We Tried the Best Holiday Ice Cream Flavors—These 12 Made Our Nice List

From classic peppermint to spiked eggnog—‘tis the season for festive desserts!

Holiday Ice Creams
Photo: Dotdash Meredith

In between whipping up batches of cookies, cakes, and pies that no one can touch until your holiday party, why not enjoy a spirited treat that you didn't have to make yourself? We're, of course, talking about ice cream.

With every new season comes new, intriguing ice cream flavors on the grocery store shelves—and the holidays are no exception. No matter where you look, you'll find freezers packed with different festive flavors.

From classic flavors, like peppermint and gingerbread, to iconically creative flavors, like spiked eggnog and your favorite Christmas tree cake in ice cream form, the holiday ice cream possibilities stretch as far as your imagination will allow. This season, I tried holiday ice cream flavors from many of my favorite brands, including Salt & Straw, Talenti, Jeni's, Little Debbie, McConnell's, Halo Top, and Walmart's Great Value, and ranked them based on the flavors that belong on the nice list and the naughty list.

Twelve ice cream pints later, I came away with my final ratings and in need of a warm drink to cure my brain freeze.

The Best Holiday Ice Cream Flavors, Ranked

1. Salt & Straw Almond Brittle w/ Salted Ganache

Salt and Straw Almond Brittle w: Salted Ganache
Salt & Straw

Salt & Straw's Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache is vanilla ice cream dotted with salted chocolate-coated almond brittle and truffle-like ganache.

One word: wow. This ice cream is absolute decadence in every bite. The almond brittle is delicious, the chocolate ganache is rich and creamy, and it has a little hint sea salt to balance all that sweetness. I could have eaten this whole pint in one sitting.

2. Talenti Peppermint Bark Gelato

Talenti Peppermint Bark Gelato

Talenti's limited-time-only gelato is white chocolate peppermint gelato complete with semi-sweet chocolate chip flakes.

I love the texture of gelato, so I was really excited about this one—plus, I love Talenti's Mediterranean Mint. It's less minty than the Mediterranean Mint and even a traditional mint chocolate chip, but I still really enjoyed it.

3. Great Value Peppermint Flavored Cookies & Cream Ice Cream

Great Value Peppermint Cookies Cream Ice Cream

The Walmart brand, Great Value, produced this limited-edition ice cream that's a seasonal take on cookies and cream. It's cookies and cream just in a light pink, minty ice cream base. It's everything you love about cookies and cream with a touch of peppermint flavor. Plus, it's pink! What's more festive than that?

4. Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes Ice Cream

Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cake Ice Cream

The beloved Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes have turned into ice cream this holiday season. The Walmart-exclusive ice cream has a vanilla ice cream base with golden cake chunks, holiday sprinkles, and red icing mixed in.

I was really excited for this one because I love the Little Debbies trees. However, it was a bit underwhelming. It tastes more like birthday cake ice cream rather than the Little Debbie trees specifically. It's a good birthday cake ice cream, for sure, but not what I was anticipating.

5. Jeni's White Chocolate Peppermint

Jeni's White Chocolate Peppermint Ice Cream

Jeni's White Chocolate Peppermint ice cream consists of white chocolate cream, real peppermint, sea salt, and flecks of white chocolate.

This takes after-dinner mint to a whole new level. The pink and white ice cream packs a very cooling punch—some might find the peppermint flavor a little overwhelming or almost toothpaste-y. However, I really enjoyed it. The white chocolate is mild enough to cut through the strong peppermint flavor and not make the ice cream too rich. However, it's definitely one you can only take a few bites of.

6. Salt & Straw Peppermint Cocoa

Salt and Straw Peppermint Cocoa
Salt & Straw

Salt & Straw's Peppermint Cocoa is rich cocoa ice cream swirled with peppermint fondant. The intense mint flavor is credited to Salt & Straw's use of Seely Farm's single-distilled peppermint oil in the fondant. And intense it is—the peppermint flavor is a little overpowering but the rice chocolate ice cream helps to tone it down a big.

