It’s no wonder that frozen pops are back in the limelight. Cool and refreshing, fun to eat (food on a stick!), and easy to make at home, they generate way more excitement than the small amount of effort it takes to make a batch. Most recipes come together in less than 20 minutes and call for only a few high-quality ingredients.

Thanks to those ingredients, homemade pops deliver. They offer bolder flavors and textures than the popsicles we remember from childhood, which is just one reason why we don’t call them popsicles. (The other being that Unilever has copyrighted the word “popsicle!”)

No matter what we call these perfect summer treats, we can follow a few tips for making both fruity ice pops (called paletas in Mexico) and the creamier confections like the coconut-chocolate pop I whipped up this week.

I was looking for drink recipes that might make a good icy treat and found a nice simple recipe for coconut hot chocolate in a book called Quench by Ashley English. I adapted the recipe (sort of a new-fashioned fudgsicle) by adding a pinch of salt and putting the slightly cooled chocolate-coconut mixture into popsicle molds and into the freezer.

Because of its high fat content, coconut milk can take a while to freeze, so it’s a good idea to wait at least 5 hours to unmold the pops. Also, these are not popsicles to take to the beach—eat them as soon as you take them out of the freezer. But for a four-ingredient recipe that took 15 or so minutes to mix before I put it in the freezer, the Chocolate Coconut Pop turned out very well, with no complaints from my eaters.

To satisfy my curiosity about making more and better pops, I reached out to Nicole Corbo and Adrian Johnson, the entrepreneurs behind the delicious “superfood frozen dessert bars” known as YommiPops. We are fortunate on the Vineyard to have these artisanal treats available at the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market, the Chilmark Flea Market and the Artisan’s Market. You may have also seen them at the Ag Fair, or at eight food markets on island (and now Mermaid Farm farm stand). Their six flavors — Strawberry Bee-Licious, Blueberry Lemon Bliss, Mint-Chip Magic, Golden Goodness, Lemon Alive and Peruvian Choco-Buzz — are described as Paleo (no dairy) and Beegan (honey is used as a sweetener).

A blueberry YommiPop.
Susie Middleton

In the four years since Nicole and Adrian started testing, tasting, improving and selling their treats, they have learned how to create a smooth creamy texture and how to load their bars with nutrition and flavor. They generously shared some tips on how to make flavorful ice pops at home.

The simplest of all pops is frozen juice, but to avoid an icy cube that sticks to one’s tongue, Nicole suggests starting with fresh fruit and putting it in the blender with either water or juice. You can keep some of the fruit aside if you like, chopped into smaller pieces, to float in the popsicle mold. 

Nicole also told me that adding either fat or sugar will slow down the freezing process and decrease ice crystals, leading to a more perfect texture. For fat, you might want to add coconut milk (or another nut milk) or yogurt. (I think straining the yogurt first before adding to the blended fruit might be good.) For sugar, you can add white sugar dissolved in liquid or maple syrup or agave syrup. Nicole and Adrian tell me that honey doesn’t really ever freeze, so take that into account if that is your sweetener; be sure it is well mixed in.

And don’t forget the pinch (or more) of salt: It will bring out the sweetness and make all the flavors pop.

Susie Middleton

I do recommend getting popsicle molds. Having the molds makes the whole process so much easier and in fact is an invitation to be creative. The one I use has 10 sturdy plastic molds held together in a metal frame and comes with a plastic lid with holes for the popsicle sticks. Le Roux carries a range of plastic pop molds by Tovolo in all manner of shapes. If you’re desperate to make pops and haven’t found molds yet, use ice cube trays (especially large silicone ones) or paper cups. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, then make slits in the foil to hold the popsicle sticks.  

Here are some delicious ideas: orange juice blended with strawberries, or peaches buzzed in a blender with some water (and/or yogurt), or watermelon blended with a little lemon juice, with blueberries suspended in the mix. While you have the blender out, think about whether some mint or basil will compliment the flavors, and blend that in too. Adrian and Nicole tell me that freezing softens flavors, so you want the mix to start out sweeter, or saltier, to achieve the flavor you want in the finished product.

Here’s a fun idea from Nicole that I want to try: Cook the fruit with a little water or juice until it’s jammy to increase its natural sugars, and then blend that for popsicles. I thought of peaches with water, and a little basil at the end of cooking. Of course, your first thought might be bananas! Or pineapple! Or slowly cooked mango, perhaps with a little kick of chili powder. Nicole explained that by cooking the fruit, you reduce the water so the pops are less icy. Here's a Frozen Berry Pop recipe.

The beauty of making your own ice pops is using the healthiest ingredients, avoiding ingredients your household is allergic to, and including spices or fresh herbs to kick up the flavors. You can also add nutritious ingredients and no one can object: Avocado adds creaminess, vitamins and good fats; spinach adds little flavor but lots of minerals, and the green color could be just what the pop needs. Nicole likes adding a little beet for color; she uses beet powder but at home you can cook a small amount of beet with the fruit to create a beautiful color.

In the summer I like to make a garden V-8 juice using my juicer. It doesn’t take long to get to at least eight vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, garlic, parsley, carrots, peppers, basil, and whatever else I find. The juice version is perfect as it is, but to make popsicles, I will add salt, and maybe strain out some of the fiber. Should I call it Gazpopso?

Emily Meegan lives in Chilmark and works at The West Tisbury Public Library.