The frozen yogurt trend has been going strong for years now, and it shows no signs of slowing down. And while it might seem like if you’ve been to one chain fro-yo shop — with its self-serve format and wide variety of toppings and add-ons — you’ve been to them all, some chains are much better than others. We analyzed 13 of the country’s most popular purveyors of frozen yogurt, and you might be surprised by which ones came out on top.
Orange Leaf is an Oklahoma-based frozen-yogurt chain that started in 2008. They’ve expanded quickly, with over 300 locations around the world. They have franchises in Australia and Asia as well. Orange Leaf stays true to their name with their choice of décor: The color orange features prominently throughout each store.
The flavor variety at Orange Leaf is slightly disappointing, with a rather run-of-the-mill selection; the most creative flavors available are chocolate raspberry, birthday cake, peppermint, red velvet, chocolate toffee, and pink lemonade. We were also disappointed by the fact that their offerings don’t have live active cultures, and instead contain sweeteners, milk solids, yogurt powder, and thickeners. The yogurt is also higher in fat and sugar than its counterparts; a four-ounce serving of their vanilla frozen yogurt contains 160 calories, four gram of fat, and 24 grams of sugar.
Yogurberry Sunnyside / Facebook
The décor at YogurBerry is a little tacky and unoriginal, and its options are limited. They have plenty of fresh fruit for toppings, but none are different from the ones that you generally find elsewhere. The nutrition behind a serving is excellent, however, with 100 percent natural fro-yo and “vast quantities” of Lactobacillus bifidus, according to their website. In a four-ounce serving, YogurBerry’s frozen yogurt contains 100 calories, zero grams fat, and 16 grams of sugar, and it costs $0.49 an ounce.
Red Mango has an extraordinarily wide and original variety of flavors, including pomegranate, cinnamon apple pie, white peach, cake batter, blackberry, summer melon, and chai. They really triumph with fruit options, but their dry topping choices are slim and rather unexciting. They offer smoothies, parfaits, and many other options for those watching their weight, which helps them stand out from the competition. In a small, 133-gram serving, their vanilla contains 150 calories, zero grams fat, and 34 grams of sugar.
Red Mango claims to have started the frozen yogurt trend back in 2007 when their first location opened, and now there are more than 200 units. Zagat ranked them No. 1 in 2011 for their smoothies, frozen yogurt, and healthy options. Their frozen yogurt has protein, calcium, and live and active cultures that they call "Super Biotics": They claim these withstand stomach acid longer than regular probiotics so that more cultures disseminate in your body than with regular yogurt. Their base is also all-natural, nonfat or low-fat, and gluten-free. It is free of artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial colors.
The husband-and-wife team of Danna and Adam Caldwell opened the first Menchie's location in California in 2007. Now with over 500 stores worldwide, Menchie’s have certainly made a name for themselves in the frozen yogurt market. The walls are lined with dispensers that contain their large variety of flavors including cookie dough monster, pineapple cake, cake batter, cookie butter, lemon meringue, Samoa, and carrot orange. There is no lack of toppings at Menchie’s, with a wide assortment of fruit, candy, cookie crumbs, and syrups available.
Menchie’s vanilla contains 100 calories per serving (half a cup). It has no fat and 18 grams of sugar. Low-carb and no sugar added varieties are also available.
Tasti D-Lite / Facebook
The biggest drawback at Tasti D-Lite is the selection: there are generally only six flavors on tap, and all of the usual toppings (cookie dough, Oreo crumbles, gummies, sprinkles, syrups), but not as many as other stores. At the end of the day, having fewer options plagued this chain, so although they’re extremely health-conscious, they aren’t at the top of the heap because they just don’t offer enough. More flavors on tap and more topping options would improve Tasti D-Lite.
According to their media fact sheet, in a four-ounce serving, Tasti D-Lite has only 70 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and 12 grams of sugars in all of their flavors — much less than the competition, which does give it a leg up in the health department.
