What is the difference between ice cream, gelato, and sorbet? They look different, but are they made differently?

3 Answers 3


First of all, the names vary a bit from country to country, or the ingredients do. I'll explain the most common names/ingredients.

The main difference is in the ingredients used. Sorbet is basically water + sugar + fruit, while ice cream and gelato is milk/cream + sugar + fruit. So the last two are more 'creamy', while sorbet is more 'icy'.

You can say that ice cream is a type of gelato, but there still is a difference. More sugar in gelato, more butterfat (the percentage of fat in the milk/cream) in ice cream.

You can read quite a lot about ice cream on wikipedia.

  • 4
    +1 for recognising that these words are not absolute, and vary from culture to culture. We do a fruit vodka sorbet with cream (basically a sorbet made from fruit infused vodka with cream stirred in at the end). If you are brave try it with chilli vodka !!!
    – TFD
    Commented May 14, 2011 at 12:30
  • 1
    I think you probably had the right idea, but your comparison of gelato and ice cream came out a little off. Gelato has more sugar and less butterfat than ice cream (wikipedia notes some typical percentages). Also, I might describe sorbet as icy rather than watery.
    – Cascabel
    Commented May 14, 2011 at 13:26
  • Thanks for the 'icy', it was the word I was looking for :-)
    – Mien
    Commented May 14, 2011 at 13:39
  • 3
    @TFD: In some places, sorbet with a little cream mixed in is known as "sherbet" (although the words have almost identical etymology).
    – jscs
    Commented May 14, 2011 at 18:02
  • 5
    You might also note the difference between ice cream made with custard (cooked eggs, sugar, and cream) and ice cream made with only dairy.
    – jscs
    Commented May 14, 2011 at 18:06

1) Custard ice-cream with eggs milk and cream.(Quite a high portion of eggs) 2) Ice-cream (dairy) 10% upwards of milk fat (milk & cream) 3) Gelato less than 10% butter fat but upwards of 16% sugar (needed to balance recipe) 4) Sorbet fruit, water and some milk to give it body 5) Water ice fruit water and sugar

  • Sorbets are usually dairy free.
    – SourDoh
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 17:07
  • @sourd'oh of course... perhaps he was thinking sherbet.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 18:41

Gelato is kind of Italian icecream, which has more sugar & Fat content .

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