12 Grocery Store-Brand Vanilla Ice Creams, Ranked

Who doesn't love ice cream? No matter the weather, I'm always excited to enjoy a cone, sundae, milkshake, or sandwich — I'll even take ice cream as part of an affogato or alongside a glass of whiskey. You get the picture. While there are plenty of amazing ice cream shops across the U.S., sometimes you just want a bowl at home. You can no doubt run to any grocery store and find a great selection of ice cream brands, but I've been wondering: Which supermarket has the best branded ice cream?

To answer this question, I visited seven different supermarkets in the New York City area and tried each of their basic vanilla flavors, whether it was "homestyle vanilla," "French vanilla," or "vanilla bean." If a store carried multiple options — perhaps an organic or premium choice — I grabbed those, too. By the end of my shopping spree, I had enough ice cream to last me the next 87 days. It's a tough job, but as a self-proclaimed ice cream aficionado, I felt I was up to the task. Below, I've ranked the 12 ice cream brands I sampled. Taste and texture were the top factors, but I also considered price, ingredients, and nutritional value.

12. Walmart's Great Value Homestyle Vanilla Flavored Ice Cream

Coming in last on our list of the best store-brand vanilla ice creams is Walmart's Great Value Homestyle Vanilla Flavored Ice Cream. People eat with their eyes first, and when we popped the lid off of this 48-fluid-ounce container, we could tell this ice cream would be okay at best. The vanilla (flavored) ice cream was off-white, which matched the package, but we could tell it was a bit crystallized and likely wouldn't have the best texture.

A taste test only confirmed this assumption. Not only did Walmart's Great Value brand have the worst texture of the group, but it also had the worst flavor; it tasted very artificial, hence the specific "vanilla-flavored ice cream" name. On the back of the container was a laundry list of 16 ingredients, with corn syrup listed fourth and "natural and artificial flavors" listed ninth. The list didn't contain any mention of vanilla.

Surprisingly, each serving only has 180 calories, with each carton containing nine servings. This was also the least expensive of all the ice creams, coming in at $2.78. Since the containers in this ranking were different sizes, we calculated the price per serving to judge them a bit more fairly. Walmart's Great Value Homestyle Vanilla Flavored Ice Cream costs $0.31 per serving, which, by that metric, also makes it the most cost-effective. That said, if you're shopping for vanilla ice cream, you could do better.

11. Aldi's Sundae Shoppe Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

In 11th place on our list is Aldi's Sundae Shoppe Vanilla Bean Ice Cream — and it only edged out Walmart by a hair. This is also a pretty inexpensive option at $2.85 per container (and $0.32 per serving), and each serving only has 180 calories, but like Walmart's vanilla-flavored ice cream, the version from Aldi's Sundae Shoppe just lacked anything that would make you want to come back for seconds. We did like that ground vanilla beans (which were visible throughout) and vanilla extract were among this brand's ingredients. That said, the container listed a total of 18 ingredients, and corn syrup came third.

When we scooped the ice cream, it was almost too soft, but even so, we could tell that it was very crystallized. As a result, it had a strange mouthfeel — both too hard and too soft. Overall, it just tasted a bit bland, with no single element stealing the spotlight.

10. Gelatelli by Lidl Homestyle Vanilla Ice Cream

Gelatelli by Lidl Homestyle Vanilla Ice Cream is the last of the products on this list that we probably wouldn't purchase again. It certainly isn't in the same tier as Walmart, but there wasn't anything particularly great about this ice cream. It scooped well enough, but we could tell it didn't have a perfectly smooth texture. That said, it was a bit creamier than we anticipated — definitely a cut above the previous two entries. It did lack a strong vanilla flavor, so while it wasn't bad, per se, it wasn't a home run, either.

Lidl's Gelatelli brand is also a bit more expensive than the previous two entries at $3.35 per container and $0.37 per serving. Like those above, it's also 180 calories per serving, and its carton lists 13 total ingredients, including a small amount of vanilla bean extract. One other factor we weren't particularly fond of was the lack of any type of seal — whether a strip of shrink-wrapped plastic around the lid or a peel-off seal underneath. We've seen those videos of people licking ice cream at the store — no thank you!

9. Target's Favorite Day Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Target's Favorite Day Vanilla Bean Ice Cream kicks off the products that we would consider purchasing again. This ice cream did have a fairly long ingredient list that included both corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, but it also contained natural vanilla flavoring with vanilla bean specks. Despite the natural vanilla flavoring, however, Target's Favorite Day brand also lacked a strong vanilla punch (perhaps due to the sugar syrups). That said, it was one of the softest ice creams we sampled, and it had a nice, creamy texture. We also liked that the back of the container featured a recipe for cookie dough ice cream bars that only called for three ingredients: Favorite Day Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, "eat or bake" chocolate chip cookie dough, and sprinkles. Since we certainly have enough ice cream in the freezer, we might just give this a shot.

