They’re both cold. They look a lot alike. They even taste similar. Is there even a difference between gelato and ice cream? The answer is “yes,” and some of the key differences between the two frozen treats might surprise you.

Here’s a look at what gelato and ice cream are, as well as the differences when you take a closer look at the two desserts.

Are you looking for the healthier option? If so, here’s the skinny on the nutritional facts: Ice creams have at least 10 percent fat, while gelato contains closer to 5 or 7 percent fat. Of course, there’s lots more to consider, but health conscious treat consumers might appreciate these topline numbers.


The 8 Key Differences Between Gelato and Ice Cream

Consumers sometimes assume that gelato is just an Italian word for “ice cream.” While gelato may by Italy’s answer to American ice cream, the two icy desserts on not interchangeable.

To help you make the best decision when searching for a cool treat, here’s a look at 8 key differences between gelato and ice cream:

1. Temperature

Both gelato and ice cream are served cold, but one is served colder than the other. While American ice cream is most often served at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (or thereabouts), gelato is served anywhere from 10 to 15 degrees warmer.

Ice cream’s colder temperature helps scoops stick together. But gelato’s relative warmth makes it easier to hold and easier to eat — there’s less likelihood of you experiencing a brain freeze when eating gelato.

2. Air and Density

Ice cream contains a lot more air than gelato. That’s why you’ll often see gelato served in smaller containers than ice cream — it’s denser, so a single serving is much smaller.

So be careful when you’re eating gelato at home. Yes, it does contain less fat as a percentage than ice cream. But you can actually consume fat if you dish yourself the same amount of gelato as you would ice cream.

3. Flavors

When you’re shopping for ice cream, you typically see a wide range of exotic flavors. In fact, Ben & Jerry’s is known for its off-the-wall flavor options. But it’s not the same for gelato: You’ll typically find traditional flavors like chocolate, vanilla, etc.

Also, when tasting gelato, the flavors are far more powerful. This comes back to the fat content. Fat helps to coat your mouth, which in turn diminishes flavor. Because there’s less fat in gelato, the flavors are much more accessible.

4. Cream

You most likely know that gelato is a little bit smoother than ice cream. That’s because it’s made using more milk and less cream, which is another reason why it’s fat content is lower. Ice cream uses a little less milk and a little more cream.

5. Eggs

Also, egg yolks are used in making ice cream, while egg yolks are typically tossed out when making gelato. Again, these little decisions around ingredients are the reasons why gelato contains slightly less fat than ice cream.

6. Fat

As noted, ice cream has at minimum 10 percent fat. That’s just the minimum, though. Most ice creams have 15 percent fat or more — with some containing up to 25 percent fat. It’s a good thing the ice cream-making process creates a lot of air, or else that would be a lot of fat to consume in just a couple of scoops.

7. Service Style

What’s more American than the ice cream scoop? You can get your ice cream scooped into a cone or placed in a cup. But gelato is served a little differently. Traditional Italian gelato is served using a spade.

8. Popularity

Ice cream is still the leader in the United States. If you were to combine ice cream and gelato sales into one “frozen treat” market, gelato accounts for just about 5 percent of that market. (And, by the way, that combined market is worth about $15 billion in the United States.)

But, gelato is growing in popularity with each year. Gelato sales sat at $11 million in the United States in 2009. That number leapt to $214 million by 2014. That’s enormous growth, and it appears that gelato is only becoming more popular with each passing year.


Final Thoughts on the Difference Between Gelato and Ice Cream

Can you really go wrong with gelato or ice cream? Maybe you prefer one over the other, but they are both delightful treats on hot summer days or anytime of year. Here’s one recommendation: Find the best shop wherever you are. Make sure you’re getting really good gelato or really good ice cream. Life’s too short for anything less than the best, and it appears we live in an era when there are plenty of options in cities across the United States.

Which do you prefer: gelato or ice cream? Let us know in the comments below, or you can always send a message through our contact form.