Gelato and Ice Cream Are More Different Than You Might Think (2024)

Christine Gallary

Christine GallaryFood Editor-at-Large

Christine graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France, and she has worked at Cook's Illustrated and She lives in San Francisco and loves teaching cooking classes. Follow her latest culinary escapades on Instagram.


Andrea Rivera Wawrzyn

Andrea Rivera WawrzynAssociate Food Editor, The Kitchn

Andrea is the Associate Food Editor at The Kitchn. She is a lifelong chef and full-time clog enthusiast. Her passions include grabbing more books at the library than she can read in the time allotted and the relentless pursuit of the perfect burrito. She lives in Salem, MA with her husband and two cats.

updated 3 days ago




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Gelato and Ice Cream Are More Different Than You Might Think (1)

When it comes to frozen treats, I’m not super picky. When browsing the freezer aisle I’m just as likely to grab a pint of Ben and Jerry’s as I am Talenti. However, upon closer inspection you might notice that one of those treats is labeled as “ice cream” while the other is “gelato.” They look very similar. They’re both creamy, sweet, and scoopable, so what’s the difference?

Quick Overview

The Difference Between Ice Cream and Gelato

Ice cream is made with heavy cream and has a higher fat content than gelato. It’s also made with eggs and has a fluffy texture as a result of the fast churning speed.

Gelato is made with milk, typically does not include eggs, and has a dense texture from a slower churning speed than ice cream.

Ice Cream: Fluffy and Full of Fat

Ice cream is a frozen dairy dessert made of milk, cream, sugar, and (typically) egg yolks. Traditionally, French-style ice cream contained egg yolks and was richer than American-style ice cream, which didn’t initially contain eggs. However, American ice cream has now evolved to also include the yolks.

The ingredients in ice cream are first cooked together into a rich custard. After the custard base is cooled, it’s churned at a fairly high speed to incorporate air and increase its volume (cheaper ice creams tends to have more air whipped into them).

Ice cream is served at a fairly cold temperature that helps scoops hold together, and the finished product is smooth, light-textured, and creamy.

Ice Cream Recipes

Gelato: Dense and Intense

Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream. It starts out with a similar custard base as ice cream, but has a higher proportion of milk and a lower proportion of cream and eggs (or no eggs at all). It is churned at a much slower rate, incorporating less air and leaving the gelato denser than ice cream.

Gelato is served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream, so its texture stays silkier and softer. Because it has a lower percentage of fat than ice cream, the main flavor ingredient really shines through.

Gelato Recipes

Gelato and Ice Cream Are More Different Than You Might Think (2024)


Gelato and Ice Cream Are More Different Than You Might Think? ›

Ice cream and gelato must be churned to create that creamy, scoopable goodness, but it is the speed at which they are churned—and the resulting amount of air incorporated—that is different. Gelato is churned at a slower speed than ice cream, which creates a denser consistency since less air is whipped into the mixture.

Is there really a difference between gelato and ice cream? ›

The main differences between ice cream and gelato

Gelato contains less milk fat than ice cream, is churned at a slower rate, and is typically served at a warmer temperature, introducing less air to the dessert and yielding a softer and denser texture.

What is healthier, gelato or ice cream? ›

The main difference between ice cream and gelato is their fat content. With only 4-9% fat to the usual 10-25% of ice cream, gelato usually is lighter and healthier. Per portion, however, the answer is clear, gelato is typically healthier than ice cream.

Why can I eat gelato but not ice cream? ›

Using more milk and less cream is the main reason gelato tends to have lower fat and caloric content. Eggs are another differentiating ingredient; ice cream often contains small amounts of eggs, while gelato is usually completely void of them.

Is one of the difference between gelato and ice cream is the amount of overrun? ›

Gelato usually contains about 15 to 30% overrun (the percentage of air incorporated into the product during the freezing process), which makes it denser than ice cream. Many argue that this makes the flavor more intense.

Is Talenti real gelato? ›

Talenti gelato is particularly special because we make it from scratch with the finest ingredients from around the world, and use an old world process that involves slow cooking our ingredients and making our gelato in smaller batches than most other ice cream in the US is made.

Why is gelato more expensive than ice cream? ›

Because gelato is filled with less air than ice cream, it contains more actual ingredients per serving, hence it's often more expensive. Does gelato contain eggs? Some gelatos may contain egg or egg yolks, as traditional recipes were made using eggs, but today most gelato is entirely milk-based.

Is gelato high in sugar? ›

Gelato has about 160 calories and 17 grams of sugar in an equal serving of 88 grams. These sweet treats are both high in sugar and calories, so they are best consumed only once in a while in moderation.

Is gelato easier on the stomach? ›

Gelato contains carbohydrates in the form of simple sugars, which your body can quickly absorb and use as energy. Enzymes, such as those found in pineapple, help your digestive system work better.

Why is Italian gelato better? ›

The Italian gelato is served at a temperature a few degrees lower than the ice cream. This helps to savor better the taste understanding the flavors more easily. The ice cream, on the other hand, is stored as if it is frozen food. This involves the addition of preservatives that are not present in Italian gelato.

Why does gelato taste weird? ›

It's said that if gelato is piled up super high and doesn't melt, that means lots of vegetable fats and emulsifiers have been added, which is, well, yuck. Not only does it contain unwanted ingredients, it's also most likely not fresh and is lacking in flavor!

What do Italians call gelato? ›

Gelato is a frozen treat that hails from Italy; the word "gelato" actually means "ice cream" in Italian.

Why do people like gelato so much? ›

Another reason people love gelato is that it has a much lower fat content than traditional ice cream. This is because of the difference in their primary ingredient. Ice cream typically uses cream as its base, while gelato uses mainly milk for its final product.

What are the 3 differences between gelato and ice cream? ›

As the name implies, "ice cream" contains more cream than milk, whereas gelato is made with a greater proportion of whole milk to cream. Another ingredient that distinguishes the two is eggs; ice cream includes egg yolks while gelato is (most often) completely void of eggs.

Does gelato melt faster than ice cream? ›

Temperature: Since gelato is lower in fat than ice cream, it is warmer and melts more quickly. It is typically served at 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, while ice cream is served at 6 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

How do you get more overrun in ice cream? ›

In order to obtain an ice cream with high overrun and hom*ogeneous air cell distribution, it was necessary to apply higher shear, so the dasher speed in the continuous freezer was increased. Additionally, the cylinder pressure was increased to facilitate finer air cell distribution.

Does authentic gelato have eggs? ›

Ingredients. While both gelato and ice cream contain cream, milk and sugar, there are differences, too. Authentic gelato uses more milk and less cream than ice cream and generally doesn't use egg yolks, which are a common ingredient in ice cream.

Can lactose intolerants eat gelato? ›

Gelato is not usually the friendliest option if you're avoiding lactose. Like sherbet, it traditionally contains milk or milk products. However, there are some suitable options for those with lactose intolerance. Talenti makes a line of popular dairy-based gelatos, but they also offer a dairy-free line.

Does ice cream have eggs in it? ›

While commercially manufactured ice cream is typically made with pasteurized eggs or egg products, recipes for homemade ice cream often use raw eggs in the base mixture.

What makes gelato so creamy? ›

Gelato is churned at a much slower speed, which introduces less air into the base—think whipping cream by hand instead of with a stand mixer. That's why it tastes denser than ice cream—it is.

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