Getting back to the numbers, this item cost $3.49 ($0.39 per serving), so it definitely won't break the bank. It's also just 170 calories per serving, which is the lowest on our list. Overall, it's a fine ice cream and could make do in a pinch, but if you're at Target, the store does carry another, much better option.

8. 365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream was a tale of two tastes for us. On our first sampling, we really liked it. On our second, we still really liked it, but we felt that some of the other options that we initially ranked lower should actually rank higher on the list. When we opened the lid, we could see lots of organic vanilla bean specks (this was one of seven all-organic ingredients). The ice cream was also a little tough to scoop, but it had a very smooth texture, so we had no reservations about the ice cream being crystallized. Like some of the ice creams in the middle tier, this product had a good mouthfeel but didn't have that ultra-creamy texture that set some of this cohort's top picks apart. That said, from here on out, all the ice creams are pretty solid, so very few factors separate the "good" from the "great."

At $4.69 per 1-pint container (which is $1.56 per serving), this brand is a bit costlier than our previous entries. 365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Vanilla Bean is also 200 calories — a bit more than our lower-rated ice creams but much less than some of those we ranked higher. We certainly would have this ice cream again, but if you're at Whole Foods, we think the chain carries an even better option.

7. Wegmans organic premium French Vanilla Ice Cream

Wegmans Organic Premium French Vanilla Ice Cream falls into a similar category as our two previous picks: It's pretty good, but you can find a better option at the same store. On our first taste, we found this ice cream to be just okay. While the ice cream wasn't crystallized, it was still a bit hard (both to scoop and bite), and the flavor was only so-so; however, on a second tasting, we liked this much better and even bumped it up a couple of spots.

Wegmans Organic Premium French Vanilla Ice Cream has a good vanilla flavor and is appropriately sweet — perhaps due to its list of just five organic ingredients, which includes vanilla extract. We also liked that Wegmans used 16% butterfat, which really gave this ice cream an unctuous boost. We're also big fans of French vanilla-style ice cream, which uses a custard base to give it that velvety consistency.

All that said, this three-serving container costs $4.79 (or $1.60 per serving), so it's on the more expensive side. Additionally, due to the butterfat, one serving is 360 calories, which is double all the previous options. To be fair, though, more calories often means more flavor, and since ice cream is a treat, this probably shouldn't be a top concern.

6. Aldi's Specially Selected Vanilla Super Premium Ice Cream

Aldi's Specially Selected Vanilla Super Premium Ice Cream, which came in sixth on our list, had some of the best vanilla taste in the bunch. In fact, it might have been in the top three if we were only ranking based on the strongest vanilla taste; however, this was also one of the toughest ice creams to scoop, and the texture was lacking. It wasn't crystallized, but it was a bit hard, and it didn't have that ultra-creamy consistency you want from an excellent ice cream. We did like that it contained just five ingredients (including vanilla extract) and didn't have any artificial flavors. This was certainly noticeable in its taste.

Like Aldi's Sundae Shoppe Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, it didn't have a seal. Priced at $4.89 per container, it was a bit more expensive than some of the other products of the same size, but it still had an affordable price per serving at $0.54. Like many of the other brands from this point forward, it's also on the higher end calorie-wise at 340 per serving.

5. 365 by Whole Foods Market Vanilla Ice Cream

Each of the ice cream options in our top five is an easy "would-buy-again." First in this grouping is 365 by Whole Foods Market Vanilla Ice Cream. While it has a different taste than 365's organic option, as that was vanilla bean and this was simply vanilla, we found our overall ratings to be similar. It was initially a little hard to scoop (which we chalked up to its location in the back of the freezer), but it had a decent texture, and the flavor was also pretty good. A second tasting after we moved the container closer to the front of the freezer provided a much softer scoop.

As for why we ranked this variety higher, 365's Vanilla Ice Cream cost $5.59 per 1½-quart container, meaning it comes in at $0.62 per serving. It also had the same 200 calories and nearly identical seven ingredients as the brand's vanilla bean option. If all else is the same, let the price split the difference and spring for the option that's less than half the other's price.

4. Target's Favorite Day Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

We have a confession, and we want to get it out of the way: Target's Favorite Day Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream uses artificial flavoring and doesn't mention vanilla among its "natural flavors." (That said, it doesn't list any of these flavors, so it's technically possible that some natural vanilla is included.) To be as fair as we could when tasting and ranking these entries, we didn't look at the cartons' ingredients beforehand — that way, the ice cream could do the talking.

