23 Seriously Upgraded Ice Cream Sundaes

Photo: Marcus Nilsson

Cool, creamy ice cream and warm, gooey sauce combine to make an indulgent summer treat: sundaes! Here, we're sharing the recipes you need to make your ultimate ice-cream sundae at home.

01 of 24
Marcus Nilsson

There's something special about an ice cream sundae. It's a comforting, cooling, soothing dessert that's also a nostalgia trip. While a scoop or two of ice cream in a simple a cone is a treat, an ice cream sundae is a whole other level of delicious. There's sauce, there's whipped cream, and there might just be a cherry on top. A sundae can be simple or elaborate, served in a tall glass pedestal cup or in your everyday cereal bowls. Simply put, a sundae can be pretty much whatever you want it to be, but if you need some inspiration to help you get started, we're sharing our favorite takes on this classic dessert.

Most sundaes start with store-bought ice cream, and you'll find that some even use more than one flavor (why not!). Next come simple-to-make components like caramel sauce, strawberry-rhubarb purée, cinnamon-chocolate sauce, or lime curd. Some sundaes include slices of pound cake or crunchy cookies, others go gluten free. On the healthy side of ice cream sundae-indulgence are those recipes that include fruit, albeit those recipes pair fruit with chocolate sauce and ice cream, like in a banana split or a baked apple sundae!

The ice cream sundae is an American creation, said to have originated at the end of the 19th century. The word clearly has some connection to Sunday, but the precise origins of this beloved treat's name isn't known. Is it that these ice cream desserts were so special they could only be enjoyed on Sundays? National Sundae Day is November 11, and that seems a little strange to those of us who can't wait that long. Isn't summer the season of the ice cream sundae? Sure, you can (and maybe you do) enjoy an ice cream sundae anytime of the year, but right at Thanksgiving is not the most obvious time to celebrate this most American of concoctions. Whenever (or however!) you choose to enjoy your ice cream sundae, consider these recipes your starting point.

02 of 24

Irish Coffee Sundaes

St. Patrick’s Parfait Brownie Sundae with Whiskey-Caramel Sauce
Pippa Drummond

A fabulous mashup of Irish coffee and a brownie ice-cream sundae. We consider this dessert the best of both worlds.

03 of 24

Grilled Banana Splits with Hot Fudge and Rum Caramel Sauce


Take the classic banana split to new heights by caramelizing the bananas and topping with two decadent sauces (hot fudge and rum caramel) followed by the traditional whipped cream, chopped peanuts, and maraschino cherries.

04 of 24

Chamomile-Caramel Sundaes with Stone Fruits


A honey-caramel sauce is paired with chunks of juicy stone fruits, such as apricots, peaches, nectarines, and plums and vanilla ice cream. The finishing touch is whipped cream infused with chamomile, a fancy move that just calls for warming heavy cream with herbal tea, then chilling and whipping.

05 of 24

Apple Sundaes with Cider Caramel Sauce

apple sundae with cider caramel
Justin Walker

Take the ice-cream sundae into fall with this clever hybrid of baked apples and your favorite ice cream dessert. The fruit is soft and spicy, a perfect contrast to vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, and crushed amaretti cookies.

06 of 24

Strawberry-Shortcake Sundaes

Marcus Nilsson

This sundae features vanilla ice cream streaked with homemade strawberry sauce then layered with moist pound cake, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream. Serve in a clear glass sundae or parfait glass to best appreciate the colors and layers.

07 of 24

Coconut-Chocolate Sundaes

Marcus Nilsson

Attention all coconut-chocolate candy bar lovers! We've concocted your ideal dessert: Vanilla ice cream is rolled in shredded coconut and finished with a crunchy chocolate-almond topping and a vanilla-bourbon butterscotch sauce.

08 of 24

Key Lime-Pie Sundaes

Marcus Nilsson

Never choose between pie and sundaes again! We've reimagined the classic key lime pie as a sensational sundae starring vanilla ice cream, homemade lime curd, a bruléed meringue topping, and buttery shortbread.

