How can you make sweet and creamy ice cream even better? We've rounded up our favorite ice cream topping ideas that instantly transform plain scoops, and take your dessert game to an entirely new level. These fun and scrumptious ideas are easily the best shortcuts you can use to fancy up an ice cream dessert, without too much effort.
Ice cream sauces are an instant solution to the dinner party dessert dilemma. With just a pint of ice cream, and a quick homemade sauce, your guests are made in the shade. There are so many options for fresh and delicious homemade sauces. Drizzly, dreamy caramel and gooey hot fudge sauces are popular choices for ice cream sundaes, but you can also get fancy with fruit sauces. And while you could always buy a store-bought dessert sauce for topping ice cream, making your own from scratch is so much more fun and satisfying (plus, the end result is more enjoyable — and impressive — to eat).
There's nothing quite like ladling a still-warm and fresh homemade fruit sauce over cold scoops of vanilla ice cream. Even chocolate and caramel sauces are that much more divine when made on the stove top, and you will feel better knowing what ingredients went into them. You can also think outside the box when you create your own sauces from scratch. Just check out our genius recipes below for classic ice cream sauces, plus others made with ingredients like green tea, marshmallow, or peanut butter. Choose a sauce that complements your meal, or make a few and set them out with other toppings for a DIY sundae bar.
You can make these sauces ahead of time, as they keep beautifully in the fridge. When it's time to serve, simply decant your homemade sauce into a pouring vessel such as a gravy boat, or a bowl with a small ladle. For an outdoor party, pick up a couple of sturdy plastic squeeze bottles from the dollar store, and an ice cream scoop, and let guests serve themselves. If you want to warm your sauce before serving, heat it gently on the stove over low heat, or try a mini warming crockpot.
Candy, Cookies, Crumbles, Cereals, and Nuts
Give a rough chop to your favorite candy bars for a sundae bar, or put out bite-sized candy like whoppers and chocolate-covered raisins. For kids especially, you can look for miniature versions of popular candies like gummy bears and chocolate peanut butter cups. Maraschino cherries and marshmallow fluff are traditional sundae toppings that taste infinitely better when made from scratch. You can also go wild by topping ice cream bowls with malted milk powder, caramel corn, chopped-up candy bark, or chunks of seafoam candy. Or think beyond the usual chocolate chips, and offer one of the many other flavors of chips available, such as butterscotch or mint. Of course, you can never go wrong with sprinkles.
While Oreo cookies are a popular ice cream sundae topping, you can chop up any kind of cookie you enjoy for sprinkling over ice cream. Give this idea a whirl with wafer cookers, peanut butter cookies, graham crackers, thin mints, sugar cookies, snickerdoodles, ginger snaps, or gingerbread cookies. While you're at it, don't forget edible cookie dough, which makes an indulgent addition to ice cream for dessert.
Crumbles add a different, softer texture that plays well with the silky coldness of ice cream (just think of warm chocolate brownies topped with vanilla ice cream). Why not reverse engineer that particular combo, and bake up a boxed brownie mix (or your own recipe), for crumbling over vanilla ice cream? Beyond brownies, other baked goods that are delicious crumbled over bowls of ice cream are mini blueberry muffins, blondies, and cake pops.
Your favorite breakfast cereal might be the ice cream topping you never knew you needed. Cereals with fruit flavors, or candy add-ins, such as Lucky Charms, Trix, Fruity Pebbles, Froot Loops, and Crunch Berries, are especially great additions to ice cream sundaes for kids. For grown-ups, try sprinkling your preferred granola over bowls of vanilla ice cream, with a drizzle of liquid honey over top, for an instant dessert idea that is a little more special than plain scoops.
Toast and roughly chop your favorite nuts for sprinkling over ice cream. Walnuts are a popular choice for sundaes, but just about any kind of nuts, from cashews to almonds, peanuts, and even flaked coconut, will taste great. You can even buy nuts already toasted and chopped, and save yourself the effort. Don't forget the world of candied nuts either, from honey roasted peanuts to pralines, and chopped up nut brittles.
Liqueurs and other boozy tipples add instant sophistication to plain vanilla ice cream, when you are serving adults. A simple dessert of ice cream drizzled with an adult beverage is an easy way to win summer entertaining. Some fabulous choices include coffee liqueur, Irish cream liqueur, sambuca, grand marnier, raspberry liqueur, creme de menthe, cinnamon liqueur, amaretto, bourbon whiskey, and spiced rum. These are widely available in stores, but we've included recipes below, if you want to try your hand at a DIY liqueur. (Bonus — these recipes also make great handmade edible gifts).
Keep things chic with just an ounce of liqueur or booze (about 2 Tablespoons) for topping a couple of generous scoops of ice cream. Finish with any toppings of your choice, and enjoy the rave reviews from guests.
- Keep your ice cream flavors simple. With so many great toppings to choose from, the ice cream flavors don’t have to be too creative. The choice of vanilla or chocolate is perfectly fine.
- Make small signs to label your ingredients. This can be a cute part of the decorations and it will help guests out. While many of the sundae toppings will be obvious, chopped nuts or sauces may look alike. The difference between a strawberry sauce and a raspberry sauce could be huge to someone with food allergies. Also, let guests know which toppings contain nuts, dairy, and gluten.
- Too many choices can become overwhelming. Stick to three sauce choices and three or four crunchy toppings. Unless you are having a huge party, you don’t need to put out more than that.