Helado: a scoop of Buenos Aires’ ice cream scene

Hailey Samples tries sambayón ice cream at Via Flaminia. (Sidra Dahhan/MEDILL)

By Hailey Samples & Sidra Dahhan

Medill Reports

BUENOS AIRES — When the summer heat strikes Buenos Aires, locals find a cool reprieve in helado – Argentine ice cream. The silky, sweet treat is sold all around the city, one of the ice cream capitals of the world. Generations away from its Italian roots, the local ice cream scene is evolving. From artisanal shops selling traditional favorites like dulce de leche, to experimental shops selling unconventional flavors like Bazooka bubble gum, Argentine helado is like no other. Sidra Dahhan and Hailey Samples tour around the city to see what makes Argentine ice cream so special.



Sidra Dahhan: While half the world is wrapped up in winter coats, it’s summertime in Argentina. Here in Buenos Aires, the locals soak up the sun and bear 90 degree weather, and what they need is something cold and refreshing to combat the simmering heat. 


Hailey Samples: So we’re here in Buenos Aires, one of the ice cream capitals of the world. In fact, they’re right after Italy as far as ice cream consumption.


Dahhan: Yeah Hailey, it’s the perfect summer treat and remains popular year round with hundreds of heladerias, or ice cream shops, to choose from. 


Samples: Well, I’m wondering, out of all these places, what’s most popular for the locals here? 


Dahhan: It has to be traditional places, places that have had generations to refine their methods and flavors. 


Samples: Well, Sidra, it’s 2024. These ice cream shops are taking a new approach at helado. 


Dahhan: All right, then. Let’s take the next couple of days to try out both the old and the new. I’ll take the traditional. You take the innovative. 


Samples: Sounds good.


Dahhan: When Italians brought gelato to the nation over a century ago, Argentineans made it their own. Silky smooth helado found its way through a food culture often known for rich meats. 


Buenos Aires can be loud and crowded, but on the city outskirts Heladeria Pocho is a calm oasis. So what does Heladeria Pocho mean to you? 


Hector Hemede: It’s a family business.


Dahhan: I sat down with Hector, Heladeria Pocho’s current owner.


Hemede: My father founded it in 1952. So here we grew up, my father’s children, my children and nephews…


Dahhan: What is the most Argentine flavor? 


Hemede: It’s dulce de leche. It is the most important ice cream in Argentina. 


Dahhan: One thing that makes Pocho special is that they have an ice cream factory across the street. Hector showed me how they make helado.


Hemede: We heat the mixture at 75-80 degrees Celsius. It passes through this cold plate where ice water passes. In this case we are sowing it with a chocolate sauce and chips. Here it marks the weight it has. 


Artisanal ice cream, its main feature, is to select the best of everything. We make ice cream to consume the same day or the next day and the industrial was done a long time before, to be consumed maybe five or six months later.


Dahhan: When trying flavors, I was immediately drawn to the dulce de leche ice cream, with its butterscotch-like appearance and smooth caramely taste. 


Hemede: It’s a little strong. Everything that contains dulce de leche, Argentines like. 


Dahhan: What’s your favorite combination? 


Hemede: La tramontana has chocolate balls with caramel. But Argentines prefer this (dulce de leche), not that (tramontana). 


Dahhan: Before we headed downtown for our next traditional shop, I tried one more fruity flavor – strawberry.


Hemede: Eat without a spoon. No, how you want, how you want.


Dahhan: Another family-owned business famous for its dulce de leche ice cream is Cadore and it’s been operational for almost 70 years.


Agustin Fama: This place was founded by my great uncle Sylvester in 1957. He came from Cadore. It’s a region in the north of Italy. 


Dahhan: The business has been grounded in the same Italian recipes for decades. 


Fama: We couldn’t make it if it weren’t for Italian immigration. 


Dahhan: However, like Pocho, their most popular flavor is uniquely Argentine. 


Fama: We make our own dulce de leche. We set it on fire for like 14 hours. We put it on the machine. It’s going to get colder and we add sugar on it and put caramel. 


Dahhan: locals and tourists flock to shop doors from open to close. However, ongoing inflation in Argentina is causing ice cream prices to rise. 


Fama: It’s very difficult to change your prices. Here in the local, the client doesn’t know that the raw materials increase their prices every week, every week, every week.


