Gelato vs Italian Ice

Gelato vs Italian Ice

When comparing frozen desserts such as gelato, ice cream, sorbets, sherbets, or Italian ice, you must keep in mind that the differences are subtle at best and negligible in other aspects.

There is the added variable of a frozen dessert being referred to by multiple names. For example, Italian Ice is also known as Granita in Southern Italian regions such as Sicily.

For the sake of clarity, an example of how subtle the difference might be reflected in the fact that Granita from Sicily is known to be coarser and more crystalline in texture than Italian Ice found in other regions of the country.

This texture varies even further from one city to the next with Eastern cities of Italy making granita, which is as smooth as sorbet while on the West coast of Italy and Palermo, this dessert could be more “chunky.”

In other parts of the world, a frozen dessert such as Italian Ice may also be referred to as “Water Ice”. These subtle changes in texture and even ingredients while still technically the same delicious dessert can be confusing.

We hope this article goes some way in trying to disperse your doubts and help you better appreciate these mouth-watering confections.


The differences: Gelato vs Italian Ice

We will be taking a look into the ingredients used in gelato and Italian Ice as a means of comparison but with absolutely no intention of suggesting that one may be better than the other, except to say that personal preference plays a significant role.

Further, we would strongly recommend consumers to try both, especially if dairy isn’t an issue and if there are no other special dietary requirements. (We wouldn’t want you to turn, what should be a wonderful experience into a visit to the doctor due to allergic reactions so keep an eye out for labels on the packaging or store, quality, and quantity of the ingredients used).




Gelato is always made using a combination of milk, cream, sugar, and a leading “flavor” such as mint, espresso, chocolate, etc.

This is entirely different from the frozen dessert known as “Italian Ice” in a fundamental way, in that Italian Ice does not use any dairy-product and is therefore wholly vegan, like Sorbets.

Italian Ice is a dessert made from fruit juice (or fruit puree) and sweetener (such as sugar) and has no milk or dairy-product whatsoever.

This wonderfully refreshing dessert further differentiates itself from its cousin, the Sorbet, which may have alcohol (such as wine) as an ingredient.


Manufacturing Process

Gelato Manufacturing

The manufacturing process of Gelato also differs from other frozen desserts (like Ice Cream, for example).

Gelato is made in a distinctly Italian style, which includes slowly stirring the dessert with the help of a machine while it is freezing, which ensures that very little air is incorporated or whipped in.

The manufacturing process for Italian Ice (also sometimes referred to as Water Ice or Shaved Ice) is similar to Sorbet but differs from Gelato, where ingredients are frozen into ice, followed by the process of crushing it.

Sometimes a lower cost option to make Italian Ice is to add fruit concentrate to shaved ice, but this does not reflect the preparation method of authentic Italian Ice.

The ratio of water, ice, sugar, and flavoring ingredients are controlled to change the type of flavor and consistency of the final dish.



As for Gelato, the dairy and milk results in a much denser texture with a creamy taste. Gelato may sometimes be referred to as the Italian “Ice cream,” although they aren’t the same dessert.

Italian Ice has a rough texture, which may feel “icier” and grainy.



Italian Ice is quite popular as a viable frozen dessert option for vegans who want to indulge in this refreshing fruit-flavored frozen dish. Although the downside may be the lack of cream does limit the number of flavors to mostly fruit.

The consumers love the variety available within this niche that allows them to choose from flavors such as lemon, lime, cherry, blackberry, mint, strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, mango, pineapple, and many more.

The advantage Gelato has with its inclusion of dairy-based ingredients such as milk and cream is that the variety of flavors would be significantly more, with it being flavor-packed. It has almost no restrictions on variants as Gelato can be made with practically any ingredient ranging from caramel to pistachio, sweet cream, raspberry, etc.


Nutritional value

Gelato has a custard base and therefore contains more fat and less sugar per equal-sized serving when compared to Italian Ice.


Serving Style

Both Gelato and Italian Ice are served in similar temperatures to Sorbet, which is to say all three are served at warmer temperatures than Ice Cream.



Gelato uses more ingredients, and therefore, its cost of production would generally be higher than Italian Ice. Further, the gelato machine and the process involved in the making of gelato is a bit more tedious.

Gelato allows for the use of multiple flavors. Some of them may be considered premium with the overall result that Gelato prices would be higher than Italian Ice, which can be easily made at home at meager costs.

Italian Ice or Granita is normally made without a machine and is frozen in a standard freezer, then systematically scraped with a fork to create gigantic ice crystals.

As a reference point used throughout this article, the consumer would also find that Italian Ice has a lower cost on average than its cousin, the Sorbet, as the latter may also have the additional ingredient of alcohol in the form of wine. The absence of alcohol, in comparison with Sorbet, in addition to the coarse texture of Italian Ice, contributes to its lower cost.


Conclusion: Italian Ice vs Gelato

We can summarize by saying that some of the key differences between gelato and Italian Ice would include ingredients. That is, gelato uses dairy, while Italian Ice does not.

This means that gelato has fat and higher calories, packed with flavor thanks to the slow churning process. However, Italian Ice is fat -free and has lower calories than an equal-sized serving of gelato. That said, due to the ingredients, Italian Ice can have higher sugar levels per serving than Gelato while also lacking the calcium provided by dairy-products.

While it would be difficult to ascertain which of the two would be considered a healthier option for consumers, we have found from experience that although gelato is very rich and creamy, people tend to have smaller portions and are still satisfied. However, with Italian Ice, the lack of fat and lower calories tends to translate to larger volumes being consumed per serving. This means higher sugar content, which isn’t necessarily good for health.

The decision would have to be left to you, the consumer, but as always, we recommend that all good things must be had in moderation! When combined with an otherwise healthy diet and lifestyle, there is no reason why anyone should restrict themselves from indulging in one of these fabulous frozen desserts every once in a while.

Does Gelato Have Dairy?

Gelato vs Ice Cream

Best Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker