It’s National Ice Cream Month

So what is the difference between ice cream, gelato, and other frozen treats?

Homemade chocolate sherbet

July is National Ice Cream Month, and not a moment too soon. Here in the west we are suffering through a heat wave. Frequent ice cream is one of the only perks of this weather. Which led me to wonder, what is the actual difference between all our favorite frozen treats?

What is Ice Cream?
  • By law must be at least 10% milk fat. Premium ice creams are much higher, up to 25% milk fat.
  • Churned at a fast speed to incorporate lots of air
  • Served very cold, at around 10 degrees
  • French style ice cream is sometimes called frozen custard
  • French style is made from a custard base (with egg yolks) that leads to a deeper flavor, IMHO. That’s why French vanilla ice cream has a different flavor than regular vanilla ice cream.
  • Commercially made ice cream often includes additives like carageenan to keep it soft and stabilizers to extend shelf life.
What is Gelato?
  • Made from milk, not cream, thus is lower in fat
  • Slow churned for a denser, creamier mouth feel
  • Served at about 20 degrees
  • Has more intense flavor since the flavorings are not competing with large amounts of fat
  • Commercially made gelato is often stored too cold (with the ice cream in your grocer’s freezer). This is why it never tastes like it does from a vendor in Rome!
  • Commercially made gelato also often includes stabilizers like gelatin or egg whites
What is Sherbet?
  • Like ice cream and gelato, sherbet is a dairy product
  • Has less than 2% milk fat
  • Usually fruit flavored
  • Higher sugar content than ice cream
  • High sugar content makes it more difficult to harden sherbet in a home ice cream maker
  • Commercially made sherbet often includes gelatin or egg white stabilizers
What is Frozen Yogurt?
  • Made from cultured milk instead of cream
  • May have live or dead cultures
  • Higher sugar content than ice cream
  • High sugar content makes it more difficult to harden frozen yogurt in a home ice cream maker
  • Served at about 15 degrees
What is Sorbet?
  • Dairy and fat free
  • Usually made from fruit juice or fruit puree
  • Softer but more granular than other frozen treats
  • Uses a high sugar content sugar syrup for liquid
  • High sugar content makes it more difficult to harden sorbet in a home ice cream maker

So, do you have a favorite? Do you prefer French style ice cream or are you more of a frozen yogurt type?

Better yet, share your favorite flavor! I love mango sorbet, but the strawberry gelato I had in Crete was really good too.

I’ll be adding frozen treat recipes all month, so check back often.

Related Posts:

Mango Frozen Yogurt

Apricot Syrup Frozen Yogurt

White Chocolate-Rose Petal Jam Frozen Yogurt

by Renee Pottle

Renee Pottle, a freelance writer and Home Economist, is fanatic about all things food. She blogs about canning and food preservation at Find her professional food writing info at

July 2, 2015

You May Also Like…

Lemon Pasta with Green Veggies

Lemon Pasta with Green Veggies

Asparagus, pea pods, and other green veggies lend springtime flavor to cheesy, lemon pasta. Winter is reluctantly...

Four Bean Salad Recipe

Four Bean Salad Recipe

Combine green and yellow string beans, kidney beans, and garbanzo beans with a tangy dressing for a quick summertime salad.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *