Ice cream in Argentina is on another level.
Ingredients are pure, methods are traditional, and quality is king.
The influence of Italian immigration to Argentina (mainly at the beginning of the 20th century can be seen everywhere, from pasta and architecture to the enthusiastic hand gestures that accompany lively Italian-influenced slang.
And Buenos Aires’ ice cream is no different, much more similar to Italian gelato than a thick, heavy pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
I hope you’re hungry, this post is a complete guide to Argentina helado from traditional flavors to where to try it!
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Ice Cream in Argentina
Ice cream is as much a staple in the Argentine diet as steak and Malbec.
It is velvety in texture, silky and rich, much more similar to Italian Gelato than anything you’ll find in a North American supermarket.
And boy do Argentines love their ice cream.
In the afternoon, order a cucurucho waffle cone piled high with dulce de leche and people watch. You’ll see people of all ages indulging themselves.
The expected families with groups of little ones, but also grandparents (with no sign of grandkids in sight), groups of teenagers, and even full-grown men enjoying a cone on a hot day.
Heladerias (ice cream shops) are open late into the night, usually until at least 1 or 2 a.m.
Ice cream is also sold by the kilo. Order a kilo or two to keep the party going after an asado, don’t worry, they’ll deliver it!
After this post, you’ll know what to order and how, where to go, and why Argentine ice cream is truly something special.
Traditional Argentina Ice Cream Flavors
Before deciding where to go, prepare yourself for what to get. There are a few traditional flavors that any diehard sweet tooth would be remiss not to try.
DULCE DE LECHE: I mean, obviously. I think if you cut an Argentine, he would bleed dulce de leche. It is omipresent in Argentine sweets and the ice cream is no different.
Wherever you go, there will likely be a full menu of DDL varieties, some with chunks of DDL candy, chocolate chips, or almonds. You name it, it’s probably bathed in dulce de leche ice cream somewhere.
SAMBAYON: Straight from Italy to your Argentine ice cream cone, Sambayon is a common Italian dessert (zabaione) made from egg yolks, sugar, and marsala or port wine. Sambayon is rich but beloved. Like dulce de leche, there will probably be a sambayon menu of varieties to choose from.
MARROC: A traditional local chocolate and peanut butter candy, marroc, usually makes an appearance in ice cream form.
TRAMONTANA: Crema Americana with chunks of dulce de leche and chocolate-covered cookies.
ALMENDRADO: An ice cream cake made of crema americana rolled in crushed almonds.
Go on an Ice Cream Tour! This tour brings you to several traditional ice cream shops in Buenos Aires and teaches you all you need to know about Argentina’s famous helado.
Other Important Argentine Ice Cream Flavors:
- AL AGUA: if you like sorbet, welcome to heaven. The fruit varieties al agua (water-based instead of cream) are just what the doctor ordered on a hot summer day. Mango, strawberry, passion fruit (maracuyá), raspberry, on and on it goes…
- GRANIZADA: This means it has chocolate chips (or really, more like chocolate shavings). Menta granizada, for example, is mint chocolate chip.
- CHOCOLATE: Along with traditional chocolate you’ll find more varieties than you’ve ever seen before, including dark chocolate (amargo), almond, cashew, cherry, whiskey, white chocolate, mousse, raisins, more, or a combination of the above!
Crema America vs. Vanilla and Why They Both Suck
Personally, I’m a vanilla lover. Boring (I KNOW) but the heart wants what it wants.
In Argentina, if you’re like me you can expect to be belittled for your lack of adventure and taste.
And while they mock my love for boring (or one might say, classic) vanilla, they sure do seem to love this boring flavor called crema americana.
Or basically, a blank canvas of cream that feels like ice cream before the actual flavor was added (hypocrites).
My point is, unless it’s accented by chocolate chips or berries, skip the crema americana.
And if you’re trying to impress a local, maybe skip the vanilla.
How to Order Ice Cream in Argentina
Here’s the play by play to help you order ice cream with confidence:
- ORDER & PAY: Start at the cashier, order (size not flavors), and pay. Always ask how many gustos (flavors) the cone comes with. It’s usually 2, but some small ones only come with 1.
- FLAVORS: Take your receipt and hand it to the scooper and tell them what flavors you want. You can ask to taste first, they’ll be happy to oblige.
- PIG OUT: eat up, buen provecho!
A bit of helado vocabulary:
- Gustos: flavors versus using the word “scoop”. The ice cream isn’t scooped, it’s piled high with a spatula!
- Vasito: ice cream cone (you can ask for a cup, vasito de plástico, but why bring unnecessary plastic into the equation).
- Cucurucho: waffle cone
6 Top Heladerías in Buenos Aires
There are so many heladerías in Buenos Aires that it’s impossible to try them all, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try.
Here are the best that I know of, and if I missed your favorite please let me know in the comments and I’ll try to rectify that problem immediately by going and conducting a taste test. It’s a tough job…
Av. Corrientes 1965, Centro | Cuenca 2977, Villa del Parque
Order: Dulce de leche!
You will find Cadore on every list of the best Buenos Aires ice cream parlors, including National Geographic’s top 10 world list!
The original location opened in Villa del Parque in 1957 and remains open today.
They also have a more easily accessible location just a few blocks from the Obelisco on Avenida Corrientes downtown.
Order their dulce de leche, it’s the best in the world (officially).
Cadore uses no additives or mass-produced ingredients.
Everything is artisanal and handmade. Each batch tastes slightly different from the last, all taste incredible.
Humboldt 1923, Palermo Hollywood
Order: A cocktail turned ice cream
Alchemy is a modern ice cream shop in Palermo Hollywood.
