The Real Difference Between Sherbet and Gelato

Though sherbet and gelato are both delicious frozen desserts, they are quite different regarding their texture and flavor.

The difference between gelato and sherbet is their density and flavor. Gelato is denser than sherbet because the machine making the ice cream is turned off just after the ingredients are frozen. Sherbet, on the other hand, has the same density as ice cream but uses puréed fruit to change the flavor.

Gelato and sherbet are different because they are made in distinct ways. This results in both desserts having similar, basic ingredients but tasting completely different.

The Differences in the Ingredients

Since both sherbet and gelato are types of ice cream, they have similar basic ingredients, such as milk and cream. They are much more related than people may think, however, they have unique differences. The major differences between gelato and sherbet come from the ingredients that are used and the amount of time the dessert stays in the ice cream machine for.

Gelato, for example uses much less fatty ingredients than those found in Ice Cream. Sherbet on the other hand uses very similar ingredients to ice cream, raising the fat content in the dessert.

The Different Flavors

Sherbet flavors

In sherbet, puréed fruit is used to change the flavor of the dessert. Because of this, flavors of sherbet are directly related to the fruit that is used in it. For this reason, the most well-known kinds of sherbet are common fruits. Some examples of this include lime, lemon, and orange sherbet.

Gelato flavors

Gelato, like sherbet, can also have various flavors, but they are more sweet opposed to being slightly tart. Examples of sweet and savory flavors of gelato include chocolate and hazelnut. Having such flavors allows the gelato to become more savory and sweet. Another key difference is that gelato uses ingredients that are much less fatty than those used in ice cream, making the delectable dessert highly favored. Along with this, gelato is much smoother, allowing it to melt in your mouth easier.

This is one reason as to why so many people enjoy eating gelato. The texture is delicate but present enough to allow the person eating it to bask in the combinations of flavors without it becoming overpowering.

What Makes the Texture Different?

One key similarity comes from them both being frozen dessert treats. While this is a strongly relation between the two, it also plays into being one of their differences.

When someone makes ice cream, they use an ice cream machine. Similarly, when someone makes gelato or sherbet, they will use the same type of ice cream machine. Making sherbet is a lot like making ice cream because of the fact that the sherbet stays in the machine as long as the ice cream would. In fact, sherbet is essentially fruit flavored ice cream.

In this sense, the sherbet stays in the machine past the point at which it freezes. Doing this allows for the ingredients to mix with air in the machine. This changes the freezing point of the sherbet, overall changing its resulting density. Ice cream is made in a similar manner, so both sherbet and ice cream are closely related.

Because sherbet is combined with air, it is able to stay frozen longer than gelato. This does mean, however, that when you are ready to serve it, the sherbet will be more solid than the gelato. While the gelato can be served almost right from the freezer, it is suggested to remove sherbet from the freezer a few minutes before serving it, so it can soften, much like ice cream needs to soften before it is served.

Making gelato is different than making ice cream and sherbet because it is taken out of the machine before it has time to mix with the air. Gelato is also churned at a much slower rate than sherbet and ice cream.

Having a slow speed allows for the least amount of air possible to be mixed into the dessert. For this reason, gelato has a more delicate feeling on your taste buds. Gelato is removed from the ice cream machine just after the ingredients become frozen.

Removing the gelato early is one quick way to make sure the air does not interact with the ingredients and change the future result to ice cream, rather than becoming gelato. When it is removed from the freezer, it is put in a container and stored in a freezer so it can be kept cold.

Differences in Where They Originated

Another difference between sherbet and gelato is where they originated.

Sherbet’s origins

Sherbet originated in America, however, the Middle East introduced the idea of iced desserts to this side of the world. It was originally common practice in the 20th century to serve a light sherbet or sorbet between meals as a way of cleansing the palate. Though this practice is not common now, we find that finishing a meal with a frozen treat is a great idea.

Some sherbets have very specific origins in the United States. Rainbow Sherbet, for example, originated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by Emanuel Goren in the early 1950s. At this point in time, no one had combined multiple flavors of sherbet, so this was a pivotal moment in the history of sherbet.

Gelato’s origins

Gelato, on the other hand, originated in Italy. Over the years, however, gelato has become very popular in America. Its adoption into the United States’ series of dessert options allows for a wider variety of frozen dessert treats here, in the United States. Gelato’s adoption into other cultures has allowed for it to become popular in various countries across the globe.

Sherbet and gelato have key differences, however, they are very similar in certain aspects, causing much debate on which is the better option for a treat.

No matter where you live, you will run into people that enjoy either one, the other, or both. It comes down to personal preference which one is the better frozen dessert. We can all be agreed, though, that each is liked and appreciated in its own way.


Being part of a really big family, cooking for big groups of people is just how we do things. Cooking, baking, and outdoor cooking have all been huge parts of my life, and I love sharing what I've learned with you.

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