Gelato vs. Ice Cream - Is There a Difference?

22 April 2018

Gelato is a real religion in Italy and you can find a gelateria at the corner of every street. Savoring this delicious sweet treat while wandering around Rome is definitely what we could call Dolce Vita and sounds like the only way to eat gelato! However, you would be surprised by how many shelves full of ice cream can be found in supermarkets. So here is the question: is gelato and ice cream the same thing? First, let me tell you a bit about the history of gelato and how all this started. Then I will expose the difference between the two products.


The History of Gelato

Man discovered ho to keep snow and ice cold in the 18th century BC. In the following centuries, people started to freeze sweet substances such as fruit juice to mix with honey and grounded ice to create some kind of gelato ancestor!

According to the legend, gelato has been invented in 1656, in Florence, by Buontalenti. The Duke had asked him to organize celebrations in welcome of a Spanish delegation and he presented a cream flavored with bergamot, lemons and oranges that had the texture of a gelato. The Spanish delegation obviously loved it and spread the word.

In 1686, the Sicilian fisherman Francesco Procopio opened the first gelato parlor in Paris, where he was making gelato thanks to one of his grandfather’s invention. He was so successful that Louis XIV gave him the exclusivity.

In 1770, Giovanni Bosio introduced the gelato to the USA and the first American gelato parlor opened in Boston.

It is only in 1925 that the Bolognese Otello Cattabria opened the first automatized gelateria which signed the beginning of the industrial ice cream era.

Nowadays, it is easy to find either artisanal gelato or ice cream but are they the same thing?  Is the taste different? And what about the ingredients?

The Difference Between Artisanal Gelato and Ice Cream

ice cream

Gelato is artisanal, produced in small quantities and sold directly to the consumer in order to be consumed straight away. Thus, unlike industrial ice cream, gelato does not require  to help to conserve the product longer.

There are also differences in the production and conservation temperatures. To guarantee long conservation and allow long storage, ice cream is produced at -40° in a continuous freezer and conserved at -18° before it ends up in the consumer’s hands, after being stored for quite a long time. In contrast, artisanal gelato is produced in a batch freezer and then immediately displayed in the shop counter which has a temperature of -15°.

We also notice that the raw materials used are different. Generally, we use powdered milk and vegetable fats to produce ice cream while we use fresh milk and fresh cream for the artisanal gelato. It is quite easy to understand which is best for your taste buds and health!

Another important factor is the quantity of fat and air. Ice cream contains more fats but also more air. Incorporating air during the long production process helps manufacturers to increase the volume (can be doubled!) and so… increase profits!


I am sure this made you realize how healthy is a gelato compared to an ice cream. You probably also decided to always go for an artisanal product and forget about rushing on the supermarket freezers; but be careful you always choose a trustworthy gelateria. Unfortunately, what they claim is not always true.

If you want to be sure to eat a delicious Italian gelato, you can also try our Gelato and Italian Biscotti class. Our local chefs will show you the traditional way to make it!

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