-free, and the ice bin is removable for easy cleaning. The unit is small enough to fit on your counter or store easily when it’s not in use, and the bright red color is festive.
Price at time of publish: $80
Dimensions: 9 x 9.3 x 12 inches | Weight: 7 pounds | Includes: Four BPA-free reusable plastic cones, 12 paper cones, ice scoop
"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
Nostalgia Vintage Snow Cone Maker
Large-capacity bin for shaved ice
Does not include syrups
Small hopper for ice cubes
This adorable snow cone maker puts a tiny old-fashioned push-cart, with two wheels, two legs, and a little shelf that holds two cones for filling and serving, right on your kitchen counter. But it doesn't lack in power or capacity, with a bin that can contain enough shaved ice for about 20 snow cones.
The machine uses standard ice cubes and won't turn on without the lid locked in place, which makes it very safe to operate, and it's very quick, too: A chamber full of ice cubes is transformed into shaved ice for about three snow cones in about 30 seconds. The problem is that the ice-cube chamber is much smaller than the generously sized bin for shaved ice, which means that you'll have to keep refilling and re-shaving over and over if you plan to make snow cones for a big party.
The value-priced unit comes with two reusable plastic cones and an ice scoop but does not include any syrups, paper cones, or other accessories.
Price at time of publish: $60
Dimensions: 12 x 11 x 15.3 inches | Weight: 4.8 pounds | Includes: Two plastic reusable cones, ice scoop
Typical snow cones are little more than shaved ice with a colored, flavored sugar syrup on top, but when you make them at home, you can make them just as you like, using fresh fruit juice, honey, cold coffee, sweetened condensed milk, and even alcohol.
Hawaiian Shaved Ice Shaved Ice and Snow Cone Machine
Compact and lightweight
Creates flakey shaved ice
Includes syrups and cups
Works best with special ice pucks
Small area for dispensing shaved ice
Learning curve for proper shaving
The snow cone—or shave ice as it's known there—is a hugely popular cooling dessert in tropical Hawaii. This festive machine includes everything you need to recreate the experience, with no need to shop for extras. It comes with three 16-ounce bottles of syrup (cherry, grape, and blue raspberry) that the manufacturer says is the same brand used at many authentic shave-ice stands in the Aloha State. It also includes 25 plastic spoon straws, 25 paper snow cone cups, pourers for each of the syrup bottles, and ice molds for a complete kit right in the box.
This model kind of works upside-down from others: You put ice in the base, while the motor and shaving blade are placed on top. By pressing down with different levels of force, you can get different textures of shaved ice. Our tester was able to get a fantastic flakey texture, but it took some practice to figure out the right technique. She appreciated the compact design—it easily tucks into a cabinet—and details like the nonslip silicone drip tray, which helps minimize the mess when you're running the machine. There's not a lot of room between the ice spout and the tray, however; the extra-tall paper cones that are included barely fit. Overall, our reviewer found the performance impressive for the price, calling it a steal.
Two containers are included for making ice “pucks” that fit perfectly into the machine. Each puck makes about two cones, so it’s probably a good idea to freeze a bunch of 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 snow cone emergency. The containers don’t have lids and can't be stacked in the freezer, which is kind of inconvenient. (This machine can also use standard ice cubes, but they won't be shaved as evenly and the finished snow cone texture won’t be quite as good.)
Price at time of publish: $76
Dimensions: 6.5 x 8 x 14 inches | Weight: 4 pounds | Includes: Three 16-ounce bottles of syrup, three pourers, 25 disposable paper cones, 25 plastic straw/spoons, 2 plastic molds for freezing ice pucks
"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
Time for Treats Snowflake Snow Cone Maker
Three covered ice molds included
Can be tiring to operate
Should use ice from molds
No syrups or cones included
Pack a cooler with ice and you can make snow cones on a picnic, at the beach, or in your backyard with this manual ice shaver. The kit includes three lidded molds for making ice that fits perfectly, 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 a few batches of ice ahead of time and store it in zip-top plastic bags.
This Time for Treats model 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. It also doesn't come with any cones or syrups, which means you'll have to supply your own.
Price at time of publish: $25
Dimensions: 8 x 7.9 x 9 inches | Weight: 1.8 pounds | Includes: Three covered ice molds
While a dedicated snow cone machine might seem like a one-trick pony, the shaved ice is useful for more than just snow cones. Use it for frozen cocktails, presenting chilled seafood, as a bed for fresh raw vegetables on a buffet, or to keep your chilled salad nice and cold on the way to a potluck.
