The Difference Between Gelato And Ice Cream

“Life is like an ice cream cone: You have to learn to lick it.” —Charles M. Schulz

In A Nutshell

While equally delicious, the higher fat content and added air of ice cream is what separates it from its frozen friend, gelato.

The Whole Bushel

Gelato and ice cream seem one and the same to the untrained eye. Both frozen, creamy treats enjoyed by many with a variety of flavors, it’s hard to know what truly separates them aside from the slight tweak in texture. But there’s obviously something going on here—it’s all in how they are created.

In the USA, ice cream is regulated by the FDA, which dictates that it must contain at least 10 percent milk fat with most containing anywhere from 14 percent to 17 percent. On the other scoop, gelato has a fat content of around 3 percent to 10 percent, as it has no such regulations.

There’s also a special surprise in your ice cream tub you might not have known you had—a nice big spoonful of air, in some cases up to half the carton, just like the delicious kind you find in bags of potato chips. You see, during the production of ice cream, air is pumped in while the cream is whipped, greatly increasing the volume of the treat and simultaneously making it easier to scoop and quicker to melt.

Gelato however contains minimal air, only the amount that would be necessary for structure and scoopability, which makes its texture so creamy (despite the fact it contains much less actual cream than ice cream).

Show Me The Proof

Ice Cream vs. Gelato
Ice Cream vs. Gelato: The Differences of Frozen Desserts
What Is Gelato And How Does It Differ From Ice Cream?

  • rhijulbec

    I love them both, but prefer the texture of gelato. It seems almost like a sorbet or maybe sherbet. There used to be an Italian bakery where I live and they made the most delicious gelato. It closed a number of years ago and I have never tasted its equal, sad to say.

  • Phil_42

    Am I reading this wrong or does it say in the nutshell statement that ice cream has a lower fat content, and then in the body of the article state the opposite?

    • Luciano Gianola

      Right. It erroneously states that ice cream has lower fat. Trust the Bushel, not the Nutshell.

  • Luciano Gianola

    I’ve only had gelato once, and it was magical. Ice cream is always delicious, though.

  • inconspicuous detective

    i don’t care particularly care, but when someone wants to argue what i’m eating…we’ll have a problem. seriously though, i’ve heard gelato explained as everything from custard to frozen yogurt to sherbet. i don’t even know what it is anymore…apparently this says it’s like ice cream. whatever.

    • leaves and bells

      You don’t care because you like cake. 😀

      • inconspicuous detective

        i love cake…;)

  • Hillyard

    I had gelato in Italy once, thought it was ice cream, was corrected by a kind Italian. Thought it was better than any ice cream I’d ever had.

  • Brp Goyo

    When licking frozen deliciousness, does the name matter?

  • UN


  • Garu Derota

    Being italian and living in Italy, I can assure you that it’s hard for us to eat ice cream. It’s not posing. It’s the sheer sensation you’re eating the worst gelato ever. This happens with a lot of stuff (drinking coffee, eating pizza and so on).
    Of course this must happen for everyone when they eat their favorite home dishes in foreign countries. I think that coming to Italy and eat an hamburger would be a similar unpleasant experience.

  • S4lem

    Custard all the way bitches

  • I’cia( ❤ My Falcons)

    I absolutely hate the texture of gelato! Great article!

  • EvaAllard

    What, no love for a granita?

  • Capt_Kirk

    Speaking of the air content. Whenever you see several brands selling the flavor that you want, simply pick up the cartons and check the weight. The heavier it is, the less air and more creamier.