Stone Cold Vocab: Ice Cream vs Sorbet vs Sherbet vs Granita vs Gelato

AmericasDairyland_Ice-CreamWhat’s it all about, Ice Cream?

We use the term “ice cream” interchangeably to describe just about any frozen dessert, but there are actually several different types of sweet treats that you can freeze in your ice cream maker (and one you can make right in a cake pan in your freezer!).

Brush up on your foodie vocab, and read on to learn the differences among ice cream, sorbets and sherbets, granitas and gelatos (gelati, actually*):


We all scream for ice cream! The mother of all frozen desserts. Ice cream is made with eggs and cream (at least 10% milk fat), often cooked into a custard, then chilled and processed into what Bon Appetit Magazine calls a “scoopable delight.”
Some folks will make dairy-free “ice cream,” which actually* isn’t technically ice cream, but it’s made with coconut (or almond, or rice or other) milk, so we’ll let this misnomer slide.

Sorbet = super-simple. At its most basic, sorbet (pink scoops, at right) is just fruit and sugar. Perhaps a little water or juice, and some tartness in the form of lemon or balsamic vinegar thrown in for good measure. Blend the whole caboodle and freeze in your ice cream maker. Dairy free in every sense of the word, and it’s also fat-free, too.

granitaGranita = a snow cone for grown-ups. Granita (green slushie, right) starts with the makings of a sorbet (fruit plus sugar, blended til smooth). But then, instead of freezing it in an ice cream maker, a granita gets poured into a baking dish or cake pan, and plopped right into the freezer. Ever half hour or so, you scrape the frozen sides of the dish, re-freezing and re-scraping, until you have a pan full of sweet, flaky, crystalline fruity ice.

Sherbet = sorbet + ice cream hybrid. It is easy to confuse sherbet with sorbet (they look and sound – and taste – similar). Sherbet has a sorbet-like base of pureed fruit and sugar, but diverges from sorbet with the addtion of a little milk (less than 3% milk fat total) and – rarely – a little egg white or gelatin.


Gelato = ice cream’s dense Italian cousin. If gelato (pictured, above) is dense, then ice cream’s a virtual airhead. Here’s what we mean: The big difference between gelato and our familiar American style ice cream is in the amount of air that is whipped into the product. (20% air for gelato and up to 60% air for ice cream) With gelato, the result is a denser and more intensely flavored dessert.

*Besides: nobody likes The Actually Guy (you know the one – you make a statement, and they interject “Actually….” and go on to correct or contradict what you just said). Nobody.





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