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We all know the kind of days that call for something cold, sweet, and refreshing. When the weather gets so hot that it’s actually sticky and the humidity makes the air look like molasses, a hot slice of pie just won’t cut it. When you step outside and a wall of heat hits you in the face like you’ve just opened the oven, a hot brownie is the last thing on your mind. No, the only thing that can chill days like these are desserts that have been frozen before serving … and ice cream isn’t the only option.

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Many people would be surprised to learn that frozen desserts around the world are completely different from those served in North America. Even Italian ice cream doesn’t compete with some of the desserts from South America and Asia, although they are all a welcome surprise on a hot summer day. If you’re looking for new ways to keep cool with your sweet tooth, these international desserts are something you can take inspiration from.

Dominican Republic: Helado de Potecito

mango berry smoothie


It sounds like a smoothie, but helado de potecito is more than just a frozen fruit mix. This Caribbean-inspired drink is popular in the Dominican Republic, where mangoes are mashed at full maturity to create a smooth, velvety concoction. Fresh strawberries are added to the mix to add acidity which beautifully balances the sweetness of the mangoes. It’s not uncommon to find this drink mixed with other fruits, and you can get creative with the flavors.

Mexico: Paletas

a variety of paletas


It looks like a popsicle, but it isn’t! The palettes are slightly different in that many of them are filled with a creamy, rich filling that spreads out as soon as you take a bite. The frozen part of the paleta is made up of mixed fruits to which agave or honey is added, and they are frozen to maintain that classic square shape. The paletas are also larger than the typical popsicle.

India: Kulfi

pistachio kulfi


The kulfi isn’t always served on a stick as the photo shows but it’s still delicious. This dessert starts off with a dairy base, but it’s not churned like ice cream, which means there is no incorporation of air. The result is a dense frozen dessert similar to custard, spiced with saffron, nuts and cardamom.

Italy: Granite

frozen granita


Granita has become popular outside of Italy and you can even find it in gourmet frozen treat stores these days. However, making it is as easy as choosing a flavor base and adding it in, then scraping it off every few hours to get that crushed ice-like texture. It’s simple and satisfying on a hot summer day, and fully customizable, which is an added bonus.

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South Africa: Crispy Peppermint Fudge Pie

crispy peppermint iced cake


Peppermint cake is usually not something you associate with a summer dessert, let alone anything outside of the holidays. Peppermint, as a flavor, isn’t even something anyone would associate with summer, in general, but this frozen cake changes all that. In South Africa, this dish is made with Marie cookies, mint chocolate bars, caramel condensed milk and Orly Whip, all dairy free. The layering of the cake ensures that every flavor comes through and also makes it easy to assemble.

Japan: Kakigori



The appearance of kakigori is slightly deceptive because from the outside it looks like an ice cream sundae. This dessert reached its peak in the 19th century and is today a staple of Japanese desserts. By incorporating condensed milk or evaporated milk, the dessert gets a velvety and creamy texture, and so satisfying when the temperature is sweltering.

Canada: Maple taffy

maple iced taffy


This unusual way of making taffy is popular in Canada and Vermont, where real maple syrup is produced seasonally. There are even entire festivals devoted to the art of pouring piping hot maple syrup over frozen ice to create a taffy-like treat, and it’s perfect for maple lovers around the world. … no pancakes or waffles required.

Philippines: Halo-Halo

halo-halo dessert


The name of this dessert is translated to mean “mix and mix” and it relates to the fact that crushed ice and sweetened condensed milk are often mixed with tropical fruits, nuts or seeds. This mix of flavors and textures is what makes Halo-Halo so delicious, and its layers make it as delicious as it tastes. It is a dessert that you can also have fun with by mixing and matching the base flavor and toppings.

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