Sure, ice cream is great and Popsicles are fine, but sometimes you want to branch out from the usual summertime treats to try something a little more unique. From healthy-ish options made with all-natural ingredients and plenty of fruit to sinful indulgences with enough sugar to keep you buzzing for days, here's where to find 10 of our favorite frozen desserts to get through the desert summer.
96 West Boston Street, #100, Chandler
No, we didn't forget to take a photo before we took our first bite of this frozen treat. Each paleta from Valley favorite Paletas Betty comes with a "bite" taken out, so you know it's good to eat. And, to be honest, we don't care because they're so good, we're willing to share. We especially love the piña con chili paleta. At first taste, you don't notice the heat of the chili, and with the sweet pineapple, it's a well-balanced dessert that's actually quite sweet and refreshing.
Original ChopShop Co.
Okay, so this one's almost frozen, but technically just really cold. That aside, the Açaí Bowl from Original ChopShop Co. starts with açaí blended with berries and apple juice, served with fresh strawberries, and sliced banana, topped with crispy hemp and crunchy granola, shredded coconut and a drizzle of sweet agave nectar. Not only is it refreshing, but it's also packed with antioxidants, and the lack of added sugar means we don't have to feel guilty about wanting to eat this all day, every day. ChopShop also serves smoothies and yogurt parfaits, all made fresh to order.
2014 North Seventh Street
Available at Nami along lower Seventh Street, the tSoynami is easily the best frozen vegan dessert in metro Phoenix. It is basically a vegan version of a Dairy Queen Blizzard. We're super into the Doughboy, which features vegan cookie dough. In the mood for something more sophisticated? Try the Chai Tiramisu. Granted, it's not really all that tiramisu-like, but the animal crackers take the place of ladyfingers and bring a crunchy texture to the soft-serve chai blend. And with more than 15 tSoynami combos on the menu plus a seasonal recipe, there are plenty of choices for every taste.
Fatty Daddy's Ice Cream
1608 North Miller Road, #5, Scottsdale
This Scottsdale ice cream shop is perfect for a serious craving. You'll have to be willing to look for it, though, since it's hidden in the corner of the strip mall near the intersection of Miller and McDowell roads. The namesake Fatty Daddy features a macaron ice cream sandwich that's loaded with two scoops of ice cream and then topped with toasted marshmallow, though if that sounds like too much, you can also get a Mini Daddy with one scoop of ice cream. You'll have your choice among cleverly named creations in throwback flavors such as Lucky Charms and Fruit Loops, but the friendly staff are usually patient while you taste your way through the options.
Originally from Tucson, Frost Gelato now has locations at both Biltmore Fashion Park in Phoenix and in Gilbert's SanTan Village. It's some of the best and most authentic Italian gelato around, and it's definitely the prettiest gelato we’ve ever seen. The flavors are made fresh daily in-house with ingredients imported from Italy — that includes machinery and display cases — with the exception of milk and sugar. Best of all, the shop also has gelato for adults featuring liquors such as rum and amaretto. The alcohol gelatos have a whopping 1 percent ABV, but they're still not for kiddos.
Rita's Italian Ice
With more than 30 years of experience on the East Coast, the maker of this summer treat has been around for quite some time. Rita's opened in Arizona a few years ago and now has almost a dozen locations around the state. The selection of flavors changes daily, but on our recent visit we decided on a Gelati, which features custard topped with Italian ice, then layered with more custard on top. For this dessert, we went with a sweet, old-fashioned, cotton-candy-flavored Italian ice, but you can choose from options like blood orange, Swedish fish, piña colada, wild black cherry, or mango, just to name a few. The shop also serves ice cream and sugar-free Italian ice. It’s just like being at the boardwalk, minus the ocean.
5050 North Seventh Street
You can find AZ Pops at several Valley farmers markets as well as at the company's brick-and-mortar store on Seventh Street. We tried the Lavender Berry Lemonade with blackberries mixed in, and a Peach Prickly Pear pop for a taste of Arizona flavor. Both were firm, but slushy enough that biting into them was a snap — no one likes a brick of ice pretending to be a Popsicle — and even in 112 degrees they didn't melt instantly when we headed outside. Best of all, AZ Pops makes all its products with natural ingredients and no preservatives, so whether you go for Vietnamese Coffee or Goat Milk Balsamic Fig, you know the flavor is the real deal.
If you've never had Taiwanese shaved ice, or snoh, imagine regular shave ice, but creamier, though not quite as creamy as traditional ice cream. Better yet, just experience it for yourself at Snoh, small shops with almost overwhelming selections. Options include The Breakfast Bowl, made with milk cream snoh, Fruity Pebbles, strawberries, and topped with sweetened condensed milk, and #10, a combination of strawberry snoh, Oreo cookies, strawberries, and a chocolate glaze. We went with a Thai tea snoh mixed with boba and mochi balls, topped with black sesame glaze. Not into any of the menu options? You can also create your own snoh — just be sure to add that condensed milk on top. We sort of think it’s a must.
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Well-loved Valley ice cream shop Sweet Republic has our favorite selection of flavors, many of which have featured local produce including the Schnepf Farms peaches and cream or the seasonal, Southwest-inspired sweet corn. It might sound weird, but don’t be afraid; the sweet corn is creamy and sugary without being overpowering. And if you're into something more traditional, the shop can deliver on those fronts, too. Standing flavor options include Belgian chocolate, real mint chip, and salted butter caramel swirl. Pro tip: Be sure to check the website before heading in. The flavors change on a daily basis.
Raspados El Zalate
Raspados El Zalate has some of the most authentic Mexican raspados desserts in town. The Chamoyado is a combination of chamoy sauce, shaved ice, mango, and chili powder, with a Tamarrico con chili straw, then topped with peanut shell candy and fruit leather. The dairy-free dessert is part mango smoothie, part shaved ice, and has Lucas Mexican candy mixed into everything. We love the intense flavor combinations of sweet fruit, sour fruit candies, spicy chili powder candy, and salty peanut topping. It’s perfect for when you need something cool and refreshing without being too saccharine, although if you're looking for something fruitier, we also suggest the Piña Loca.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on July 18, 2016. It was updated on August 14, 2019.