Best Ice Cream Mix

What are the best ice cream mixes? We sampled 8 of the most popular brands, on a quest to find which made the best ice cream (a tough job, but someone had to do it). After making several batches of ice cream, here are the ones we’d recommend! FYI: We’ve been reviewing and rating products for families, children and the home since 1994! To keep our reviews independent, we don’t take money or freebies from brands we review. For this review, we purchased ice cream mixes with our own money for testing! Our work is 100% reader-supported. Thanks for reading this article!

Best 3 Flavor Bundle

Junket Ice Cream Mix Bundle
Loved these perfectly-sized boxes that make 1 quart of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream. Gluten-free, simple ingredients with natural flavors. Overall taste is smooth, creamy.

Best 3 Flavor Bundle: Junket Ice Cream Mix Bundle

As part of our valiant effort to find the best way to make ice cream at home for our article on the Best Ice Cream Maker Machines, we made quite a few batches of homemade ice cream. Sometimes we used a from-scratch recipe, others times we tried a mix.

We quickly realized ice cream mixes are a fast and convenient way to make your own ice cream, so we decided to spin that topic off as it own article. Without further ado, here are our picks for the best ice cream mixes!

Variety is the spice of life—and after trying out different flavor bundles, we judged Junket’s Ice Cream Mix Bundle of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry is the best bet.

What We Liked

• Six individual boxes = six quarts of ice cream! The individual box size is convenient—other mixes come in larger boxes, which inevitably leads to spills and waste. We liked Junket’s packaging as a good solution.

• Chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, 2 boxes each.

• Gluten free.

• Made in the USA.

• Simple ingredients. Vanilla has natural vanilla flavor; chocolate has dutch-processed cocoa; strawberry has strawberry and beet juice (for color).

• Requires 1.25 cups of whole milk and 3/4 cup of heavy cream to make.

• Brand has been around since 1874! Yep, that long. Junket has a rather interesting history—we discuss this at the end of the article.

• Hint: you can use half and half instead of milk to make creamier ice cream.

• Overall taste is good. We thought the texture iswascreamy, but the flavors aren’t intense. The chocolate could be more chocolatey, but that’s our tastes. We added in chopped strawberries to boost the taste of the strawberry mix. And that’s what we’d recommend: use these mixes as a base and add in some additional flavors to taste. Here’s what the strawberry ice cream looked like in our ice cream machine:

Junket Best Ice Cream Mix

What Needs Work

• Must completely dissolve powder in liquid to avoid gritty texture. This takes a bit of effort with a whisk for a couple of minutes.

• Contains corn syrup.

• Strawberry flavor can brick. We didn’t see this in our tests, but we see reports that the strawberry powder can “brick” or clump together. That means it turns into a solid mass that requires you to break it up before you can mix it.

• Pricey.

Best Soft Serve Mix

Frostline Vanilla Soft Serve Ice Cream Mix, 6 Pounds

The top favorite for soft serve in our taste tests—creamy, affordable and non-dairy if you wish. Caveat: this is a large 6 lb. bag that might be overkill for some folks.

Best Soft Serve Mix: Frostline Vanilla Soft Serve Ice Cream Mix

When you see soft serve ice cream at a restaurant or state fair, odds are it is made from Frostline’s soft serve mix. The brand has a 40 year track record churning out soft serve—and in our tests where we compared different soft serve mixes, we thought Frostline came out on top in terms of flavor and texture.

What We Liked

 Large six pound bag! This would be great for a party, as it makes 8 quarts (or 64 half-cup servings of ice cream). Be aware of the size of this bag before ordering—it you don’t need to make a large amount of soft serve, it might be overkill!

• Shelf stable for 18 months.

• Gluten free.

• Lactose free. Yes, you can make lactose-free ice cream with this soft service mix (add water instead of milk or cream).

• Recipes include mixing with soda and other flavors for fun treats!

• Made in the USA.

What Needs Work

• No directions. This mix package does not have directions—but those are easy enough to find with a little research!

