The Cold Dessert Debate:  Gelato vs. American Ice Cream

There is a lot to be said about gelato in Italy. There seems to be a store on every street. The flavors are pretty much all the same, with a few exceptions now and then. Cups and cones are obviously the vehicles to put the yummy stuff in. Some cones are made into flowers, some cups come with a cookie.

This post contains affiliate links that help keep this website running. By purchasing through our links, we make a small commission at no extra charge to you. Thank you for your support!

gelato vs ice cream.
gelato ice cream cones in a rose

There is a new place we tried in Parma (picture below) that has a type of whipped cream they call “Creme Parmigianino” because that is the street they are located on. It is to die for. We have tried it with gelato and with fruit gelato. There are almonds and sugar granules (we think) and it is just so good. I was thinking the next time just asking for that but I think the owner would give me a look’. Who knows, perhaps you are ‘allowed’ to just have that; I’ll see how brave I am to ask – next time.

Gelateria Parmigianino, Parma, Italy
Gelato store in Parma, Italy
Gary paying for our gelato. That whipped cream stuff is in the front row, second to the left. Ahhhhhh!!!



So what is the difference between gelato and ice cream?

Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream so “technically” they are the same. However, we all know that there’s a big difference between the soft, smooth texture, and clean taste of gelato compared to American-style ice cream’s heavier, richer texture. It comes down to these factors: fat, sugar, air, and serving temperature.

Gelato has less fat in the base when made and less air churned into it during the freezing process. American-style ice creams are generally heavy on the cream and have a fat content of at least 10% (which can be considerably higher in most homemade and many premium versions). Gelato uses more milk than cream, so it doesn’t have nearly as much fat.


American-style ice creams are churned quickly to whip in plenty of air (called overrun) which is helped by the high proportion of cream in the base. Gelato is churned at a much slower speed, which introduces less air into the base. So, gelato has a dense, silky texture that’s less creamy than the heavy-fat American-style ice creams.

So there you have it, which do you prefer?

Editors Note:  This post originally appeared on August 31, 2016. I have been asked recently to repost this information.


1 Comment

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You might also enjoy: