Differences between Gelato and Ice Cream

Author: Veruska Anconitano, Award-Winning Food Travel Journalist, Sommelier & Outdoor LoverAuthor information
About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is a a food travel journalist with awards to her credit, such as World Best Food Travel Journalist. She holds a certification as a sommelier and she is also an ardent lover of the outdoors. Aside from this, Veruska is a Multilingual SEO and Localization Consultant and co-owns multiple websites that cater to a global audience.
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One of the questions we always get is, “what’s the difference between gelato and ice cream” or also “is there a real difference between gelato and ice cream?”.

Being Italians means that we’ve eaten a lot of gelato in our life!

In this article, we’re going to give you an overview of the differences between the proper gelato and the ice cream. So, keep reading to find out what we think is the best and the healthier.

For this reason, we want to be honest and straightforward: gelato and ice cream are different, a lot, both in terms of production and outcome. If you pay attention, you clearly can recognize where each of them stands in the market.

So keep reading to learn the differences between gelato and ice cream!

A little spoiler: we don’t want to suggest one or another, but gelato is superior to ice cream both from taste and nutritional value.

What’s ice cream?

Ice cream is a dairy dessert made mostly of milk, sugar, eggs, and cream. The ingredients are worked at high speed to incorporate as much air as possible.

This process makes sure the final product increase in volume.

The final product is rich and creamy and it’s always served at a cold temperature.

Keep in mind: ice cream has 14 to 17 percent milkfat!

The ice cream tends to melt quickly because of the fat, and it is served at a temperature of 17-32°F (-8-2°C).

Gelato vs. Ice Cream

What is gelato?

Gelato is an Italian word, and it defines a particular type of product, made explicitly by using a patented process.

Unlike the ice cream, gelato doesn’t contain a lot of fat, and it’s not as fluffy as the ice cream; in the making of it, incorporating air is just a small part and doesn’t have any impact on the final product.

The cream is not used in the making of gelato (and if it’s used, it’s only in a minimal amount).

In the making of gelato, the ingredients are worked together very slowly, and this helps in giving this product its texture.

Keep in mind: gelato contains just 3 to 8 percent milkfat!

Gelato has to be served cold but not iced at a temperature of 7-9°F (-12-13°C).

Where does gelato come from?

The history of gelato begins in the Renaissance in Florence, with alchemist Cosimo Ruggieri.

Ruggieri is credited with creating the first gelato flavor, the fior di latte.

Where does ice cream come from?

It’s said that the ice cream debuted in the United States in 1744, but it became an everyday treat at the end of the 19th century.

ice cream

Main differences between Gelato and Ice Cream

Based on the above, we can safely say that:

Ice cream is more milky and fluffy and tends to be also richer in terms of sugar.

Gelato is more natural, and you can easily taste its flavor and its intensity.

Traditionally the ice cream is served with a scoop while the real gelato is served with a spade, a flatter spoon that looks like a spatula.

What’s the best and the healthier?

We can say that gelato is healthier than ice cream as it contains less sugar and fat.

As explained above, ice cream has 14 to 17 percent milkfat; gelato contains just 3 to 8 percent milkfat.

Take an ordinary vanilla ice cream: a portion of 100 grams (3.5 ounces) contains, on average, 125 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 14 grams of sugar.

Take a similar portion of gelato: it contains an average of 90 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 10 grams of sugar.

It’s impossible to state if gelato is better than ice cream or vice versa: Italians love a good gelato, and in Italy, people always experiment with new flavors and combinations to make sure the gelato culture will not get lost.

And you can sincerely say if you’re eating an ice cream, which often looks and tastes cheap, or a gelato, which can easily be considered gourmet when ingredients and methods are of a specific type.

Today in Italy, you can find experimental “gelati,” which combine different ingredients and, most of all, local ingredients that are enhanced precisely in the form of gelato.

Let’s be clear: we’re not endorsing one or the other here, even if for us gelato is always the choice.

Next time you’re looking for a frozen dessert, remember the difference between ice cream and gelato and make your choice, which is often the choice between a perfect and excellent product and a mediocre one.

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