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Mexican Fried Ice Cream – A Crunchy Delight

by Sean
mexican fried ice cream

As with all food cultures, Mexican food is ever-evolving. The country is enormous, and it’s composed of many regions, each with its own staple foods, specialty dishes, and unique ingredients. 

Food in Mexico is a celebration in itself, the most special moment of the day is gathering around the table and going out on Sundays to grab a snack or to enjoy local street food is customary. 

Mexican food is better known for their savory dishes: tacos, enchiladas, and mole are recognized worldwide, but people in this country have a very peculiar sweet tooth.

Mexican sweets are immensely varied and come in all shapes, flavors and colors. From dried and candied fruits to dairy-based candies, from spicy treats to ice cream. You know, the signature fried ice cream in the fried tortilla bowl with whipped cream and chocolate syrup all over it.

The weather in Mexico is more often than not warm, which makes popsicles, ice pops, and ice creams coveted snacks. This is all you need to know about Mexican ice cream and the mysterious Mexican fried ice cream.

Frozen Treats in Mexico

As with any other food category, Mexico has a universe of frozen and cold treats, but we can break them down in four: Paletas, Nieves, popsicles, and ice cream.


Paletas are ice pops. Blocks of flavored ice solidified around a wooden stick that serves as a handle. This treat is not unique to Mexico, but it might be its best rendition around.

Mexico is a developing country, and ice pops are cheap. That, while adding that Mexico has a colorful bounty of fresh fruit, means that paletas are not only economical, icy snacks but are made with the finest, ripest fruit on the planet. Water-based or dairy-based, paletas are a real treat. 


Nieves are like sorbet. These water-based ice products are made by freezing flavored water while stirring to avoid large crystals to form (this is often done manually in wooden vats.) The result is naturally flavored snow. Again, the quality of the produce, from limes to strawberries, makes nieves an extraordinary product.



Popsicles, which are basically clear plastic bags filled with flavored ice, are often homemade and sold outside schools or in parks. 

Ice Cream

Ice cream is different, it’s a modern cold dessert brought from Europe to Mexico at some point in the troubled history of the country. This dessert treat is always dairy-based and has a creamy and silky texture. Not very different from ice cream from any other place in the world, it has gained a place in people’s hearts. It is now served in traditional paleterias and heladerias along with the other icy treats mentioned above. 

A fifth iced Mexican treat is the Mexican fried ice cream, and although it’s one of the most popular desserts in Mexican restaurants around the world, it is seldom seen in Mexico; its origin is more mysterious than you might think. Let’s take a deeper look at one of the most popular dessert treats in Latin America

The Birth of the Mexican Fried Ice Cream

Migration from Mexico to the United States, both legal and illegal, has taken place for centuries. The United States is home to the largest Mexican community outside of Mexico. 

People travel light when crossing the border looking for a better life, but they always take with them their traditions and love for their native food.

Mexicans arrived in the US and began cooking their family recipes with American ingredients, the food transformed, and a new cuisine was born. One of nachos, melted cheese, hard shell tacos, and fajitas.

Mexican restaurants thrived in the states since the 1920s, and although the food wasn’t anything like the one back home, their dishes became a synonym with Mexican food. Chi Chi’s restaurant, a chain of Mexican-American food, was founded in 1975 in Minneapolis, and it wasn’t long before they had hundreds of locations throughout the country.

The good folks at Chi Chi’s specialized in fried food, and somewhere in the eighties launched a dessert that would change the way Mexican food was perceived forever: the Mexican Fried Ice Cream. God bless Chi Chi’s. 

 A large vanilla ice cream scoop is breaded with corn flakes crumbs, flavored with cinnamon and deep-fried for just a few seconds to get a crunchy, golden-brown exterior without melting the cold core. It’s then served on a hardened tortilla bowl, embellished with silky whipped cream, drizzled with honey and topped with a cherry. It sounds lovely, isn’t it? 

Probably inspired by the Baked Alaska Dessert invented around the same time, this new dessert gained a spot in history, in the most unusual way.

