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Sweet Dreams Are Made of Cheese

Cheddar cheese ice cream is huge in the Philippines, where it’s alternately marketed askeso, queso, and quezo. Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory makes its Cow Cow Soft Cream using Hokkaido Gouda and two kinds of cream cheese and sells it far beyond Japan’s borders. Grocery chains across Russia carry Raffy ice cream, which offers flavors such as Peach Mascarpone and Raspberry Ricotta Gelato.

London’s Pick & Cheese, the self-proclaimed “world’s first cheese conveyor-belt restaurant” mixes up a Blue Cheese Soft Serve using a mild Beauvale with pear coulis, honeycomb, and chocolate shavings. Brazilians can try cheese ice cream with guava syrup at Comer Bem Jaú in São Paulo, and Norwegians stop into Fiskekrogen in Henningsvær for a brunost (brown cheese) ice cream that tastes like fudgy caramel. Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart Vietnam sells a wide selection of cheesy ice creams, from Oreo- to durian-enhanced varieties.

Search the hashtag #cheesyicecream on Instagram and you’ll see people enjoying variations derived from a broad range of cheeses in cities from Mumbai to Toronto. But if you’re US-based, you don’t have to travel far from home to discover cheese-based or cheese-flavored ice creams; From small-batch purveyors like Odd Fellows in New York City to the frozen food aisle at your local grocery, cheesy ice cream is much easier to find than you might think.

United States of Ice Cream

No matter where you live, chances are there’s a grocery chain carrying at least one cheesy ice cream from the likes of Ben & Jerry’s, Talenti, or Baskin-Robbins. But if you’re looking to support makers, here are some standouts across America. (Some of these flavors are seasonal, so call before visiting.)

1. Honolulu, Hawaii:

Cheezus at Wing Ice Cream Parlor

2. Culver City, California:

Balsamic Fig & Mascarpone at Coolhaus

3. Portland, Oregon:

Pear & Blue Cheese at Salt & Straw

4. Denver, Colorado:

Cheddar Cheese at Wednesday’s Pie

5. Fort Worth, Texas:

Helado de Queso at Alma’s Paleteria

6. Columbus, Ohio:

Goat Cheese with Red Cherries at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

7. Atlanta, Georgia:

Carrot Cake & Cream Cheese at Queen of Cream

8. Jersey City, New Jersey:

Maiz con Quezo at Max’s Restaurant

9. Tivoli, New York:

Parmesan at Fortunes Ice Cream

Did You Know?

In 1897, Black inventor Alfred L. Cralle patented the first known ice cream scoop in Pittsburgh, after noticing how hard it was to scoop with one hand. It was called an “Ice Cream Mold and Disher.”

Cheesecake Anyone?

To some Americans, cheesy ice cream sounds like a newfangled, novelty hipster creation that’s designed more for clickbait headlines than actual consumption. But cheesecake ice cream, made with cream cheese rather than a more adventurous curd, is actually incredibly popular and widely available across the country thanks to some of the nation’s biggest ice cream brands. Here are just a few of the varieties you’ll find on your next grocery run.

Baskin-Robbins: Pumpkin Cheesecake ice cream

Breyers: New York Style Cheesecake ice cream

Halo Top: Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream, Chocolate Cheesecake ice cream

Talenti: Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake gelato, Raspberry Cheesecake gelato

Ben & Jerry’s: Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream, Pumpkin Cheesecake ice cream, Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Core ice cream

Are You Gonna Eat That? 

Behind the counter of Wing Ice Cream Parlor in Honolulu’s Chinatown, you’ll find MillerWing Royer. He’s known for his experimental ice creams, including a pizza flavor composed of tomato-based ice cream with parmesan and various spices. A few customers likened it to Combos, the cheese-stuffed pretzel snack. Others didn’t bother trying it.

“Some people see cheese ice cream and think it’s wrong, but I always say cheese is just one step away from ice cream on the dairy spectrum,” Royer says. “Once people break that wall, if they can get past that, it really changes their mind.”

His menu rotates regularly, but it frequently features a cheese-based ice cream with a cult following. Dubbed “Cheezus,” it’s a playful jab at President Donald Trump. Initially created as a joke, this aged cheddar ice cream base with Cheez-Its added for texture and saltiness has proven to have staying power.

