Taste the Difference: Gelato vs. Ice Cream

The US industry-leading gelato manufacturer's blog

You have always been a tried, true, diehard ice cream fan, and no one can tell you any different! However, if you are ready to expand your palette and try one of the many frozen treats that people all over the world have loved for over 500 years, it is time to give gelato a try. Before you assume that all frozen treats are created equal, it is essential to understand the very subtle and noticeable differences between American ice cream and gelato.

Think that “gelato” is simply a fancy name for ice cream and they’re basically the same dessert? Think again…

Gelato vs. Ice Cream: The Sweetest Showdown of All

Imagine it’s a hot summer day, and you are ready to cool down with a sweet treat. Your go-to has been ice cream, and you may have even dabbled in sorbet or sherbet. Gelato may look a lot like ice cream, but there are so many differences that you will be amazed the two are even in the same class of foods.

Although there are no requirements set forth by the federal agency, the FDA, according to the Italian government, Italian gelato must contain at least 3.5% milk fat content. American-style ice cream must only contain cream and does not necessarily need to include any type of milk product.

Origins of Ice Cream

Although ice cream has been around for what seems like forever, this popular frozen confection was thought to have been invented during the 4th century. The first American ice cream shop was opened in 1776 in New York City. When the cold confection was brought to the United States, the colonists first called it “iced cream.” The name was later shortened, and the term “ice cream” was coined!

The origins of gelato can be traced back to 16th century Florence, Italy

When Was Gelato Invented?

Like ice cream, gelato has been enjoyed by billions across the globe for several centuries, particularly by the people of Italy. In fact, “gelato” is the Italian word for “ice cream!” Both are a cold treat, but gelato is far more than just the Italian word for its main competition. It is believed that gelato was first invented by painter and engineer Bernardo Buontalenti when he took an ice cream base and added two unique ingredients that made the concoction denser, smoother, creamy, and just plain better tasting: milk and eggs.

Several changes have been made to the core gelato recipe, including using a slower speed churning process, introducing different fruits and flavors, and using ice to cool down the treat. The first gelato shop in America opened seven years before the first ice cream shop, which means gelato has actually been an American treat longer than ice cream.

Made with milk rather than cream, and churned at a slower rate than ice cream, gelato is a smoother, denser treat with fewer calories!

How Are They Made: Gelato Vs. Ice Cream

The true difference lies between ice cream and gelato is how each of these frozen desserts is manufactured. One of the most significant differences is that while ice cream is traditionally made with heavy cream, gelato is made with skim milk or whole milk.

Although there are some forms of gelato that feature eggs, regular ice cream has a custard base. The other main ice cream ingredients include milk, sugar, cream, and egg yolks. This accounts for the higher fat content in ice cream vs. gelato. Some forms of ice cream use less cream, while others feature higher contents of full-fat cream.

Gelato is expertly churned at a much slower speed. This introduces less air into gelato, which accounts for gelato’s smooth texture and dense consistency. Because ice cream is churned much more rapidly than gelato, it creates an airier, less filling texture. Ice cream is also traditionally made with more fillers, preservatives, and artificial flavors to expand its shelf life.

Gelato – Served at a Slightly Warmer Temperature than American Ice Cream

Another primary difference between gelato and ice cream is the temperature at which each product is served. Ice cream is ideally served at a much colder temperature, around -4 degrees Fahrenheit, and completely frozen. Gelato is served at a much warmer temperature, between 8 and 9 degrees Fahrenheit, which means you can eat the product without irritating your teeth and gums.

what is sorbet?
Sorbet is made from a water base rather than dairy, making it a fantastic alternative for calorie-counters and vegans

What Are Sorbet and Sherbet?

When you think of tasty treats that just happen to be frozen, your first choice might not be ice cream at all! Sorbet and sherbet are closely related to both gelato and ice cream, but with some key differences. Sorbet does not contain any milk, cream, or dairy products, giving it a distinct icy texture and consistency. Sherbet lies somewhere in the middle between ice cream and sorbet. Ice cream has more milk than sherbet, which accounts for sherbet’s less airy, but still creamy texture.

