July is National Ice Cream month in the UK and US what better opportunity than to bring the World of Argentine ice cream to your screen.
And I can tell you that after 15 years living in Argentina I know my Argentine helado!
El helado (Ice cream) is as much a staple in the Argentine diet as mate, steak and Malbec! There is un heladería (ice cream shop) on pretty much every corner and they’re open late into the night, usually until at least 1 or 2 a.m..
From national chains like Freddos – which is pretty much a synonym for the Argentine heladería (ice cream shop) with locations spanning across the whole country, to traditional heladerías like Cadore – considered ice cream royalty ever since starting their first parlor in Northern Italy during the early 1880s there really is un helado for every tast and budget.
But what does make Argentine helado so special?
Well we can thank Argentina’s Italian immigrants. Similar to gelato, the helado served up in Argentina is served at a warmer temperature, has a denser silkier texture, like a soft serve, and is generally made with whole milk instead of cream. And…it is almost always artisanal. Generally speaking the local version found in any street corner in any town or city is of an incredible high quality. All-natural ingredients, and rarely contains any artificial flavors or preservatives. My goodness if it wasn’t so calorific it might actually be good for you!
How is it served?
You can buy cones and small cups much like in the UK. But With the helado being of such high standing in Argentina it will come of no surprise to you that it’s not generally bought in small cones but rather helado in Argentina is bought by the 1/4, 1/2 and 1 kilo!
(When I moved back to the UK, not being able to buy helado by the kilo was one of the things I missed most).
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 flavours.
So, once you’ve decided on size (un kilo por favor!), next up is the all important decision of flavor (remember three to four flavours for a kilo). And, like any heladería experience this is the crucial part.
The most important flavor (of pretty much any dessert in Argentina) is of course Dulce de Leche. It’s the go-to choice for Argentines and visitors alike. And comes in many varieties; dulce de leche, dulce de leche granizado (with chocolate chips and my absolute favorite of all times), dulche de leche doble (double), etc.
Chocolate flavors are pretty special too in Argentina. And un helado de chocolate (chocolate ice cream) is much more than simply that. Options include, chocolate con dulce de leche (obvs!). Chocolate doble (double!). Chocolate amargo (dark chocolate), con ron y pasas de uva (raisins and rum). There is pretty much a chocolate flavor for any taste.
Then of course you have the fruity flavors, strawberry, raspberry etc. Which, to be honest I didn’t experiment with too much. I mean when you have dulce de leche granizado and Chocolate doble are there really any other flavors you need!?
I once took a visiting friend to one of our best artisanal heladerías in Mendoza, only for her to order vanilla! Both myself and the heladería owner looked at her in shock. You can imagine with all the amazing flavors on offer, vanilla really isn’t something you expect anyone to order. Needless to say, she soon changed her mind.
Grammar and vocab tips
If you’re heading to Argentina soon. Here’s a bit of helado vocab and grammar to get you ready:
- Gustos: These are the flavors. The ice cream isn’t scooped in Argentina, it’s piled high with a spatula! So you’ll choose your “gusto” as oppose to “how many scoops”.
- Un vasito is an ice cream cone (literally means small cup).
- Un cucurucho is a waffle cone.
And remember the “h” at the beginning of a word in Spanish is ALWAYS silent so an Argentine ice cream is pronounced un ‘elado and NEVER un helado.
Remember this and you’re on your way!