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You know what really cleanses the palate after a big, greasy fast-food meal? A nice cold serving of sweet, refreshing ice cream, of course. It’s no wonder then that so many fast-food chains have a soft-serve machine on hand, ready to quickly pump out a light and fluffy frozen dessert to properly cap-off your burger and fries.
Soft serve gets that consistency you know (and love) thanks to its serving temperature, which is slightly warmer than that of traditional ice cream, and because of an abundance of air created from the constant churning of the soft-serve machine. It typically contains less milk than regular ice cream but often includes a few more ingredients. Your classic vanilla soft-serve cone from McDonald’s, for instance, combines the standard milk, sugar, and cream with additives like mono- and diglycerides, cellulose gum, guar gum, carrageenan, and vitamin A palmitate.
To be clear: none of this is meant to denigrate the sweet stuff. As an occasional treat, soft-serve ice cream is hard to beat in terms of taste and texture. You can get a fine soft-serve cone or cup or even a whole sundae from any of these fast-food chains.
When you think of fast-food soft-serve ice cream, McDonald’s is probably the first chain that comes to mind. And well it should, as some form of frozen treat has been on the menu there since the earliest days in the 1940s, when the nascent chain offered “Triple-Thick Shakes,” according to Reader’s Digest.
Today, you can get multiple McDonald’s dessert options made with soft-serve, including the classic Vanilla Cone, a Hot Fudge or Hot Caramel Sundae, McFlurries, shakes, and more.
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Sonic Drive-In may be best known for its Slushes and for using pickles to flavor a questionably large number of menu items—yes, with Slushes very much included—but the chain does a lot of great work with soft-serve ice cream-based treats, as well. And that goes well beyond the basic Ice Cream Dish or Vanilla Cone.
At a Sonic location right now, you can find soft-serve vanilla ice cream as the basis for three different types of sundaes (Caramel, Hot Fudge, and Strawberry) and in many fine milkshakes, Blasts, and Snowball Slush Floats.
Wondering what is in a Snowball Slush Float? Well, the strawberry variety includes a “blend of real strawberries and a sweet shortcake flavor all swirled into an icy slush,” which is “topped with a snowball of real ice cream and sugary snow crystals.” according to the chain’s website.
It’s kind of ironic, when you think about it, that Dairy Queen, a chain ostensibly built around ice cream, is really all about soft serve, which technically “does not qualify to be called ice cream,” according to the chain’s website. Even those DQ Cakes, which you may think would be made with regular ice cream, are made with soft-serve.
And soft-serve is the basis for all the other Dairy Queen frozen treats as well. These include the famed Blizzard Treat, which comes in well over a dozen different variations, with many offered on a seasonal or limited time basis. Soft serve also features in the chain’s “Classic Treats,” like the cones and sundaes.
You can also get some fine shakes and so-called “Frozen Hot Chocolate” drinks at DQ, with the latter being basically a blend of fudge, soft serve, and a slushy, sugary frozen beverage known as, of course, a Slush.
Burger King has a surprisingly robust dessert menu that includes everything from chocolate chip cookies to milk shakes to a Hershey’s Sundae Pie to, of course, soft-serve ice cream.
You can get Burger King’s soft serve in a cone or a cup. At some locations, you can get unique offerings like the “Spider-Verse Sundae,” which is a base of soft-serve vanilla ice cream with “red and black chocolate popping candy.”
One thing that fans like the most about BK’s soft-serve? The price. “I appreciate that Burger King has kept the price low,” wrote one customer on Reddit. “It’s the reason I often purchase a cone. I’ll be at the drive thru giving my order and then say what the heck for $1 throw in a cone as well. Plus they typically swirl it very high.”
Chick-fil-A does a few things well, namely chicken, waffle-cut fries, and ice cream treats—specifically, soft-serve ice cream treats. Those consist of a few milkshakes, some frosted beverages, and soft-serve ice cream in a cone or cup. Except that Chick-fil-A doesn’t call it ice cream, the chain calls its soft serve “Icedream.” That’s because “there Isn’t enough fat in it to actually consider it an ice cream,” according to a post on Chick-fil-A’s Facebook page.
Speaking of fat, perhaps the most pleasant thing about an Icedream Cone or Cup from Chick-fil-A—beside the taste, of course—is the fact that these treats really aren’t that bad in terms of calories or fat. The Icedream Cup, for example, has 140 calories and just 3.5 grams of fat, though it does contain 24 grams of added sugar, which is substantial.
Hard to pronounce and even harder to spell though the chain’s name may be, Wienerschnitzel has some superb soft-serve ice cream offerings, and that’s because a number of years back, this hot dog-centric fast-food chain paired up with the ice cream-centric Tastee Freez. At last check, today Wienerschnitzel’s offerings in the ice category were shakes, sundaes, Freezes (basically a thick shake), a classic banana split, a root beer float, and lemonade floats.
Oh, and several different soft serve cones, too. Wienerschnitzel offers a standard vanilla cone, a chocolate-dipped cone, or a decidedly unexpected Froot Loops-dipped cone, which is a vanilla cone dipped in crumbled cereal.
One Redditor called the Wienerschnitzel-Tastee Freez soft-serve “awesome” and got plenty of upvotes and comments in the affirmative from others in the know.
There’s a lot to love about the sweet stuff at A&W, and we’re not talking about the root beer. Not exclusively, anyway, but actually, let’s cover that first, because an A&W Famous Float is one excellent dessert.
The Famous Float consists of the chain’s “world-renowned A&W Root Beer made with real cane sugar and a blend of secret ingredients, topped with our creamy vanilla soft serve and served in a frosty mug.” But that’s hardly the only soft serve-based treat on the menu.
You can also find a Root Beer Cream Freeze, shakes, sundaes, “Polar Swirls” (reminiscent of DQ’s Blizzard), regular soft serve in a cone or a cup, or a Lemonade Shake, which is a questionable option that is described as: “Vanilla soft serve blended with lemonade, topped with whipped cream and a cherry.”
This content was originally published here.