American Ice Cream vs. Gelato

Ice cream seems like a simple enough treat. But did you know that even the slightest difference in fat content, churning, or ingredient use can render an entirely different product?

Take gelato and ice cream, for example. What’s the big difference between ice cream and gelato, anyway? The key difference lies in the fat content. American ice creams are heavy on the cream, containing a fat content of a minimum of 10%, in compliance with American food labeling laws. In homemade and premium ice creams, this number is considerably higher.

By contrast, gelato is made up of more milk than cream. Because of this, the fat content is lower, typically less than 10%. Usually, gelato also contains fewer, if any, egg yolks, which is a common source of fat for custard-based ice cream.

American-style ice creams are also rendered in a fast and hard churning process in order to whip a great volume of air (called overrun) into the ice cream. This is helped by the high cream content in the ice cream’s base.

Perfectly overrun ice creams have a voluminous, creamy texture. Because of this luxurious mouthfeel, most high end ice creams have an overrun of about 25%. Meanwhile, cheaper, more commercial versions of ice cream can have an overrun from anywhere between 50% and 90%. This gives the ice cream a light, thin texture that lacks in flavor and melts rather quickly.

In comparison, gelato is churned slowly, introducing less air into the base. This renders a denser, more concentrated texture and flavor.

In addition to its density, gelato is also known for its silky soft texture that almost appears elastic, allowing it to swirl in the most delicate of ways. This is due to the temperature at which it is served. While ice cream is best served at around 10 degrees Fahrenheit, gelato cases are typically set to a warmer temperature.

Yet it’s not only about the texture and ingredients -- using the right spoon makes all the difference when it comes to enjoying these desserts. Gelato is eaten with a square spoon, which is typically smaller than the traditional round spoon used for ice cream. In the regular world, one would normally visit a gelato or ice cream parlor and eat their frozen treat with a plastic variety of either spoon.

Meanwhile, those who merely sample these frozen treats don’t need to have been born with silver spoons in their mouths, but it turns out that metal does matter. Ice cream taste testers actually use gold spoons to taste the product in its fullest flavor capacity. Because of their composition, gold spoons guarantee that the desserts won’t be tainted with the slight aftertaste from other types of spoons.

Despite their differences, gelato and ice cream are enjoyed almost equally in the United States. With a 10.9% preference for ice cream and an 8.9% preference for gelato, one would think these dessert titans would top the list. However, most Americans actually have a taste for frozen yogurt, which has a 78.9% preference rating. Snow cones, meanwhile, rank dead last with a rating of just 1.5%.
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About the Author: Tim Porter

Tim is the CEO and people builder of In his free time, he enjoys being with his family, collecting watches, and Classic Mini Coopers.


Our purpose at Frozen Dessert Supplies is "Build People and Deliver Joy." That means that everything we do, from manufacturing to packaging to delivery, is to build you and your business and deliver joy to you. We also strive to build our employees and help them to be better people.

Our paper ice cream cups are made withFDA approved food-safe papercoated in a thin layer ofPE (Polyethylene). Our clear plastic cups, banana split boats, and plastic dome lids are made fromPET (Polyethylene Terephthalate). Our plastic spoons and straws are made fromPP (Polypropylene). Our eco-friendly ice cream cups are made fromFDA approved food-safe papercoated in a thin layer ofPLA (Polylactic Acid). PLA is plastic made from corn starch. Our eco-friendly spoons are also made from PLA. Our eco-friendly wooden spoons are made from FDA approvedsmooth birch wood.