If you haven’t been to an ice cream parlor in a long time, you might be surprised at what’s available on the menu these days. Ice cream parlors have been trying to differentiate by offering new kinds of toppings from fresh blueberries to mochi pieces. Nuts are no exception. Sure, we’ve been sprinkling crushed peanuts on sundaes for decades but now there are a lot more options.
Depending on the ice cream parlor, you can find almost all of the major kinds of nuts: walnuts, pralines, peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, and even macadamia nuts in some shops. Shops want to provide the largest number of options possible. But what goes great with what? That’s what this article is about. If you don’t want to make an unpleasant combination in your next nutty ice cream purchase, here’s what you need to know.
Study current flavors
The easy way to make a good flavor combination is to pick an ice cream that already has nuts in it. A butter pecan, black walnut, or rocky road ice cream make a great base for further experimentation. Just from those examples, you know that pecans go with sweet things, walnuts go with bitter, and peanuts go with just about everything.
Walnuts are an unusual nut. Most nuts have a sweet taste to them, but walnuts are firmly in the bitter category. Walnuts work best with other bitter flavors, like mocha ice cream, or with very sweet fruit ice creams like figs. If your shop sells candied maple walnuts though, these go great with any of the basic ice cream flavors. The candying process neutralizes most of the bitter.
Peanuts go best with chocolate, hands down. Peanuts have a very distinct flavor that goes well with chocolate. It’s one of the reasons why we put peanuts into candy bars. However, they don’t go very well with other flavors. Unless you have a chocolate or peanut butter ice cream, you may want to steer clear of the crushed peanuts.
Pistachios also have a very distinct flavor, but it’s one that goes with more things. Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries use pistachios in many things. They work best with bright citrus flavors and graham crackers. Key lime is a good place to start. If you’re lucky enough to find it, the flavors of rose, cardamom, and saffron also go very well with pistachio. Yes, you can get rose-flavored ice cream! The creaminess of banana ice cream also goes well with pistachio. Coconut is another good option.
Almonds go well with just about everything, though fruit and chocolate highlight it the best. If you want to add nuttiness without bitter to chocolate and want to avoid the peanut route, you can’t go wrong with almonds. Almonds also go with most fruits as well. Try a few slivered almonds in your next ice cream trip and see how it tastes. Don’t go for the whole almonds. They can be a choking hazard if you like to eat your ice cream fast!
Have you had Nutella yet? A quarter of the world’s supply of hazelnuts goes into making Nutella every year, and Nutella has chocolate. If you want a sweet nut to go with your dark chocolate swirl, hazelnuts are the way to go. Hazelnuts also work in ice creams that are more rich and savory than sweet.
Try some of these combinations out on your next trip, or break them if you like! You may stumble on something new. Just be sure to share it with the rest of us.