REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Topped (all 7 flavors!)

Every year Ben & Jerry’s seems to come up with a new theme. Better yet, a new scheme, to get people like myself to seek out and try 5+ new flavors of tantalizing ice cream at the same time. In 2014 it was Cores, followed by Cookie Cores in 2015, in 2018 it was Truffles, and then to Cookie Dough Cores in 2019…you get the point. For 2021 Ben & Jerry’s said screw shoving stuff INSIDE, we’re going to put the goods on TOP; and thus, the Topped line was born. Each of these 7 pints are topped with either a regular or white chocolate ganache and some sort of chunk or cup mix-in, followed by regular B&J mix-ins and swirls. 

This lineup delivers a pretty impressive array of flavors with a little something for everyone. The effectiveness comes down to, as it often does, the quality control of the pints. I had some that were PACKED with mix-ins and others that were missing key components to bring it all together; but fortunately there were no outright flops. So let’s get into it, here are all seven of Ben & Jerry’s Topped flavors ranked and reviewed: 

Whiskey Biz

Brown Butter Bourbon Ice Cream with Blonde Brownies & Whiskey Caramel Swirls Topped with White Chocolatey Ganache & White Fudge Chunks

This is a super unique and very well-executed flavor that, unlike 2017’s Urban Bourbon, nails the balance of boozy and sweet in a very harmonious and enjoyable way. The brown butter bourbon base is creamy and mildly boozy, with a much more significant oaky eruption coming from the whiskey caramel swirl. The two play off of each other well, resulting in a sturdy but not off-putting amount of whiskey presence. 

Blondies are one of my favorite rare B&J’s mix-ins, and their appearance is one of the reasons I still go back to Salted Caramel Core a couple of times a year. They’re dense and gently chewy with a nice buttery brown sugar flavor that compliments the alcohol notes swimmingly. The finishing touch on this pint is the white chocolate ganache, which is a bit harder and thicker than I wanted and experienced in other Topped pints, but maybe I was just being impatient. The ganache isn’t as necessary here as it is in some of the others, but I have no problem at all with it being here: this one is a winner.

Rating: 9/10

Tiramisu

Mascarpone Ice Cream with Fudge Swirls & Shortbread Pieces Topped with Espresso Fudge Chunks & Chocolatey Ganache

Coming from someone’s who favorite Italian dessert is Tiramisu, this ice cream came together even better than I expected. It’s not a perfect replication of the light and airy espresso-kissed cake but it conjures the right feeling and level of satisfaction I get when enjoying a proper slice. The mascarpone base is excellent, with a slight tang and sturdy density that reminds me a bit of cake batter and forms a solid foundation for the swirls of fudge that bring added sweetness with a touch of bitterness to scoop. The coffee flavor is mild here and I’m okay with that. The espresso fudge chunks slide their way into every other bite with a nice chomp that provides more of an aromatic flourish than it does an aggressive espresso push, and it’s just the right amount for someone that loves coffee but prefers his desserts to be sweet (me). If you get a chip in isolation it tastes spot on like an extra thin chocolate covered espresso bean…delicious. 

Despite all of the other solid components, the real star of the show here are the shortbread pieces, which come impressively packed into the pint and have a soft chew and beautiful vanilla flavor that hits much closer to cake than shortbread, which is perfect for a tiramisu experience. And oh yeah, there’s a layer of ganache on top too, this pint rules. Somehow when all the components come together it reminds me of a coffee-kissed yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Is it my birthday? Cause it hella feels like it!

Rating: 9/10

Salted Caramel Brownie

Vanilla Ice Cream with Salted Caramel Swirls & Fudge Brownies Topped with Caramel Cups & Chocolatey Ganache

There’s something about a brownie sundae that just really gets me in my feelings, and this pint does a helluva job replicating that experience. The vanilla ice cream is pure and creamy with ample salty swirls that keep the base from being too repetitive or boring. The ganache on top is soft and smooth with a gentle crunch and mouthfeel that does well to mimic the ribbons of fudge I like my brownie sundaes smothered in. 

And the brownies – the brownies – one of B&J’s strongest mix-ins, come in spoonfuls-a-plenty with their soft chew and sweet cocoa flair to really bring this flavor home. Sometimes the wheel doesn’t need to be reinvented, it just has to be executed with finesse, and this new scoop simply smacks.

Rating: 9/10

Thick Mint

Mint Ice Cream with Chocolate Cookie Swirls & Mint Chocolate Cookie Balls Topped with Chocolate Cookies & Chocolatey Ganache

This pint is easily better than the year round available Mint Chocolate Cookie and is on par with the wonderful winter seasonal scoop Minter Wonderland, although it is very different. Thick Mint is a textural paradise full of crunchy cookies and chocolate that is just downright fun to eat. Ben and Jerry are definitely coming for the Girl Scout’s with this flavor and absolutely succeed in replicating one of the organization’s shining cookie accomplishments. 

