19 Unconventional Toppings For Your Next Ice Cream Sundae

Rainbow sprinkles? Sigh. Whipped cream and a cherry? Snooze. Oreos and peanuts drowning in Midnight Moo? Delicious, but been there, done that. When you love ice cream — check that, love-love it — sometimes you need to ramp up the thrill factor. Bedazzle a favorite flavor. Go for something a little ... scintillating. We're showcasing toppings you can DIY with just about any flavor out there. Taste-test them at home in your stretchy pants, or make some special requests while out to dinner with friends. Love it? Add more. Hate it? LOL. That's obviously a trick question. No one hates ice cream.

We're fully in support of trying anything once. But, for the purposes of this scientific and very clinical, like, study or whatever, we would like to take a moment to acknowledge the following niche toppings that didn't make our cut: Heinz baked beans, jalapeños and coffee, pickles, salad dressing, olives, and lastly, the humble hamburger. May you rest in peace in someone else's ice cream bowl. As for ketchup topping lovers – Redditor: "What kind of monster puts ketchup on ice cream?!" Respect.


This one's kind of a no-brainer, right? Scoop a big bowl of ice cream, throw some cereal on it, done. Obvious front runners might be Fruity Pebbles, Cookie Crisp, and Reese's Puffs on vanilla ice cream (because milk), but the jury's still out on how best to cereal-ify your scoops.

Major brands have adopted this pairing, along with cereal milk flavored ice cream base, but when it comes to what people are doing at home in their jammies at 2 a.m., anything goes. One Redditor shared, "Plain Special K, cinnamon, and chocolate syrup over vanilla ice cream. Tastes like fried ice cream," with others suggesting everything from Honey Smacks, Apple Jacks, and Golden Grahams, to plain, dry oats. Definitely seems like the fun police submitted that last one, there.

While this crunchy-creamy combo is a winner no matter the brand, if we had to pick one, it would have to be Lucky Charms. It stirs up the nostalgia from back when we were kids, picking through the whole box just for the rock-hard marshmallows. And since those hearts, stars, and horseshoes keep their signature crunch even in milk, they keep the sundae party going till the very last spoonful.

Old donuts

This is clearly a hypothetical scenario since old donuts don't exist because we eat them all. But if they were, in fact, a thing, you would definitely want to put them on ice cream. They're like sweet, doughy croutons that don't savagely destroy the roof of your mouth.

This is actually a hot tip for all day-old, stale, washed-up pastry, but particularly for those with a fondness for fossilized Krispy Kreme Original Glazed. Something about the crackle in that once warm, glossy sugar coating adds the perfect, chewy touch. Just rough chop your favorite to make it work — an apple fritter piled high atop salted caramel ice cream, a toasted coconut donut topping pineapple gelato, or a jelly donut over a scoop of peanut butter.

If you've ever tasted a donuts ice cream sandwich, an ice cream-filled donut, donut-flavored ice cream, or just ice cream and donuts not even close to touching each other, you're going to love this duo. But, best of luck on your journey to finding even one stale donut.


Drop the Chanel No. 5 and put your hands in the air. It's not that type of fragrance, it's the kind that you can eat: culinary perfume. And lucky for us, ice cream now has its very own spritzy aroma, thanks to Portland, Oregon original, Salt & Straw.

If you're thinking, "Whaaaaaaat," just take a few deep breaths of A Cloud of Cocoa and count to ten. This is one topping that's all about amplifying your ice cream experience by employing your sense of smell — without changing the flavor profile. The brand is famous for its rotating monthly lineup of killer flavor combos, and also recommends pairings for its fragrances; A Cloud of Cocoa with a scoop of Fran's Almond Gold Bar, A Swoon of Citrus with the Arbequina Olive Oil flavor, and A Plume of Blossoms with a waffle cone piled high with Chocolate Gooey Brownie. But, no one's going to judge you if you spray it on yourself. Licking it? Yeah, that one's gonna cost ya.


So you're saying you've been eating non-gilded ice cream sundaes this whole time? Allow us to offer a solution to your bling crisis: edible gold.

While gold-topped frozen treats are nothing new, they are typically found at some of the most over-the-top, Instagrammable restaurants around the world. That multi-carat whisper also commonly jacks up the price, so a regular hot fudge sundae costs $1000 and earns a Guinness World Record. But, with a little elbow grease and some ingenuity (ok, it's just Amazon Prime), you can make everything you touch turn to gold leaf.

It takes some concentration in the application, but even crumpled gold shines bright. And, getting to gently break through the shiny surface with a spoon and dive into an impossibly creamy scoop of rocky road is an experience in itself. Edible gold is, of course, all looks and zero flavor, plus it has a chemically "inert" substance, which travels straight through your system and out again, it's also safe to eat.

