If you’ve seen pictures of black ice cream online, no, that color is not photoshopped. The startling contrast to other bright scoops doesn’t seem real. By black, we don’t mean the dark brown swirls in a scoop of chocolate fudge. The frozen dessert is a cloud of deep black. That dark color in the ice cream is natural because of a surprising ingredient: charcoal. 

No, it’s not quite the charcoal you used on the grill last night. 

Activated charcoal is popular in beauty products. Enthusiasts swear using charcoal toothpaste will whiten your teeth while charcoal facemasks will shrink pores. The hype comes from hospitals sometimes using activated charcoal to detox the body of poison, so including it in every day products will supposedly help clean your body of toxins wherever it is used. 

If you can find charcoal in your beauty products, why not in your food? And so, charcoal activated ice cream was born. 

Where colorful ice cream is the norm, the surprising color of charcoal ice cream adds to its popularity as people look for something different. With bright unicorn foods taking over, the black ice cream has jokingly been deemed the contrasting goth ice cream. But it leaves intrigue to what the taste could be. 

Unfortunately—or perhaps fortunately—charcoal ice cream does not have a unique taste. Ice cream shops that offer the black dessert typically add various flavors to the recipe. Black ice cream can taste like coconut, vanilla or really any of your favorite flavors. If you’re intrigued but can’t find a store selling it near you, try making this homemade lemon black ice cream—it doesn’t even require an ice cream machine! 

For fun ice cream flavors you can make at home this National Ice Cream Month, check out our dessert recipes.