What Is Chewy Ice and Why Is It So Good?

Chewy ice is soft and crunchy and, as the name suggests, easy to chew. This had made it popular in hospitals as well as in soft drinks where it absorbs the flavor of the drink.

But what exactly is chewy ice and how is it unique from regular ice cubes?

Chewy ice is made from flaked ice that is compressed into small pebble size ice cubes. It's often know as nugget ice or Sonic ice. It contains lots of air bubbles and has a crunchy texture. It is softer than regular ice, so it's less likely to damage your teeth.

Ice is a pretty standard single ingredient recipe, so you may not think there can be too much significant variation from one ice block to another. If you haven't tried chewy ice, you are probably wondering what all the fuss is about.

How Do They Make Chewy Ice?

If chewy ice is so good you might be wondering why it isn't more widely available? Why is chewy ice so hard to find and how exactly is it made?

Chewy ice is a little more tricky to create than regular ice. Nugget ice-making machines, like the Opal Nugget Ice Maker, create thin layers of ice inside a freezing cold cylinder.

As the ice forms it is scraped off but a rotating auger. This flaked ice is compressed and squeezed through nugget-sized holes where it is broken off into small pieces. The result is light and fluffy, yet at the same time, firm and chewy. Learn more about how nugget ice machines work.

If you aren't yet ready to invest in a nugget ice-making machine for your home, you can use plenty of other hacks to create pebble ice.

You may not be able to make the same volume as if you had a nugget ice maker, but you can make enough chewy ice to use it for your drinks. 

Why Is Chewy Nugget Ice So Popular?

When I was growing up as a kid chewy ice was never really a thing. However, now it seems like it's becoming increasingly popular.

This is due in part to restaurant chains like Sonic offering chewy nugget ice in their sodas and people loving them and also due to new devices like the Opal Nugget Ice Maker allowing people to make this soft chewy nugget ice at home.

Chewy ice is light and airy and maintains it's shape and doesn't melt as fast as crushed ice. It's also softer than crushed ice because it's made from compressed flakes.

Because it is filled with air bubbles, one of the features of chewy ice is that it soaks up the beverage's taste. The soft chewable ice is deliciously flavored, adding a new dimension to simply cooling drinks. 

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)

What's The Difference Between Sonic Ice and Chewy Ice?

Sonic ice and chewy ice are different names for the same type of ice.

Sonic drive-in restaurants started using chewy nugget ice in their drinks, and the name stuck! The name Sonic Ice can be used interchangeably with lots of other names too. 

You may hear chewy ice being referred to by any of the following names: 

  • Pellet Ice
  • Nugget Ice
  • Sonic Ice
  • Hospital Ice
  • Chewy Ice
  • Soft Ice
  • Good Ice

The Sonic Ice you can purchase at Sonic Drive-in restaurants is made using large commercial-sized nugget ice makers. The chain sells thousands of cups of chewy ice each day, and it is a feature that has made them immensely popular. 

If you want to make Sonic ice at home you can or you can actually purchase bags of the ice from Sonic restaurants.

Is Nugget Ice The Same As Crushed Ice?

You can try to get a similar effect of nugget ice at home by crushing ice blocks, but it is not entirely the same thing.

Regular ice cubes have an altogether different consistency and texture from nugget ice.

When the solid blocks are crushed (it can either be coarsely or finely crushed), the bits may be smaller, but they maintain the hard ice consistency. They aren't soft and easily crunched like nugget ice is.

Nugget ice starts out differently from regular ice. It is made from thin flakes of ice that have been squished together through an extruder.

It's kind of like putting snow into a mincer. The soft icy stuff that gets compressed still contains plenty of air, so the pellet's texture is different from shards of hard ice made by crushing ice. 

How Do You Store Chewy Ice At Home? 

Chewy ice can be purchased in 10-pound bags at outlets like Sonic and Chick-fil-A, or you may have a friend with a nugget machine who will let you harvest stashes occasionally.

If you have managed to get your hands on a big bag of chewy ice, you will want to store that bagged ice properly it so that it stays in the best, nugget, chewy condition.

An essential thing about storing chewy ice is that it needs to be as unmelted as possible when it goes into your freezer.

Remember that chewy ice is also called soft ice – it is delicious and chewable but melts faster than regular ice cubes.

So how do you get it to stay in delectable, tiny nugget-sized cubes and not freeze into a giant blob of solid ice?

You don't want to have to assault your bag of nugget ice with a hammer each time you need to fill your glass. 

Chewy Ice Storage Tips

Keep your chewy ice crumbly and delicious at home by following these steps: 

  • When you buy a bag of chewy ice, put the bag into a cooler, and take it home immediately. 
  • Stand the bag in your kitchen sink and snip one tiny bottom corner section off. Let any water run out.
  • Put your bag of ice in the freezer and set your timer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the bag of ice from the freezer and pound it to loosen up the nuggets inside the bag. It should feel loose inside with no large stuck bits.
  • Replace it in the freezer and repeat the process after 15 minutes. 
  • I like to place the entire bag of ice into a second airtight bag since the original one still has the hole in the corner. You can also divide your nugget ice into smaller sealed packets. 


Chewy ice is small, crunchy pellet ice that takes the humble ice block to the next level. This soft ice has become a sensation, and for a good reason. Drinks are cooled faster, and the ice absorbs the delicious tastes of the drink. So when the beverage is finished, you still have a crunchy, chewy treat waiting inside the glass.