Astronaut ice cream

If the only acceptable ice cream topping is, echem, more ice cream, then this one's for you. '90s kids will remember the weightless, styrofoam-like, brick-shaped invention that was only available at your nearest science museum gift shop: astronaut ice cream. And, like it or hate it, it was totally radical.

As devastating as it was to find out that the Brontosaurus was briefly not real, or that Pluto wasn't a really cute planet, it was just as painful to discover that exactly zero astronauts ever enjoyed this freeze-dried treat in outer space. Still, the myth maintains its magic. And it turns out, this stuff is bodacious as a topping for your scoops. Chef David Mullen described his dream hot fudge sundae to The Manual, explaining, "[I'd] add strawberry freeze-dried ice cream to the chocolate sprinkles [topping off the sundae], and voila! A delicious, elevated dessert."

Now, you don't even have to get your parents to sign off on a field trip, in order to get the good stuff. Just crush a block of your favorite freeze-dried flavor — it even comes as a sandwich version — and give your fresh ice cream a little crunch, with double the creamy goodness.

Shredded cheddar cheese

Hands up if you would put shredded cheddar cheese on everything if it were socially acceptable. Well, cheese heads, rejoice. It's now haute cuisine to sprinkle it on ice cream (points if you also go 15 seconds in the microwave for a cold, melty, cheesy spoonful). We're thinking vanilla ice cream, but apple cinnamon could be excellent. Like warm apple pie and a slice of cheddar, if you're into that.

This match-up plays off the sweet and savory combo we've come to love. And , while all types of cheese are dazzling menus for top brands — like Salt & Straw's Pear & Blue Cheese, or Van Leeuwen's Kraft Macaroni & Cheese — in some parts of the world, this flavor has been around since way back. In the Philippines, queso (or keso) ice cream has been a favorite since the early 1900s, according to The Cheese Professor. No limited editions here, this crowd-pleaser's here to stay.

While some adventurers suggest the addition of black olives or (hard swallow) beef chili to their shredded cheddar-topped ice cream, we'll just be over here with the Kraft, and our dignity.


An extremely versatile Japanese seasoning blend, furikake [fur-uh-KAH-kay] tastes salty, fishy, nutty, savory, and absolutely delicious on plain old white rice and many other savory foods. But, as the ever-increasingly trend to infuse everything with umami — ice cream would undoubtedly be in the firing line. However, when it's added to ice cream the flavor comes to life like it never has before. If you love seaweed and the briny flavors of the ocean, you're going to love this combo. 

Just a light sprinkle will do it, as you explore your new sweet and salty favorite. You'll also enjoy a little extra crunch thanks to the sesame seeds in the mix. We might start with vanilla ice cream, but you can go all in on nutrient and wellness trends with a dried algae superfood spirulina ice cream, topped with a dusting of sweet furikake. Need something a little extra? A drizzle of fine local honey takes it over the top.


They're the sweet tapioca pearls in bubble tea that you see people siphoning through extra fat straws and chewing with delight. While there's some discussion around who exactly invented boba, and when, we can say it happened in Taiwan, in 1980-something-ish, probably. And now that boba has gone mainstream, it's going on top of your ice cream.

Several big brands are mixing boba straight into their ice cream, with a variety of jam-packed pints and popsicle bars available all across the globe. But, for our purposes, we want to see those pearls front and center.

As a topping, boba retains its signature bouncy texture and syrupy slickness and can be found in a range of fresh flavors like lychee, strawberry, mango, yuzu, and kiwi. Some people make it from scratch, but you can easily find prepared boba ready to rock at Asian grocery stores and boba tea shops. Added to a cup of smooth passion fruit soft serve, the pearls are finally freed from their tasty prison at the bottom of a 20-ounce cup of taro milk tea. An insane amount of swirled whipped cream added to the top of your sundae is totally optional, but highly recommended.

Pop Rocks

"The cracklin's what's happenin'," according to a 1970s Pop Rocks commercial we just Googled. It was the new popping candy sensation for kids back then, and 50 years later, it's the new ice cream topping for adults. We'll just leave the line, "Feel it burst all over your mouth," back in the '70s where it belongs.

Still, that's pretty much the idea. If you're tired of putting regular rocks on your ice cream, try Pop Rocks! Go for broke with strawberry, watermelon, tropical, blue razz, chocolate, cherry, cotton candy, grape, and green apple. As one Redditor commented about one homemade chocolate-covered Pop Rocks ice cream pairing, "This is genius."

Pop Rocks immediately start working their magic once they hit moisture, whether it's your tongue or a frosty dish of ice cream, so adjust your poppin' accordingly, a little sprinkle at a time.

