Best Fast Food Ice Cream: Top 5 Cones Most Recommended By Experts

Plenty of happy summer memories are made with an ice cream cone in hand. After all, from childhood to adulthood, no one is too young or too old to enjoy some delicious soft serve. The delectable frozen treat is a warm weather staple for most people, and fast food restaurants are among the many places you can find a cone when the craving strikes. Accessible, easy, and creamy, it’s near impossible to beat the best fast food ice cream (especially when it comes from a drive-through!).

Summer is undeniably the season of ice cream. Research concurs, with a recent survey reporting that people eat more ice cream in the summer (45%) than during any other season. That’s despite its status as the most-loved dessert among survey respondents (82%) – so much so that 68 percent claimed to have ice cream in their freezer “at all times.” But even when you have it on hand at home, sometimes dinner at a fast food restaurant is incomplete without a creamy treat to finish the meal.

Ice cream is also a nostalgic food for many people, with many childhood memories of summer including the dessert. In fact, a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults for National Ice Cream Month in July reveals that what people miss most from summertime as a child is playing outside (45%), family vacations (43%), and eating lots of ice cream (39%). The poll revealed ice cream is still a crucial part of people’s summers, as 39 percent continue to eat it — including 53 percent of respondents ages 77 and older.

Whether you enjoy ice cream in the summer or all year round, fast food restaurants often have exactly the creamy cone you’re craving. And believe it or not, drive-through options are a far cry from the icy, watery ice cream you may be imagining. Of course, not all ice cream is created equal, and not every dessert will be a match for your taste buds. That’s why StudyFinds searched the internet for expert reviews to find the best fast food ice cream cones and compiled this list of the top recommendations. These are our picks, but as always, if you have a favorite that we missed, be sure to let us know in the comments.

Chocolate ice cream cone
Chocolate ice cream cone (Photo by Dylan Ferreira on Unsplash)

The List: Best Fast Food Ice Cream, According to Experts

1. McDonald’s

It’s hard to be disappointed by a McDonald’s ice cream cone (as long as the machines are working!). This creamy classic makes for the perfect finishing touch to just about any McDonald’s meal. It may not be the fanciest, but it sure is tasty. As Thrillist explains, “Ronald’s swirly treat is the baseline for being a good soft-serve cone. If you serve soft serve, you have to go stand by the theme-park style cutout of a kangaroo that says, ‘Soft serve must be this good to serve.’ Its cones consistently come out looking pretty. It’s reasonably creamy. There’s a strong vanilla flavor that doesn’t have a chemical aftertaste. Nothing special, but it’s not dry and flavorless, and it doesn’t go instantly soggy. It sounds like a backhanded compliment, but this is a solid cone.”

McDonald's ice cream
McDonald’s ice cream (Photo by Wachiwit on Shutterstock)

This cone has a simple flavor that some love on its own and others prefer to pair with the several other dessert options on the McDonald’s menu. “Flavor-wise, this take on vanilla is solidly classic,” notes The Daily Meal. “All in all, it’s a decent take on the iconic cone. But the moment you finish a serving of McDonald’s ice cream, you forget about it. This isn’t an entirely bad thing, believe it or not: McDonald‘s soft serve’s plain nature makes it a solid base for McFlurries. Ingredients like Oreos, Shamrock Shake syrup, and M&M’s pop against such simple flavor.”

If you aren’t feeling a cone, you can also enjoy McDonald’s soft serve ice cream in their famous McFlurry. As Shop Food explains, “it’s made from a blend of creamy vanilla soft-serve ice cream with a variety of different mix-ins. The two permanent McFlurry flavors are Oreo and M&Ms, but the Oreo Shamrock McFlurry is also in high demand around St. Patrick’s Day.”

2. Chick-fil-A

If an enjoyable cone is almost as important as the ice cream itself, Chick-fil-A is the place for you. Here, the base of your dessert is just as important as the main event, and it shows. “We’re getting into the good stuff now,” boasts UPROXX. “Chick-Fil-A’s Icedream Cone is hard to beat for less than a dollar. The ice cream is dense, yet light. It’s full-on vanilla with a rich creaminess. The cone tends to be hefty with a killer crunch and ever-so-slight sweetness. This is a delightful cone.”

As an added bonus for health-conscious diners, this treat is also a bit lighter than expected in terms of calorie and fat content. “As eagle-eyed fans might have already noticed, they technically sell what they call ‘Icedream,’ which falls into the broad category of ‘frozen dairy treats,'” explains The Daily Meal. “What does this mean, exactly? Basically, Chick-fil-A’s Icedream is much lower in fat than typical ice cream: A standard cone contains just 4 grams of fat and 180 calories in total.”

This cone also makes for an incredibly affordable treat, coming in at less than $2. For a refreshing dessert, that’s hard to beat. As Taste of Home puts it, “Chick-fil-A offers its Ice Dream Cone at a cost-efficient $1.69. This cone was flavorful and refreshing, but it did have more of a frosty mouthfeel rather than creamy. However, they chose to call it an ice dream cone instead of ice cream cone, so there is truth in advertising. Bottom line: Of all the budget-friendly fast-food ice cream cones, this one offered the most vanilla flavor.”

