For us, nothing says summer quite like an overflowing, over-the-top, sprinkle-topped ice cream cone on a hot day (did we use enough ice cream adjectives there?). On any given summer afternoon, you can find people of all ages (us included) eagerly lined up around the corner at their local ice cream spot, or just stocking up on cartons of their favorite flavors at the market. Across the globe, although you might find ice cream sometimes, different cultures have their own perfect summer treat—their version of our sweet ice cream. These go-to warm-weather faves might even inspire you to try something new next time the mint chip craving hits. They’ll cool you down and satisfy your sweet tooth just the same. (But also, you should make this ice cream later if you know what’s up.)
Halo-halo (also called haluhalo) is the Filipino answer to hot and humid summer days. At first glance, halo-halo might look like an ice cream sundae, but don’t let its appearance fool you. This frozen treat tastes nothing like its American counterpart, with layers of shaved ice, condensed milk, and some far out toppings like red kidney beans, purple yams, chickpeas, fresh fruit, and cocoa powder.
The varieties are endless (some prefer to add jelly or dulce de leche into the mix), but the general idea is to keep the dessert light and refreshing. You won’t find any hot fudge here.
In the intense heat of summer, kulfi is a much sought-after frozen dessert in India, where it’s common to find dozens of kulfi stands lining the streets, day and night. The word “kulfi” derives from the Persian word for a “covered cup,” which speaks to the dessert’s appearance—kulfi is often shaped into long cones molded around a thin stick, almost resembling the classic American popsicle.
Kulfi is similar to ice cream in taste, but its texture is much denser and creamier because it’s not whipped in the same way. It’s traditionally prepared with buffalo milk, which has a higher fat content than cow’s milk and contributes to the dessert’s creaminess. You can find kulfi in almost any flavor imaginable, but the classics are cream, saffron, rosewater, and pistachio. Um, swoon.
Koldskål literally translates to “cold bowl” in Danish, and that’s exactly what this popular dessert entails: a sweet, cold buttermilk soup that’s enjoyed either on its own or with sweet wafers, muesli, or fresh fruit on top.
Koldskål is made by mixing buttermilk with eggs, sugar, cream or yogurt, alongside vanilla, lemon, or cinnamon. It’s a simple, light dessert that can made in a big batch to serve a crowd, or in a small bowl for a single serving. And, while Danes consume dairy year round, this sweet, milky dessert is reserved only for the summer months—some families even serve it as a light dinner when it’s too hot to cook!
Japan: Mochi Ice Cream
If you’ve ever eaten at a Japanese restaurant, you’ve likely come across mochi on the menu. Mochi is a soft cake made of sticky rice that’s pounded into a paste and then shaped into the desired form—its texture is quite similar to marzipan or fondant. In the summer, restaurants and vendors wrap said smooth mochi around ice cream. So smart. So delicious. While the mochi adds a nice sweetness and smooth texture to the frozen treat, it doesn’t have much flavor on its own, making it the perfect complement to the often bold ice cream flavors within.
While matcha, red bean, and plum are currently trendy mochi choices, most shops also sell chocolate and vanilla varieties as well, appealing to all taste buds.
If you find yourself in Mexico in the warmer months, you’re bound to see everyone walking around with fresh fruit paletas—or Mexican ice pops—in hand. While American ice pops are typically limited to fruit flavors, traditional Mexican paletas are made with either a water or cream base and often feature whole nuts, spices like cayenne and cinnamon, edible flowers, and chunks of fresh fruit.
While many people purchase their paletas from street carts, many major cities have entire stores (Paleterias) that are devoted to making and selling fresh paletas in dozens of innovative, delicious flavors each day.
Bastani (Persian ice cream) is a custard-like frozen treat made with milk, eggs, and sugar with added flavors like rose water, saffron, vanilla, or pistachios, all of which are common in many traditional Iranian dishes and desserts.
Bastani is served either on its own in a bowl or between two thin, crispy waffle wafers: welcome to the Iranian ice cream sandwich. While traditional bastani can be quite expensive and labor intensive to make (it entails manually stirring of the cream for several hours), there are some easy shortcuts to help you make your own version at home!