Chili crisp

If your eyeballs just caught on fire reading "chili," this is a friendly viral trend alert: If you're not putting chili crisp on your ice cream, you're doing it wrong. (JK, you and ice cream are perfect just the way you are.) But, this is definitely one topper that's destined for the regularly scheduled program.

Originally trending in Sichuan, China, the kicky, oily condiment packed with peppercorns, garlic, chiles, and other spices plays for keeps against the cool, rich dairy of soft-serve vanilla. But, fair warning, you'll be partaking in the underground art of "'hei an liao li,' which you could translate to 'dark cuisine,' and it's where amateur cooks make and post bizarre combinations of unappetizing foods," according to Chef Jenny Gao, founder of chili crisp company Fly By Jing (via Food & Wine). So ... where do we sign up with our evil overlords?

The versatile seasoning was even hailed by J. Kenji López-Alt in her article for the New York Times entitled, "Chile Crisp Is Even Good With Ice Cream." And, it also gets props on the people's platform, Reddit with one commenter claiming, "It's seriously good. Spoon it right on top." Just do what chiLi_krisSSSsp_oR_d!e says and no ice cream gets hurt.

Orange soda

Let's get fizzical with a seriously orange-flavored sugar rush. And, while this could be accomplished with many a fruity soda, Crush, Fanta, and Sunkist drown a scoop of vanilla in unmistakable Creamsicle vibes. It's like a kid's version of affogato, minus the coffee. (Ok, for the record, you could bouge it up with San Pellegrino Aranciata and Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream imported from Paris. Pinkies out.)

Effort: easy. Method: Scoop vanilla ice cream into a bowl. Pour orange soda on it. Eat. Repeat. While you're probably very familiar with the classic ice cream float, this is a more restrained take on the favorite, using just enough soda to add flavor, but not requiring a lifeguard. We also think this ratio is way more creamy and spoonable.

Of course, this flavor combo evokes wistful memories for many of us, and it's hit mainstream freezer sections as well. But, if you're DIY-ing your childhood throwback, feel free to be a little extra with a light dusting of orange Kool-Aid powder on top (and a cherry, 'cuz we fancy).

Pumpkin seed oil

Step aside, basic pumpkin spice latte. Your autumn routine is getting an upgrade. And, fortunately, this pairing works any time of the year. A delicious superfood gift from the pumpkin seed gods, cold-pressed pumpkin seed oil does wonders for your body and your dessert. It's chock-full of vitamins, minerals, healthy fatty acids, and antioxidants. And, who wouldn't want to look well-rested and youthful while digging into a big ol' bowl of Chubby Hubby?

Pumpkin seed oil went on the record all the way back in 1735. Often referred to as "green gold," it was even banned in 1773 because it was too valuable for this world. Thankfully, more sophisticated farming led to pumpkin seed oil appearing all over the place. Get the most nutritional bang for your buck by drizzling a tablespoon of cold-pressed Styrian pumpkin seed oil over a scoop of your choice (but vanilla's a solid pick), and enjoying all the gourdy goodness this powerful combo has to offer. Top your sundae with a few toasted pumpkin seeds for the full experience. 

Sour watermelon candy

Speaking of nutritious ... Sour candy has officially been tested and approved as an ice cream flavor. Sour Patch Kids even launched a watermelon version. But, if you've ever tried Kids or other gummy candies (Bears? Worms? Root beer bottles?) and discovered how impossibly hard they become as an ice cream topping, your teeth are probably already curling up into your head.

Still, we challenge you to a duo. Sour watermelon candy and any kind of fruity flavored ice cream (but maybe start with vanilla your first time out). There's something delightful about the face-puckering tartness fighting the richness of the ice cream, wrecking your taste buds just enough to make that flow to sweet, creamy watermelon nirvana totally worth it.

But, while you get to play like a kid again, you may be judged for it. One Redditor asked, "How can I eat Sour Patch Kids in vanilla ice cream, without the Sour Patch Kids getting hard from the cold?...BTW it's actually f***ing tasty...I'M SERIOUS," which earned the replies, "Stop trying to do that," and, "Don't get it," but was ultimately seen and heard by this friend: "Yo if you figure that out, let me know, I'ma try that s***." We soldier on, comrades.

Bacon and maple syrup

No acquired taste needed here. This one's a home run no matter how you hit it. It's like eating breakfast ice cream pancakes and bacon, and it's perfect for brunch, lunch, dinner, and all the snack times in between.

Classic sweet and savory go high class or low-brow, depending on your tastes. Thick-cut, hickory smoked bacon with small batch, bourbon barrel aged maple syrup over a scoop of vanilla will absolutely do the trick. Or go full-fledged state fair by cooking up some diced SPAM with Hormel bacon, plus maple syrup, brown sugar and vanilla. Just let it all cool to room temp before you add it to your ice cream, unless you're feeling #soupvibes.

