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Italian Gelato vs Ice Cream

This article will discuss their differences and give you a look into why these frozen treats often get confused with each other.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Gelato and ice cream are both frozen desserts and they are enjoyed across the world by many, but they differ in terms of the ingredients that they use, the texture, and production methods that are used.

This article will discuss these differences and give you a look into why these frozen treats often get confused with each other. Nevertheless, both gelato and ice cream are delicious in their own way and American ice cream and Italian gelato each have their own special place.

You will learn about the way that both of these frozen treats get prepared and the way that they get served as well as where they draw their flavor from.

Different flavors of gelato - 1280x720

What is the difference between gelato and ice cream?


Ice Cream: It typically gets made with a higher proportion of cream and egg yolks than its gelato counterpart, which results in the rich and creamy texture that ice cream is known for.

Gelato: This frozen delight contains more milk and less cream than ice cream, and it usually doesn’t contain egg yolks although some recipes do use it in the base. Gelato also tends to have a dense texture and a smoother mouthfeel despite this.

Fat content

Ice Cream: Ice cream has a higher fat content due to the use of more cream in it’s recipe although there are low-fat versions with a difference in texture as well as ones that don’t use any dairy or fat at all.

Gelato: This Italian treat contains less fat than ice cream because it relies more on milk and has less cream in its base.

Air content

Ice Cream: Ice cream is churned at a faster rate than gelato, which incorporates more air into the mixture, and in turn gives it a lighter and fluffier texture.

Gelato: It is churned more slowly than its creamy counterpart, and that results in a denser and silkier texture with less air.

Serving temperature

Ice Cream: This frozen treat is typically served at a colder temperature, making it firmer and more solid as it tends to melt rather quickly.

Gelato: It gets served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream, which gives it a softer and smoother consistency than ice cream.

Flavor intensity

Ice Cream: The high fat content tends to give it a more intense flavor which pairs very well with the creaminess of this frozen confection.

Gelato: Although it has a lower fat content than ice cream, the flavor is very pronounced and the natural flavors come from ingredients such as fruit juice and the fruit flavors are always very pronounced.


Ice Cream: It gets stored at a lower temperature than Gelato in order to maintain its texture.

Gelato: Because it has less fat and air than ice cream, it can get stored at a slightly warmer temperature and still maintain its texture.


Ice Cream: This confection originated in Europe, with a strong tradition in France and Italy, and as we all know, it is very popular in the United States.

Gelato: It has its roots in Italy, where it is a traditional frozen dessert and still very popular to this day.

What is the difference in how these two get made?

Ice Cream in containers - 1280x720

Ice Cream

Mixing the ingredients: The primary ingredients for ice cream are milk and cream which are combined in a specific ratio to achieve the desired fat content. The mixture is then heated to a specific temperature to dissolve any sugar and other dry ingredients.

Pasteurization: The mixture is pasteurized to eliminate harmful bacteria and enzymes which is done by heating the mixture to a specific temperature and holding it there for a set period, followed by rapid cooling.

Homogenization: This is done to break down fat globules into smaller particles which helps to create a smoother and creamier texture in the finished product.

Flavoring: Flavorings such as vanilla, chocolate, fruit puree, which are all very popular flavors, or other ingredients are added to the base mixture to give the ice cream its desired taste and solid mix-ins such as nuts, chocolate chips, or cookie pieces may also be added at this stage.

Cooling: The mixture gets cooled to a specific temperature before being churned which helps improve the texture of the ice cream and allows the flavors to meld.

Churning: The mixture is transferred to an ice cream maker or churn, where it is constantly agitated while being cooled which incorporates air into the mixture and prevents ice crystals from forming, which results in a smooth and creamy texture.

Freezing: After it has been churned, the ice cream is typically soft and has a soft-serve consistency. It is then transferred to a container and placed in a freezer to harden which can take several hours or overnight.

Gelato in containers - 1280x720


Mixing the ingredients: The main ingredients for gelato include milk, sugar, and flavorings and it typically contains less fat than ice cream, as it usually has a higher proportion of milk to cream. Some recipes also include egg yolks for added richness.

Pasteurization: The mixture gets pasteurized to eliminate harmful bacteria and ensure food safety and involves heating the mixture to a specific temperature, holding it there for a designated period, and gets followed by rapid cooling.

Flavoring: Flavorings, such as vanilla, cocoa, fruit puree, or other popular ingredients, are added to the base mixture of the gelato to give it its desired taste. Unlike ice cream, gelato tends to have more intense flavor due to the low fat content.

Ageing: This step is optional but some gelato recipes may involve allowing the mixture to age or rest for a certain period to enhance the flavor and improve the texture.

Churning: The mixture is churned in a gelato machine, which operates at a slower speed than the machines used for ice cream which incorporates less air into the gelato, resulting in a denser and smoother texture.

Storage and Serving Temperature: It is typically stored and served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream to help maintain its softer and silkier consistency.

Freezing: After churning, it is transferred to a freezer to set and harden and can take several hours.

Ice cream and gelato in cones - 1280x720

Both ice cream and gelato are very popular and tasty treats which are both full of flavor which will excite your taste buds every time that you try them.

Be sure to take a look at these gelato making classes in Italy to try your hand at making your own gelato and ice cream and you certainly won’t be disappointed!

Frequent Asked Questions

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

Gelato is made using less air and more milk, and is much silkier in texture and richer in flavor. Because of the way that gelato is made, it also contains less butterfat and fewer calories overall. In the United States, many have attempted to replicate the creamy, dense flavor of gelato but with no success.

Like ice cream, gelato is made using milk, cream, and sugar, but it differs in the proportions that it uses. Gelato uses less cream and more milk than ice cream and typically contains no egg yolks or eggs at all in its recipe. Gelato is served at a slightly warmer temperature than American ice cream and it is also churned at a slower rate, which introduces less air into the product.

Many people wonder if gelato contains gelatin and the answer is No. Gelato is simply an Italian word that happens to share the first five letters of gelatin which has caused some confusion.

Both gelato and ice cream contain lactose at about 3-6 grams/125 ml serving. Although, gelato has more added sugar than ice cream which results in a higher carbohydrate content compared to ice cream.

The reason why gelato is thicker than ice cream is because of the churn rate. Since gelato is churned at a slower speed, it has less air incorporated into it and you’ll find that it’s denser than American ice cream.

Gelato is creamier, smoother, and silkier, as well as more dense and elastic than traditional ice cream. In the gelato making process, less air is incorporated while it is churning, which is how gelato achieves its creamy texture and elasticity.

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