Peach ice cream and peach slices in a white bowl.

Last week I shared ideas for frozen treats perfect for cooling off during these hot summer days. All delicious ideas, but sometimes you just crave a bowl of rich, creamy ice cream.

When all you have in the freezer is vanilla, however, it’s fun to conjure up some unique ideas for flavorful toppings or mix-ins. Sure, you can opt for a homemade hot fudge or some perfectly sweetened crushed strawberries, but why not tease your palate with some new options?

Whether your taste buds prefer a salty twist to your sweet ice cream, you love finding new ingredients for a saucy topping or you’re looking for new ways to infuse garden-fresh flavors, there is a host of ice cream topping ideas to choose from. Here are my favorites. For even more ideas, visit our Cheap Summer Fun board on Pinterest.

Salty-sweet treat

Are you a dipper? Do you dip your French fries into your milkshake or Frosty during your favorite burger joint dinner? That subtle addition of salt actually enhances the flavor and sweetness of the ice cream, making it even more tasty. In the absence of crispy hot French fries, you can top your bowl of chocolate or vanilla ice cream with crushed pretzels or even buttery Ritz crackers and drizzle with salted caramel.

Go ahead and blend up contrasting flavors to top your next bowl of ice cream. Planning on making some homemade blackberry ice cream with your fresh harvest? Try crushing up some extra-crispy barbecue chips and toss those on top of that fresh berry ice cream for an all-new flavorful treat.

Get saucy

When it comes to drizzling those scoops of ice cream with a sauce, we naturally gravitate toward traditional favorites like caramel, rich fudge or even that popular Magic Shell. But, with a little creativity, there are a variety of ways to sauce up your bowl of ice cream. Some people might enjoy coffee over their chocolate ice cream for a mocha flavor while others might enjoy a squeeze of maple syrup on top of vanilla bean.

Just as strawberries are extra delicious when drizzled in balsamic glaze, that same glaze can be equally tasty when topping a bowl of fresh ice cream. If you are feeling even more adventurous, try the sophisticated flavor combination of olive oil and flaked sea salt on top of your favorite French vanilla ice cream.

Fresh from the garden

One of my favorite ice cream flavors at the now-closed Last Course (they had GREAT flavors) was Honey Rosemary ice cream. While most of my family thought I was crazy for loving the rich, garden-fresh combination, I could never resist that flavor among all the other options. If you are looking for a truly unique ice cream topping or mix-in, grab a pair of snippers and head out to your garden.

Those sprigs of aromatic rosemary can be steeped into a sweet simple syrup and drizzled over a beautiful honey ice cream. Or basil leaves can be muddled with a touch of olive oil and peaches for a beautiful topping. And don’t forget the lavender. Crush up just a few blossoms and mix with honey and a pinch of flaky sea salt for a whole new gourmet topping.

— Jennifer Durrant