Dahhan: Popular flavors keep people coming. I sat down to try some of them. Dulce de leche: it’s really strong. It’s like toffee. Lemon: This is very much needed and it just tastes like summer. And pistachio: It’s really good. You can actually taste the nuts inside of it. Pistachio is hitting the most right now, yeah.


Samples: Good morning vlog, it’s ice cream day. So today I’ll be going to two ice cream shops, one that has a meter long ice cream cone, and the other that has alcoholic ice cream flavors. So this is going to be interesting. I have my Lactaid on deck. OK. yeah, let’s go check it out. 


At Heladeria Flaminia. I met up with the owner, Sandra to learn more about her ice cream shop. Hi, how are you? Do you want to go inside to chat? 


Sandra Capraro: Obviously! 


Samples: Let’s go! 


Flaminia is in a league of their own when it comes to serving up ice cream cones. Their unique twist on the frozen treat has stood the test of time and been a fan favorite for years. 


So some places are known for their dulce de leche, or their variety of flavors. But here, you’re known for the “super ice cream.” How did it start?


Capraro: It started many years ago with my parents. In Argentina the ice cream shops were only open during the summer, and closed in the winter. Since there was a lot of downtime, out of boredom they started to stretch the ice cream little by little until they couldn’t anymore. 


Samples: Well I’m ready to try the super ice cream.


Capraro: I would love for you to try it!


Samples: After stretching the ice cream as long as they can, they dip it in a chocolate syrup so the cone can keep its shape. 


Oh, yes. Thank you. Thank you. So here it is, y’all, the super helado, super big. This is kind of melting already at the bottom, but here goes nothing. Oh, OK. So that was straight chocolate. I think it’s just melting. With the super helado things got a little bit messy, so I put them in some big bowls for the road. 


And while the rain may have kept customers away, I went ahead to explore exotic flavors at an ice cream shop across town. Think of Senor Iupy as the boutique ice cream shop of your dreams. It’s bright pink exterior leads to a world of ice cream flavors that I can almost guarantee you’ve never seen before. 


Damian Fernandez: Let’s start by trying Fernet. 


Samples: Can you explain what Fernet is? 


Fernandez: Fernet in Argentina is a drink that is prepared before dinner. The ice cream has liquor, that would be Fernet, and Coca Cola. It is one of the most requested flavors here at this shop. We have it here. 


Samples: Thank you. Here we go. 


Fernandez: Good, right? 


Samples: Yes! The alcohol is not very strong. I taste more of the Coca Cola. 


Fernandez: Good?


Samples: Yes, I like it! 


If you like energy drinks, Senor Iupy is the ice cream shop for you with three varieties of Monster flavored ice cream.


Salvador: Well, I chose Mango Loco. I really like Monster as a brand. The variety of (ice cream) flavors always caught my attention. I’ve tried many, but the one that always intrigues me was Monster so I came here to try it. It did not cost me much but I liked it a lot!


Samples: They also offer flavors inspired by Bazooka bubble gum, caramel flavored popcorn, and popular Argentine candy – Pico Dulce. Now I’m sure you’re wondering, where do they get all these unique flavors? It’s not from Senior Iupy himself, but someone very close to him.


Fernandez: In the kitchen, everything comes from Mrs. Iupy. She has always liked putting together novel recipes. They are constantly inventing new flavors. For this reason, we say we are flavor creators.


Samples: I had a great time trying ice cream at Flaminia and Senior Iupy. So tomorrow I’ll be meeting up with Sidra to hear about her time at Pocho and Cadore. 


So Sidra, I know over the last couple of days, both you and I have had a ton of ice cream. So tell me about your experience. 


Dahhan: Yeah. So I tried a couple of traditional shops and what I could say is dulce de leche was definitely the standout flavor, and it’s just become part of Argentine culture. But what do you think?


Samples: I think at the end of the day, it’s not a question of whether it’s traditional versus new school flavors but rather where to get ice cream from.


Dahhan: That I agree with. And what I can say is that ice cream in Chicago won’t be the same. 


Samples: Definitely won’t.


Sidra Dahhan and Hailey Samples are video and broadcast graduate students at Medill. You can follow them on Instagram at @SidraDahhan and @HaileySamplesMedia. Reporting in Buenos Aires was supported by Valeria Lopez.