This brand had great "scoopability" and a super creamy texture, plus a really solid vanilla taste. Despite the high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup (third and fourth, respectively, on its list of 10 ingredients), Target's Favorite Day Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream wasn't overly sweet.

Upon our second tasting, we still thought it was one of the best of the bunch. Even better, the nine-serving container only cost $3.49 (that's $0.39 — and 170 calories — per serving). Like Target's other vanilla ice cream, this one had a recipe on the container: rainbow sheet pan ice cream bars. (All you need is butter, marshmallows, fruity crispy rice cereal, and this ice cream.)

3. Lidl Preferred Selection Super Premium Vanilla Ice Cream

The most expensive ice cream on this list ($8.09 per container) is also one of those most worth its price. Lidl Preferred Selection Super Premium Vanilla Ice Cream had some of the best texture among the ice cream brands we tried, plus just the right level of creamy unctuousness. We also found that it had a really good vanilla flavor. While it was on the verge of being oversweet, it didn't actually hit that mark.

This ice cream also has a pretty long list of ingredients (12 in total), including both corn syrup (listed fourth) and natural vanilla flavor (listed 11th). Like Target's Favorite Day Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream, it's a bit puzzling, but at least it lists "natural vanilla" on the carton. Maybe it's best not to ask too many questions when you just want a good scoop of ice cream.

Despite this being the most expensive product on our list based on total cost, the Lidl Preferred Selection Super Premium Vanilla Ice Cream contains nine servings per carton, which divides out to $0.90 per serving. This places it close to the middle of our price ranking. Each serving also has 310 calories.

2. Trader Joe's French Vanilla Ice Cream

After sampling Trader Joe's French Vanilla Ice Cream (one of the chain's many frozen desserts), we're confident that the supermarket has hit another home run. Like the other French vanilla ice cream brands on our list, this one had a really pleasing, smooth texture. It was a bit hard to scoop but melted on the tongue and had a really tasty vanilla flavor. It also had just the right amount of sweetness.

According to Trader Joe's website, in order for an ice cream to receive the brand's "super premium" designation (as this ice cream does), it "must have less than 50% overrun, meaning that 1 gallon of mix would create no more than 1½ gallons of finished ice cream." The brand goes on to explain, "Trader Joe's French Vanilla Ice Cream has 26% overrun — aka dense, super, SUPER premium ice cream!" We definitely noted this ice cream's density when scooping it, but we also enjoyed that "premium" flavor and taste.

This option cost $4.49 for 1 quart — that's $0.75 per serving, which isn't too bad for such a high-ranking entry. Its six ingredients, which include natural vanilla flavor (listed fifth), culminate in 330 calories per serving.

1. Wegmans Madagascar Vanilla Premium French Ice Cream

We had never tried Wegmans Madagascar Vanilla Premium French Ice Cream before this ranking, but it will almost certainly be in our freezer from now on. It's that good — store brand or not. Yes, it's $4.79 for 1 pint (which equates to $1.60 per serving) and 350 calories, but the flavor makes it all worthwhile.

Like Wegmans' other branded ice cream, this variety uses 16% butterfat, giving it an excellent texture (although not necessarily the best on the list). This was a welcome surprise, as it seemed a bit freezer-burned when we popped the lid. While we were a bit concerned that it would be hard or a bit crystallized, these fears were never realized.

Where it stands head and shoulders above the rest of the brands on our list, however, is its vanilla flavor. Made with "Real Madagascar Vanilla," it's immediately obvious that the ingredient is of much higher quality than the others we tried. Beyond vanilla extract, this ice cream contains only six other ingredients. Overall, Wegmans Madagascar Vanilla Premium French Ice Cream was clearly and immediately our favorite of the bunch, and we would highly recommend it to any ice cream lover.


I sampled 12 different store-brand vanilla ice creams from seven different supermarkets found in or around New York City. As such, I couldn't sample offerings from other popular grocery stores across the U.S. like Kroger, H-E-B, or Publix. That said, I tried one spoonful of each ice cream back to back (with a sip of water between each), took notes, and then repeated that process on a separate day to compare and contrast. I didn't include any flavors like vanilla chocolate chip or other variations that used a vanilla base; I also didn't include any dairy-free desserts in this ranking.

I made sure to rotate the containers within the freezer to minimize variations in texture. I found the contents to be fairly consistent with this method, leading me to believe that each ice cream was fairly represented. When judging, I mostly considered flavor and texture. Other post-tasting factors, as mentioned above, included each carton's price, ingredients, and nutritional value, as well as whether or not the supermarket offered a better option.