09 of 24

Lemon Curd-Pistachio Sundaes

Jonathan Lovekin

Who says sundaes can't be sophisticated? This elegant dessert teams rich, eggy vanilla ice cream with homemade lemon curd and candied pistachios.

10 of 24

Fudgy Brownie Sundaes

Fudgy Brownie Sundaes
Mike Krautter

Individual brownies, baked in ramekins, are topped with vanilla ice cream and decadent caramel sauce for a very fudgy, rich dessert.

11 of 24

Grasshopper Sundaes


If you make the chocolate sauce in advance, these sundaes come together in just five minutes. Drizzle the sauce over your favorite mint-chocolate ice cream and chocolate wafer cookies, then finish with fresh mint.

12 of 24

Strawberry-Rhubarb Sundaes


Sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb are a great foil for rich vanilla ice cream. Serve with your favorite shortbread cookies.

13 of 24

Vanilla-Raspberry Sundaes with Spoon-Shaped Cookies


The cutest serving utensils ever, that's the the ingenious cookie "spoons" that accompany these vanilla ice cream and raspberry sorbet-sundaes.

14 of 24

Sundae Puffs with Bananas or Strawberries


A simplified version of profiteroles, these sundae puffs call for store-bought puff pastry; the entire dessert is ready in just 30 minutes. Top with a quick homemade fudge sauce, thinly sliced bananas or strawberries, vanilla ice cream, and toasted walnuts.

15 of 24

Butterscotch Banana Splits


Add a dash of nostalgia to your dessert routine with these classic sundaes. Top a base of bananas and chocolate ice cream with warm homemade butterscotch sauce, whipped cream, chopped peanuts, and maraschino cherries.

16 of 24

Peppermint Hot Fudge Sundaes

David Sawyer

We can't imagine anything more crowd-pleasing over the holidays than this minty little number. All you have to do is spike your hot fudge sauce with peppermint extract, then serve with vanilla ice cream and peppermint candy.

17 of 24

Caramel Apple Sundaes

Johnny Miller

Hollowed-out apples make clever serving dishes for these fall-friendly sundaes. Fill them with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, and toasted walnuts.

18 of 24

S'mores Sundaes


Too hot for s'mores? Keep the flavors but switch gears to a sundae. Top chocolate ice cream with marshmallow cream, hot fudge, and crumbled graham crackers.

19 of 24

Ice Cream Sundaes with Cinnamon-Chocolate Sauce


Amp up dulce de leche ice cream with a cinnamon hot fudge sauce, toasted coconut, and peanuts.

20 of 24

Silver-Dollar Pancake Sundaes with Chocolate Hazelnut Sauce


A breakfast-dessert hybrid, this can't miss combo pairs fluffy pancakes with a pool of chocolate hazelnut sauce and pistachio ice cream for a sweet treat you can enjoy any time of day.

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Applesauce Sundae

Marcus Nilsson

Make the most of apple season by pairing tangy vanilla-buttermilk ice cream with applesauce and dried apples.

22 of 24

Coconut-Macaroon Sundaes

macaroon sundae
John Kernick

Chocolate on the top and bottom? Sign us up! Coconut macaroon squares are dipped in dark chocolate, then crowned with vanilla ice cream in a dark chocolate shell. Cut the richness by serving with fresh raspberries.

23 of 24

Lighter Brownie Sundaes


Yes, you can lighten up brownies a la mode without sacrificing flavor. Sneak whole-wheat flour and unsweetened applesauce into the brownies, then top with vanilla frozen yogurt, toasted almonds, and shredded coconut for a treat that's a tad healthier.

24 of 24

Hot Fudge Over Vanilla Ice Cream


Get back to basics with the oh-so-simple combination of vanilla ice cream and irresistibly chocolaty homemade hot fudge sauce.

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