When I first discovered Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter, it was as if the heavens had opened up and into my hands had been placed the tastiest spreadable matter since Nutella. I would go on to smear the speculoos spread on fruit, crackers, cookies, pretzels, and my hand. I would eat with a spoon, straight from the jar. I would dollop it into brownie batter and on top of ice cream.
To say that cookie butter changed my snacking game forever would only be slightly hyperbolic. Since gaining in popularity, other brands have become available outside of Trader Joe’s — oddly enough, they always seem to hand the Biscoff brand out at my husband’s triathlons — but the TJ’s stuff holds a special place in my heart (and stomach).
Joe must know when he has a good thing going, because since the debut of that jarred goodness, Trader Joe’s has gone on to release countless spin offs of the spread. There’s crunchy cookie butter, cookies and cream cookie butter, cookie butter cups, cookie butter sandwich cookies and — in a move that is obvious and brilliant at the same time — cookie butter ice cream.
This is both wonderful and terrible news. It’s wonderful because instead of buying both cookie butter and ice cream, I can just buy one item. It’s terrible because I’m lying; I’m still going to buy a jar of cookie butter with my cookie butter ice cream.
Not to be outdone, Ben & Jerry’s has released their very own “Spectacular Speculoos” ice cream as part of their “Cookie Core” collection, along with “Peanut Buttah” and “Boom Chocolatta.”
And of course, once something gathers enough hype around it, it’s only a matter of time before there’s a DIY Pinterest version of it. Fun fact: if I type the word “no” into my Google browser it autocompletes with “churn cookie butter ice cream,” the most popular of which is this one from Keep it Sweet Desserts.
So there are a lot of options.
It can be easy to get overwhelmed or paralyzed with indecision. After all, no one wants to be that person. You know, the person who chose the second best cookie butter ice cream. Luckily, I’m here for you, to selflessly test out each. We’ll start with the company that started it all, Trader Joe’s.
Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Ice Cream
The TJ’s version is rich, creamy, and a bit nuanced. Subtle cookie butter ribbons flow throughout vanilla ice cream, which is punctuated by crunchy pieces of Belgian speculoos cookies. Though I initially wanted a heavier cookie butter presence — think globs of the stuff — the delicate ribbons make for a perfect ratio of ice cream, speculoos spread, and cookie pieces in each bite, allowing one to eat with wild abandon, never getting saturated with one particular flavor or texture.
Price: $4.49 per quart at your local Trader Joe’s
Ben & Jerry’s Spectacular Speculoos Cookie Core Ice Cream
Now this is a different experience entirely. Remember my initial desire for globs of cookie butter in my ice cream? Ben & Jerry’s has answered that call. As with all of their Cookie Core ice creams, there is a thick, almost fudge-like, column of goodness running down the entire pint.
If your benchmark for speculoos is Trader Joe’s, this one will strike you as a little strong at first. The flavor is bolder, warmer with more spice, and almost reads like gingerbread. There are two types of ice cream — vanilla bean and dark caramel — with speculoos cookie pieces generously distributed throughout each flavor.
I like to think of this ice cream as a “choose your own adventure” type of situation. You can add as much or as little of the cookie butter core to each ice cream or ignore the ice cream entirely and eat the core straight out of the middle. But a word of caution: this stuff is rich. Unlike the TJ’s offering, I could only eat a few bites at a time, but perhaps that is for the best.
Price: Varies from store to store, but can be found at Target for around $4.
Keep it Sweet Desserts’ No-Churn Cookie Butter Ice Cream
Martha Stewart’s no-churn vanilla ice cream
16 fluid ounces (1 pint or 2 cups) heavy cream
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (I used fat free, but any type would work)
7 ounces (approx.½ cup) Cookie Butter (or other speculoos of choice)
3 ounces (approx. 2/3 cup) finely ground speculoos cookies (approximately 10 cookies)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
How It Fared
I’m always looking for a good no-churn ice cream recipe. I have an ice cream maker, but I also have a very small, filled-to-capacity freezer that prevents me from keeping the bowl chilled at all times. Therefore, by the time I know I want homemade ice cream I also know that I have around 36-48 hours of waiting to endure. No-churn recipes are a good way to cut down on waiting time by at least half, and obviously are even more advantageous if you don’t own an ice cream mixer.
Before putting the batter in the freezer, I tasted a bit (OK several spoonfuls) and, my goodness, it was delicious. I recommend reserving a portion as a fancy fruit dip or cookie topping. In terms of cookie butter flavor, this falls somewhere in between Trader Joe’s (milder, a bit creamier) and Ben & Jerry’s (bolder and spicier). My only (slight) criticism is with the texture. It’s a bit springy and doesn’t melt, and has the mouthfeel of frozen mousse rather than ice cream.
All told, ice cream is an extremely personal choice. I found that I could eat more of the Trader Joe’s offering, but was more quickly satiated by Ben & Jerry’s. If you want to eat a bowl of balanced, delicately-flavored cookie butter goodness, head to your nearest TJ’s. If you want to be smacked in the face with bold speculoos flavor while enjoying TWO flavors of ice cream, hit up your local B&J’s provider. If you have a can of condensed milk lying around, whip up the DIY version and challenge yourself not to eat it before it gets to the freezer. In spite of what I said earlier, there really is no wrong decision here.
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