• No expiration date. The package has a series of numbers and letters that have to be decoded to figure out when it was made. Here’s Frostline’s explanation:

“Frostline has a eight digit code on the package that you can use to determine when the product was produced. You will find it stamped on the front, for example N9303A01. The N identifies the facility that produced the mix. The number, which follows, represents the last digit of the year the mix was produced, e.g., a 9 would indicate 2019. The next three numbers, indicate which day out of 365 days in the year, the mix was produced. So if the number is 303, it means the product was mixed on October 30th as this is the 303st day of the year. The final 3 digits are used to indicate the manufacturing batch code. For optimal performance, use Frostline® mixes within 18 months of the day and year produced.”

• Includes corn syrup.

• Requires a bit of prep. We suggest you cool the mix for about 2 hours before making.

Best Dole Whip Mix

Dole Soft Serve Mix, Pineapple, 4.40 Pound

Just like the theme park treat, this mix tastes smooth and tangy. Great for large summer parties, as large 4.4 lb bag makes nearly 90 servings!

Best Dole Whip Mix: Dole Soft Serve Mix, Pineapple

If you are a Disney theme park enthusiast, you probably know the Dole Whip dessert there has taken on mythic status—folks just can’t get enough of this pineapple flavored soft serve. Good news: now you can make it home.

We tried out different pineapple flavored soft serve before deciding Dole’s version is the best. Here’s why:

What We Liked

• Smooth, pineapple flavor. Once you master the right mix of liquid to power, this tastes just like the treat at Disney.

• Dairy-free.

• Vegan friendly.

• Great for parties. This 4.4 lb make makes 89 servings (1/2 cup portion).

• Other flavor options if you don’t like pineapple include lemon, strawberry, lime and mango.

• Made in the USA.

What Needs Work

• Very sweet. 

• Tastes best fresh from soft serve machine. Freezing the left-overs not as optimal taste-wise, in our opinion.

Best Vanilla Mix

Triple Scoop Ice Cream Mix, Premium Vanilla

Super fine and smooth, this mix topped our vanilla ice cream taste tests—no GMO’s, no artificial flavors or colors. Sweetened with cane sugar (no corn syrup).

Best Vanilla Mix: Triple Scoop Ice Cream Mix

As the great 20th century Canadian philosopher/poet Ed Robertson once said, “I like vanilla. It’s the finest of the flavors.”

We know lots of other folks like vanilla as well, so our quest for the best ice cream mix included a search for the best vanilla. After trying several varieties, we think Triple Scoop’s Vanilla Ice Cream Mix had just the right consistency and flavor profile.

What We Liked

• Premium ingredients like Madagascar bourbon vanilla and cane sugar.

• Makes two 1 quart batches. 

• Smooth and easy vanilla flavor. We thought this mix tasted best, compared to others that sometimes were too over or underpowered.

• No GMO’s, artificial flavors, colors, preservatives or corn syrup solids.

• No gums or emulsifiers.

• Made in the USA.

• Other flavors include mint chocolate chip and cake batter if vanilla isn’t your bag.

What Needs Work

• Pricey.

• Requires half and half plus heavy whipping cream (1.5 cups each). Most ice cream mixes we tested just required milk–so this one may require a bit of advance planning if you don’t have that in your fridge.

• Some folks find it too sweet. We didn’t think so, but we know some folks prefer a “drier” vanilla profile. This probably isn’t the best choice in that case!

Ice Cream Mix History: A Brief Look at Junket

Where did ice cream mixes come from?

Junket, one of the more popular ice cream mix brands and a top pick in this article, traces its roots all the way back to Europe in the late 1800’s.

As you make ice cream at home, consider reading this story to the kiddos to learn more about the history of food, chemistry and innovation.

With the brand’s permission, here’s a reprint of the company’s interesting journey:

Denmark at the start: cheese!

“The story of the Junket brand begins in Denmark in 1874, when Christian D. A. Hansen founded Hansen’s Technical-Chemical Laboratory in Denmark to make rennet extract for the cheese making industry.

Hansen was born in 1843. In 1864 he earned his MA in pharmaceuticals and after some time as a pharmacist as well as editor of publications about pharmaceuticals he began working as an assistant at the chemical laboratory of the University of Copenhagen. In 1872 he won an award for his research.  Throughout his life he continued to work in the field of pharmaceuticals and to fund education.