The cookie balls are the real star of the show and do a great job of elevating the mint flavor in the relatively mild mint base. When you get a bite with balls and ganache the variance in all the chompiness is awesome and absolutely worth picking up if you’re a fan of the chocolate mint tandem. 

Rating: 8/10

Chocolate Caramel Cookie Dough 

Chocolate Ice Cream with Caramel Swirls & Gobs of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Topped with Caramel Cups & Chocolatey Ganache

These caramel cups SMACK! They have way more caramely-impact than their peanut butter counterpart and bring a seriously sweet burst of character that this pint desperately needs. I didn’t notice the caramel cups as much in Salted Caramel Brownie, but maybe that’s because that experience was simply stronger than this one. I got a pretty decent amount of B&J’s classic cookie dough but not as much caramel swirl as I would like. The cookie dough doesn’t pop as hard here as it does when vanilla is present like in Half Baked, and without the more glaring contrast from the base it isn’t as compelling of a mix-in. 

There’s actually so much heavy chocolate that the cookie dough can’t really be tasted as much as felt, and more caramel cups would have helped break up the overlap. As I ate this I couldn’t stop thinking about how important the marshmallow swirl is to Phish Food, because this pint shouldn’t be too far off from that, but it doesn’t hold a candle to my precious Phishies. 

Rating: 7/10

Strawberry Topped Tart

Sweet Cream Ice Cream with Strawberry Swirls & Pie Crust Pieces Topped with White Chocolatey Ganache & Candy Sprinkles

Strawberry is pretty under-represented in the Ben & Jerry’s catalog, and while it isn’t my favorite I’m always down for a nice bright berry scoop. Unfortunately this pint is severely lacking in what I came to it for: strawberry! I like the sweet cream base, it’s mild and creamy, and the pie crust was very abundant with a nice chew perfectly reminiscent of something straight from a metal tin. But the strawberry swirls were so few and far in between I was really missing the sweet acidity to tie the experience together. 

While the swirl from the pint’s namesake really left something to be desired, I really liked the combination of the white ganache and candy sprinkles. The medley of crunchy and creamy is pure sugary bliss that I would have welcomed another layer of. I can see some serious potential with this one if it packed more of a berry punch but as it is I wouldn’t return to this one again.

Rating: 6/10

PB Over the Top

Chocolate Ice Cream with Peanut Butter Swirls & Peanut Butter Cups Topped with Mini Peanut Butter Cups & Chocolatey Ganache

Peanut butter and chocolate is one of the greatest combinations of all time, and sadly this is not a good representation of that amazing combo. As much as I love PB and chocolate, this interpretation comes across as extremely one-noted, in particular the way the swirl blends in with the base to give no textural contrast or fatty mouthfeel is pretty disappointing. 

The Topped line is fun because there are so many different components in the mix, but here they overlap in a way that just becomes redundant without the intensity. Change the swirl or change the base and this could be fun but as it stands it really just tastes like chocolate ice cream with small PB cups mixed in that never have enough peanut butter inside. This flavor is far from inedible but I’ll stick with PB World when I need a B&J’s PB fix!

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert (P.B. & Cookies, Coffee Caramel Fudge, Caramel Almond Brittle)

I’ll be honest – non-dairy ice cream really isn’t a priority for me. I have nothing against it, but the higher price tag and generally less delicious outcome isn’t something that I feel the need to seek out and spend my hard earned money on. The only Ben & Jerry’s dairy free flavor I really gave a shot prior to 2018 was the vegan exclusive Seven Layer Bar, but for some unknown reason the availability and price of B&J’s almond milk-based pints have become much more reasonable this year and I now feel compelled to give them their due. While vegan-ified versions of staple but subpar flavors like Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey don’t get me too pumped, these three pints that don’t exist with cows milk have me kinda stoked. Let’s spoon.

P.B. & Cookies

Vanilla with chocolate sandwich cookies & crunchy peanut butter swirls

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REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Keep Caramel and Cookie On

Malted milk powder is a combination of barley malt, wheat flour, milk powder, and salt. Somehow that combination, originally developed as an infant formula in the early 1900’s, makes for one helluva tasty marriage with lusciously sweet ice cream. Although not seen too often in grocery store pints, the allure and boom of malt has outlasted its soda jerk peak of the 1940’s and still finds ways to sneak into our creamy fantasies every so often. Brand new for 2017, Ben & Jerry’s are inviting us all to chill the eff out with Keep Caramel and Cookie On, which combines a malted caramel ice cream with shortbread cookies, fudge flakes, and a caramel swirl.

