Oh for the love of sweet, creamy ice cream, Buenos Aires might be the most helado-rific city in the whole wide world.
Welcome to year round summertime-wintertime-warm weather-cold weather bliss.
Walk down just about any block in this crazy capital and you’ll be sure to find a flavor-packed multicolored display of glorious ice cream, served by the cone, cup, or kilo.
We can thank Argentina’s Italian immigrants for this fantastic sweet obsession. Similar to gelato, unlike North American style, this ice cream is served at a warmer temperature, has a denser silkier texture, like a pliable soft serve, and is generally made with whole milk instead of cream. Almost always artisanal, overall the local version is of an incredible high quality, all-natural, and rarely contains any artificial flavors or preservatives.
The ice cream map of Buenos Aires, literally; photo courtesy of Buenos Aires for 91 Days.
In order to get down with copious amounts of frozen gold, and get up into Buenos Aires’ helado hot spots, let’s first go over some serious important ice cream tips:
1. The ordering process
- Upon entering the heladería, first head to the cash register and choose your size. Generally, there are several cones and cups sizes, while the real action gets into the kilo tubs: ¼, ½, 1 kilo.
- Once you pay, the cashier will hand you a receipt. Then, move along to the ice cream counter to pick out your flavors from the professional scooper.
- Typically, a regular cone or cup will allot you two flavors. A ¼ kilo gives you three, and ½ and 1 kilo, up to four.
2. Choosing a flavor
It can be quite intimidating rolling up to the parlor expecting to make a quick (and totally critical) flavor decision on the fly, especially when you’re unfamiliar with the selection. Don’t let the impatient heladería workers rush you. It’s a big deal that should be strategized and well thought out.
Chocolate marroc ice cream; photo by Allie Lazar.
The ice cream flavors are generally separated by base type:
- Dulce de leche: Dulce de leche is the Messi of ice cream flavors. It’s the go-to choice for the ultimate Argie, wannabe Argie, and major sweetoother. If you are ordering for a local function, you best be including dulce de leche in the mix. Most spots will serve at least the basic minimum: dulce de leche, dulce de leche with nuts, double dulce de leche, dulce de leche with brownie, dulce de leche with chocolate chips, goat’s milk dulce de leche, dulce de leche with bananas, dulce de leche with blackberries. DDL on DDL on DDL.
- Chocolate: Chocolate lovers, get ready for a chocofest: Are you a nutty kinda gal? Maybe you’re a boy who likes to bite down on chunks of chocolate candy? Or perhaps you are a dark chocolate traditionalist? Whatever your chocolate persona may be, there’s going to be a flavor for you. A quick HOLA to marroc, my favorite Argentine peanut butter-chocolate candy that often makes his presence in ice cream form.
- Crema: Crema americana (vanilla-esque), mint, or cookies and cream all follow under the crema umbrella. If you are a strawberry (frutilla), raspberry (frambuesa), berries (frutos del bosque) fan, then the fruit al crema is your go-to choice. Warning: cherry is usually made with maraschino cherries.
- Specialty flavors: Most of the great heladerías will have their own signature and specialty flavors that are definitely worth a try.
- Al agua: The water based sorbet selection. I’m not even going to go into detail on this because who orders sorbet at an ice cream shop?! It’s only okay if you have a lactose allergy or are choosing a refreshing citrus fruit to booze up with sparkling wine. If you have to, at least choose a flavor that sounds exotic.
- Sambayón shoutout: And here’s a shoutout to the Italian sweet wine custard ice cream, just because it’s everywhere.
Please whatever you do, don’t order the worst ice cream flavors ever, quinotos al whisky, or anything with pasas de uvas (raisins). Who are you people?!
3. Ice Cream Delivery
- Yes, you read correctly, most EVERY heladería in this city delivers. Pretty much all day and night. And it’s both the best and worst thing that has ever happened to me.
- Call up, choose your flavors, and your friendly ice cream delivery boy will motor on with the ice cream carefully nestled in his climate controlled transport vessel, to quickly bring your tub of love right to your door. Ojo: There is generally a ½ kilo minimum.
The New Flavor Wave
Dorrego 1581, Palermo/Chacarita
Occo brings ice cream flavors to the next level. A small spot near the Mercado de Pulgas, this helado powerhouse busts out inventive ingredients and combinations like no other porteño parlor.
Flavors of choice: Cheeselimon, Coconut with banana and dulce de leche, Chocolinas, Chocolate picante
Coconut with banana, dulce de leche & pistachio at Occo; photo by Allie Lazar.
Federico Lacroze 2239, Belgrano
Cerviño 3901, Palermo Botánico
This family-run operation has been known to cause serious ice cream dependencies. The headquarters are in Patagonia, where they also source all their natural ingredients and fruits that go into the ice cream.
Flavors of choice: Peperina granizada (local mint-like herb with chocolate chips), Mousse del piltri (Dulce de leche mousse with caramelized almonds), and Chocolate profundo (dark chocolate)
The helados of Jauja; photo by Allie Lazar.
