This Is the Easiest Way To Get Nugget Ice at Home on the Cheap

Sonic ice at home? Dreams really do come true.

Nugget Sonic Ice
Photo: drbimages/GettyImages

Whether you know it as nugget ice, pellet ice, Sonic ice, or simply " the good ice", chances are it's your preferred form of frozen water. The small, flakey ice does more than just cool off your soft drink — its chewable texture makes it almost like a snack in your soda. So, it's no wonder this ice has a loyal and even enthusiastic following.

Most people are introduced to the tasty ice tablets on their first trip to Sonic; the fast food franchise adopted the ice style as their signature back in the 1980s. Since then, more fast-food restaurants have started serving the iconic ice, and even selling bags for take-home purposes. And we've got good news: it's pretty cheap.

That means you can enjoy this flaky, fun ice at your house parties, holidays, tailgates, or even just in your afternoon iced coffee. And, no, you don't need to purchase one of the super pricey ice makers for your countertop (although, that is an option if you REALLY love the stuff). You can buy the beloved ice in bulk from several of your favorite fast-food counters, and here's how.

What is Sonic Ice?

The perfect median between crushed and cubed ice, sonic ice (or nugget ice) has a personality of its own and some unique qualities that make it undeniably lovable.

To make nugget ice, specialty ice machines create flakes of ice, compress the ice into thin tubes, then break the tubes into small chunks or pieces. Think of it like a packed snowball for your beverage. Because the shaved ice doesn't have the same density and hardness as regular frozen cubes, it doesn't hurt your teeth to chomp down on.

The teeny cavities in each ice pellet fill with whatever liquid the ice is in, absorbing your drink and tasting more flavorful than solid blocks. And, with more exposed surface area, the ice actually chills your drink faster than traditional ice, while still diluting it slower than crushed ice would. Now you understand the mass appeal.

How to Buy Sonic Ice

  1. You guessed it: Sonic sells their iconic 'Sonic ice.' You can purchase a 10-lb. bag of packaged ice from the drive-thru for around $3.50.
  2. Chick-fil-A sells 5-lb. bags of their nugget ice for around $1.75.
  3. Zaxby's sells their ice at select locations based on region, but the menu price is $1.99 for an 8-lb. bag.

Prices and availability are dependent on the location, so call ahead to make sure your nearest fast food joint can sell their ice.

Tips for Buying Sonic Ice

Before you hit the drive-thru, note that this ice is best consumed day-of as the texture will change the longer it sits in your freezer. Plan on grabbing a bag around two hours before your guests arrive and consuming within the day for perfectly chewy pellets.

How to Recreate Sonic Ice at Home

If you don't have one of these restaurants in your area, or you just want 24-hour access to a cup of nugget ice, there are some true at-home solutions. While you can shell out the big bucks for a state-of-the-art nugget ice maker (like this top-rated GE countertop version), the best way to mimic the nugget ice experience on the cheap is with this Pebble Ice Tray.

While this ice won't have the same airy texture, the small size is easier to chew and will chill your drink in the same fashion. Your at-home mojitos and Moscow mules will taste better than ever.

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