ZENY Electric Stainless Steel Snow Cone Maker
High speed and capacity
Heavy and durable
No syrups or accessories included
Bowl can overflow
Snow cones are just the start of what can be made with this industrial-capacity 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—assuming you have 143 pounds of ice on hand to shave. Though rated for restaurant and commercial use, it's inexpensive enough to buy for the home, 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 no machine that crushes ice will be all that quiet). 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 to hold the shaved ice is on the smaller side, meaning it can overflow messily if you don't empty it out frequently.
Price at time of publish: $49
Dimensions: 17 x 12 x 9 inches | Weight: 13 pounds | Includes: No extras
Best for Parties
Nostalgia 54-Inch Snow Cone Cart
Includes prep shelf, syrup shelf, and cone dispenser
Easy to move around
Not very durable
Whether kids or just kids at heart, guests will get a kick out of this retro snow cone cart. Feed in 2 pounds of regular ice cubes into the hopper, and stainless steel blades will turn it into frozen fluff in 90 seconds. This cart's huge bin holds enough ice to make about 72 snow cones, which makes it ideal for a big birthday party or even a wedding, and the old-timey cart design is charming. (If you don't need wheels, the shaver and bin are removable from the cart for countertop operation, too.) Of course, for a full-size snow cone cart, you're going to pay a pretty high price compared to a small machine that only makes a couple cones at a time.
Reviewers of the cart loved its convenient three-cone prep shelf with separate syrup shelf and cone dispenser, but complained that the motor is fairly weak and doesn't make perfectly fluffy "snow," and that the cart itself has fairly flimsy construction. If you're looking to start a snow cone business, this isn't exactly a professional-grade machine, but it's certainly an impressive sight for a party.
Price at time of publish: $300
Dimensions: 21 x 16.5 x 53 inches | Weight: 33.8 pounds | Includes: 100 paper cups, 100 spoon/straws, 2 syrup bottles, ice scoop
Great Northern Popcorn Company Ice Cub Shaved Ice Machine
Can shave 6 pounds per minute
Needs large ice blocks
Don't let its name fool you: The Great Northern Popcorn Company offers all kinds of snack-making tools. The brand is known for its high-quality professional-level concession equipment, including this seriously solid ice shaver. With its adjustable, stainless-steel blades and 1/3-horsepower motor, this machine can demolish 6 pounds of ice per minute (that's more than 350 pounds per hour). You can feed it ice blocks of up to 8 x 6.5 inches in size.
Measuring 15 x 12 x 30.5 inches and weighing in at 55 pounds, this heavy-duty (and just plain heavy) model takes up a fair amount of space, and it has a big price tag to match. But if you're a serious snow cone aficionado, you'll be rewarded with a tons of fluffy, consistent ice for snow cones and more.
Despite the cheery sunglasses-wearing bear printed on it, you should keep in mind that this ice maker is no toy. Essentially a drill press, it has a sharp blade spinning at 1,700 RPM and only a removable plastic safety shielf, so it should be used with care and caution.
Price at time of publish: $500
Dimensions: 15 x 12 x 30.5 inches | Weight: 55 pounds | Includes: No extras
Cra-Z-Art The Original Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine
Safe and easy for child use
Inconsistent ice texture
If you were a kid in the '80s or '90s, it's likely you associate snow cones with Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the Peanuts crew, and this gadget is probably the reason. It's a simple, kid-friendly operation: Load ice into the top of the iconic beagle's doghouse, using Snoopy himself to push the ice against the blade, then turn a crank on Snoopy's head and snow cone shavings come out the doghouse door for you to enjoy. The brand says the Sno-Cone Machine is safe for anybody aged four and up.
The machine includes a snow shovel-shaped scoop, as well as a squeeze bottle for syrups with Snoopy's pal Woodstock on it (and one envelope of drink mix to get you started). It also comes with a padded clamp to secure it to the table and make cranking easier and more stable.
At the end of the day, this is an inexpensive toy designed for children, so it's not going to create the finest snow cone you've ever had. But it's fun, which is the real point. Reviewers suggest loading in crushed ice rather than whole cubes for a better fluffy texture.
Price at time of publish: $20
Dimensions: 11.5 x 11.5 x 3.5 inches | Weight: 1.2 pounds | Includes: 3 paper cups, squeeze bottle, shovel ice scoop, 1 envelope drink mix, padded clamp
After rigorous home testing, we found the Cuisinart Snow Cone Maker to be a powerful and effective way to turn regular ice cubes into a fluffy snow cone. For a more budget choice, the Nostalgia Snow Cone Maker delivers solid performance and cute design at a lower price.
Other Options We Tested
- SNOWIE Little Snowie Max Snow Cone Machine: The best overall pick in an earlier version of this story, the Snowie does quickly make fluffy snow cones and can produce refreshing and fun desserts. But when we put it to the test in a home kitchen, our reviewer was left a little underwhelmed. First, it's obnoxiously loud. Granted, the noise only goes on for a few seconds, but if you're making cones for a gaggle of kids, you'll end up with a headache. What really places this in the do-not-recommend category, though, is the price. It would take a steep discount to make this worth it.