Gelato is superior to ice cream in every conceivable way. If this is your first sampling of gelato, here are a few of the reasons why you should make the switch!

5 Reasons Why Gelato Is the Superior Frozen Treat

Still think that ice cream is the superior product? Before you write off gelato as the inferior product, there are several reasons why in reality, gelato is far superior to ice cream.

There Are More Flavors of Gelato Than Ice Cream

Walking through the grocery store, chances are you get overwhelmed by the sheer number of ice cream flavors. Ice cream and gelato are available in all traditional flavors, including chocolate, pistachio, hazelnut, vanilla, or fruit flavors.

However, you might be very surprised to learn that there are more gelato recipes than ice cream concoctions, which means that more gelato flavors are available than ice cream. Gelato aficionados are constantly crafting new and usual flavors that are sure to make you rethink your allegiance to ice cream.

Gelato is Heavier and More Filling

Gelato has many unique qualities, but one of the most interesting is the fact that gelato is far denser than traditional American ice cream. This is because of the way gelato is churned. The slower churning process introduces far less air to the whole milk mixture.

When you are served gelato for the first time, chances are the taste, texture, and weight of the gelato will be the first thing you will notice. Gelato will also melt much slower than ice cream. You will also notice this bulkier texture means you feel satiated much faster than after eating ice cream.

Tired of frozen solid ice cream that requires a hammer and chisel to eat? Gelato is made and served at the perfect temperature to enjoy right away!

You Don’t Have to Wait to Enjoy This Amazing Treat

Italian gelato is served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream. This means that in addition to taking less strength to scoop, you can eat gelato without risking the dreaded brain freeze.

Gelato is the Healthier Option

Another significant and little know difference between ice cream and gelato is the fat, sugar, and calorie content. For example, a single scoop of vanilla ice cream contains approximately:

  • 16g of sugar
  • 7g of fat
  • 137 calories

A scoop of air-churned gelato made with high-quality ingredients contains approximately:

  • 10g of sugar
  • 3g of fat
  • 90 calories

This means that if you buy gelato, you can enjoy the fantastic flavor of a smooth frozen dessert with less fat and fewer regrets.

With fewer calories and more nutrients than ice cream, there’s no reason not to enjoy your next scoop of gelato!

Gelato is Surprisingly Good for You!

Because gelato contains more milk and less heavy cream, it is lower-calorie while still providing you with a healthy dose of calcium. Additionally, many of the ingredients used to create gelato, particularly fruit-flavored gelato, contain several vital vitamins, including vitamin A and vitamin C.

You can find us in Denver, Frisco and Breckenridge CO, as well as Miami FL. Come check us out today!

Ready to Sample Gelato? Run to I Scream Gelato!

Now that you understand the critical difference between gelato and ice cream, chances are you are ready to give gelato a try. The team at I Scream Gelato has several convenient locations in Denver, COBreckinridge, COFrisco, COMiami, FL, and new locations coming soon in Texas, Ohio, and Arizona. An incredible variety of gelatos, including classic chocolate, fruit, and something a little more adventurous, including tiramisu.

In addition to enjoying a scoop at one of our quirky and fabulous boutiques, the team at I Scream Gelato also offers online deliveries and pickup. America’s favorite handcrafted gelato boutique also serves various coffee drinks that will please even the most refined coffee drinker. We serve cappuccino, macchiato, latte, and a special treat you can only find at I Scream Gelato: a single scoop of vanilla gelato paired with a shot of espresso!

Hosting a large event and want to share your love of gelato with friends, family, and coworkers? Our crew can handle that too. We offer extensive catering services for any type of event imaginable, including:

  • Weddings
  • Birthday parties
  • Gender reveal parties
  • Office events
  • Corporate events

At I Scream Gelato, we are true craftspeople who love nothing more than the art of gelato making. Food science is our passion, and we are constantly creating new and exciting flavors that are guaranteed to please your palette. Ready to give the dense texture and unique flavor of gelato a try? Come into one of our boutique locations for a free sample. We guarantee you will be able to tell immediately why gelato differs from ice cream, and you will walk out the door and prefer gelato over any other frozen treat!

Denver, CO (Lowry)

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