Vanilla is a flavor so basic that its name has become synonymous with boring, neutral, and bland. But spend a little time in your store’s freezer aisle, and you’ll find that vanilla ice cream is anything but plain. There’s a whole cream-colored spectrum of options, from custardy, golden French vanilla to black-flecked vanilla bean, with some manufacturers offering three and even four variations of the flavor.
We tasted 16 nationally available vanilla ice creams ranging in flavor from rich and eggy to light and marshmallowy, and we landed on two favorites. In the surprisingly varied world of vanilla ice cream, these two should hold their own in a cup, a cone, a sundae, or a milkshake.