What to Look for in a Snow Cone Maker
The most accessible, affordable, and smallest type of snow cone maker is manual, with a hand crank to shave the ice. Manual models allow you to make snow cones wherever there's ice, but they only have as much power as you have elbow grease. If you just need to make a few snow cones for a small group, this is a great, budget-friendly choice.
To save your energy and let a machine do the work, an electric snow cone maker is a better bet. These vary in wattage, capacity, and speed, but all are faster than a hand crank. Commercial snow cone makers can crank out a lot of cones in a short amount of time, though they're expensive, heavy, and loud; unless you need to make a lot of cones in a short period of time, this might be more than you’re looking for.
Another factor to keep in mind is safety: Snow cone makers use sharp blades on slippery ice and require caution. Small machines for home use often have safety features that limit capacity but protect hands and fingers from getting anywhere near the blade. Professional-level snow cone makers are serious power tools and need to be used with the utmost of care.
Snow cone makers can range in size from a countertop appliance that makes one cone at a time to a standalone cart with wheels that holds enough ice for dozens. An old-school snow cone cart is fun and impressive to break out for gatherings—if you have space and host a lot of gatherings. A more space-efficient countertop unit that can live in a cabinet is probably better if the plan is to make snow cones for a handful of kids on summer weekends.
Part of the fun of snow cones is the actual making of the snow cones, so your machine is likely to be on display when you use it. Many models are party-ready, with bright colors and distinctive looks, while others look more like boring, utilitarian kitchen implements. While the look of the machine doesn’t affect its performance, it’s something to consider if you’re shopping to entertain.
A brand-new snow cone maker can run you anywhere from 20 bucks to several hundred. For the most part, a higher price will get a machine with more power and capacity, with the high end of prices generally reserved for commercial-grade machines designed for professional use. If you plan to invest in one of these, keep in mind that you'll also need to have a supply of ice, preferably in the form of large blocks, which might call for an expensive ice maker. Most home users aren't going to be making snow cones all that often and can get away with a model well under $100. Another option to consider if you want a lot of snow cones for a one-time event is renting: Party rental companies often have fancy machines available for a day or a weekend at a time.
What is the difference between shaved ice and snow cones?
A snow cone is not exactly the same thing as shaved ice, but the line between the two is pretty fuzzy. It's all about texture: The dessert we're talking about can range from tiny, thin flakes of ice with a fluffy texture to larger ice bits that are more crunchy. If it's called shaved ice, it'll generally be on the fluffier side, while a snow cone will be crunchier. In a fluffy shaved ice, the syrup absorbs into the ice fairly evenly, whereas a crunchier snow cone ends up with a sugary rush to sip at the bottom. The snow cone makers in our roundup all make slivers of ice by shaving it, but the resulting texture varies.
What accessories do you need for a snow cone machine?
Of course, you can’t make delicious snow cones without a variety of syrups to pour over your ice. Some snow cone makers come as kits that include a few bottles of syrup, and there are an amazing variety of other syrups available from dozens of brands. Any syrup you'd put in a cocktail or soft drink should work on a snow cone. Plus, there are countless recipes to make your own syrups at home.
You could also serve a snow cone in a bowl, but the traditional cone-shaped cup is much more fun; some machines come with reusable plastic cups as well as disposable paper ones, and paper cones are also available in bulk for very low cost. A standard snow cone is about 6 to 8 ounces, but cones are available in many different sizes. Another fun option is the spoon-straw. This hybrid tool can scoop up frozen fluff from the top or sip up melted syrup from the bottom and is often served with snow cones by the pros.
How do you clean a snow cone machine?
Thankfully, the only substance most parts of a snow cone maker come into contact with is water in either solid or liquid form, so there's usually not any residue or sticky gunk to worry about. A quick wipe-down with a cloth or paper towel is about all that's needed. To give your machine a deep clean after heavy use or if any syrup gets inside, make a vinegar and water solution in a spray bottle and spray the shaving plate, ice chamber, and ice chute, then run ice or plain water through it to rinse away the vinegar. Never immerse anything in water, and always avoid using soap. Make sure you unplug an electric machine before you clean it, and use special care around the sharp blade.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is an expert on all things food, from desserts and cookbooks to cooking gadgets. She's also the 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.
This roundup was updated with additional home testing insights by Jason Horn, commerce editor for The Spruce Eats. He's been writing about food and drinks for more than 15 years, and, if he's being honest, really prefers ice cream to snow cones.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Bisphenol A (BPA). Updated March 5, 2020.