If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between ice cream and gelato, then you’re not alone. Many people think that they’re exactly the same thing, and as an Italian I’m appalled!
Whilst there isn’t a massive difference between the two, there are subtle differences which make the ice cream versus gelato argument quite interest. Which one is better for your waistband? And more importantly, which one tastes better? Well, I’ll have a look into that and cover what you need to know to differentiate between the two.
Ice Cream versus Gelato
If you’re in a rush and don’t have time to check out the full article, I’ve decided to round it up in this quick list of Pros and Cons of both gelato and ice cream. These are;
Much thicker in consistency due to slower churning process
Less fat and therefore usually lower calories
Served at a warmer temperature than ice cream (around 15 degree lower traditionally)
Available in some unique flavors (liquorice, anyone?) but usually similar.
Thinner consistency as ice cream is made with a much faster churning process
More fat due to the use of solely cream and no milk in traditional ice cream
Served colder than gelato
These are the main points that you may notice a difference between ice cream and gelato. There aren’t many other differences between the two, and you likely won’t notice a difference unless you really love ice cream.
The ingredients in these two desserts are extremely similar, though they do vary slightly. The main difference is that gelato is made using whole milk as well as cream, whereas ice cream will just use cream. Here’s an example of the staple ingredients you might expect to find in a standard gelato;
Of course, usually you’d add things like fruit and chocolate in accordance to what flavor ice cream you are making. These are the staple ingredients of your gelato, though.
Gelato will usually be slightly higher in carbohydrates than ice cream, but certainly not by a significant amount. The use of milk in gelato will give you a higher amount of carbs in your gelato.
If you’re specifically looking to minimize the amount of carbohydrates in your gelato, you can always consider using an alternative to whole milk like soy milk. Specifically unsweetened soy milk, as this is particularly low in carbohydrates, which make it perfect for making a low carb gelato – important if you’re on a keto diet!
This is the main area where ice cream and gelato tend to differ. Traditionally, ice cream is made with only heavy cream, whereas gelato is made with cream and milk. This makes gelato slightly lower in fat that ice cream.
I have seen a lot of gelato recipes that tend not to use milk; this isn’t gelato! You’re just making ice cream. Ask any Italian and they’ll tell you that a good gelato uses a good amount of whole milk (3.5% milk is best in my opinion) in proportion to the amount of cream that you’re going to use. An approximate amount to use is double the milk to the amount of cream that you’re going to use. For example, if you have a recipe with one cup of cream, use two cups of whole milk, as this will allow it to be thicker and frothier.
Again, gelato uses whole milk which has a relatively high protein content in relation to ice cream. This makes it slightly higher on protein, but not by too much.
The difference in protein will usually rely in your ice cream or gelato toppings, too. For example, if you have an ice cream that’s topped with nuts, then this is going to increase the protein content of your dessert. You can also consider using a small amount of whey protein in your ice cream/gelato if this if you would like to increase the protein content of the dessert.
Which is better for dieting?
Both gelato and ice cream are fine as part of a regular, balanced diet. They use similar ingredients, but in my experience, I prefer to eat gelato when I am dieting. This is because I can use low calorie milk and less eggs in my gelato, which reduces the amount of fat significantly.
In all honesty, you probably won’t notice much difference between the two if you limit the amount of dessert you’re eating. It doesn’t really matter which you eat; if you eat too much of it, you’re going to gain weight.
To get the best gelato, you’ll have to serve it slightly warmer than what you would serve an ice cream. Not by much, but this is pretty noticeable and will definitely affect the taste difference between the two.
You’ll also likely notice that a gelato has a far more intense flavour than an ice cream because of the way that it’s churned. Not only this, but stereotypically Italians are more likely to use a richer and intense flavor for a gelato than they would with an ice cream. Flavors like pistachio work better as a gelato because you can make them taste richer than you can with an ice cream.
The difference in texture is, in my opinion, the biggest difference between ice cream and gelato. Because of the way that gelato is made, you’ll definitely notice that it feels a lot denser in your mouth.
This is mainly because of the milk that’s used in gelato, but also because of the slower churning process that is used when making gelato. I always say that it’s a lot easier to make gelato in your home ice cream maker, because you don’t have to churn it as fast as you would with ice cream. Proper ice cream machines are more suited to making ice cream because they have the ability to churn the ice cream much faster than you can with a smaller ice cream maker that you’re using at home.
With both ice cream and gelato, it’s important to ensure that you’re churning the ice cream properly to get a good consistency.
Variety of Flavors
Whilst ice cream and gelato both use similar flavors, there are a few differences which can make a difference.
For example, fruit is an extremely popular option in both ice cream and gelato. Strawberry, Raspberry.. both very popular. But, usually gelato can use puree which give it a more intense flavor than ice cream. That’s why if I’m going to pick a flavor like raspberry, I prefer to go for a gelato as it’s stronger on the tastebuds.
Another really big difference that you might notice with gelato, especially if you’re visiting Italy, is that they are more likely to use spices and herbs. This is either as decoration, or actually part of the ingredients of the gelato. Not only spices and herbs, but stronger flavors like liquorice are actually extremely popular choices for a homemade gelato (it’s not my personal taste, but hey ho!).
Avoiding allergies is like avoiding a minefield when you’re eating ice cream and gelato. It’s important to know what the ingredients are of your chosen dessert to make sure that there’s nothing in there that you’re allergic to.
It’s pretty obvious that both gelato and ice cream are not suitable for someone allergic to dairy. They use cream and milk as the primary ingredient, so unfortunately you’ll need to avoid traditional ice cream if you’re lactose intolerant.
Not all hope is lost, however; if you are allergic to lactose, then you can always find a dairy free alternative ice cream that uses soy milk or coconut milk, or you can opt for a delicious sorbet as an alternative (sorbets only use fruit, so you don’t need to worry about the inclusion of milk).
Another big one that might affect your allergies is nuts. Both ice cream and gelatos use a lot of nuts in certain flavors; pistachios and hazelnuts are some of my favorites. For this reason, it’s important to check the ingredients of any ice cream that you’re going to order.
If you’re in the US, then the most popular brand of gelato is undoubtedly Talenti. Talenti is a good option if you’re looking for a delicious gelato that is much thicker than what you might be used to with regular ice cream. It’s undoubtedly my favorite gelato brand in the United States.
If you’re going for ice cream, then in my opinion you can never go wrong with Breyers. I know, I know.. everyone loves Ben & Jerry’s and Dairy Queen, and they’re okay too. But I prefer Breyers as they tend to be higher quality, which is something that I look for in my ice cream. Plus, Breyers tend to be quite a bit lower in calories than B & J, which means I can eat more of it!
My favourite Gelato recipes
If you’re looking to make your own gelato, I thought I’d better round up some of my favorite options.
To sum it up, there aren’t many difference between the two and you likely will not notice this unless you eat a heck of a lot of ice cream. Personally, I’ll always opt for a good gelato when possible as I prefer it, bue it is subjective to what you are looking for in an ice cream.