Tasti D-Lite has been around since 1987, and was one of the first fro-yo shops to open in New York. Unfortunately, what it serves doesn’t actually qualify as frozen yogurt; it’s "a dairy-based product that has lower calories, lower carbs, and lower sugars than the average frozen yogurt competitor."
What stands out to us is the atmosphere of Pinkberry; it’s very clean and no-frills. Their toppings are really different than any of the other chains: They offer pomegranate seeds, basil, sea salt, honeydew, carob chips, and even grape tomatoes. Fro-yo flavors at Pinkberry are also quite creative, and include lychee, raspberry white chocolate, strawberry margarita, tangerine, and passionfruit. In about a half-cup serving (100 grams), Pinkberry’s chocolate contains 120 calories, 1.5 grams fat, and 15 grams of sugar.
Pinkberry offers frozen yogurt, Greek frozen yogurt, shakes, cookie sandwiches, and smoothies, and their frozen yogurt is European-inspired, kosher, has live and active cultures, and earned a seal of approval from the National Yogurt Association, according to their website. Their product book states that nonfat milk, sugar, and nonfat yogurt powder go into almost all their frozen yogurts.
Peachwave Frozen Yogurt / Facebook
Peachwave offers a surprisingly wide variety of self-serve fro-yo flavors, including blueberry muffin, bread pudding, bubble gum, Kahlúa, peppermint bark, Thin Mint, and mango habanero; no sugar added and non-dairy offerings are available as well. The assortment of toppings is fairly standard, however, with items like brownie bites, granola, gummy worms, and plenty of fresh fruit on offer.
A standard serving for Peach Wave is three ounces, or 84 grams; the vanilla contains 80 calories, zero grams of fat, and 16 grams of sugar. Their frozen yogurt is high in calcium and protein, and contains real cultured skim milk and yogurt cultures, with nearly 28 million live and active cultures per ounce.
16 Handles™ / Facebook
Founded in 2008, 16 Handles is big on expression, encouraging people to "flaunt their flavor" and personality, all while keeping it eco-friendly. Their flavors are kosher-certified, fat-free, and packed with protein and calcium. They use cornstarch spoons and biodegradable cups, and they partner with Trees for the Future, planting 16 trees a day. The chain offers more than 75 flavors, feature 16 on tap that rotate daily, along with more than 50 toppings, including Cap’n Crunch, crushed Snickers, cheesecake bites, and crumb cake crumbs. Their head chef, Robynne Maii, works to introduce new gourmet ideas, like their Artisan collection with yogurts like Tahitian vanilla and toppings like bananas Foster chips. Other flavors include caramel popcorn, cinnamon doughnut, cotton candy, eggnog, green tea vanilla, and New York cheesecake.
In a 83-gram serving, their original tart flavor contains 90 calories, 0 grams fat, and 15 grams of sugar.
TCBY, whose story goes all the way back to 1981, was many Americans’ introduction to frozen yogurt, but they do a great job of keeping up with the new competitors. They have a big selection of toppings, from nuts to fruit, cookie dough, other cookies, brownies, and even marshmallow syrup. Creative flavors include taro, bananas Foster, Froot Loops, Greek honey vanilla, and Mrs. Fields chocolate chip cookie. While it’s nice to see that there’s a variety of dairy-free options, a surprising amount of flavors aren’t fat-free. In a four-ounce (half cup) serving, their chocolate has 110 calories, 1.5 grams fat, and 18 grams of sugar.
TCBY has a really fun environment thanks to the colors and lights that decorate the walls, but it isn’t as overwhelming as Cups. They introduced Super Fro-Yo, a frozen yogurt that has nutrients like probiotics, vitamin D, calcium, protein, and fiber, in 2011.
