Culinary Class

Gelato versus Ice Cream: What is the Difference?

Gelato versus Ice cream Featured

In the dog days of summer, we all need some relief from the heat. Thankfully, sunscreen season is also ice cream season! Here is a basic road map to help you navigate your chilly choices.

Hero Extra Strength Root Beer Ice Cream x
Extra-Strength Root Beer Ice Cream. Photos by Kelsey McCellan

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ICE CREAMS are typically made from a cream, milk, egg yolks and sugar custard base. They have a higher percent of cream than milk and are required to contain at least 10 percent milk fat but most premium brands contain upwards of 20 percent. The higher amount of milk fat gives the ice cream a creamy, luxurious texture.

GELATOS contain sugar, cream and milk but with a higher ratio of milk to cream and only sometimes contain egg yolks. Gelatos contain around 5-9 percent milk fat. This leaner ratio gives the gelato more intense flavor, uninhibited by the richness of a higher fat content.

Flan ice cream with caramel in a bowl
Flan Ice Cream with Caramel from Asheville's Cúrate. Photos by Evan Sung

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Ice creams are churned at a faster rate, allowing more air to be incorporated into the final product while freezing, which can eventually double their volume . A higher percentage of this additional volume, called overrun, gives a lighter, smoother texture, but also a less flavorful ice cream . As the volume of the ice cream rises, the flavorings become more diluted. Higher quality ice creams are denser because of the higher fat content and lower overrun.

Gelatos are churned at a slower rate. This incorporates less air and gives gelato a denser texture.

Buttermilk Ice cream x
Atlanta's Chef Gillespie's Buttermilk Ice Cream. Photo by Angie Moser

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Ice creams are stored at 6 to 14 degrees. This temperature keeps ice cream firm enough to scoop.

Gelatos are stored at higher temperatures, usually 10 to 22 degrees. A gelato’s texture is closer to a soft serve ice cream, which is why gelatos are scooped using a spatula and not a typical ice cream scooper.

Gelato x
Straciatella Gelato. Photos by Jonathan Boncek


Spring Sweet Cream Ice Cream
Buttermilk Ice Cream
Beet Ice Cream
Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

Maple Syrup Gelato
Straciatella Gelato

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