This Is the Best Machine for Making Authentic Hawaiian Shave Ice at Home

Level-up your summer staycation with on-demand icy treats for the whole family.

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June 18, 2020

I’m obsessed with shave ice. No, not shaved ice and definitely not snow cones — that carnival ice is so hard it will break teeth. I’m talking about the powdery, light, melt-on-your-tongue treat known in Hawaii as “shave ice.” There is nothing like it in the frozen treat world, mostly because you need a specific machine to thinly shave the ice into teeny, tiny pieces. It’s not exactly easy to replicate at home because those machines are massive, cost thousands of dollars and can be super dangerous because they feature a huge, exposed razor-sharp blade. But that hasn’t stopped my quest for shave ice at home. My family had to cancel our trip to Hawaii this year due to the pandemic, so I’ve been on the hunt for a smaller shave ice machine that can at least get close to that perfect fluffy consistency. I’ve finally found it, and it doesn't cost thousands of dollars. It’s just over $200 with free shipping on Amazon!

Meet the Little Snowie Max. Formally branded as the Little Snowie 2, this machine was definitely the underdog in my shave ice search if only because it kind of looks like a toy. That gave me flashbacks to the Snoopy snow cone machine, which is still sold today, that was basically a joke for children because you’d crank and crank and crank until you had just a shot glass worth of the hardest ice that had refrozen into a jawbreaker of an ice ball. But don’t let the plastic fool you; the Little Snowie Max machine produces softer, fluffier ice than any other machine I tested. And I tested a lot, including the ZENY, which has hundreds and hundreds of five-star reviews and glowing praise from popular food bloggers but doesn't compete with Little Snowie Max.

Another thing I appreciate about the Little Snowie Max is the starter kit that comes with each order. The Standard Kit includes six flavor powder sticks, which makes six pints of syrup, two mixing bottles with pour spouts for easy drizzling and eight Snowie shovels. A $200 price tag is a bit much for an appliance, but I feel like the price is worth it given all of the included accessories and quality of the shave ice it produces. However, one thing to note: This thing is loud. It’s so loud that I literally jumped in the air the first time I tried it. If you have kids or family members who are sensitive to loud noises, this might not be the one for you. For a quiet option — as quiet as shaving ice can be — the Cuisinart Snow Cone Maker is a good choice. Though the ice isn’t nearly as soft or small, the price is right at just $79.99, and I love that the ice basin is large enough to make big batches of shave ice instead of one serving at a time.

If you’re as serious about shave ice as I am — I may or may not have planned my honeymoon around Hawaii’s top-rated shave ice spots — you’ll want the right accessories and toppings, too. While it’s super easy to make simple syrups at home, I’m a fan of Hawaiian Shaved Ice’s iconic oddball flavors such as Tiger’s Blood and Wedding Cake. And you always, always have to finish any shave ice with a “snow cap,” AKA a generous drizzle of sweetened condensed milk. Trust me.

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