I recently read a study that Chileans now eat the most ice cream in Latin America at over 6.5 liters (nearly 4 gallons) per year, per capita. That’s around 27 million gallons of ice cream for this smallish nation of 15 million people. Chileans take their ice cream seriously. Besides consumption at home, the boom in ice cream shops and cafés making homemade ice cream is palatable. Notable cafés like Tavelli and Sebastián got started all because of their ice cream.
Much to my surprise, Chileans are not turned off by ice cream during the winter, at least in the Central Valley. Even if it’s cold or rainy, or both, ice cream parlors are still jammed pack, particularly at onces, Chilean-style tea time, where they really indulge their sweet tooth with sundaes or double scoops.
My neighborhood could be called a polo de helados, an ice cream magnet area. I can easily hit artisan ice cream scooped to perfection in any 2-block radius. In fact, I have a theory (untested with empirical data) that most people come to Parque Forestal on the weekend by bribing their children with the vision of delicious ice cream close by. It’s really self-indulgence because while there are a lot of strollers, I see mostly the adults licking away with a giddy face of ice cream bliss. In fact, on my walk this afternoon, it seemed every third person was nursing an ice cream cone (bonus in the winter is that, I suppose, it melts slower). The best part about all this ice cream goodness? Different flavors, different textures, different styles. Here’s the dish on the three best, in my humble opinion. Keep in mind, you can get a single (one flavor), double (two flavors), or just be practical and take a liter home (don’t forget to ask for the ice cream cones).
Emporio La Rosa: One of the pioneer gourmet shops down in Bellas Artes, they tested the ice cream waters from a petit cart and a few flavors. Fast forward a decade later, they are a total ice cream success story in Chile. There are nearly two dozen flavors any given day and Emporio has expanded to other parts like Las Condes and recently, Valparaíso on the coast. The ice cream here has a milky base (no egg yolks) and is sweeter than other ice creams. The superstar flavors that are local favorites are: Ulmo honey (Ulmo is a conifer in Southern Chile and has a very specific flavor), peperoncino chocolate (chili that has a peppery note, and dark, dark chocolate), orange ginger, lucuma with manjar, bananas with Chilean palm syrup (a local dessert) and ANY flavor of chocolate. Their chocolate ice cream is like eating a chocolate bar, in lickable form.
Café del Opera: OMG. I am not really a huge ice cream fan but I have absolutely no willpower around these. In fact, for my last birthday in late January, the only thing I really had my heart set on was a walk in Santa Lucía gardens while savoring Nutella ice cream from Café del Opera. Belgian chef Mathieu Michel oversees making these all-natural ice creams, where there are daily 18 different flavors in stock. Must tries are: cassis (black currant), mocha, praline (mix of nuts, pistachios, and hazelnuts, nutella (Yes! Yes!), the best vanilla bean, and a pistachio that’s really pistachio (not green, what a concept). My husband swears by the lucuma and Swiss dark chocolate. Hands down my personal favorite.
Mó: The newcomer on the scene on the corner of Monjitas and Mosqueto, in front of the Bellas Artes metro stop (they have the original outpost in Viña del Mar), there always seems to be a mob scene here when I want to pick up ice cream for a dinner party. They have a wide variety of flavors and a whole line of sugar-free ice cream for those that would like to fool themselves into thinking ice cream is really healthy (it’s not, sorry to burst your bubble). The flavors are completely different from the competitors. They have them grouped in the dulce de leche category with seven flavors (nuts, chocolate, lucuma, meringue, coconut), the “chocolates” (Swiss, orange, hazelnut, mousse, white chocolate with blueberries), fruit (passion fruit rules!), lucuma, cinnamon, lemon pie, cappuccino, and yogurt with Chilean papaya. Go focused on the general flavor category you’re craving or you will be overwhelmed by too many options. Trust me. Been there.
Want to know more? Check out our Eat Wine Santiago guide to the city with tons of recommendations, tips, and insider scoop on where to eat and drink the Chilean capital.