The Most Popular Ice Cream Flavor in Every Decade
I scream, you scream—well, you know the saying! Americans have loved to eat ice cream for well over a century. Here's a closer look at the most popular ice cream flavor from every decade.
Neapolitan ice cream was very trendy in this decade. It’s made of several flavors of ice cream pressed together into one block to be sliced and served—a technique that originated in Naples, Italy. Though any ice cream flavor can be used, the most familiar Neapolitan combination features chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. This decade also saw the invention of the ice cream cone.
1910s: Fruit Sherbet
This ice cream treat was also called water ice, iced punch or sorbet. It was a popular palate cleanser served at dinner parties between entrees. The sherbet typically consisted of fruit juice and water—sometimes liqueurs or milk were added, and they were sweetened with sugar or honey.
1920s: Rocky Road
Aptly named for the rocky times of the late ’20s, Rocky Road ice cream was the creation of William Dreyer and Joseph Edy. (Do those names sound familiar?) Wanting to make a dessert to cheer people up during the bleak days of the Great Depression, the duo stirred marshmallow bits and chopped almonds into chocolate ice cream. Find more surprising Depression-era desserts.
1930s: Rum Raisin
The repeal of Prohibition in the ’30s spurred the addition of spirits to desserts, including ice cream. We have Italy to thank for the rum and raisin flavor combination. In Sicily, rum-soaked Málaga raisins were stirred into vanilla gelato. This ice cream flavor regained in popularity in the ’70s and ’80s, too. Find your state’s most iconic ice cream flavor.
1940s: Vanilla Soft Serve
The idea for soft serve ice cream happened by accident, after Tom Carvel’s ice cream truck broke down and he had to sell melting ice cream in a hurry. His customers loved the creamy texture, and Carvel ran with the idea. More soft serve stands quickly followed, including Dairy Queen and Tastee Freez.
Pineapple was everywhere in the ’50s (think pineapple upside-down cake and countless Jell-O salads) thanks to the fascination with Hawaiian and Polynesian culture. So it’s no surprise that pineapple found its way into ice cream, too. Flavors in grocery store freezers included a pink pineapple sherbet, cherry pineapple and a vanilla, raspberry and orange-pineapple swirled ice cream.
1960s: Butter Pecan
Ice cream is already indulgent—but how about adding in real butter? Folks loved the buttery vanilla base dotted with toasted pecans. Howard Johnson’s , an iconic 1960s family restaurant chain, had Butter Pecan on its famous list of 28 ice cream flavors, which included two other popular ice creams of the decade: black raspberry and maple walnut. If you can’t get enough of this flavor, try these other butter pecan desserts.
1970s: Mint Chocolate Chip
We have England’s royal family to thank for this ice cream—well, sort of. English culinary student Marilyn Ricketts won a 1973 contest with her creation of mint ice cream dotted with chocolate chips, and won the honor to have it served at the wedding banquet of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips. It’s been an American favorite ever since. If it’s your favorite, then you’ll love these grasshopper-inspired desserts, too.
1980s: Cherry Garcia
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream ruled this decade with their social missions, rich, small-batch ice creams and eclectic flavors. Cherry Garcia, cherry ice cream swirled with juicy cherries and fudge flakes, was named for the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia and quickly became the most popular of those ’80s flavors.
1990s: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
For all of us who snuck raw cookie dough out of the fridge, this flavor was the answer to our prayers! Ben & Jerry’s gave us this ice cream flavor as well, after getting the idea from an anonymous fan. Other brands quickly caught on, swirling chunks of cookie dough into their own vanilla ice cream.
Honorable Mention: Kids of the ’90s also grew up eating the “Ice Cream of the Future:” Dippin’ Dots!
2010s: Salted Caramel
The last decade saw a revolution in incorporating sweet and savory flavors. Thank goodness, because salted caramel in ice cream is pure genius! Ice cream flavors ran the gamut, from modest swirls of salted caramel to candy chunks, and even as a solid core in the pint. (Thanks again, Ben & Jerry’s!) To sample this one at home, make salted caramel sauce to serve over pumpkin ice cream.