One of the topics of Hansen’s research at the University was digestive enzymes, including pepsin. In 1873 he and a partner opened a small factory that made pepsin preparations for people suffering from digestive problems. Hansen also began working with rennet, which is produced in the fourth stomach of ruminants such as cows and is used in making cheese; the rennet makes the milk coagulate so that the watery whey can be drained away, leaving the curds that become cheese.

The source of the rennet was normally calves that had not yet been weaned, and thus it was available only when a calf was slaughtered. While there were various ways of extracting and preserving the rennet needed for cheesemaking, there was no standardization of the strength of the solution and the results were often unsanitary.

Hansen used his experience in chemistry and pharmacology to produce “an extract of high keeping quality, uniform strength, and free from the contaminating impurities characteristic of the – often foul – liquid of uncertain coagulating power produced by soaking the stomachs in whey in the dairy.”

In 1874 Chr. Hansen’s Technical Chemical Laboratory (which came to be known simply as Chr. Hansen’s Laboratory) was founded in Copenhagen. Its products, which besides rennet included coloring to add to the milk to make the cheese more attractive, rapidly became very widely used in the cheese industry not only in Denmark but in many other countries.

The New York branch: Junket comes to the U.S.

In 1877, Johan D. Frederiksen, a Danish dairyman and agriculturalist, emigrated to the United States and the following year opened a branch of Chr. Hansen’s Laboratory in New York State, which at the time was the hub of the developing cheese-making industry in America.

In 1882 the plant moved to Little Falls, New York. In 1891 a new factory built on Lock Island in the Mohawk River at Little Falls began operations; the island was renamed Hansen Island. The factory grew over the years.

Up to that point, the emphasis of the firm had been on the manufacturers of large quantities of cheese.  Frederiksen had the idea to expand the market by making a product to appeal to American women for use in the home. In 1886 Hansen’s Household Rennet Tablets made their appearance, accompanied by a simple recipe to make junket, an English dessert known also by other names such as curds and whey, slip, or rennet custard. The basic recipe has not changed materially since then.

(Editor’s note: Remember the nursery rhyme Little Miss Muffet? She was eating her “curds and whey”! There came a spider . . .)

Recipes for Junket Cream Ice, Wine

In 1897, Chr. Hansen’s Laboratory produced a little booklet named “Dainty Delicacies for Artistic Desserts” and included it in the package with the tablets. The booklet opened with the announcement, “We are pleased to present to the cooks and housekeepers of America the first and only collection that has ever been made of recipes for the preparation of Junket….In a careful review of the many works on cooking, or even the special works on desserts or cooking for invalids, you will rarely find more than one recipe for making ‘Junket…’”

The booklet contained several dozen recipes, including two for “Wine Junket” and the basic recipe in five languages. More importantly, also included was a recipe for “Junket Cream Ice,” which was described as “exquisitely delicious.” Ice cream became an important part of the Junket brand, from the early years of ice cream freezers through the advent of the “automatic refrigerator” and to the present

Junket Tablets were not the only products designed to appeal to the household cook; Junket brand food colors and flavors were also available, and the little recipe book made suggestions for producing desserts that were as appealing to the eyes as to the palate. By 1900 there were six colors and twelve flavors.

Little Miss Junket

The dessert was remarkably adaptable: with different flavors, toppings, things put under the custard or in the custard, something could be made to appeal to everyone.

 New versions of the little booklet were produced over the years, and a new image appeared: Little Miss Junket, offering servings of the dessert with the motto “Have Some Junket.” She continued to represent the company for many years, including in souvenirs given out at the St. Louis World’s Fair.

Each package of Junket continued to provide a small recipe booklet, but in 1911 a much larger booklet, called simply “Junket,” was produced, as part of an impressive national advertising campaign.  In it were exquisitely beautiful colored lithographs and a selection of recipes.  This practice continued for many years – small booklets in the packages, and larger books available upon request. Junket was frequently advertised in such magazines as Good Housekeeping and Child Life, and through displays at World’s Fairs and other exhibitions.

