Lithuanian ice cream parlors become as eclectic as the country’s nature during the summertime. Filled with unexpected flavors such as cricket, dill, or nettle, these treats are a result of local chefs using innovative techniques with traditional ingredients to create one-of-a-kind flavors.
For Lithuanians, ice cream has been a staple item on dessert tables since the end of the 18th century, with unconventional flavors such as rose, saffron, or clove having become favorites among the nobility.
Contemporary Lithuanian chefs have taken this experimental culinary heritage to new heights and, inspired by local ingredients, play around with unique seasonal recipes of the frozen treat. Travelers visiting the country this season have a chance to cool off with flavors that excite the senses, including quince, dill, and even mackerel.
Lithuania Travel, the country’s national tourism development agency, has put together a list of 10 distinctive Lithuanian ice cream flavors to try this summer.
- Cricket ice cream with black sesame or vanilla. While insects have been an important part of African and Asian diets for centuries, they have made their way onto Lithuanian dining tables only recently. The CENTRAL grill & lounge restaurant in the southwestern city of Marijampolė, has mixed crickets with the rich flavors of vanilla and black sesame for a protein-packed and unique treat.
- Mackerel ice cream with bread crumbs. While the pairing of seafood and dessert may not sound like a pleasant experience at first, the subtle smokiness of the mackerel combined with fresh notes of mulberry and lime makes for a balanced palette of sweet and savory. Those willing to try this flavor at the Apvalaus Stalo Klubas restaurant in the medieval town of Trakai will be rewarded with an unforgettable symphony of flavors.
- Seaweed ice cream with lobster caramel crunch, hazelnut oil, and black sturgeon roe. Found in the bustling seaside town of Palanga — the unofficial capital of the summer — this flavor is suitable for travelers fascinated by the idea to see, touch, and taste the sea. The historical boutique hotel of Vila Komoda offers a distinctive concoction of salty roe, earthy oils, and a sweet-buttery caramel crunch for the adventurous traveler.
- Linden blossom tea ice cream. Linden blossoms were an important part of folk medicine for many ancient Lithuanians and can be found in most pantries around the country even today. At the Jurgis ir Drakonas and Brooklyn Brothers restaurants, this health-boosting ingredient has been incorporated into refreshing ice cream with robust floral and herbal notes that capture the essence of a quaint summer in Lithuania.
- Buckwheat ice cream. While most grains remain on the sidelines as accompaniments to the main course, the Višta Puode restaurant in Kaunas, Lithuania’s second-largest city, has given it a starring role in this dish. With its deep, nutty flavor and a tangy assortment of berries, buckwheat ice creamcombines the country’s culinary heritage with a modern outlook on what a dessert can be.
- Šakotis ice cream. Šakotis (Lithuanian spit cake) is the centerpiece of any Lithuanian holiday table. Sweet, soft, and buttery, this dense cake becomes enveloped in a smooth homemade ice cream that gives the treat a sense of lightness. Visitors can try it out at the historically-influenced Ertlio Namas restaurant, found in the heart of the capital city, Vilnius.
- Nettle ice cream. Feared by small children across the country, the fierce stinging nettle is transformed into a creamy and fragrant frozen treat at the Velvetti restaurant in Lithuania’s capital of wellness Druskininkai. A mellow taste with a pop of refined grassy and earthy notes make the ice cream suitable for those who enjoy the subtle sweetness and peculiar dessert concepts.
- Black ice cream with activated charcoal. While black as a food color is nothing new — squid ink has been used to blacken risotto and pasta for a while — the recent uptick of charcoal-dyed treats can be attributed to their social media-worthy appearance. The café AJ Šokoladas offers their take on black ice cream — handmade and bursting with smooth coconut and vanilla flavors, the dessert yields a combination that seems contradictory to its striking color.
- Dill ice cream. Used to top many of Lithuania’s beloved savory dishes, dill is an extremely versatile herb with a fresh, grassy flavor. Found at the restaurant Džiaugsmas, which gives new life to classic Lithuanian ingredients with innovative cooking techniques, dill ice cream offers a palette of expertly blended herbal flavors.
- Quince ice cream. Taste Map cafés in Vilnius offer a frozen treat that fuses a spicy and complex blend of heady quince with smooth cream. The quince ice cream mellows the fruit to create a satisfying mix of tartness and sweetness while the ice cream's fragrant taste feels like summer days captured in a bowl.
This list of ice cream offers a glimpse into the world of unexpected flavors that tourists can taste in Lithuania. A map with other ice cream flavors dreamt up in dozens of different ice cream parlors and restaurants all over the country can be found here.