Gelato vs. Ice Cream: What's the Difference?

No, gelato and ice cream aren’t the same thing. Here are a few key differences.
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Gelato, that Italian dessert staple, is gaining U.S. fans, with sales hitting an estimated $214 million in 2014, an $11 million increase from 2009, and driving growth in the frozen dairy dessert market. But did you ever wonder what the difference is between ice cream and gelato — or if it’s just a matter of semantics and a higher price point?

In fact, gelato is really quite distinct from ice cream, NPR’s The Salt blog notes. Citing gelato expert and author Morgan Morano, writer Linda Poon sketches out a few key differences:

Creaminess: Gelato is creamier, smoother and silkier, as well as denser and more elastic and fluid, than American ice cream.

Ingredients: While both gelato and ice cream contain cream, milk and sugar, authentic gelato uses more milk and less cream than ice cream and generally doesn’t use egg yolks, which are a common ingredient in ice cream.

Butterfat, air and flavor: Ice cream contains at least 10 percent butterfat and usually has between 14 and 25 percent. Meanwhile, Italian gelato includes only about 4 to 9 percent fat. Yet gelato also contains less air than American ice cream — that helps keep it dense, fluid and creamy. And having less butterfat to coat your palate allows the flavors to emerge more, Morano tells The Salt.

Temperature: Another flavor enhancer: Italian gelato is served about 10 to 15 degrees warmer than American ice cream, at about 7 to 12 degrees Fahrenheit, so your mouth is less numb and better able to taste it.

Serving style: Authentic Italian gelato isn’t scooped, it’s served with a spade. Dig it?

Craving a frozen treat? Check out these gelato and ice cream recipes:

Photo courtesy of iStock
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