7 Ways To Make Hospital Ice (Chewable Ice Chips)

If you've ever been to hospital and experienced their delicious ice chips you might be wondering how you can make this sort of ice, without having to make a trip to the emergency department.

Hospital ice is known for it's small size, chewy texture and delicious taste and it's something that is hard to replicate at home unless you know what you're doing. Luckily there are quite a few ways you can make ice at home that is very similar to the ice you'll find in hospital.

And best of all you don't have to be woken up every 4 hours at night with someone checking your vitals.

To make hospital ice, you can:

  1. Buy a nugget ice machine.
  2. Freeze carbonated water.
  3. Use a blender to crush ice.
  4. Purchase a nugget ice tray. 
  5. Hit a bag of ice. 
  6. Use an ice shaver. 
  7. Use a tiny bit of water in a regular ice cube tray

Below, we will detail each of the above methods and give product recommendations to help you achieve hospital ice at home. You can try one or multiple combinations of the below suggestions, as there’s a strategy to fit just about any budget. 

1. Buy a Nugget Ice Machine

Though this is a pricier option, it’s the most straightforward. The easiest and least time-consuming way to make hospital ice is to buy a “nugget” ice machine. 

Hospital ice is made with a commercial nugget ice machine. Nugget ice machines work different to how you make ice at home.

Water is pumped into a freezing cold metal cylinder. When the water touches the walls of the cylinder it freezes. A spinning auger then scrapes off the ice into flakes and pushes it upwards where it is compacted and forced through small tubes to make the small nugget shaped ice you get in hospital.

Because hospital ice is compressed flaked ice the only real way to achieve that exact same size and texture at home is with a nugget ice machine like the Opal. An Opal nugget ice maker works the same as a commercial nugget ice maker but on a much smaller scale.

The Opal Nugget Ice Maker is one of the most popular nugget ice maker machines on the market. The Opal ice maker can make one pound of nugget ice an hour and the Opal makes the first batch within fifteen minutes of starting up the machine. 

So rather than having ice sitting in your freezer for days before you eat it (which can make the ice taste bad even if the water is fine) you can make hospital ice on demand whenever you need it. For the best results you should use filtered or distilled water

Buying a nugget ice machine is a significant investment but if you absolutely love that soft chewable ice and you want the best quality money can buy, and you want a lot of it, then buying a nugget ice machine is going to be a great option for you.

See the latest price of the GE Opal Nugget Ice Maker at Amazon
(or compare to the price of the GE Opal Nugget Ice Maker at Walmart)

2. Freeze Carbonated Water

Another easy way to make hospital ice is to freeze carbonated water. You can take any seltzer water and place it in an ice tray, and it’ll become a lighter version of the same ice.

When the air bubbles freeze, it makes the ice softer and less compact. Bonus points if you use one of the nugget ice trays we mention below, then your ice will be extra soft AND extra small.

I love this method because the ice comes out soft and almost fluffy because of all the air pockets, and you can use any seltzer water to make it work. If you make flavored cubes, they go well in cocktails. Adding fruit to the mix can also go great in a blended drink or smoothie.

If you don’t have an ice cube tray on your hands then there are lots of ways to make ice cubes without an ice tray. You can even freeze carbonated water in a bag and hit it with a mallet or use your blender. 

3. Use a Blender To Crush Ice

Speaking of blenders, you can use yours to make crushed ice in an instant. 

This won’t give you prime hospital ice, like one of the above or below methods might, but it’ll work well in a pinch.

If your fridge doesn’t already have a “crushed” (this is what I’d compare ice made with this method too, as it’s the most similar) ice setting, you can crush ice by using a blender. 

All you have to do is put the ice in the blender and pulse it a few times. I ended up getting a whole bunch of shaved ice with some larger chunks of ice remaining.

So this isn't the best way to get that consistently small and chewy hospital ice, but it is a good way to break up your ice to make it easier to eat.

4. Purchase a Nugget Ice Tray 

I don't have a fancy ice machine in my freezer and if I'm honest I lack the bench space to purchase a nugget ice machine. Plus for me I don't know if an Opal nugget ice machine is worth the money.

