Great ice cream stands on its own, but toppings can take your dessert to the next level. Sweet fruit, crunchy nuts, or crumbly cookies all add flavor and texture, making for a balanced sundae. The combinations are endless, so get eating—we’ve rounded up our favorite recipes for homemade ice cream toppings.
We love complementing creamy ice cream with crunch nuts to add a little textural contrast. Simply roasted almonds are a great party snack with a mild flavor that pairs with all sorts of ice cream flavors. Cooking walnuts with maple and corn syrup makes a sweet, gooey topping perfect for a decadent sundae. If you’d prefer something more savory, top vanilla ice cream with rosemary, Spanish smoked paprika, and chili powder.
Fruit is a refreshing ice cream topping. Cooking fruit in syrup makes a compote, a sweet, rich fruit topping. Cooking sour cherries with rum and vanilla beans makes for a sweet-tart treat, while our rhubarb compote is bright and flavorful. Our strawberry compote can be made without heat—simply macerate ripe strawberries with sugar, gin, cardamom, and lime.
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For a chocolate-lover, fruit and nuts aren’t going to cut it. We’ve got everything you need for a triple chocolate sundae. Start with one of our dense, moist fudgy brownies. Add a few generous scoops of dark chocolate ice cream made with cocoa powder bittersweet chocolate, and coffee. Then, because that’s not enough, pour on warm, thick hot fudge sauce.
Whether you’re looking for chocolate overload or sweet-savory nuts, we’ve got you covered with our collection of ice cream toppings.
These homemade rainbow sprinkles from pastry chef Monica Glass are a simple variation on royal icing.
Coffee Honeycomb Crunch
Adding baking soda to molten sugar creates bubbles that get trapped once the mixture cools. The hardened result has an airy, honeycomb-like structure. Morgenstern’s of New York City adds honey and instant coffee to its version of this candy, which, when crushed up, becomes a bittersweet, crunchy topping that offsets the sweetness of ice cream. Get the recipe for Coffee Honeycomb Crunch »
Cherry Fizzy Candy
This simple candy’s bright fruity flavor and effervescent feel on your tongue is a surprisingly perfect pairing for the cold sweetness of a scoop of vanilla. Pastry chef Tracy Obolsky taught us the recipe when she came by our test kitchen; the flavor is easy to customize by switching out any variety of powdered Kool-Aid or powdered, fruit-flavored gelatin. Citric acid is often sold as lemon salt in grocery stores; if you can’t find it, it can be omitted. Get the recipe for Cherry Fizzy Candy »
Pastry chef Tracy Obolsky of Manhattan’s North End Grill gave us this recipe for super-simple homemade butterscotch sauce.
Cooking the rhubarb quickly is the secret to this compote from pastry chef Michael Laiskonis. By peeling the rhubarb before dicing and tossing it into a hot sugar syrup, he minimizes the cook time, preserving the rhubarb’s bright flavor. Get the recipe for Rhubarb Compote »
Whipped Cream in a Jar
Freshly whipped cream is far better than that stuff out of a can. But as the cream splatters during whisking, it can be messy to make. I devised a cleaner method one night in a friend’s tool-challenged kitchen. The trick is to ditch the whisk and bowl and instead use a Mason jar like a cocktail shaker.
This thin, chewy, gently spiced cookie is perfect for dunking into milk.
Oatmeal Lace Cookies
Light and crisp oatmeal cookies make a pleasant alternative to heavier treats. Dip them in melted chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt for a decadent, lacy crunch.
Lavender Earl Grey Caramel
Lavender and Earl Grey tea lend this caramel sauce a citrusy, floral note—serve it warm on top of ice cream.
Salty, sweet, and buttery, this classic ice cream topping is a caramel treat that’s best served room temperature or slightly warm.
Breadfarm’s Graham Crackers
Renee Bourgault, co-owner of Breadfarm in Edison, WA, uses unrefined cane sugar instead of conventional granulated sugar in her graham crackers.
Apple Brandy and Cinnamon Syrup
Reducing this brandy-rich syrup over low heat helps keep it unclouded—drizzle it over pancakes or waffles for an autumnal breakfast treat.
This warm chocolate sauce is essential to a classic ice cream sundae.
Burnt Bread Powder
The fragrant charcoal-like dust in this clever morning mishap lends a nutty, smoky element to spice mixes and sauces, ice cream, chicken, and roasted vegetables.
Spicy gingersnaps add a perfect crunch when crumbled over ice cream.
Perfumed with floral lavender, these fragile, crispy thin wafers are a delicate cookie to serve alongside creme brulee, pudding, or even pumpkin pie.
Roasting and salting almonds brings out the flavor—roughly chop them and top sundaes with the pieces.