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When I think about malt I think about a roast-y funk and when I think about caramel I think about sweet, and this malted caramel base has a nice balance of the two. There’s a noticeable wheat-y funkiness that cuts through the usual hyper-sweet intensity of caramel and creates a flavor very similar to a sweet cream with a little extra pizazz. The malt is less heavy than the vanilla malt in B&J’s Chubby Hubby but more interesting than your standard variety vanilla or B&J’s regular caramel base. I like it, it’s smooth, creamy, fun, and not too sweet, which leaves room for the real caramel to do its purely sugary job with authority.

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The caramel and fudge flakes both serve their purpose – bringing sweetness, texture, and overall variety to the predominantly tan pint. The caramel is straight forward – no salty or burnt notes to be found – integrating itself in thin wispiness throughout the container, and the fudge flakes are in perfect ratio with the other components. Some of the recent flavors from B&J’s have had way too many flakes for their own good, but here they are slightly smaller and less prominent and their melty semi-sweet cocoa presence is very welcome to the equation.

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My favorite component of this calming ice cream are the shortbread cookies. While they don’t stand out as particularly shortbread-y, aka crumbly and slightly firm, they have a great buttery, flour-forward semi-salty flavor with softened baked texture that goes really well with the double caramel profile. The pieces could honestly be sugar cookies or even cake with the way they’ve interacted with the cream, but I’m a sucker for both cake and cookies in frozen form and their mellow flavor really works.

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This is another release from Ben & Jerry’s that’s pretty safe but overall very enjoyable. It isn’t breaking any boundaries but it isn’t disappointing either. The malt in the base adds a bit of intrigue and the balance between all the components, at least in my pint, were spot on. At the very least it’s a far superior flavor to the other Target exclusive it replaced – A Swirled of Difference.

Rating: 8/10
Found at: Target ($4.49)

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REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Urban Bourbon

I’m not the biggest drinker in the world but I love me some boozy ice cream.  Many mainstream ice cream companies are afraid to work with alcohol, probably a little bit due to the adult social association it may carry, but also from a technical side, since hard liquor doesn’t freeze using it within ice cream takes some serious skill.  Difficult execution aside, some of my all time favorite flavors meld cream and alcohol in a way that yields addictive perfection, and in the year 2017 Ben and Jerry’s are officially gunning for my heart with the release of Urban Bourbon.  This brand new flavor combines a burnt caramel ice cream with almonds, fudge flakes, and a bourbon caramel swirl.

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The burnt caramel base is more subdued than I expected, without any dominant sweet caramel notes or rich deep burnt flavor coming through.  There’s a little bit of roasted flavor but not even a quarter of the amount as other burnt caramel bases I’ve had, like the phenomenal one from Bi-Rite.  It also feels a little on the thin side for a premium scoop, with an almost watery finish that doesn’t leave a strong aftertaste.  The almonds are small and integrated throughout the texture of the ice cream itself, adding a constant small chew without any almond flavor or big satisfying snap.  The fudge flakes are great, big chunks of sweet dark chocolate that add good texture, but there are simply too many of them.  Since they are the least unique part of this pint I want them to come in and out of the bites and they’re taking over almost every spoonful.

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The biggest issue with this pint is the lack of booziness.  For a flavor with bourbon in its name it’s a pretty big let down how un-boozy the overall experience of eating this ice cream is.  The only element that has the bourbon is the caramel swirl and there is very little of the swirl to be found.  I had a little bit towards the top and had to dig past the middle of the container to get more of the good stuff, and even then it wasn’t as bourbon-y or complex as I was expecting.  A big gob of the caramel on my spoon only gave off a bit of bourbon flavor and came off more straight sweet with a slight bitter finish than booze balanced by sugar.  I wish I could have had more caramel to try and critique the use of the bourbon better but it was nowhere to be found, even as I dug to the very bottom of the pint.

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Overall the almonds actually hurt the flavor, taking away from the creaminess and any subtle burnt notes that should be present in a base like this.  The bourbon caramel is a letdown, not only in its flavor, but in its quantity, and there is way too much chocolate to savor the little bit of liquor you might be able to salvage from digging.  Interestingly, I actually get more of a roasted coffee vibe than a caramel vibe from this pint as a whole.  Every time that I would start to grasp any kind of burnt quality it would immediately get washed away and blown out by the huge chocolate flakes.  Maybe I’m just spoiled by great local creameries, but two of my favorite flavors, Humphry Slocombe’s Secret Breakfast and Little Giant’s Dirty South, both use the beautiful booze balance so much more convincingly that I can’t help but be very let down by Ben and Jerry’s attempt.

Rating: 5/10