Where Cadore ranks as one of the most traditional, Alchemy instead shows up on lists like “the most exotic ice creams in Buenos Aires” (a real list).
My favorite flavors are the cocktails converted into ice cream: moscow mule, gin tonic, campari, and mint julep are just a few on their menu.
The non-alcoholic flavors are even more off the wall with options like avocado wasabi, blue cheese (roquefort), beet, and carrot mousse.
Choose from the menu, a periodic table backlit with neon lights.
After the sun goes down, it turns into a bar with cocktails and music.
3. Heladería Scannapieco
Av. Alvarez Thomas 10, Palermo
Scannapieco has been family-run since 1938.
The family’s grandparents Andrés & Josephina immigrated from Italy’s Amalfi Coast and immediately started producing some of the best ice creams in the city with their three children.
Today, the ice cream parlor seems unchanged over the decades.
The menu is split into four bases: fruit, cream-based flavors, dulce de leche, and chocolates.
They have desserts like fruit sundaes and Copa Melba that I saw quite a few abuelas enjoying while I ate a more traditional cone.
This is the heladería to try if you want to feel like you’re experiencing Buenos Aires history!
For a taste of Patagonia without leaving the city head to Rapanui for flavors including elderberry, calafate berries, and even berry blended with champagne.
Don’t even get me started on their decadent chocolates (both ice cream flavors AND actual chocolates).
While here, get a cup or two of the Franui, frozen raspberries dipped in white chocolate then bathed in milk or dark chocolate.
Warning: they are addictive.
Also, if you visit Bariloche in winter, Rapanui has the BEST hot chocolate. The best.
5. Via Flaminia
Gral. Justo José de Urquiza 919, Acassuso
Order an espada to try the tallest ice cream cone in Argentina!
Via Flaminia is an iconic heladeria in Zona Norte (the neighborhoods north of Buenos Aires proper). It’s pink, it’s vintage, it’s perfect.
Order an espada (sword), the tallest ice cream cone you’ll find in Argentina. The “sword”
of ice cream bathed in chocolate can reach up to a meter in length!
Don Antonio founded this ice cream parlor in 1965, painted everything possible in his two daughter’s favorite color, dared to open in the cold winter months, and won the favor of this upscale neighborhood’s residents immediately.
He originally started playing around with these extra-long cones to entertain the kids but you’ll find kids of all ages, including us big kids at heart, racing to eat their espadas before the summer heat melts them away.
Lucciano’s is a chain but don’t let that discourage you. Their quality remains top-notch.
They were awarded the best artisanal ice cream in 2019 (closely followed by Rapanui and Cadore trailing in third).
They won the vast majority of the city’s votes and it’s easy to see why once you try it.
My husband even came home from a night out with the guy’s raving about it (See!? Everyone goes out for helado in Buenos Aires, even a group of 40-something men at midnight on a Friday night).
Christian and Daniel Otero started Lucciano’s to push artisanal ice cream further, modernizing it with the best ingredients.
They went to Italy to study from the masters and came back bursting with ideas (and Belgian chocolate) and we should be forever grateful for their efforts.
7. Bonus: The Chains
There are plenty of chain ice cream shops around Argentina and you’ll start to recognize them quickly!
While I prefer small, mom and pop shops (with Rapanui and Lucciano’s being the exception to the rule), they’re still very good and you can’t go wrong!
Freddo is the king, it is everywhere. It’s good but I’ve heard that the quality used to be much better. In fact, that is what drove the two brothers in this family business to go their separate ways.
One brother kept Freddo, focusing on quantity and opening franchises quite literally everywhere.
The other wanted to maintain the quality and founded Persicco (and he did a great job!).
Daniel is another chain that has been opening more locations in the past few years. It’s one of my favorites as far as chains go!
Others include Volta, Chungo, Occo, Via Varese (my brother-in-law’s favorite) and Munchi’s.
Ice Cream in Argentina Worth Traveling For
Here are a couple ice creameries outside of Buenos Aires in Argentina worth the plane ticket.
1. Jauja, Patagonia
Jauja is a Patagonia institution. It’s family-owned in El Bolsón (where you can visit their flagship location) but they have locations in most major Patagonian cities like Bariloche.
They were pioneers in incorporating native fruits like cassis (black currant), calafate (a native berry), and sauco (elderberry).
Jauja’s ingredients are pure and high quality and they use no preservatives.
There used to be two Buenos Aires locations but they closed their doors (I’ll try to forgive them).
2. Heladería Miranda, Cafayate
Heladería Miranda in downtown Cafayate claims to be the inventor of wine ice cream. .
They offer two boozy flavors: the local white wine varietal Torrontés and a red Cabernet.
The wine ice creams are water based like a sorbet and are made in house from locally grown grapes.
3. Acuarela, El Calafate
Legend has it that if you eat the calafate berries in Patagonia then you’ll be destined to return again one day.
The best way to try this local berry is in ice cream form at Acuarela in downtown El Calafate!
They have other flavors like delicious raspberry and chocolates, but the calafate is their star.
We All Scream for (Argentina’s) Ice Cream!
I hope you’re ready to embark on an ice cream filled journey through Buenos Aires and beyond.
The ice cream in Argentina truly is something special.
Did I miss your favorite Buenos Aires heladeria?? Let me know in the comments and I’ll run straight there and try it! It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.
Still Hungry? Read more of my Argentina food guides:
A Beefy Guide to eating Steak in Buenos Aires + my favorite steakhouses!
Traditional Desserts in Argentina – in case you still have a hankering for more sweets.
Argentine Drinks – to wash down everything above.