While candied bacon could also be used here — and candied anything is out of this world — we think this particular topping is a hundred times better with the saltiness that the savory variety brings to the table.

Ritz, Goldfish, Cheez-Its, and ramen

Can we just acknowledge our society-wide obsession with crackers and ice cream? Cheez-Its, Ritz, and Goldfish have all been kidnapped from the snack aisle and hijacked for frozen desserts. But of course they were. Because they're crunchy, salty, cheesy, buttery, and get along with just about any flavor of ice cream. Even noodles have gotten in on the crunch craze, with ramen appearing on soft serve everywhere. We clearly can't get enough of this creamy-crunchy combo.

Most people will love the taste of a salty, buttery cracker against a simple scoop of vanilla. But, there are some of us who have developed a palette far beyond this mortal dimension. There are the coffee ice cream and cheddar Goldfish lovers, Goldfish and banana fans, and the Goldfish and chocolate ice cream aficionados. Of course, there are also the haters. One posted to Reddit, "Who hurt you?" But, not even Reddit can keep us from living our best lives. (Psst. Also works with Cheetos.)

Culinary lavender

Now we're really picking sides. You're either team Lovin' Lavender, or team Gross This Tastes Like Soap. But, like it or hate it, ever since lavender started trending within the food industry in 2015, it's only gotten more popular. While your preference might have to do with your DNA, or the triggering memories of tragic lavenders past, its use on ice cream involves the culinary kind. And just a small amount of it. A really small amount.

Culinary lavender packs less oil than the lavender you'll find in soaps and candles. And, it's also the only variety that should find itself anywhere near your ice cream. As Curio Spice Co. founder, Claire Cheney, told Bon Appétit, "Maybe you always thought of it as an overly floral or soapy flavor, but it can be enchanting and forest-like." For the record, we're going for the second thing.

As a topping, source the dried tips of the plant, and sprinkle just a few of the flowers onto lavender ice cream, vanilla, or a tea-based flavor for a perfectly sweet and floral treat.

Cacao nibs

Are you hip to the nib? Cacao nibs are actually the result of crushed cocoa beans that have been roasted and separated from the shell. While they can then be made into chocolate, we're plucking them from the process at this point, and topping our favorite ice cream with as many as we like.

These little cocoa bits are crunchy little workhorses. They're packed with vitamins and minerals that are essential for your health (such as iron, magnesium and zinc) and therefore render sundaes an important part of a balanced breakfast ... or something like that. Thanks to their toasty, mildly bitter taste, they contrast the rich sweetness of most ice cream flavors, and work with everything from a refreshing raspberry gelato to any death by chocolate situation.

If you want the cacao crunch, but with a little extra sweetness, we definitely wouldn't be mad about the addition of a salted caramel drizzle. (Keep going. We'll say "when.")

Wasabi peas

Not quite ready for straight-wasabi-paste-on-soft-serve level, but still want to dabble in some crunchy heat? We feel you. Allow us to introduce you to crushed, dried wasabi peas. And, since this topping packs both salt and fire, your best bet will be pairing it with a rich vanilla or white chocolate ice cream.

The Honestly Yum blog posted of the combo, "This surpassed all our expectations! This had a really mild wasabi flavor. There was a little of that wasabi heat in your nose as an aftertaste. Erica actually hates wasabi peas but loved this." Big Gay Ice Cream Shop was also crushing the spicy peas for customers all the way back in 2012.

The approach is simple: Gather wasabi peas, destroy, sprinkle surviving particles on top of ice cream. What you'll get is a zingy, herbaceous crunch. As Chef Ramael Scully described it to the The Guardian, "The plain flavor and creaminess of the vanilla works beautifully with exhilarating wasabi. Close your eyes and you could be eating cream and horseradish, one of my favorite flavor combos." You better believe we live for the burn.

French fries

Fries before "whys," friends. Don't overthink it, just stuff those puppies in there. You've easily got salty and sweet, but fresh-outta-the-fryer spuds work best to create that hot and cold contrast, too. This is classic Wendy's Frosty or McDonalds milkshake-style cuisine, from way back. And, we wouldn't want you to miss out on one of our favorites.

Wendy's culinary innovation director, Shelly Thobe, explained the popularity behind this particular combo, telling Thrillist, "It's that salty-sweet, hot-cold dynamic that works so well. It's activating so many of our senses. It's taste, it's texture — it confuses your taste buds ... in a good way. It's a crazy, intense experience."

But, we don't need professionals to tell us that. One particular genius posted to Quora, "Potatoes and a creamy dairy component are best friends!" And another shared, "Now if I could get the chocolate frosty from Wendy's and large fry from McDonald's, life would be perfect!" Whatever flavors you choose, the world is your sweet and salty, ice cream, and French fried oyster.