Ice Cream, Gelato, Gelati, and Custard: What's the Difference?

There's nothing better than a frozen treat on a hot day! While visiting your local ice cream shop, you may have some questions. Is there a difference between ice cream, gelato, gelati, and custard? There is! Keep reading to find out.

Ice Cream

Ice Cream, Ice Cream, Gelato, Gelati, and Custard: What's the Difference?

Ice cream is by far the most well-known frozen dessert in the United States. It's made primarily with milk, cream, sugar, and sometimes egg yolks. According to the FDA, ice cream is a churned frozen dessert with a minimum of 10% milkfat, weighing a minimum of "4.5 pounds to the gallon" of ice cream. This means that the amount of air introduced in the churning or stirring process is limited.


Gelato, Ice Cream, Gelato, Gelati, and Custard: What's the Difference?

Also known as Italian ice cream, gelato is very similar to ice cream in its ingredients. Gelato's concentration of milk, cream, and sugar is different. There's a much lower milkfat percentage (5-7%). Traditionally, it's stored at a higher temperature, making it smoother in texture. Because its churning speed is so much slower, gelato is denser than ice cream.This allows for a vastly different texture from ice cream.  The higher density and smoother texture creates a richer taste and is often served in smaller 4oz or 6oz portions. 


Gelati, Ice Cream, Gelato, Gelati, and Custard: What's the Difference?

While the word "gelati" is simply the plural of gelato, it's also considered its own dessert. It's a mixture of Italian ice (a sweetened dairy- and egg-free fruit-based dessert) and custard. Some are layered (a scoop of each dessert), while some are blended together. Gelati is a lighter, fruitier frozen treat than ice cream and gelato.


Custard, Ice Cream, Gelato, Gelati, and Custard: What's the Difference?

Custard is a traditional French dessert made with cream, milk, and eggs. To be considered custard by the FDA, the dessert must contain at least 1.4% pasteurized egg yolk in the final product. The eggs are the biggest difference between custard and ice cream. Some ice cream may include eggs, but all custard does.

Ice cream, gelato, gelati, and custard may have their differences but they do have one thing in common: they're all delicious! We hope this article helps you understand your favorite frozen desserts better. Whatever you choose for your ice cream cup, you're sure to have a great time.

What's your favorite summer treat? Tell us in the comments, we love hearing from you!

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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.

1 comment

  • Eve Mitchell

    It’s good to know that gelato doesn’t have as much milk. I love gelato and I love to eat it during the summer. I’m hoping to buy some sometime this week.

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