“Cheese-lovers are quick to embrace it,” Royer says,“especially those with an open mind.”

From the Source:

Ohio-headquartered Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams sources the goat cheese for its popular Goat Cheese with Red Cherries ice cream from Mackenzie Creamery in northeast Ohio. There, Rob DeMuch and his team draw from family farms within a 50-mile radius that milk exclusively for the creamery.

“With a fresh cheese like ours, it’s imperative to have fresh milk,” DeMuch says. “We’re able to send the [collection] truck out in peak season four times a week.”

In addition to being incredibly fresh and smaller-batch than many creameries, Mackenzie also tests each delivery—almost excessively, DeMuch says—to ensure quality. “My lab [testing] bill is much more expensive than I’d like it to be, but I need to understand what I’m getting with each load,” he says.

Jeni Britton Bauer first tasted Mackenzie Creamery’s goat cheese at a farmer’s market. At the time, DeMuch hadn’t considered putting it in ice cream, but he’d always said adding their cheese to just about anything would make it better. “She’s got an ability to put flavors together in her head,” he says, and when she shared the concept with him, “it was sort of like, ‘Yeah, of course, why not put them together?’ It instantly became my favorite ice cream.”

Jeni’s has experimented with a cognac-soaked fig ice cream that also used Mackenzie Creamery’s goat cheese. In DeMuch’s mind, the possible pairings are endless, but more than anything, he’s hoping for a mango and goat cheese ice cream option someday.


Here are five incredible cheesy ice creams that ship nationwide! You can also find several of these at various grocery stores, from Whole Foods to Harris Teeter to local bodegas.

1. High Road Craft Ice Cream Blueberry Ricotta ($7)

Based in Marietta, Georgia just outside of Atlanta, High Road Craft Ice Cream is making one of the more compelling and adventurous cheesy ice creams available to ship nationally. With 16 percent butterfat, the Blueberry Ricotta is thicker than nearly anything else at its price point. But the lightness of the fresh ricotta and the wild blueberry jam that’s crafted in-house turn this pint into a weightless delight.

2. Jeni’s Splendid Goat Cheese with Red Cherries ($12)

By pairing roasted red cherries with tangy goat cheese from Ohio’s Mackenzie Creamery, Jeni’s accomplishes a rich and balanced spoonful with a clean finish. Likened to a “scoopable cherry cheesecake,” this ice cream relies on fresh ingredients including chèvre and Michigan cherries. Visit the Jeni’s website to search for a nearby store carrying this instant classic.

3. Coolhaus Farmer’s Market Strawberry Cheesecake ($8)

The two gay millennial women behind this creamy Californian brand know what they’re doing, and they’re not afraid to experiment with cheese. Like with their Balsamic Fig & Mascarpone, the Strawberry Cheesecake utilizes the lightness of mascarpone to lift the flavor. Paired with the cream cheese that helps form the pint’s cheesecake bites—not to mention a swirl of cane sugar and strawberry purée—the Strawberry Cheesecake delivers depth and variety of flavor that many other ice creams lack.

4. Salt & Straw Pear & Blue Cheese ($13)

Portland, Oregon’s Salt & Straw constructs its iconic Pear & Blue Cheese ice cream using nearby Rogue Creamery’s buttery and briny Oregon Blue, a cow’s milk cheese that’s been aged for at least 90 days. The savory cheese teams up with Bartlett pears—a favorite in Oregon—to deliver an accessible-yet-inspiring flavor combo. They’ve set up scoop shops up and down the West Coast, with locations planned in Miami and national shipping available online.

5. Van Leeuwen Marionberry Cheesecake ($10-$15)

With nearly 20 locations in its hometown, Van Leeuwen is arguably New York City’s favorite ice cream shop. Now the company is taking Los Angeles by storm, and it’s easy to see why. Their expertly crafted and perfectly balanced flavors are uniformly refreshing and satisfying, including Van Leeuwen’s classic Pumpkin Cheesecake. The company more recently released a Marionberry Cheesecake flavor at its scoop shops as well, but it’s hard to beat their original cheesy ice cream.