Make Your Own Mexican Fried Ice Cream

mexican fried ice cream

You didn’t think we’d give you a story lesson without teaching you how to make a delicious Mexican frozen treat, did you? That wouldn’t be fair at all.

This recipe is influenced by the original Chi Chi’s recipe; if done right, it will bring enticing memories of the now gone but never forgotten Mexican food chain.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 4 flour tortillas
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of cinnamon
  • 4 large scoops of vanilla ice cream
  • 1 cup of crumbled cornflakes
  • Ready-to-use whipped cream
  • Maraschino cherries for garnish
  • Enough vegetable oil to deep fry


  • Mix the sugar and the cinnamon and place in a small bowl.
  • Scoop the ice cream and roll it into the sugar-cinnamon mixture.
  • Bread the coated ice cream ball in the cornflake crumbs.
  • Place the balls inside the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
  • Deep fry the tortillas in the shape of a bowl (using a long spoon)
  • Before serving, deep fry the ice cream balls for 2 to 5 seconds.
  • Serve over the tortilla bowl and decorate with whipping cream. 
  • Top with a cherry.


Mexican Fried Ice Cream Toppings

fried ice cream with chocolate syrup and cool whip and a cherry on top

Fried ice cream is a popular dessert that can be found in many Mexican restaurants and is often served with various toppings. One classic topping is hot fudge sauce, which is a warm, rich chocolate sauce that is poured over the fried ice cream ball. Another popular option is caramel sauce, which is a sweet and sticky sauce made from sugar and cream. Both of these toppings are often used in combination with whipped cream or Cool Whip to create a decadent dessert.

Chocolate syrup is another favorite topping for fried ice cream. It is a thinner and lighter version of chocolate sauce that is often drizzled over the ice cream ball in a decorative pattern. Graham cracker crumbs mixed with melted butter can also be used as a topping for fried ice cream. The mixture is sprinkled over the ice cream ball to create a crunchy and buttery texture that complements the creamy ice cream.

Finally, vanilla ice cream is a classic topping for fried ice cream. The ice cream ball is often served on a bed of vanilla ice cream, which helps to balance out the flavors and textures of the dessert. Whipped cream or cool whip can also be added to the top of the ice cream ball to add an extra layer of sweetness and creaminess. Overall, there are many different toppings that can be used to enhance the flavor and texture of fried ice cream, making it a versatile and delicious dessert.

What Happened to Chi Chi’s Fried Ice Cream?

chi chi's

Chi-Chi’s was a popular Mexican restaurant chain that used to serve fried ice cream as one of its signature desserts. The dessert was a crispy ball of vanilla ice cream coated in a crunchy shell made of cornflakes and cinnamon, drizzled with honey and topped with whipped cream and a cherry. Despite its popularity, Chi-Chi’s filed for bankruptcy in 2003, and its restaurants were closed down.

According to an article on Kiplinger, increased competition and a series of unfortunate events led to the chain’s demise. The number of locations dwindled to 144 by 2002, and the company filed for bankruptcy the following year. A month after the bankruptcy filing, an outbreak of hepatitis A was traced back to a Chi-Chi’s restaurant in Pennsylvania, resulting in three deaths and over 600 illnesses. The chain was held responsible for the outbreak and was forced to pay millions in settlements.

Today, it is difficult to find Chi-Chi’s fried ice cream, as the restaurants no longer exist. However, the recipe lives on and can be recreated at home. There are many recipes available online that attempt to replicate the original dessert, using ingredients such as cornflakes, cinnamon, vanilla ice cream, and honey. While it may not be the same as enjoying the dessert at a Chi-Chi’s restaurant, making fried ice cream at home can be a fun and nostalgic experience for those who remember the chain.

What is the Mexican Name for Fried Ice Cream?

Fried ice cream is known as “helado frito” in Mexico, which translates to “fried ice cream” in English.

Final thoughts

Good food can come from anywhere, even from unexpected places like Minnesota. The Mexican ice cream dessert is now served all around the earth. It is a reminder that food, when done right, doesn’t need a cultural identity tag. It’s okay for food to just be food. Fried ice cream is delicious and that’s that. 

Find more interesting stuff all over the world at Passion Roamer.

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