I’ve got many great memories of idyllic summers spent basking in the sun with a cup of shaved ice in my hand. While future me would tell past me to wear more sunscreen, I’m eager to pass along these wonderful times to the next generation. These are my favorite shaved ice machines to use when those opportunities arise. Of course, they’re also great for enjoying shaved ice yourself, or even for making mixed drinks.
Best Shaved Ice Machines
The Nostalgia SCM502 Vintage Snow Cone Maker is styled after an old shaved ice stand, but don’t let that fool you! This compact device uses an electric motor to crush normal ice cubes down to the perfect consistency for shaved ice. It’ll hold up to 20 snow cones worth of ice that you can then scoop into paper cones or cups. It’s powered by a normal wall outlet and fits neatly onto your counter while it’s in use.
One of the most important factors when choosing one of these machines is operation speed. You can load this machine with enough ice cubes to make about 3 cups of shaved ice each run. The blades take roughly 30 seconds to process each load. This means it’ll easily keep up with the demand of a birthday party or a bustling backyard gathering. You’ll need to have a cooler stocked full of ice beforehand, but you’ll probably have one of those anyway.
This machine does NOT come with cups, syrup, or other amenities. I’d recommend making your own with sugar and flavoring syrups or even by reducing fruit juice and mixing it with simple syrup. You can also buy pre-made syrup that’s designed for shaved ice.
The simplicity of this machine, easy, fast operation, and the low price make it an ideal choice for home use. You’ll really appreciate the high throughput and stylish design.
While the Nostalgia machine above makes lots of shaved ice quickly, it’s not quite as fluffy as the shaved ice produced by this machine. The Hawaiian Shaved Ice S900A uses big blocks of ice to make fluffier ice that’s almost like fresh snow. As a result, it’s harder to make the same large quantities of shaved ice. This isn’t a big deal if you’re just entertaining a small family, since each block makes enough for several small snow cones, but you’ll have trouble running a whole party out of this machine.
The S900A comes with two plastic molds that you can fill with water and freeze. Each block makes roughly 3 medium sized snow cones. The manufacturer suggests that you should let the blocks thaw for a couple minutes before you use them to make cones, which slightly increases prep time. Either way, you’re still primarily limited by how long it takes to freeze a block of ice.
This machine does not come with syrup, cones, or other goodies. Again, you can easily make your own with sugar, water, and either fruit juice or the syrup you use to flavor sodas or coffee. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying snow-cones in normal drink glasses, either.
One final note: if you’re entertaining adults, there’s a pretty big difference between “margarita” style blended ice and the fluffy stuff this shaved ice machine produces. You might want to experiment with making adult drinks with the fluffier stuff — it’s not necessarily a better way to do things, but it’s definitely different.
The Hawaiian Shaved Ice S900A is a perfect choice if your kids are hooked on light, fluffy shaved ice. Be sure to also pick up some syrup or learn how to make your own!
The Little Snowie Ice Shaver Premium is somewhat expensive compared to its competitors for two important reasons. First, it comes with 6 bottles of syrup that you can use to make flavorful shaved ice right away. Second, and more importantly, it makes fluffy shaved ice from normal ice cubes, and it does so really, really quickly. All you need to do is feed in normal ice cubes and wait for three seconds to get a perfect snow cone every time.
This means that the Little Snowie Ice Shaver Premium is absolutely ideal if you want the best snow cones, fast. It’s perfect for running parties due to the incredibly fast operation, and even the pickiest guests will enjoy the fluffy shaved ice. It’s also easy to simply keep a bag or cooler full of ice on hand to produce all of the shaved ice you want.
Like the Hawaiian Shaved Ice machine above, this is also an ideal machine for making unique adult treats. Try pouring a White Russian over shaved ice for a unique drink, or use fluffy shaved ice in your margarita. You’ll definitely appreciate the experience.
While it’s a bit more expensive, the Little Snowie Ice Shaver Premium delivers quite a bit more power and provides the unique ability to make fluffy ice from normal ice cubes. This makes it more than worth the cost for any household that will use it regularly.
Okay, first off: yes, this isn’t quite the same kind of machine as the other options. It’s also pretty pricey if you just intend to run a single children’s birthday party. Why stop there, however? The Margaritaville Tahiti Frozen Concoction Maker DM3000 is an incredible tool for all sorts of shaved ice and mixed drinks. It’s got plenty of countertop appeal, too, with a stylish design and a unique rotating spout.
