With a thriving population of almost 13 million people, Buenos Aires is the eighth most densely populated city in the ...
With temperatures already reaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) here in Buenos Aires, it is definitely starting to feel like summer. One classic porteño way to survive the heat is to enjoy ice cream, helado.
Ice cream is pretty serious business in Argentina, hundreds of food blogs and websites have lists and reviews ranking the best heladerías (ice cream parlors) and sabores (flavors) to be found in the city. The government of the city of Buenos Aires even recently released a guidebook devoted solely to ice cream, Heladerías de Buenos Aires, which was edited by the General Board of Patriotism and the Historic Institute of the Ministry of Porteño culture. The book attributes much of the porteño tradition and style of ice cream to the large Italian immigrant population who, with their gelato roots played a significant role in creating Argentine helado.
Ice cream in Argentina is a unique indulgence, with a taste and consistency somewhere between traditional ice cream and gelato. If we want to get technical, the main difference between gelato and ice cream is the air that is whipped into ice cream and not into gelato. Also, gelato does not normally include cream, it is made using whole milk and generally includes more eggs, which means it is actually lower in fat than ice cream. However, gelato is more dense (since it contains no air) and although it is served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream, (so it is soft enough to scoop) it drips less than ice cream because of the use of eggs rather than cream.
Argentine helado is the delicious middle ground between gelato and ice cream. It has a decadent density similar to gelato, but it is still light and not quite as rich. Helado is also really soft, unlike the frozen scoops of ice cream most people, especially Americans, know best. Ice cream serving techniques are different in Argentina too. Each ice cream cone is carefully crafted, the helado swirled upward artfully, tall using a flat metal spatula-like utensil which the server uses to first press the ice cream into the cone. The finishing touch is always a tiny flat spoon stuck into the side.
Flavors vary at each heladería, and Argentina offers many interesting flavors and combinations. The most unique and beloved varieties of helado in Buenos Aires are the dulce de leche (caramel) flavors: Dulce de Leche with brownie, with chocolate chips, with swirls of dulce de leche, with white chocolate swirls, with pieces of meringue, with strawberries, with rum, with nuts, with chocolate covered dulce de leche pieces…and even combinations of those additions.
Ice cream stores offer a range of sizes to satisfy every level of craving. Prices start at around $5, then go up through $7, $9, $11, $14 pesos for various cups and cones, culminating in ¼ a kilo, ½ a kilo and an entire kilo. Like seemingly everything in Buenos Aires, you can order ice cream for delivery. Many ice cream shops have a minimum for delivery, though; and it is often a medio kilo (half a kilogram) which runs between $22 and $28 pesos.
With all this talk of ice cream, you may wonder: what about soft serve ice cream and frozen yogurt? Soft serve ice cream is a rarity in Buenos Aires, generally only available at American fast food restaurants, like McDonald’s and Burger King. Even so, McDonald’s soft serve acknowledges Argentine tastes by offering a dulce de leche flavor. There is also a very new frozen yogurt movement underway in Buenos Aires. A few small stores are opening around the city, just in time for summer, but it is still unclear whether porteños will embrace this frozen yogurt trend or stick to tradition.
A quick search of “mejor helado en Buenos Aires” or “the best ice cream in Buenos Aires” will provide some great suggestions, but don’t take their word for it…get out there and probar (sample) as many flavors as you can!