A Brief Look at the Differences Between Ice Cream and Gelato


We all love a good frozen dessert now and then, especially when it comes to ice cream or gelato. Despite the fact we’ve been eating these frozen desserts for most of our lives, many do not understand the real differences between gelato and ice cream. Well, once and for all, here they are.

Beyond the allure that makes us think of gelato as an artisan treat from old world Italy, there are some distinct differences between ice cream and gelato. Yes the cultural aspect is important, but here are the main differences from an ingredient and production standpoint.


Though both contain cream, milk, and sugar, ice cream is heavier on the butterfat because it uses more cream than gelato. From a numbers perspective, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines ice cream as containing no less than 10 percent fat, though most ice cream falls closer to the 20 percent fat range. By comparison, gelato typically contains from four to nine present fat. Gelato is also known for typically using natural ingredients without added flavors or preservatives.


The result of butterfat is the ability to form crystals within the dessert. Crystals add firmness and texture. This means that ice cream often has a crunchier feel and has a firmness when it’s in the cup or cone. Gelato, on the other hand, is more fluid than ice cream. In addition, there is less air churned into gelato, which makes it creamier and more substantive. Ice cream contains roughly 50 percent air by volume, while gelato ranges between 20 and 35 percent.


One of the most important factors in differentiating between ice cream and gelato is how both types of frozen desserts are stored. Ice cream should be served around 10º F while gelato is served between 10 and 15ºF warmer than ice cream. In terms of flavor, warmer temperatures result in more powerful flavors.

Finding the right equipment to store and display gelato or ice cream will have great impacts. The right display case will consistently hold product at ideal storage conditions while simultaneously displaying that product to entice purchases from customers. Using a good quality gelato case will allow for even temperature distribution inside of the case and cold airflow over both rows of gelato, avoiding any melting and maximizing the visual impact of the product.


While we’re all familiar with deep, round tubs of ice cream, we’ve also come to recognize gelato from its rectangular, metal pans. Gelato is normally mounted in these pans because of their visibility. They allow customers to easily view the colors and decorations of gelato while providing accurate airflow over the product.

Now that you know the differences between ice cream and gelato, are you looking for storage and display tips? Check out our free guide on increasing sales with a refrigerated display case.

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