Gelato vs Ice Cream: What’s the Difference?

Pictured here are some creative ways to display different flavors of gelato.

With summer upon us, we find ourselves strolling along the streets of town and happen upon a good number of ice cream and gelato shops. You might be asking yourself, just what is the difference between gelato and ice cream? Well, here’s the scoop!

Gelato is Italy’s version of ice cream, with three major differences.

  • Gelato has significantly less butterfat (only 4 – 8%) than the typical 14 – 26% found in ice cream  AND taste buds confirm that less fat does not mean less taste. Quite the contrary, whereas ice cream has a tendency to have an initial “mm-mm” factor once it lands on the tongue, as the consumption continues, the taste buds become “frozen” and the ice cream looses it’s flavor. It is very unlikely one will ever experience the “brain freeze” sensation with gelato (though, we highly recommend you refrain from testing this theory by scarfing down your gelato as fast as possible). With a much lower fat content, it’s easy to surrender to the guilt-free pleasure of savoring the slow, intentional burst of natural ingredients that melt in the mouth with full flavor to the very last spoonful of gelato.

  • Gelato has a much higher density than ice cream. First, it’s important to understand the “structure” of ice cream which is produced by mixing cream, milk and sugar, then adding air to “fluff” it. Ice cream producers add air (typically 50 to 90 %) because it nearly doubles the quantity of their product and, well, quite frankly air is cheap – but it shows in the end result. Less air is added to gelato and the result is a higher quality dessert with a richer, creamier taste.

  • Did you know, one of the main reasons gelato is so hot right now is because it is actually served warmer than ice cream? Both are served well below the freezing temperature of 32 degrees, but gelato is served 10 – 15 degrees warmer than ice cream. The taste is further enhanced as it softly dissolves when settling in the mouth.

Interesting Facts

  • There are over 37,000 gelato shops in Italy alone and in the U.S. there are only about 1,200 (and growing).
  • Famous artist and architect Bernardo Buontalenti is considered the inventor of gelato.
  • Sorbetto, in case you are wondering, is a term for gelato that is made with WATER instead of milk (and contains 0% fat).
  • In Italian, gelato means “FROZEN”
  • Gelato made its way to the AMERICAS for the first time in 1779

*Based on “Solving the Gelato Mystery”, published by PreGel America


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