Ice cream shops are known as heladerías in Spanish, like an Italian gelatería, but with an H. That’s no coincidence: many Argentine heladerías can trace their roots back to Italian immigrants who brought their gelato with them.
Between the Italian influence on Argentine gastronomy and the sweltering summer temperatures, it’s no surprise that ice cream here is a wonder to behold.
While most places are open from lunchtime onwards, late night ice cream is a legit social proposal here. In the city center, heladerías stay open into the small hours, meaning that after 9 p.m. it’s easier to buy ice cream than beer in Buenos Aires.
A busy heladería can be a little overwhelming, especially if there’s a conga line of kids behind you. Pay at the till and then present your ticket to the servers. You can usually order cups, cones, or polystyrene tubs measured by weight — ideal if you’re taking it home to serve after an asado. You can also have it bañado, bathed in chocolate.
Many larger ice creameries have kerbside shops: you order through a little speaker, bank teller style, and the servers hand you the goods through a little metal revolving door. You can even order ice cream via delivery apps, too.
Where to buy
In Argentina, you get ice cream and ice cream. The best stuff is artisanal: Argentina’s Association of Artisanal Ice Cream Makers defines that as ice cream that’s made with high-quality, fresh ingredients and without artificial flavoring, colors or preservatives.
We’d advise you to avoid the mass-produced stuff sold in the cheap section of the supermarket deep freeze: it’s usually a suspicious shade of pink, has the texture of a washing up sponge, and makes you glow in the dark.
These days, being vegan doesn’t mean missing out on ice cream. Many heladerías offer specialist vegan flavors, and there are a couple of dedicated vegan ice cream shops, too.
The Herald’s 10 favorite heladerías
Many of these places also do incredible coffee, cake, and chocolate. Hey, we don’t make the rules.
- Cadore (Corrientes 1695, Buenos Aires city; midday-midnight Sunday to Thursday, and until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays) — its roots can be traced back to northern Italy in 1881
- AlChEmY (Humboldt 1923, Palermo, BA City; Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-1 a.m., Friday, 9 a.m.-3 a.m, Saturday 11 a.m.-3 a.m., Sunday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m.) — They describe their flavors as exotic. Our friends describe them as “janky”. Either way, this upscale restaurant is more of an ice cream-based experiment than a normal heladería. Abundant vegan options.
- Ainara (Charcas 4987, Palermo, BA City; Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Fridays, 4 p.m.- midnight, Saturdays 2 p.m.-midnight, Sundays 2 p.m.-11 p.m.) — 100% vegan ice cream made from almond milk and coconut oil.
- Nonna (Chile 562, San Telmo, BA City; 9 a.m.-10 p.m., closed Mondays) — cute, chintzy cafe with a beautiful patio
- Scannapieco (Av. Alvarez Thomas 19, BA city, midday-midnight Sunday to Thursday and until 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays; Paseo la Plaza, Corrientes 1660, BA city; midday-midnight Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday, until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and until 4 p.m. Mondays) — ice creams served dipped in hot chocolate or with an extra cone perched on top like a party hat
- Heladería Italia (Av. Triunvirato 4546, Villa Urquiza, BA city; midday-midnight daily) — a typical neighborhood heladería serving simple flavors that stand out for their quality. Be sure to try the lemon mousse and dulce de leche mousse.
- Rappanui (branches around BA City and Province, as well as Bariloche and Córdoba) — a palatial operation that also sells waffles, hot chocolate, and regular chocolate, all of it good
- Vía Toscana (Av. Victorica 470, Tigre, BA Province; 1 p.m. until “gone midnight”) — to be enjoyed in the dappled shade of a leafy patio or by the Tigre riverside
- Chinin (Pueyreddón 4316, San Martín, BA Province; midday to 1 a.m. Sunday to Thursday; to 1.30 a.m. Fridays and 2 a.m. Saturdays; Alvear 2210, Villa Ballester, BA Province) — founded by an Italian immigrant in the 1960s, its pleasure dome aesthetic is well and truly deserved
- Figlio (San Martín 545, Tandil, BA Province; 8 or 9 a.m.-11 p.m. and until midnight Fridays and Saturdays) — a large, luxurious cafe with newspapers and a vast array of flavors
Argentine ice creams typically come in four categories: chocolates, creams, fruits and dulce de leche. Yes, dulce de leche gets its own category. Most flavors are about fine tuning the exact type and consistency of the chocolate you want with it. It even has its own three-letter acronym, DDL, because we mean business here.
These are some of the more unusual flavors you might come across:
- Sambayón is based on Italian zabaione, a traditional dessert of sweet cream, egg yolk and wine
- Crema rusa, literally “Russian cream”, is a suave flavor with chunks of walnut
- Quinotos al whisky is kumquats with whisky. Think rum and raisin crossed with marmalade.
- Chocotorta is an indulgent Argentine dessert of chocolate cookies, mascarpone and dulce de leche. It’s every bit as good as it sounds, but you’d better work on your sugar tolerance
- Anything granizado comes with chocolate chips in. Hail is granizo in Spanish, so think of it like that, but better. As it does across the world, menta granizada (mint choc chip) became the source of a political divide – frosty, dare we say – on the Herald team. One reporter described it as being like brushing your teeth and eating an alfajor at the same time. Are they wrong?
- Mantecol is a peanut butter nougat popular at Christmas
- Crema cielo is plain ice cream, but dyed the kind of blue that makes kids go crazy, both before and after eating it. It’s designed to make your tired, sweaty, sticky children more annoying. That is literally it. If you eat it as an adult, that’s on you.
Buenos Aires is languishing in a record-breaking heat wave that has seen the heat index rise above 40°C (104°F). We can’t do much about the weather, but we can at least tell you the best places to cool down with a good ice cream.