CUPS Frozen Yogurt / Facebook
Going into Cups is always an experience, with loud music, bright colors, and television screens showing people dancing like they’re playing Dance Dance Revolution. Their toppings include a wide array of fruits, candy, and chocolate pieces like chocolate-covered marshmallows, and creative fro-yo varieties include fudge brownie batter, toasted marshmallow, huckleberry, maple bacon donut, angel food cake, and orange burst sorbet. A less aggressive environment would be preferable, but their target market seems to be tweens, who don't mind it much. In an 83-gram serving, the chocolate flavor contains 110 calories, zero grams fat, and 20 grams sugar.
Cups’ frozen yogurt undergoes a culturing process that gives it high levels of live and active cultures, but also results in less acidity so the flavor is sweeter and less tart. They offer 24 flavors that vary by location, and more than 50 toppings.
Let’s Yo Yogurt / Facebook
It’s easy to go overboard at Let’s YO!, because their cups are practically bigger than your face, and there are a ton of toppings, from the usual ones, like cookie dough and fruit, to cereal and a huge array of sprinkles and syrups. The combinations that you can concoct are endless. Honestly, these toppings blow the competition out of the water. Their frozen yogurt also has just about the same amount of calories and sugar as other places, but its serving size is a little bit larger.
Founded by Eric Casaburi, the man who launched RetroFitness gyms at the age of 29, Let’s YO! is Casaburi’s idea of a fresh and all-natural way to get a treat even if you’re trying to stay fit, all done in a modern way. He stresses that "Let’s YO’s products are rich and robust with taste, low in fat, stacked with live cultures and good for the body." Their frozen yogurt uses fresh milk, high amounts of live and active cultures, and real fruit. They also offer coffee drinks like cappuccino, caffè latte, and hot cocoa in a café-like environment. Some wackier flavors include snickerdoodle cookie dough, blue daiquiri ice sorbet, and ooey-gooey cinnamon bun.
In an 89-grams serving, their vanilla contains 100 calories, zero grams fat, and 16 grams of sugar.
SweetFrog, which began in 2009, has a family-friendly environment with bright colors and paintings on the walls promoting their mascots, Scoop and Cookie. In an interesting twist, "Frog" actually is an acronym for "Fully Rely on God," a mission they carry out by partnering with organizations by each location to become involved in the local community, according to their website.
The flavors here are definitely creative: they include Tuscan tiramisù, biscotti, French toast, Greek black cherry, maple bacon doughnut, root beer float, red velvet, and no-sugar-added varieties like cake batter and blueberry. Their toppings include a wide variety of fruits and sauces and candies like gummy frogs, cheesecake bites, lemon cake, and Kit Kats. As opposed to many other shops, which keep a relatively small variety available, the selection here is almost overwhelming. They offer other items besides standard fro-yo in a cup, too, like waffle bowls, parfaits, and banana boats. SweetFrog has the whole package: a huge selection of flavors and a wide array of toppings, a friendly and not-overbearing atmosphere, little to no fat in all their yogurts, and sugar content around 17 or 18 grams in a serving. In a four-ounce serving, the Alpine Vanilla contains 100 calories, zero grams fat, and 18 grams sugar.
Yogurtland has a very good selection of flavors on tap, including some incredibly creative and outside-the-box varieties like maple doughnut, salted dark chocolate, peanut nougat with almond butter and honey, churro, cinnamon banana bread, cookie butter, and hibiscus passionfruit. They also have a ton of toppings. Their yogurt’s health aspects are stellar, and they offer a great frozen yogurt selection and experience.
In a half-cup (83-gram) serving, Yogurtland’s vanilla contains 80 calories, zero grams of fat, and six grams of sugar.
Yogurtland opened in 2006 and now has outposts worldwide. They make their yogurt with a base of milk and “authentically sourced ingredients”; it’s packed with calcium and vitamins C and D, as well as live and active cultures in their probiotics. They offer seasonal fruit and tons of other toppings, from carob chips to cereal. Their environment is really bright and welcoming, too, which makes the experience there that much more enjoyable.