3. Burger King

You probably think of Burger King when you’re hungry for its namesake dish. But believe it or not, you can also get an enjoyable soft serve cone at a great price while picking up your dinner. “If you want bang for your buck (for real, it was only $1), Burger King is the soft serve ice cream for you,” notes Taste of Home. “Burger King would be a good option for families with a lot of hungry kids, since everyone can get a treat for a reasonable price.”

“It’s called ‘Burger King’ and not ‘Dairy King,’ but people and fast-food chains can be good at more than one thing,” says Business Insider. “It definitely has that legit dairy flavor. It’s also pretty beige relative to other soft-serves, which is reassuring as to its dairy content. Burger King’s cream has a lovely, even melt while maintaining its structural integrity. Despite a slight artificial undertone, the King’s cone delivers a solid soft-serve experience.”

Though definitely a yummy summer treat, the real points for Burger King are still in the price category. It’s hard to beat the low cost of this cone, which makes it easy to justify having one (or even two!) after your meal. As UPROXX explains, “Burger King’s Vanilla Soft Serve is good for what it is. We mean, come on, this costs just a dollar. That’s not really a big price to pay for ice cream.”

4. Dairy Queen

With a name like Dairy Queen, you just have to have a good ice cream cone. Sure enough, the classic cone doesn’t disappoint. With options ranging from the basic vanilla and chocolate to delicious chocolate and cherry dips, every ice cream lover can find a cone that satisfies. As Thrillist says, “this is a good-looking cone, tightly wrapped with its signature curl on top. It’s firm without feeling like you’re at a scoop shop. Yet, that firmness doesn’t take away from its creaminess. The texture is perfect. No, it’s not a vanilla bean ice cream, but there’s a pronounced vanilla flavor that’s pleasant, if a bit mild. This soft serve hits all the right notes.”

“When it comes to ice cream cones, Dairy Queen is the queen and the king of the galaxy. No other fast food eatery can compare. Others have offerings you will love, but Dairy Queen has ice cream cones you will fantasize about and obsess over. After your first encounter, you will count down the minutes until you can gleefully stuff your face once again,” claims Mashed. “If you typically just pick a Blizzard when you go to Dairy Queen, you need to break that habit. These cones are so good that they deserve your undivided attention on your next visit. You can pick their Vanilla Cone, which is the best of its kind. But you need to strongly consider choosing either the Dreamsicle Dipped Cone or the Chocolate Dipped Cone. While both of these are great, the Chocolate Dipped Cone is the epitome of perfection.”

“The winner of the ice cream cone wars is Dairy Queen. Their classic vanilla soft serve hits this balance of super light yet fully rounded ice cream. It packs a nice balance of sweet and vanilla with just the right amount of light creaminess. The cones are always fresh and full of crunch that lasts until the last bite,” notes UPROXX. “This is the ice cream cone all others should be judged by. Facts.”

5. Wendy’s

You may notice that one of these list items is not like the others. While the Wendy’s Frosty may be missing a cone, experts enjoy this creamy treat enough to rank it (even in a cup!). As Business Insider puts it, “the Frosty is not a cone. Is it soft serve, ice cream, or a milkshake? It doesn’t matter. A frozen vanilla dairy treat by any other name tastes just as sweet. The Vanilla Frosty is by far the creamiest of the concoctions. It’s also the thickest. The Frosty has an amazingly smooth, dense texture that’s not watery at all and melts at a glacial pace.”

“Here’s what the Frosty has going for it: It’s a great value (and that’s doubly true if you’ve got a Frosty key tag). You’re getting a lot of ice cream for the change in your couch cushions,” lists Thrillist. “From a distance, the texture of a Frosty might look a little off, a little too icy. But we can confirm that’s not the case at all. It’s creamy. There’s nothing gritty or watery about it. It’s not in a cone, and it’s not running down your hand like you’re a toddler.”

This treat is super versatile, coming in two flavors and easy to eat in a handful of ways. As Shop Food explains, “Wendy’s Frostys were designed to be thick enough to eat with a spoon, smooth enough to drink with a straw, and the perfect sweet and salty accompaniment to fries. They come in two flavors: classic chocolate and vanilla.”

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links.

Comments

  1. The best ice cream is Culver’s. McDonalds used to be my favorite but not after I had Culver’s ice cream.

  2. Sonic is the only fast food place I know of that still has real dairy in their ice cream. It’s wonderful!

  3. Good job! You’re right on the mark! I love them all. Now, for the best ice cream. Handles in Youngstown, Ohio. I’ve tried some of thier franchises in California and they can’t compare to the ones in Ohio. They don’t even have chocolate pecan daily on their menu.

  4. I know this may be hard to believe but Quick Trip has an excellent ice cream cone!
    And, for those who like theirs a little less conventional you can try your cone in a cup. They provide you with the spoon!
    Yummy.

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