We eat ice cream year-round, but ice pops? Ice pops seem to be tailor-made for summer. They’re fruity, icy refreshments on a stick. Like lemonade or juice, but in solid form! With ice pop season upon us (fun fact: We’re not calling them Popsicles because that’s a brand name like Kleenex and Xerox!), we figured it’s high time to find out which brands make the best ones.
We limited our taste test strictly to fruit pops — no fro-yo or creamy treats to muddy the waters. (Those sorts of pops deserve their own list.) And we zeroed in on pops that dial up the fruit and dial back on the sugar, with no artificial flavors and colors. Those neon-bright novelties are fun and all, but we’ll leave them for the ice cream truck. When the kids and their cohorts are running in and out of the house all day, nobody wants to have to be the sugar police.
We found a bunch of ice pop brands that put fruit front and center, then we gathered a slew of kids (and adults) to taste them. There wasn’t a bad one in the bunch, but there were five that we loved the most.
These paper cones filled with soft, sherbet-like sorbet are rich, fruity, tart, and refreshing (think: Starburst, but in icy form and without the artificial stuff). Everybody loved these, although they deviate a bit from the on-a-stick format, and do have stabilizers like guar gum and xanthan gum to ensure a smooth texture (actually most of the ice pops had these stabilizers — sorbet or not). Sugar-wise they’re on par with all the other pops, although they’re a smidge smaller.
1 pop (68 grams), 70 calories, 14 to 15 grams sugar
Mango Puree, Distilled Water, Cane Sugar, Brown Rice Syrup, Natural Flavor, Citric Acid, Stabilizer (Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum), Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid), Vitamin A (Palmitate)
This Austin-based brand uses local ingredients, cane sugar, and whole fruit instead of fruit juice concentrate or flavors, which makes them taste almost decadent. It’s like eating frozen fruit purée. The strawberry pop even offers discernible bits of berry. These pops were also the biggest of the bunch (83 grams) but happily the amount of sugar didn’t rise in relation to their size. There are 12 flavors in the lineup, but most venture away from pure fruit into novelty territory like Creamsicle and Fudgsicle lookalikes — stick with the strawberry.
1 bar (83 grams), 60 calories, 14 grams sugar
Strawberries, Filtered Water, Fair Trade Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Guar Gum
What started as a New York City fruit-based soft-serve stand has branched into an assortment of fruit-forward ice pops available at grocery stores like Whole Foods. Not only are these pops super low in sugar, but they also don’t have any additives whatsoever so the pure fruit flavor really comes through. If you want your ice pops to taste like you’re eating a bowl of frozen fruit, this is the brand for you.
1 bar (76 grams), 60 calories, 14 to 15 grams sugar
Strawberry Purée (Strawberries, Lemon Juice), Water, Organic Cane Sugar
This seemed like the most grown-up of all the options, although that’s not to say the kids didn’t love it. Its decadent, frozen-mousse-like texture gave it the status of a legit dessert, not just a refreshing treat. We liked the blackberry sorbet bar the best.
1 bar (55 grams), 60 calories, 12 grams sugar
Water, Blackberries, Cane Sugar, Tapioca Syrup, Beet Juice Concentrate (Color), Natural Blackberry Flavor, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Guar Gum, Locust Bean Gum, Citric Acid, Pectin.
This ubiquitous brand is a great choice for bargain hunters because it’s often on sale no matter where you shop. All the flavors we tried (strawberry, raspberry, and lime) offered a heavy hit of tartness, which everyone loved — especially the lime. Compared to the other pops, these were some of the iciest, or most watered-down-tasting in the bunch, but that’s actually welcome when it’s hot it. Think of it like the difference between an agua fresca and a glass of juice. What surprised us, though, was the long list of ingredients.
1 bar (72 grams) 60 calories, 14 grams sugar
Strawberries, Water, Cane Sugar, Citric Acid, Guar Gum, Carob Bean Gum, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Strawberry Juice from Concentrate (Water, Strawberry Juice Concentrate), Natural Flavor, Beet Juice Color, Turmeric Oleoresin Color
Do you have a favorite ice pop? Is it on this list or do you have something else to add?