What’s The Difference Between Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream & Gelato

Last week was a big week for me.

Over the course of five days, I had frozen yogurt, ice cream, and gelato. Best week ever!

Like many spectacular things in life, it wasn’t planned. It just happened. It wasn’t like I was training for a dessert decathlon or anything. Although, if there is such a thing, I will start training immediately.

After having all three, I started wondering about their differences. Quite frankly they all taste pretty much the same to me, so why the different names? Let’s find out in today’s edition of Wonder Why Wednesday…

What’s The Difference Between Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream & Gelato?

The Thrillist article I used for research has possibly the best sentence ever written about sweet treats:

“The dairy world can occasionally be a daunting place, with people throwing all sorts of names for frozen treats at you like the least intimidating game of dodgeball ever.”

Dairy dodgeball would be a great event to add to my dessert decathlon line.

The article solicits the help of Neal Gottlieb, dairy expert and founder of Three Twins Ice Cream. Here’s what Gottlieb had to say…

Ice Cream

Believe it or not, “ice cream” is actually a federally defined term. It refers to a frozen dessert made with “no less than 10% milkfat and no more than 100% overrun, which is the percent by which the base is increased in volume by churning in air during the freezing process, meaning that it is no more than 50% air.” So, when you are eating ice cream, you are eating at least 10% fat and possibly 50% air? That is something I wish I never learned.

Frozen Yogurt

Unlike ice cream, “frozen yogurt” is not a term defined by the federal government. Neither is “fro-yo.” This dessert is “lower in fat than ice cream, somewhat tart, and contains yogurt cultures that may or may not be alive and active.” No word on how much of it consists of air.


Most people think “gelato” is the Italian word for “ice cream”, but Gottlieb points out that would be like “saying ‘cricket’ is the British word for ‘baseball’. It is close, but doesn’t tell the whole story.

This cousin to ice cream is usually made with whole milk and does not add cream, so the milkfat is around 3.8%. Unlike it’s relative, gelato contains little to no air, so it is served semi-frozen. Its composition makes it have a very short shelf life. Because of this, most of the gelato you find in grocery stores is actually, as Gottleb puts it, “low-fat, gummed-up ice cream in a nice Italian suit.”

The rest

In addition to the big 3, the Thrillist article discusses frozen custard, sherbet and sorbet. Check out the entire story here.

2 thoughts on “What’s The Difference Between Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream & Gelato

  1. Mmmmm I like the idea of a dessert decathlon. Let’s create such a thing! 🍧🍨🍦

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s