Nugget ice trays are usually soft and usually silicone. They are easy to fill up to a consistent level as you can simply pour off the excess water and the water tension will keep the remaining water in the tray like you can see above.

This is one of the cheapest and easiest methods for making good sized hospital ice for your drinks or to eat. However, the downside is that the little pebble ice cubes can be difficult and time consuming to get out of the tray…as you can see in the video below:

If you don't want to be pushing out individual ice cubes then consider an easy release ice cube tray (there are some that are pebble sized) or use one of the smart ice cube tray hacks for getting ice cubes out easier.

If you live with roommates or family, you might have to deal with the annoying “who put the empty ice tray back in the freezer?!” argument every once in a while, but otherwise, the ice trays are pretty easy to use. Nugget ice trays are all relatively inexpensive and require just a little more effort than an ice machine would take. I list a few of my favorites below. 

Silicone Mini Ice Cube Tray by LeeYean Store

The Silicone Mini Ice Cube Tray crafted by LeeYean Store makes 160 mini ice cubes, which will come out similar to hospital ice. This is the nugget ice cube tray I personally use to make nugget ice at home for me and my kids.

The tray isn'y perfect, but it's cheap and each tray makes enough ice for approximately 1 cup of drink. 

See the latest price of the Silicone Mini Ice Cube Tray at Amazon

5. Hit A Bag of Ice

Another simple method that doesn’t require a freezer or any ice trays is to grab a bag of ice from the nearest convenience store or take cubed ice from your freezer. Then, you can crush the ice using whatever you have available to you.

You could use a hammer, a kitchen mallet, or even pick up and throw the bag against the concrete a few times. 

Beware, though, this method can get messy! To stop the mess I wrap the ice cubes in a tea towel and put it on a chopping board before I break the ice into pieces.

The tea towel keeps the ice from exploding everywhere as also sucks up any excess moisture as the ice melts. Just don't hit the cubes too hard or too much or they'll go all flakey. Just hit them enough to break into cubes the size of hospital ice.

This would be an excellent go-to method if you’re not in the kitchen and want hospital ice on the go. Road Trips and beach days come to mind. However, there is no reason you couldn’t do this at home if you wanted to. 

6. Use An Ice Shaver 

Ice shavers are not a common kitchen appliance, but getting one will undoubtedly change how you make ice. Not only can they help you make hospital ice, but they can help you make snow cones or snow (which could make for a fun kids project). 

They don't technically make “hospital ice” as they more make flaked ice. However, you could go that extra step and manually press the flaked ice together to make chewy ice just like you would find at hospital.

They are also fairly inexpensive so they won't break the bank.

See the latest price of the Hawaiian Electric Ice Shaver at Amazon

7. Use a Tiny Bit of Water In a Regular Ice Cube Tray

Rather than going out there and buying a nugget ice machine (which have their own problems) or a nugget ice cube mold you can actually make hospital ice using a regular ice cube tray you likely already have at home.

For this simply put a tiny bit of water in your ice cube tray molds and throw them in the freezer. To make hospital ice I fill up the ice cube tray with about 5mm (1/5 inch) of water.

It's a really fast way to make ice cubes because there is so little water to freeze. In just 1-2 hours it'll be completely frozen and you can get them out.

Twist the ice cube tray to remove the ice. Because it's so thin much of it will break into hospital sized ice cubes anyway but if they stay as full cubes you can easily break them up with your hand or a knife or simply hit the cubes with anything to break them into smaller pieces.

This doesn't make a huge quantity of ice at a time so if you want to store the ice cubes in your freezer while you make more I suggest putting them in ziplock bags or in a tupperware container.


Hospital ice is the preferred ice for many cold beverage lovers. It’s easy to chew, not too heavy in a glass and makes for a great snack on a cold day. Most fridges and ice cube trays make hard, large, and compact pieces of ice. 

Luckily, so many people enjoy soft nugget ice that there are plenty of tools and inventions out there to make it more accessible. Even if you don’t have the funds for a new kitchen appliance, there are a few tried and true methods that will get you nugget ice in a pinch. 

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