7. McConnell's Apple Cider & Cranberry Jam

McConnell's Apple Cider & Cranberry Jam

McConnell's Fine Ice Cream teamed up with Martinelli's for this Apple Cider & Cranberry jam flavor. The ice cream is infused with sparkling apple cider and filled with ribbons of cranberry jam. So if you're a cider and jam fan like I am, you can't go wrong with this choice. It's the perfect balance of sweet and tart.

8. Salt & Straw Gingerbread Cookie Dough

Salt and Straw Gingerbread Cookie Dough
Salt & Straw

Salt & Straw's Gingerbread Cookie Dough comes from the founders' grandma's kitchen. It has a rum royal icing ice cream base that's swirled with gooey gingerbread molasses cookie butter and gingerbread cookie pieces.

Gingerbread fan or not, this is a great ice cream. Unless you get an actual piece of gingerbread, you probably wouldn't even know this is a gingerbread-flavored ice cream. It tastes more like sugar cookies than anything else. The rum flavor comes through nicely in the ice cream and, unlike some cookie dough ice cream, the cookie dough is actually doughy.

9. Salt & Straw The Great Cookie Swap

Salt & Straw Great Cookie Swap
Salt & Straw

Salt & Straw's The Great Cookie Swap is the only vegan ice cream in this holiday lineup. It's filled with an array of holiday cookies—including snickerdoodles, marionberry thumbprints, chocolate almond bark, and molasses cookies.

One taste and a glance at the ingredients and you'll know that this ice cream has a lot going on. Because it's vegan and uses coconut cream, there's a strong coconut flavor, but the longer it stays in your mouth, the more the flavors evolve. In just one spoonful, I tasted coconut, salt, chocolate, cookie dough, and nut butter. I think that might be too many flavors for me, but some people might enjoy the taste journey!

10. Salt & Straw Dwanta's Teremana Spiked Eggnog

Salt and Straw Dwanta's Teremana Spiked Eggnog
Salt & Straw

Salt & Straw's egg nog ice cream was made in a partnership with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and his Teremana Tequila. It has real booze in the custard ice cream for a nutmeg, oaky, toasty taste.

I'm not the biggest eggnog fan in the world, so I wasn't a huge fan of this ice cream. The beginning flavors are very cream- and nutmeg-forward, which I enjoyed. However, on the backend, you're hit with a licorice flavor (likely from the sherry) that I could have done without—I'm a huge tequila lover too, but, unfortunately, I couldn't find that flavor at all.

11. Talenti Caramel Gingerbread Gelato

Talenti Caramel Gingerbread Gelato

Talenti's Caramel Gingerbread Gelato is inspired by the latest season of Top Chef. It's a salted gingerbread gelato swirled with cinnamon cookie pieces and dulce de leche.

You have to really like gingerbread to like this gelato. The flavors are pretty intense and it's punctuated even more with pieces of gingerbread cookies. Overall, it's a pretty spicy ice cream, but if you love fresh gingerbread, you'll like it.

12. Halo Top Gingerbread House

Halo Top Gingerbread House
Halo Top

Halo Top's Gingerbread House is a fan-favorite and made a return to shelves this year. The selling point is that the entire pint is 360 calories, yet it's still a creamy ice cream made with gingerbread, cookie pieces, and icing swirls.

If you like light ice cream, this is probably a no-brainer for you to purchase. While the gingerbread flavors of the ice cream are good, I could have done without the sprinkles and icing swirls. Additionally, the ice cream claims to have real gingerbread cookie pieces in it, but I had to really dig to find anything that reassembled a cookie. All in all, it's an OK option if you want something that's lower in calories, but if you've ever had Halo Top before, you know what I mean when I say that the weird filmy layer on your tongue comes in hard with this ice cream.

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