America's favorite ice-cream flavors: vanilla, chocolate, and mint chocolate chip

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
Carl BialikU.S. Politics Editor and Vice President of Data Science
Linley SandersData Journalist
July 19, 2022, 12:30 PM GMT+0

Ice cream is a year-round treat for most Americans (74%), but summer is often considered the season of ice-cream trucks and hot weather that makes the chilled treat even more appreciated.

A new YouGov poll during National Ice Cream Month sought to determine Americans' favorite ice cream by asking 1,000 U.S. adult citizens to choose any ice-cream flavors they like from a list of 21 popular options. Respondents were then asked to choose their favorite flavor from the list of flavors they like. The poll shows that if you’re looking to please a crowd, most Americans like vanilla ice cream (59%) and half like chocolate ice cream (51%), with about one in 10 calling each of these flavors their favorite. Other crowd-pleasers are strawberry (43%) and cookies and cream (43%), chosen as favorites by 6% and 7%, respectively.

Mint chocolate chip and butter pecan challenge vanilla and chocolate for favorite flavor (9% and 8%, respectively) even though neither is liked by more than 35% of Americans.

There are a few flavors with particular regional strength. For instance, people living in the South are the most likely to say they like butter pecan ice cream (42%), while Midwesterners are the most likely to say they like chocolate chip cookie dough (44%) and caramel ice cream (41%). Northeasterners are more likely to be fans of coffee ice cream (32%) and peanut butter ice cream (29%) than are people from any other region. Westerners are among the most likely to like vanilla ice cream overall (64%) and the least-likely comparatively to choose chocolate ice cream (43%) as a flavor they like. Northeasterns are the most pro-chocolate and least pro-vanilla.

When asked to choose directly between chocolate and vanilla ice cream, the favorability of vanilla ice cream holds strong. By 49% to 43%, Americans choose vanilla over chocolate. Vanilla wins by the biggest margins in the Midwest (56% to 39%) and in the West (53% to 35%). People living in the South are more split on the question, and Northeasterners prefer chocolate (43% say vanilla, 50% chocolate).

Ice cream flavors aside, there are other key questions to consider when ordering ice cream, such as the number of scoops — most (55%) say two is the sweet spot — and what to get the ice cream in. Many Americans prefer a cup or bowl (41%) or a waffle cone (33%), with a sugar cone (12%) and cake cone (5%) following behind.

There are also ice-cream toppings or mix-ins to consider. The top choices are hot fudge (preferred by 40% of Americans), chocolate syrup (33%), whipped cream (32%), and caramel (32%). Just 14% of Americans say they do not like any toppings on their ice cream.

Americans who prefer chocolate over vanilla ice cream are especially likely to like hot fudge (liked by 50% of people who favor chocolate, compared to 36% of people who prefer vanilla) or chocolate syrup (40% vs. 30%). Perhaps unsurprisingly, people who like chocolate better also are especially likely to like other chocolate mix-ins, such as brownie bites, chocolate chips, and M&Ms.

There are some regional differences when it comes to toppings. Northeasterners are more likely than people from any other region to say they like sprinkles (32%), marshmallows (18%), or coconut (16%) as ice-cream toppings. Midwesterners are especially keen on caramel (36%), brownie bites (25%), peanut butter cups (22%), candy bar bits (22%), and cookie dough (20%) when compared to people from other regions.

This poll was conducted on July 13 - 18, 2022, among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this poll.

Image: Courtney Cook on Unsplash