The Differences Between Ice Cream, Gelato and Other Frozen Treats

Frozen Treats

People have been making frozen desserts for nearly two thousand years. The first to begin making frozen sweets was the ancient Persian Empire in the 10th century. Eventually, frozen sweets would spread all over Europe during the Renaissance.

As we moved to the modern age, different types of frozen desserts began to appear, all bearing some similarities to their earliest Persian ancestor.

How do they differ, and what makes them unique? Here, we explore some of the most famous varieties.


Gelato is one of the most popular types of frozen dessert. Originating from Italy, though widely available in America from retailers like Bon Bon, gelato is made from churned milk. It is dense and has relatively low fat compared to desserts like ice cream.

Ice Cream

Ice cream is one of the most widely eaten frozen desserts in the world. Ice cream, which is also known as frozen custard, is typically made from egg yolks and cream.

Because of its cream and egg content, it can be stored for relatively long periods of time as it retains its original texture.


Sorbet is the closest thing we have to the original ancient Persian recipe. This light, airy frozen treat is made of very fine ice crystals, mixed with some kind of fruit juice or puree.


Sherbet, on the other hand, is very similar to sorbet, but the primary difference is that sherbet adds some sort of dairy to the mix for a creamier consistency. It is not quite a sorbet, but not quite ice cream either. Sherbet may have cream, milk or buttermilk included in the recipe.

Frozen Yogurt

Frozen yogurt is similar to ice cream, but uses soured, fermented milk instead. Frozen yogurt, therefore, has a tarter flavor, though it is often available in all the basic ice cream variants.

Ice Milk

Ice milk is similar to a sorbet and sherbet, but instead of using water, or water mixed with milk, it uses pure milk to create the mix. Because of the process, it tends to have larger ice crystals than both sherbet and sorbet.

Shaved Ice

Shaved ice is similar to sorbet, but uses larger, chunkier ice shavings. They can be flavored in several ways, and often feature some kind of topping. Many cultures have their own version of it – from the snow cones of the U.S., the Italian granita, the Korean bingsu, and halo-halo in the Philippines.

Frozen treats will undoubtedly keep evolving as ice making technologies improve. With its popularity, it will likely still be around in another two thousand years or so.

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