There are few better ways to cool off in the sweltering summer heat than with a popsicle. But with a ton on the market, it can be hard to know which one to grab in your rush to get back to the pool.
“Popsicle” is technically a brand name, but the word has become synonymous with the frozen treat on a stick, or ice pop. To find the tastiest ones, HuffPost hit the grocery store to buy several national brands and enlisted the help of Caroline Eubanks, a writer born and raised in the hot, humid South.
We bought a range of fruit-flavored treats, and this is our takeaway.
Ultimate Popsicle Choice: Whole Fruit Pineapple
The best popsicles, hands down, were the pineapple bars by Whole Fruit. The box claims to use “real fruit,” and we believe it, The bars were studded with pineapple chunks. The ingredient list is pretty trim compared to other popsicle brands, too. When it came to the actual flavor, these bars were more on the tangy side than sweet and the texture was similar to sorbet. “It’s basically a Dole Whip on a stick,” Eubanks said.
Try: Goodpop Watermelon Agave
If you had told us that the Goodpop watermelon bar was actually just frozen watermelon on a stick, we’d believe you — and we mean that in the best way! One pop is only 40 calories and nine grams of sugar and the ingredient list is short: watermelon juice, water, cane sugar, agave and guar gum. As you see, there is still sugar in these pops in addition to agave, but the flavor wasn’t overly sweet and was actually quite refreshing.
Skip: Outshine Pineapple
Outshine’s pineapple flavor had more of an artificial flavor despite the ingredient list being free of things like high fructose corn syrup. Next to the Whole Fruit pineapple bars, Outshine’s paled in comparison. The pineapple flavor was more one-note (sweet!) and didn’t scream “tropical vacation” to us.
Try: Chloe’s Lime
It’s a simple combination of lime juice, water and sugar, but Chloe’s does it oh so well. Tart, acidic, but still slightly sweet, these lime pops were very “limey” and not at all artificial-tasting. They also screamed margarita, so if you’re feeling inclined, go ahead and throw them in a cocktail for a fun kick.
Skip: Chloe’s Banana Dipped
I admire Chloe’s for trying to add a little va-va-voom to their popsicles with the dipped collection, but the banana pop dipped in chocolate was a miss for us. The banana pop was a blend of banana, water and sugar, and while that’s probably ideal if you’re vegan or going dairy-free, it resulted in a bland, watered-down banana flavor. Also, the chocolate got way softer before the bar did, making them difficult to eat together in harmony. We personally prefer actual bananas dipped in chocolate.
Try: Trader Joe’s Fruit Frenzy
Trader Joe’s has a limited popsicle selection, but that’s OK because these Fruit Frenzy bars are amazing. Why have many popsicle options when you can have one truly delicious? Raspberry, lemon and strawberry are a dream team in these bars that are the right balance of tangy and not too sweet. There are some chunks of fruit, too, if you like that sort of thing. (We do.)
Skip: Popsicle Tropicals
Look, did we have high hopes for the classic Popsicle brand? No. But did we try them anyway because they’re a classic and the box proudly boasts “colors from natural sources?” You bet. They’re 15 calories a pop and taste like sugar water (despite being sugar-free). If you want to feed your kid’s camp group, these are a great option, but otherwise, skip this and go to the good stuff.
Try: Outshine Simply Indulgent Mango
Outshine offers a classic mango ice pop, but if you want something that’s a little closer to gelato, then the Simply Indulgent Mango is the way to go. It’s essentially a blend of mango puree, dairy (milk and cream), and sweetener. The bar isn’t too sweet and has a nice deep mango flavor that makes it a bar worth savoring.
Skip: Chloe’s Mango
It’s not that Chloe’s mango flavor (made with water, mango puree and sugar) is bad. It just doesn’t scream mango despite the fruit being one of the star ingredients. If you’re looking for a mango flavor that skews sweet, though, then this one might be perfect for you.
Try: Chloe’s Piña Colada
Chloe’s teamed up with Zumba, as in the dance class, to create these piña colada pops. But for us, it was all about the delicious combination of coconut cream and pineapple. These pops are about half of the size of standard popsicle bars, but that’s kind of perfect. They’re richer than the classic fruit and water pops, so you don’t feel like you need as much. Bonus points: If you have little ones, these are the ideal size for small hands.