What Is the Difference Between Gelato and Frozen Yogurt? 

 December 16, 2020

By  Diane Miles

Gelato and frozen yogurt are two popular kinds of frozen desserts. They are both well-loved for their array of refreshing flavors, though not many people really know the difference between the two varieties since they can look and taste the same.

The difference between gelato and frozen yogurt is that gelato is made with sugar, milk, cream, and flavorings while frozen yogurt contains live cultures, milk solids, milk fat, sugar, and flavorings. Gelato is more dense and frozen yogurt has a smooth consistency similar to soft-serve ice cream.

Gelato and frozen yogurt can be made in a variety of ways which make some people prefer one over the other. Read on to learn all about the differences between gelato and frozen yogurt.

Gelato and frozen yogurt are both delicious, refreshing, and cold desserts. They’re both well loved by people all over the world, but there are specific differences among the two that affect its consistency, flavor, and even how healthy they are.

Let’s narrow it down to three categories: how they’re made, ingredients used, and taste.


Gelato has its roots in Italy as far back as 12,000 years ago, but its modern history is credited to Cosimo Ruggieri, an alchemist during the Renaissance period. He developed the first gelato flavor that was served at the Medici home in Florence; it is known as the fior di latte. In 1686, the first known gelato shoppe was opened in Paris by a Sicilian man, Francisco Procopio Cuto. Gelato cones were invented in the 20th century, and the rest is history.

How it’s made: The traditional way Italians made gelato is known as the Old Process, which is rather tedious to do because everything is made by hand. The gelato maker would combine milk, sugar, and egg yolk into a large bowl or pan. The egg yolk worked to emulsify the gelato, and once everything was well combined, it was heated, cooled, then frozen. After this, flavors such as chocolate were incorporated into the mixture followed by a process known as batching, wherein air is introduced to the gelato slowly through churning.

The disadvantages of Old Process were that a maximum of 5 flavors can be used, it’s too time-consuming, and the gelato had a very short shelf life.

The Hot Process method was introduced around the turn of the 21st century. It’s still widely used today by many gelato shops around the world, and results in a longer shelf life. The Hot Process involves pasteurizing, which exposes gelato to up to 85 degrees Celsius for just 5 seconds, followed by a temperature drop to 5 degrees Celsius. After pasteurization, the gelato undergoes a batch freeze to add air into the texture while controlling the formation of ice crystals. Additionally, the Hot Process method is preferred by many gelato makers since it gives them more control and customization, while ensuring a longer shelf life.

The Hot Process produces gelato with the longest shelf life compared to all other processes, while makers can customize many more flavors and ingredients. While it’s an economical way to make larger amounts of gelato, one would need to spend on equipment such as the pasteurizer.

The Cold Process way of making gelato was introduced in the 1980’s. Though it’s a simple alternative to making it, cold process requires ingredients that are completely clean as well as microbiologically safe to eat. If not, the end result will not be safe enough to eat. Raw ingredients are combined with a cold process flavor and base, then the mixture is put into a batch freezer. Making gelato with the Cold Process results in a product with a slightly shorter shelf life compared to those made with Hot Process but it is preferred by gelato makers that want to make more in a shorter time without sacrificing taste and quality.

The Sprint Process is the latest way to make gelato. It involves mixing milk or another liquid ingredient with a ready-made mix containing all the other necessary ingredients. The mixture is then placed into the batch freezer, and once it’s done, it’s ready to serve. Many modern gelato makers prefer the Spring Process since gelato is made quickly and the only expensive equipment needed is a batch freezer. However, the Sprint Process doesn’t allow for much experimentation or customization of flavor.

Ingredients: The base ingredients for traditional gelato is milk with little to no cream, though modern methods of making gelato include egg yolks, milk, sugar, cream, and flavorings. The base ingredients may vary depending on the kind of gelato you are making.

Taste: Gelato is known for its creamy, luxurious consistency. It’s also served in warmer temperatures compared to the frozen consistency of ice cream.

Frozen Yogurt

Unlike gelato which has been around since ancient times, frozen yogurt is a newcomer in the dessert scene. Though yogurt has already been around over 5,000 years ago, it wasn’t until 1970 when the first commercial brand of frozen yogurt was introduced to the public: Frogurt. In 1970, yogurt manufacturer Dannon jumped on the bandwagon by releasing Danny, a fruity frozen yogurt popsicle covered in chocolate. Shortly thereafter, frozen yogurt began to catch on in the United States.

How it’s made: Frozen yogurt is usually made by mixing milk and sugar together. It’s then pasteurized with high temperatures to kill harmful bacteria. Yogurt culture is added, and the mixture rests for a few hours before it undergoes freezing after which it’s ready to eat.

Ingredients: The base ingredients for frozen yogurt is made of yogurt cultures (Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophilus), milk (liquid or powdered form; powdered can also be referred to as ‘milk solids’), and sweeteners (table sugar, corn syrup, or alternative sweeteners such as agave nectar can be used). Flavorings and various stabilizers may also be added to improve taste.

Popular flavorings and ingredients used in frozen yogurt include vanilla extract, chocolate, mango, banana, blueberries, and strawberries.

Taste: Frozen yogurt has a pronounced tangy taste, which has become its signature flavor. Not everyone enjoys this tartness, which is why many frozen yogurt manufacturers offer many sweet toppings to compensate for it.

Both gelato and frozen yogurt can be created many ways, with or without a fancy machine. Several homemade recipes for each dessert don’t require the use of a machine as long as you have a freezer at home, so at the end of the day it all boils down to your personal preference.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is healthier: gelato or frozen yogurt?

It all depends on the ingredients used, how it’s made, and how much you eat. Though many people think that frozen yogurt is a healthy dessert, it actually contains a lot of sugar, since it’s a primary ingredient. For example, a standard serving of store-bought frozen vanilla yogurt contains 100 calories, 16 grams of sugar, and 22 grams of carbohydrates in a half-cup serving according to the USDA. On the other hand, gelato tends to contain slightly less fat since it has a higher milk to cream ratio but since it’s extremely dense, a cup of gelato can have twice the calories of frozen yogurt since there is less air.

The overall nutrition value of frozen yogurt or gelato depends on the kind and amount of sweetener, milk, flavors, and ingredients added into the mixture. If you make frozen yogurt using nonfat milk, it will have a lower fat content compared to frozen yogurt made using whole milk. Ingredients and toppings (cookies, chocolate chips, fresh fruit) will also add sugar and fat, therefore increasing the calories in each serving. Additionally, much of the beneficial live bacteria found in regular yogurt is killed off during the freezing process. The same goes for gelato: store-bought gelato is usually much higher in sugar compared to what you can make at home.

Homemade versions of both gelato and frozen yogurt ensure that you have complete control over the ingredients used, thus improving its nutrition content.

Gelato Maker Recommendations 

Making your own delicious cold treats at home is the perfect way to have complete control over its flavor and nutritional content. Here are some of the best machines that are available on Amazon:

-   Cuisinart ICE-100 Compressor Ice Cream and Gelato Maker
-   Cuisinart ICE21-P1 Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt Maker
-   DASH My Pint Electric Ice Cream Machine for Gelato, Sorbet, and Frozen Yogurt

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