During those warmer summer months, there is nothing better than a cold frozen treat. It is common to pick up a frozen treat like ice cream or gelato.

However, it can be difficult to work out the difference between ice cream and gelato, as on the surface they look quite similar. 

In this article, we will discover what the difference is between gelato and ice cream.

Origins of Gelato and Ice Cream

Ice Cream

It is completely known who first created ice cream. However, there have been works that cite a similar dish tracing all the way back to Ancient China.

It uses a mixture of flour, ice and buffalo milk mixed together to form this dessert. The dessert was extremely popular and a favorite of King Tang Of Shang.

Then in a later version of this dessert include honesty, juice and fruit served over the old dessert. Eventually, the ice cream that we know and love was used to use dairy from cows.

In some recipes, egg yolks are used, but this was only seen for those in high authority. It is believed that a dessert, known as cream ice, was given to King Charles I and his guest during a dinner party in the 17th Century.

Although, it wasn’t until the 19th Century, that ice cream started to become popular.

This was due the advances in technology and refrigeration allowed ice cream makers to make and distribute their ice cream easily and cheaply in much larger amounts.

Then in the middle of the 19th Century, the first ice cream machine was created. 


When it comes to Gelato, it was first created in Italy. However, it is a bit of a mystery over where the actual origins of gelato come from.

Some people believe that gelato originates from Sicily via the Arabs, while there are other reports that say it could be Florence.

As a result, no one is really sure where gelato originated from.

How Are They Made?

Both ice cream and gelato share the same 3 main ingredients to create them. These include sugar, air and dairy. Yet, the difference between these two are the proportions in which these ingredients are used. 

The dairy which can be cream or milk is combined with sugar and pasteurized. Then either natural or artificial flavorings are added. In the final step, air is added by the mixture being churned.

Then, finally, the ice cream or gelato is put in the freezer.

Ice cream will be churned quite quickly, which will add a lot of air into the mixture. Thus, the mixture will increase and gain a lot more volume. While gelato is churned much slower, so less air is added. 

Alongside that, ice cream also has a higher fat content because it uses a lot more cream. Also, egg yolks can sometimes be used, which is a rare thing to see in a gelato recipe.

The egg yolks can act like a stabilizer and add a lot more fat to the ice cream. 

Nutritional Profile

Nutritional Profile

Overall, ice cream has a much higher fat content when compared to gelato. It is said that around 10% of the calories from ice cream comes from its fat content.

Although, gelato may contain much fat, at only 4 to 9% fat. Gelato contains a lot more sugar than ice cream. 

With that being said, both desserts do contain a lot of sugar. For example, a serving of vanilla ice cream contains around 210 calories and there are 16 grams of sugar.

While in the same serving of gelato, it will contain around 160 calories and about 17 grams of sugar. 

As a result, as they both contain very high calorie and sugar contents, they should only be eaten as the occasional treat. 

Taste And Texture

The texture between ice cream and gelato differs massively. This is because gelato is much denser than ice cream, and a silk-like texture as well.

With gelato being so dense, it allows it to hold a lot more flavor than ice cream can. When it comes to flavors in gelato, they are usually from natural sources. 

With ice cream having a higher air content, this helps to create a light and soft texture which is enjoyable to eat. Yet, due to the high butterfat content, it can struggle to be as tasty.

This is due to the butterfat, which will coat your tongue. Therefore, it takes your taste buds slightly longer to find the flavor of the ice cream. 

Uses And Serving

When it comes to serving gelato, it can be served much warmer than ice cream at 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. This warmer serving suggestion helps to enhance the natural flavors of the gelato.

While gelato isn’t as cold it doesn’t make your tongue numb, that is a regular occurrence when eating ice cream. 

Typically, gelato will be served using a spade. This is just  a flat spatula, and the spade will help to soften the gelato to serve. Usually, they are served in a plastic or paper cup that you eat with a spoon. 

Ice cream is commonly scooped using a deep and rounded spoon. Due to the higher fat content, this allows the ice cream to be shaped into firm balls that hold their shape easily.

Often they are served on a wafer cone or in a tub like gelato.

Difference Between Gelato And Ice Cream

As you can see, both ice cream and gelato are types of popular frozen desserts eaten all over the world. Ice cream typically has a higher fat content and is much airier.

While gelato is a lot softer and has a lot more flavor. Both desserts contain a lot of sugar and should only be eaten occasionally as a treat.

We hope you enjoyed this article, and now know the difference between ice cream and gelato. 

Rick Zullo

Former doctor, current science teacher, and life-long food lover, Rick's passion for Mediterranean cuisine was ignited while living as an expat in Rome, Italy. 


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