A Guide to the Ice Cream Bean

Last post I wrote about how I was living the ice cream bean dream. The ice cream bean has been on my fruit bucket list for many years, and I was finally able to cross it off during my recent travels to Guatemala.

Do you want to live the ice cream bean dream too? If so, here is a quick guide on how to find, and how to eat, an ice cream bean.

Part One: How to Find the Ice Cream Bean

The ice cream bean is a fruit that has not made it to mass market, so if you want to eat it, and you don’t live in Latin America*, you will have to travel for it. In my opinion, traveling to try the ice cream bean would be a great fruit adventure, and well worth the effort.

The ice cream bean can be found in most of Central America, and certain parts of South America. In South America, the ice cream bean is especially popular in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil.

When traveling in Latin America, the best way to find the ice cream bean is to visit the local markets. However, the fruit has many different names, depending on where you are. For example, in Guatemala the ice cream bean is known as Paternas, and in Ecuador they call it Guama.

Because the ice cream bean has so many local names, it’s very important to know the fruit by sight. To find the ice cream bean in the markets, keep your eye out for something that looks like a big, green bean. They are usually sold in a big pile, sometimes right on the ground.

Here’s an example of how the ice cream beans were being sold in San Pedro, Guatemala:

And in Puno, Peru:

*I have heard that the ice cream bean is now being grown on a small scale basis in Hawaii and Australia, so those are ice cream bean destinations to look into as well. Since all of my ice cream bean expertise comes from Latin America, that is what my guide focuses on.


Part Two: How to Eat an Ice Cream Bean

If you are traveling in Latin America, and are curious to try the ice cream bean, here is a short how-to to help you try this cool, exotic fruit.

First, when in the market, make sure to pick beans that are relatively thick, long and that have a nice, bright green hue. Here is the bunch I picked out when I was in Guatemala:

To eat, simply break open the bean with your hands, pulling back the outer shell. Breaking the bean open will reveal individual seeds covered in a white, fluffy fruit:

Pull out an entire seed, white fluff and all. Put the whole thing in your mouth, removing the fluff with your tongue. Then spit out the cleaned-off seed, since it is quite bitter:

And that’s it. Repeat for each seed and enjoy eating your ice cream bean!