The Nesnah dessert is born, ancestor to Junket Ice Cream Mix

The recipe for Junket was simple, but in 1911 the company offered something that made it even easier to make desserts: Nesnah (“Hansen” spelled backwards). Nesnah was a powder, already sweetened, flavored, and colored, so that it was necessary only to heat the milk and mix in the powder to make junket or ice cream.

It had the added convenience of allowing a single serving to be made by using only a spoonful of the powder. Initially there were nine flavors; within a few years the number was reduced to six, and the name Nesnah was changed to Junket Powder, later Junket Desserts and Ice Cream.  Any recipe given for the tablets could be made using the powder of the correct flavor; any recipe given for the powder could be made by starting with the tablet.

It was around this time, too, that the part of the company that dealt in household supplies began identifying itself as “The Junket Folks,” which many of its customers had called it for years; Chr. Hansen’s Laboratories appeared below that on boxes and letterheads, in smaller letters.

The Junket Folks appealed not only to adults but also to children, with such items as a fold-out Junket Party cardboard standup, small pinbacks, coloring books, puzzle and game books and even a book of magic tricks given out over the years.

In 1930, the manufacturing of those products intended for commercial or farm use was moved to a new factory in Milwaukee, since the center of the cheese industry was no longer in New York but farther west.  The Junket Folks, however, remained in Little Falls.  By 1934 they were producing chocolate and vanilla Junket Ice Cream Mix, which didn’t even require warming the milk before mixing and freezing – and serving in Junket brand ice cream cones.

Until 1938 the dessert products made by the Junket Folks were all based on rennet. That year, Junket Quick Fudge and Frosting Mix appeared.  It was later called Minute Fudge and Hansen Island Fudge, and was available as chocolate and penuche and, briefly, coconut. Fudge, frosting, candy, and other treats could be made using the mix, which did not include any rennet.

Danish Dessert Twist

1939 saw the arrival of Junket Danish Dessert, another non-rennet mix, based on the traditional Danish fruit-flavored Rødgrød. The original Raspberry-and-Red-Currant (later just Raspberry) was eventually joined by Strawberry, and both could be used as desserts by themselves or in pies or sauces.

War Economy Butter Spread

During World War II, Junket tablets, powder and freezing mix continued to be available, but the Quick Fudge Mix was temporarily discontinued and the supply of Junket Danish Dessert was “limited, probably for the duration.” The little booklets, now decorated with illustrations by Vernon Grant, included a recipe for “War Economy Butter Spread” to “make your butter go twice as far using ‘Junket’ Rennet Tablets.”  Grant also illustrated “Flibbity Jibbit and the Key Keeper,” a story for children about Junket.

1948 brought Junket Sherbet Mix.  It was the last product developed for The Junket Folks as part of Chr. Hansen’s Laboratory (which still exists today as a huge global bioscience company).

From family-owned to Kellogg—and back to family

In 1958 the Junket brand and the factory in Little Falls were sold to Salada-Shirrif Horsey,  formed the previous year by the merger of the Salada Tea Company and Shirriff Horsey, known for its flavoring and marmalade.  In 1959 the company was renamed Salada Foods.   Collectible sport coins labeled with both the Salada and Junket names were included in various packages, but the special recipe booklets seem to have been discontinued.

Junket had moved into a whirl of ever-changing companies.  In 1969, Kellogg bought Salada Foods, and the Salada Tea packing operations were merged with Junket in Little Falls in 1973.

In 1988, the American assets of Salada (including Junket) were sold to Redco Foods, Inc.  In 1995, Teekanne, a German tea company, acquired the assets of Redco.  In 2018, the Red Rose and Salada tea parts of Redco were sold to Harris Tea; Junket and the Teekanne tea sales were to stay at Little Falls.  However, not long after that the factory was put up for sale, and so was the Junket Brand.

Since January, 2019, the Junket Brand has been headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri.  After years of being shuttled about as a small part of large corporations, it is once again part of a family-owned business, one that really appreciates Junket, and especially Junket ice cream.

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