Italian Ice vs Sorbet vs Gelato: A Comparative Look

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The word “ice cream” generally brings a picture in mind of a cold dessert scooped and placed either in a cone or a little tub. While we think of ice cream as almost any frozen dessert, there are various categories that we often do not take into consideration. Namely, some famous frozen desserts include Italian ice, Sorbet, and Gelato. While they are not the same as what ice cream represents, they are not far away from the description.

However, Sorbet, Gelato, and Italian ice all have different components and ingredients which make them separate from one another. While for a long time they have been all included under the label of ice cream they are in fact separate and vastly different things in general.

The difference based on ingredients

Traditionally, the contents of the ingredients of an ice cream consist of heavy cream. Heavy cream as you can imagine consists of a good proportion of fat which makes ice cream high in calories. In comparison to the traditional ice cream, Italian ice, Sorbet, and gelato can all be substituted in its place as they are not so high in calories.

The simple reason why these three frozen desserts, which are often compared to ice creams and not so bad for health, is because they do not use heavy cream in the making process.

Let’s take a look at the different ingredients which are used in the making of Italian Ice sorbet and gelato.


Italian IceSorbetGelato
SugarSugar or HoneyWhole Milk
WaterWater or other liquidHeavy cream
Fresh fruit juiceFrozen fruit chunksFresh eggs
Fresh fruit chunks (optional)Lemon juiceVanilla/Cocoa/Fruits

As you can see, both Italian Ice and sorbet do not contain any dairy products making them much lower in comparison to Gelato ice cream. These are both vegan options for those who are committed to this lifestyle. On the other hand, Gelato consists of milk products and is much denser than our typical ice cream. The flavor is packed much more densely in a Gelato but it is still lower in calories than normal ice cream. The use of a higher proportion of milk in comparison to cream and water is what makes Gelato a healthier choice.


Comparing frozen desserts

As you can see, the world of frozen desserts is pretty expansive. The difficulty remains in trying to compare these products simply because they are pretty close to one another. For example, the ingredients in Sorbet and Italian ice are pretty much the same, so what makes them different from one another? Why is gelato, which is the Italian word for “ice cream” still different from the ice cream we eat and so much costlier? To answer these pressing questions, let’s compare them separately:

  • Italian ice vs Sorbet: Many people in the culinary world Actually use the word sorbet and granita pretty much interchangeably. But they are not the same things. In Italy, Italian ice is called granita and is known for its crunchy texture. Sorbet, on the other hand, is much smoother in consistency and has a melt-in-your-mouth effect. Italian ice is grainy and has an icy mouthfeel and is often added to smooth desserts as a textural element. Sorbets often also contain alcohol which adds to their smoothness.
  • Ice cream vs Gelato: Traditionally ice cream and gelato are both frozen desserts. Gelato directly translates to “ice cream” in Italian. However, in comparison to traditional ice cream which is much airier, the texture of gelato is much more concentrated. This makes Gelato more smooth and denser. While they both use a similar kind of custard base, gelato contains less cream and more milk making it lower in calories.
  • Italian Ice vs Sorbet vs Gelato: So, on the whole, we can conclude that the ingredients in Italian Ice and sorbet are similar and quite different in texture. On the other hand, in comparison to Gelato, which contains dairy products, both sorbet and Italian ice are non-dairy and use water as a liquid agent.


How they are made

For any food, the ingredients are a crucial point of difference. However, we must also take into consideration how these three different frozen desserts are made to better understand the difference between them. This is especially important keeping in mind that Gelato and sorbet pretty much have the same ingredients but are different in texture making them two different things altogether. So here is how they are made:

  • Sorbet: You can essentially turn any fruit into a sorbet if you know how to do it. For making a sorbet, usually, the fruits of choice are pureed, and mixed with sugar and water. Then the mixture is placed in an ice cream maker to make it smoother and denser.

However, for those who do not have a nice cream maker at home, making sorbet is not a problem at all. All you have to do is dice the fruit into small cubes and please set them in the freezer so that they completely become frozen. Then you simply need to add the frozen fruit with sugar in a heavy-duty food processor, adding a little water at a time for a smooth and perfect sorbet.

  • Italian ice: For making Italian ice, you typically need the juice of your favorite fruit. In a pan, you need to heat water until it comes to a boil. Then add sugar to dissolve it completely. Once the water has cooled down you can add the fruit juice along with lemon juice, lemon zest, or any other additional ingredients of your choice.

Now simply place this mixture in a freezer pan or a baking tray and let it get frozen in the freezer. Once completely frozen your Italian ice is ready. You can either serve it scooped on a cone or even as shaved ice.

  • Gelato: For making a gelato you first need to make a traditional custard base using the milk cream and eggs so that it is dense and packed with flavor. The flavoring agents are then added to a Gelato after the custard is cool. The mixture is then poured into a freezing pan and placed in the freezer to make it frozen.

Frozen desserts are all delectable and completely win our hearts every time. Whether you choose to eat Gelato, sorbet, or Italian ice, it is going to be an extremely amazing experience no matter what. They are all suitable for people on a low-calorie diet and hence more inclusive!

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