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The Difference Between Ice Cream, Gelato, Sherbet and Sorbet

Get the scoop on your favorite frozen desserts
Photo: Tasting Table

If you’ve ever found yourself at the ice cream shop or in the freezer section of the supermarket wondering what the difference is between ice cream, gelato, sherbet and sorbet, you’re not alone. Though we enjoy all of these treats equally, there are obvious differences between them.

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① Let’s start with the one we are most familiar with: ice cream. Ice cream is typically made from milk, cream, sugar and sometimes egg yolks. There are many ways to build a base; however, a traditional French custard base consists of tempered egg yolks in milk, cooking the mixture until it develops a thick consistency. According to the Food and Drug Administration, ice cream contains at least 10 percent milk fat and is churned at a high speed to create a light and airy texture.

 

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② 
While gelato is technically the Italian word for “ice cream,” there are differences between the two. A gelato base uses more milk and less cream, and is churned at a much slower speed, resulting in a lower fat content and a creamier texture.

③ Who doesn’t remember eating rainbow sherbet as a kid? The middle child stuck between ice cream and sorbet, sherbet is a fruit-based dessert that contains about 1 to 2 percent milk fat.

④ If you’re looking for a dairy-free alternative, sorbet is the dessert to go with. Sometimes used as a palate cleanser between meals, its two main ingredients are fruit juice (or purée) and sugar.


That’s the scoop! Now you know what’s in your cone.

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