What’s Labneh, and Why Do You Love Making Ice Cream With It?

Tivoli is a tiny village with fewer than 2,000 residents, situated on New York’s Hudson River. It’s best known as the town neighboring Bard College, which is where Brian Ackley and his wife Lisa met in 2001 before moving a few hours south to New York City. But several years ago, they returned to the small town and opened Fortunes, an ice cream shop where locals know they can find flavors ranging from Apple Cider Donut to Fluffernutter. Brian’s also churned out a variety of cheese-based ice creams, including Ricotta Fig Balsamic and Parmesan. The most popular, though, is his Labneh Black Raspberry ice cream, or other seasonal labneh variations. Ackley explains:

“It’s sort of like cream cheese. It’s a kefir—a cultured, younger product that is kind of denser and creamier than a yogurt. We just sweeten it. We don’t use any other cheese or milk or eggs. We’re always pairing different seasonal ingredients with it, like rhubarb or sour cherries.”


The best way to make cheesy ice cream at home—according to Brian Ackley of Fortunes in upstate New York—is to start with what you know. If there’s a recipe you’ve perfected, he suggests replacing half the dairy with a soft cheese like ricotta. Or consider replacing a quarter of the dairy in a vanilla recipe with goat cheese and swirl in some caramel.

“What’s exciting for me when I make ice cream is you don’t really have to follow rules,” Ackley says. He says that as long as flavor and consistency are to your liking, you can pretty much go nuts. Want more of a challenge? From the popular Salt & Straw Ice Cream Cookbook, here’s the recipe for their Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero ice cream.

Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero Ice Cream


  • Marionberry-Habanero Jam
  • One 11-ounce jar seedless marionberry jam or seedless blackberry or black raspberry
  • 1 fresh habanero chile coarsely chopped (seeds removed for less heat)
  • Ice Cream Base Yields about 3 cups
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dry milk powder
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1⅓ cups whole milk
  • 1⅓ cups heavy cream
  • Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero Ice Cream Yields about 2½ pints
  • 3 cups Ice Cream Base very cold
  • 6 ounces ⅔ cup fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup Marionberry Habanero Jam


  • ►MARIONBERRY-HABANERO JAM: Combine ¼ cup of the jam and the habanero in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring the mixture occasionally, until the jam liquefies and just begins to simmer, about 5 minutes.
  • ►Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, then add the remaining jam and stir well to combine. Refrigerate until fully chilled. Stored in a glass jar with a tightfitting lid, the jam will keep in the fridge for up to 6 months.
  • ►ICE CREAM BASE: Combine sugar, dry milk powder, and xanthan gum in a small bowl and stir well. Pour corn syrup into a medium pot and stir in the whole milk. Add the sugar mixture and immediately whisk vigorously until smooth. Set pot over medium heat and cook, stirring often and adjusting heat if necessary to prevent a simmer, until the sugar has fully dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove the pot from heat.
  • ►Add cream and whisk until fully combined. Transfer mixture to an airtight container and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 6 hours, or for even better texture and flavor, 24 hours. Stir base if it separates during resting time. Base can be further stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months. (Just be sure to fully thaw the frozen base before using it.)
  • ►GOAT CHEESE MARIONBERRY HABANERO ICE CREAM: Combine ice cream base, goat cheese, and salt in a bowl and use a stick blender to completely incorporate the cheese. If you’re using a frozen-bowl type of machine, cover and chill in the fridge until cold. Stir in the lemon juice, then immediately pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and turn on the machine. Churn just until the mixture has the texture of soft serve.
  • ►Stir the jam with a fork to loosen it. Alternate spooning layers of the mixture and generous dollops of jam in freezer-friendly containers.
  • ►Cover with parchment paper, pressing it to the surface of the ice cream so it adheres, then cover with a lid. It’s okay if the parchment hangs over the rim. Store it in the coldest part of your freezer (farthest from the door) until firm, at least 6 hours. Ice cream will keep for up to 3 months.


Adapted from Reprinted with permission from the Salt & Straw Ice Cream Cookbook

Eric Ginsburg

Eric Ginsburg is a North Carolina-based independent journalist and storyteller who focuses on food justice.

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