Food Recipe Collections & Favorites Desserts What's the Difference Between Ice Cream, Gelato, Sorbet, and Sherbet? Not all frozen treats are created equal. By Betty Gold Betty Gold Betty Gold is the former senior digital food editor at Real Simple. Real Simple's Editorial Guidelines and Samantha Leffler Samantha Leffler Instagram Website Samantha is the senior food editor at RealSimple and previously launched the US Weekly food vertical, where she wrote about the intersection of food and pop culture. Real Simple's Editorial Guidelines Updated on June 1, 2023 Medically reviewed by Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN Medically reviewed by Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN is a nationally recognized nutrition expert with over 16 years of experience in culinary nutrition and communications. Learn More Fact checked by Isaac Winter Fact checked by Isaac Winter Isaac Winter is a fact-checker and writer for Real Simple, ensuring the accuracy of content published by rigorously researching content before publication and periodically when content needs to be updated. Highlights: Helped establish a food pantry in West Garfield Park as an AmeriCorps employee at Above and Beyond Family Recovery Center. Interviewed Heartland Alliance employees for oral history project conducted by the Lake Forest College History Department. Editorial Head of Lake Forest College's literary magazine, Tusitala, for two years. Our Fact-Checking Process Share Tweet Pin Email Is the difference between sorbet and sherbet just a matter of pronunciation? Is frozen yogurt just "healthier" ice cream ? And what's the deal with gelato vs. ice cream? The terms are used interchangeably in conversation all the time. But the USDA adheres to precise guidelines when it comes to labeling frozen treats in the supermarket. Want the scoop? Here's our handy guide to seven of the most common frozen desserts. Here's How to Fix Freezer Burn on Ice Cream Once and For All 01 of 07 Sorbet madlyinlovewithlife / Getty Images This frozen delight contains just fruit and sugar—no dairy. It's often churned in an ice cream maker, which makes it scoopable but not creamy. Restaurants use sorbet as a palate cleanser during multi-course meals because its intense fruit flavor is extra-refreshing. Bonus: It's incredibly easy to make at home. 02 of 07 Sherbet evgenyb / Getty Images Halfway between sorbet and ice cream, sherbet is basically sorbet with a bit of milk added. And it is always fruit-based. 03 of 07 Granita (aka Italian Ice) Antonis Achilleos Like sorbet, granitas are often made from a puree of fruit, sugar, and water. The difference is in their texture. Unlike sorbets, which are smooth-churned, granita purees are scraped repeatedly during the freezing process, loosening their structure into icy flakes. 04 of 07 Ice Cream Victor Protasio The USDA requires this frozen favorite to contain at least 10 percent milk fat (which is exactly what it sounds like: fat from milk). It must also get churned during freezing, and (surprise!), be sweet. Want to make your own? Check out our collection of quick ice cream recipes. 05 of 07 Gelato RossHelen / Getty Images "Gelato" means "ice cream" in Italian. But the two are not exactly the same. While gelato has a custard base like its American cousin, it also contains less milk fat and less air churned into it during freezing, which makes its texture denser. Also, because gelato is traditionally served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream, it feels a bit softer and looks glossier. 06 of 07 Frozen Custard cbonsign / Getty Images This uber-creamy treat is exactly the same as ice cream, except for the addition of egg yolk to the base. It tends to be dense and soft (more the texture of soft-serve than hard ice cream), and is most commonly sold in the Midwest and South. 07 of 07 Frozen Yogurt Internationally / Getty Images Instead of milk or cream, yogurt gives this frozen dairy dessert its creaminess. But besides that, it's made the same way as ice cream. There are millions of ways to dress it up; here are some of our favorites. Frequently Asked Questions Which of the following is a healthier option: sorbet or gelato? Gelato contains more calories and fat thanks to the use of milk. Because sorbet is just fruit juice and sugar (no dairy), it has less calories and is therefore a healthier option. What are the three differences between gelato and ice cream? While gelato and ice cream are both dairy based, there is a difference in how they are made and how they taste. The USDA requires that ice cream be at least 10 percent milk fat. And while gelato means "ice cream" in Italian it's different than the American version in that it has a lower fat content and less air churned in to it, making it denser and more glossy. What makes sorbet different from sherbet? Sorbet is strictly fruit juice and sugar while sherbet is fruit juice, sugar, and a bit of milk. The result is a creamier consistency for the sherbet and brighter, more vibrant flavor for the sorbet. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Real Simple is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy. USDA. Ice Cream Standard. Accessed April 14, 2023.