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Jun 26, 2008 05:18 PM

Difference Between Gelato and Ice Cream? [Split from Pennsylvania board]

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Gelato has less air than ice cream. It is therefore denser. More flavor and less air per mouthful. Those Italians sure know food!

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  1. Crispycar, is that the ONLY differentiating factor between the two? Because I have heard/read from several reputable sources (, the executive chef in Philly's top restaurant, and Gina DiPalma's dessert cookbook) that it's a fat content thing. What am I missing here? I would love a hard fast answer on this matter (i.e. gelato = x, and ice cream = y). Help.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Phil_A_Mignon

      I believe that, despite having less air in it meaning it is denser, gelato typically has a lower fat content because it is made with either entirely milk or a high ratio of milk to cream, hence lowering its butterfat content. For the record, in my ice cream book it states that gelato is a pretty vague term, and simply means a frozen dessert made with either milk or cream. So, if one uses that as a definition then many things could be considered gelato. One other difference is that gelato is typically made with some sort of starch (i.e. cornstarch) as opposed to egg yolks, yielding a "chewier" texture. This apparently isn't a steadfast rule, though.

      1. re: Laura D.

        I've seen a lot of recipes aimed at amateurs, and there's no consistency. Gelato recipes *tend* to have more egg yolks and less dairy, but that's only a slight tendency. I've never had anything that called itself gelato that was chock full of add-ins, a la Ben and Jerry's (heath bars, cookie dough, etc) but that doesn't mean that anything that's just chocolate/coffee/vanilla etc called itself gelato.

        1. re: Bob Loblaw

          I believe gelato is made from milk rather than cream.

          1. re: Sean

            I've definitely seen gelato where the ingredients call for milk and cream, and for those that just have milk in it.

        2. re: Laura D.

          Besides which, not all ice cream is pumped full of air -- and the brands that don't contain all that air still aren't the same as gelato. I think the lower fat content (typically due to using milk rather than cream) is really the key factor in both the flavor and texture difference.