Best Soft-Serve Mixes

Updated September 2020
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
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149 Consumers Consulted
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best soft-serve mixes

While ice cream is particularly popular in warm weather, there are plenty of people who appreciate soft serve year-round. And soft serve doesn’t only apply to ice cream but also sorbet, frozen yogurt, and custard. Assuming you’ve gone ahead and purchased an ice cream maker, your soft-serve mix of choice is critical.

Before you commit to a soft-serve mix, you’ll need to consider whether you want a powder or liquid mix. You’ll also need to consider flavor, the use of dairy products, and the amount of servings per mix. Your decision will depend on whether you’re using an ice cream maker at home or a soft-serve machine for commercial purposes.

A quality soft-serve mix makes all the difference. If you want to wow your customers, family members, or friends, our buying guide has everything you need to know before buying a soft-serve mix. For our five favorite soft-serve mixes, see the matrix above.

It is possible to make soft serve without an ice cream maker. You can stir the soft-serve mix by hand or with a mixer and then freeze it. An ice cream maker, however, will give the soft serve the right texture.

What is soft-serve ice cream?

All ice cream primarily consists of milk, flavoring, sugar, water, and air. Once the first few ice cream ingredients are mixed, an ice cream maker freezes some of the water while adding air into the frozen mixture.

Regular ice cream contains roughly 30% to 60% air. Soft-serve ice cream contains more air, usually about 70% of its volume. The additional air gives soft serve a softer texture and causes it to melt more quickly, hence its name. You can make soft serve in an at-home ice cream maker with a soft-serve mix.

Key considerations

Powder vs. liquid soft-serve mixes

If you’re used to buying soft-serve ice cream from restaurants and fast-food joints, then you’re most familiar with liquid soft serve. Liquid soft-serve mixes are dairy-based and have a higher fat content and less ice crystals than powder mixes. No mixing is required before pouring the liquid mix into a soft-serve machine. Liquid soft-serve mixes are typically sold in bags rather than boxes, so they also save on storage space.

One downside is that liquid soft-serve mixes have a short shelf life. Liquid mixes must be kept under 40°F as well. The creamier texture of liquid soft-serve mixes is thanks to butterfat, which makes liquid mixes more expensive than powder mixes. Liquid mixes are ideal for high-volume businesses, but smaller quantities also work well for home kitchens.

Powder soft-serve mixes can remain on shelves for much longer. They’re typically nondairy, making them fat-free and less expensive than liquid mixes. Preparing a powder soft-serve mix requires mixing the powder with water. Getting the ratio correct can be tricky, especially on the first try. Powder soft-serve mixes are sold in boxes, which take up more storage space. Overall, powder mixes are an excellent choice for traveling vendors or if you only occasionally make soft serve at home.

Nondairy

You may opt for a nondairy soft-serve mix for a variety of reasons. Powder soft-serve mixes naturally exclude dairy, and nondairy mixes are easy to find for sorbets or other fruit-based frozen desserts. Protein and fat can thicken a soft-serve mix to produce soft serve’s signature creamy taste without the use of dairy products. Many nondairy soft-serve mixes use soy, coconut oil, or pea protein for creaminess.

Flavor

If you have a commercial soft-serve machine, you’ll probably want to buy the classic soft-serve flavors – vanilla and chocolate – to appeal to all customers. However, there are quite a few soft-serve flavors to choose from, including fruit-flavored and coffee-flavored mixes. If you have a home ice cream maker, choose soft-serve mixes in whatever flavors you like.

Expert Tip
STAFF
BestReviews

Soft-serve mix prices

The majority of soft-serve mixes fall between $12 and $60, and the price largely depends on quantity, flavor, and the type of mix.

Inexpensive soft-serve mixes range from $12 to $20. These mixes come in smaller quantities, usually under 6 pounds, that are ideal for home use. Most of these soft serve mixes are the conventional vanilla and chocolate flavors. You’ll find more powder soft-serve mixes in this price range since they’re cheaper than liquid mixes.

The $20 to $40 range is the sweet spot for soft-serve mixes. On the lower end, you can find mixes that are upwards of 6 pounds and smaller, well-made liquid mixes. Less typical flavors also fall in this price range. On the higher end, you can find quantities closer to 10 pounds, which is ideal for commercial use.

Soft-serve mixes that are over $40 come in large quantities and multiple flavors for commercial use.

"Freezing times for soft-serve mixes vary depending on the mix and the ice cream maker being used."
STAFF
BestReviews

Tips

  • If your soft serve comes out hard, try adding a tablespoon of alcohol or a liquid sweetener.
  • A spoonful of gelatin can maintain the softness of any leftover soft serve stored in the freezer. Just keep in mind that gelatin is not kosher or vegan.
  • Buy a soft-serve mix in a neutral flavor like vanilla and then add flavored syrups to produce your own custom soft-serve flavor.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with your soft-serve mix. You can try adding herbs, such as lavender or basil, or spirits, such as rum or bourbon, for a boozy finish. It’s best to test small batches first.

FAQ

Q. How long can I store a liquid soft-serve mix that’s been thawed or a powder soft-serve mix that’s been mixed?
A.
Liquid and powder mixes should be consumed within 14 days of thawing or mixing.

Q. How long does it take to make a batch of soft serve with a mix?
A.
Depending on how much soft serve you’re making, it can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes to make a batch with a mix.

Q. Can I add nuts or candy to my soft-serve mix?
A.
That depends on the kind of soft-serve machine or ice cream maker you have and its capacity to handle food chunks. A high-quality ice cream maker should be fine with candy or nuts. Just make sure they’re finely chopped and frozen before adding them to the mix.

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