Does it make shaved ice, though? Yes, and incredibly well. You can simply direct the ice spout on the Frozen Concoction Maker into one of the big 72 oz pitchers and then add your favorite syrup afterward. You get some pretty light, fine ice, although it won’t quite measure up to the extra fluffy machines above. Still, your kids will love it.
When it comes to more adult drinks (or Shirley Temples or other virgin slushies) there’s no matching the Frozen Concoction Maker. You can make multiple styles of ice blended drinks in minutes. You get three separate blending pitchers that automatically mix your drinks after the ice is added. You’ll get a kick out of demonstrating how this machine works to guests time and time again.
I mentioned this in passing, but it’s worth saying again: mixed drinks don’t have to be just for adults. After all, margaritas are pretty much just sweetened citrus juice mixed with tequila. If you remove the tequila, you get a unique sour treat. Try simply blending orange juice or your kid’s favorite soda with ice to make a totally kid-friendly slushie that they can enjoy. Alternately, use the smoothie setting to make delicious, healthy fruit smoothies!
With multiple settings for ice and automated settings for your favorite drinks, you can create resort-quality adult drinks (and kid-friendly slushies, too) or simply make shaved ice for your kids to enjoy. It’s a great multi-purpose tool that will operate as an incredible conversation starter while it’s in your kitchen. It might not be the very best snow cone machine but it’s a pretty good substitute that can do a bunch of other things as well.
How To Make Your Own Snow Cone Syrup At Home
Here’s an incredibly simple recipe that uses drink mix to make snow-cone syrup in just a few minutes.
2 cups of sugar
1 cup of water
1 package Kool-Aid or another drink mix (look for something unsweetened, ideally)
- Mix the sugar and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Uncover and stir until the sugar is well dissolved, about 1 minute.
- Turn off the heat and mix in your Kool-Aid. You might not need to use the whole package: start off with a moderate amount and then taste it! Be careful, since the liquid will be hot. If it’s not strong enough, add more.
- Let your mix cool off completely. It’ll get quite thick as it cools. When it’s at room temperature, pour it into a container for storage.
While this recipe calls for Kool-Aid, you can use anything you want to flavor this mixture. You could even use really strong coffee and add this to milk to make something that resembles an iced latte.
One neat flavoring you might want to consider is the stuff that candy makers use to flavor hard candy. Look for peppermint oil, for example, in order to make Christmas-themed snow cones. Most companies that sell hard candy flavoring (search your favorite online retailer) will offer multiple types, so you can pick pretty much any flavor you want. Here’s a pack of 5 fun flavors that you can use to start your search:
When using these oil extracts, be very careful with quantity. A little goes a LONG way. Be sure to add a few drops at a time and taste your syrup. Remember, you want your syrup to be strong, but not overpowering.
If you want to color your syrup, consider picking up some food coloring as well. Hard candy flavoring oils are quite potent as far as flavor is concerned, but they won’t do a lot for the color of your syrup. Be sure to label your containers as well!
Storing Your Syrup
As far as storage is concerned, I’d recommend condiment squeezey bottles. These are pretty cheap and very easy to dispense syrup from when it’s time to make shaved ice. They’re food grade, of course meaning that you’ll have no problems storing syrup in them long-term.
The Best Shaved Ice Machine For Your Home
If you’re preparing to entertain kids over the summer or you just want to enjoy shaved ice or mixed drinks in your backyard, all of the machines above make excellent additions to your kitchen.
The Nostalgia SCM502 will let your kids make big batches of shaved ice quickly while looking pretty dapper, while the Hawaiian Shaved Ice machine will make fluffier ice, provided you’re willing to freeze water in the special provided trays.
The Little Snowie Ice Shaver Premium is more expensive, but it gives you incredible throughput with normal ice cubes and still manages to deliver incredibly fluffy ice. Finally, the Margaritaville Tahiti Frozen Concoction Maker is an incredible tool for making mixed drinks, slushies, and smoothies. You can also use it to make shaved ice by the pitcher for you and your kids to enjoy.
All of these machines are great choices. You should let your budget and how often you intend to use your machine determine which one is best for your kitchen. If you’re not sure you’ll use it a lot, the first two options (made by Nostalgia and Hawaiian Shaved Ice) are a lot more budget friendly and will make perfectly enjoyable shaved ice. If you’re hosting big parties often or you intend to use the ice pretty frequently, you’ll get a lot more out of the latter two machines.
No matter which option you choose, be sure to get plenty of syrup or learn how to make your own above. You’ll love munching on shaved ice in the summer sun — or wherever you choose to enjoy it.