What Flavors Make Up Rainbow Sherbet?

If you've never tasted rainbow sherbet, you're missing out on one of the great pleasures in life. Hiding behind its My Little Pony-esque color palette, this multi-hued frozen confection is bursting with fruit-forward notes of raspberry, orange, and lime. Well, at least most of the time. Every now and then, someone comes along and attempts to put their own spin on the classic combo. Some variations are winners, others not so much. But first things first, what exactly is rainbow sherbet? Credit for the genesis of the three-in-one icy treat goes to an employee at Sealtest Dairies in Pennsylvania. In the 1950s, the innovative worker came up with a three-tip nozzle design that enabled the company to simultaneously fill a single ice cream carton with three separate flavors.

The rest, as they say, is history — with a few twists and turns along the way. We mentioned the now-classic rainbow sherbet combination of raspberry, orange, and lime, but evidence in the form of a vintage ad suggests one of Sealtest's earliest tri-color mash-ups was actually a vanilla, raspberry, and lemon-lime frozen dessert. That same ad refers to the featured confection as ice cream, not sherbet. What's more, the ad was part of a name-your-favorite-combo contest to win a year's supply of Sealtest ice cream. Did an entry suggest the raspberry, orange, and lime rainbow sherbet trio we know and love today? We may never know, but we can draw inspiration from the long-ago contest and let our own imaginations run wild.

Make it your way

Sherbet includes no more than 2% butterfat (for comparison, ice cream must contain at least 10% butterfat ) making it the perfect foil for the lighter notes of fruit-forward frozen confections. The Dairy Dish conducted an informal survey of more than 30 brands of rainbow sherbet to determine the most common three-flavor combination. The results? As expected, sherbet is by and large a fruit-focused frozen dessert. Beyond that, the traditional combination of raspberry, orange, and lime is the clear leader. In fact, more than half of the brands included in the survey offer the classic mash-up. What's more, every single brand includes orange in its mix.

Other revelations? Four brands led with raspberry, orange, and pineapple while several replaced raspberry with lemon for a full-on citrus flavor profile. One outlier ditched the raspberry in favor of strawberry. While it didn't make it into the survey, Baskin-Robbins' Wild 'n Reckless throws convention to the wind with its unexpected blend of green apple, blue raspberry, and fruit punch sherbet. Which brings us back to letting our imaginations run wild. While mass-produced brands have to address issues like consumer preference, cost, and supply of ingredients, home cooks are at liberty to explore combinations that appeal to their individual tastes (sherbet is easy to make). And who knows? You may come up with a trio of flavors that knocks the longtime frontrunner of raspberry, orange, and lime right off its pedestal.