Av. Pueyrredón 2100, Recoleta
Imagine setting forth across Italy on an ice cream quest, stopping in small towns and cities to taste the country’s best gelato. It’s basically the vacation of my dreams. And that’s exactly what the owners of Búffala did before developing their unique recipes, which are mostly made from buffalo milk.
Flavors of choice: Rocher (Ferrero Rocher chocolate), Mojito, Mascarpone
Arenales 2301, Barrio Norte
Chocomaniacs should just drop whatever you’re doing now and head over to Rapa Nui. Seriously. Stop reading this and go. The Bariloche-based company has been in the chocolate business since 1932 and produce one killer product.
Flavors of choice: 80% Cacao, FraNui (White chocolate, chocolate ribbons and raspberry coulis), Toffee
Some of the helado selection at Rapa Nui; photo by Allie Lazar.
Elena, Pony Line Bar, Nuestro Secreto in Four Seasons Hotel
Posadas 1086, Recoleta
Only a serious ice cream would have skull and crossbones as the logo. Joaquín Grimaldi aka the Punk Rock Pastry Chef developed this exclusive line of cutting edge flavors to surprise and delight all sorts of palates. It’s worth of visit to the Four Seasons Hotel just for a taste of this exciting helado.
Flavors of choice: Dark After (dark chocolate, Altoids mints), Maní Caramel Mou Sale (peanuts, caramel, salt)
The creamy helado offering at Dolce Morte; photo by Allie Lazar.
Best of the rest
– Compañia de Chocolates (Juan Francisco Seguí 3551, Palermo Botánico)
– Arkakao (Quintana 188, Recoleta)
– Tufic (Guatemala 4597, Palermo Soho)
– Lucca (Dr. Romulo S. Naón 2701, Coghlan)
Bonus track: Professionally trained chef Diego Guillén brings the first liquid nitrogen churned ice cream to Buenos Aires. Guilab laboratorio de helados makes helado to order whipping up inventive flavors on the fly behind a huge cloud of foggy nitrogen smoke. Only problem? They are only available at fairs and special events.
The churning nitrogen of Guilab; photo by Allie Lazar.
Avenida Corrientes 1695, Centro
Cuenca 2957, Villa del Parque
I died and went to helado heaven the first time Cadore’s chocolate italiano first hit my lips. Chocolate + hazelnut = NUTELLA ICE CREAM. The Olivotti family, who opened Cadore in 1957, has basically been ice cream royalty ever since starting their first parlor in Northern Italy during the early 1880s, using the same recipe as today.
Flavors of choice: Chocolate italiano (nutella), dulce de leche, banana split
The glorious chocolate italiano of Cadore; photo by Allie Lazar.
Fernández de Enciso 3999, Villa Devoto
Villa Devoto’s pride and joy, Monte Olivia is pretty much the mecca of the barrio. With palm trees tropically shading the outdoor tables, this old school spot on the corner of Plaza Arenales has been providing the utmost joy for nearly half a decade.
Flavors of choice: Chocolate amargo (dark chocolate), Dulce de leche WADA, Sambayón
Díaz Vélez 4520, Almagro
As a proud resident of Almagro, it’s an honor to have an ice cream shop like Tino’s just a kilo-call away. It’s been around since 1965, and continues to be the neighborhood favorite.
Flavors of choice: Banana Split, Menta granizada (mint chocolate chip), Sambayón with cherries*
*Just don’t order this trifecta together.
Congreso 5249, Villa Urquiza
Ciudad de la Paz y Jorge Newbery, Belgrano
Ladobueno has been scooping out the good stuff to loyal customers for over 40 years. It’s been scooping out the good stuff to me for about 5 years, when I would order it religiously every Sunday night.
Flavors of choice: Chocolate con almendras (chocolate with almonds), Frutilla a la crema (strawberries and cream)
Best of the rest:
– Gruta (Sucre 2356, Belgrano)
– Shaba (Mariscal F. Solano López 2902, Agronomía)
– Olimpica (Av. De Mayo 752, Centro)
– El Capricci (Paraguay 5502, Palermo)
– Nonna Bianca (Estados Unidos 425, San Telmo)
It wouldn’t be right to ignore the biggest names in the Argentine ice cream world. Freddo tends to be a synonym for the Argentine heladería with locations spanning across the country, and even one in South Carolina. Persicco, which was actually started by the same original owners as Freddo, comes in a close second in terms of popularity with a solid quality and interesting flavors. Smaller chains like Abuela Goye still maintained that artisanal vibe, while Un Altra Volta probably has one of the sleeker fancy looks using top-notch ingredients. Kainos also deserves a mention, a relatively new chain that seems to keep popping up all over the city. And of course I have to send a shoutout to my favorite heladerías, solely for their names: MUNCHI’S (pronounce it MOONCHEESE for an extra effect) and CHUNGO.
The Buenos Aires Helado Heatmap
Is your favorite heladería on our Buenos Aires Helado Heatmap below? Tell me which Buenos Aires ice cream shop rocks your world and what flavor rouses your groin.
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