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What's The Difference?

What's The Difference?

Comparing the differences of Frozen Yogurt, Gelato, Ice Cream, and Soft Serve. What makes each unique?


What’s the difference? Ice cream, soft serve, gelato, and frozen yogurt have so many differences and yet, we’ve heard so many people say that exact phrase in passing. So, what is different about each one? What makes each stand out on their own? Well, let’s dive right into this sweet situation and figure out those very questions.

Let’s start off with gelato. A popular sweet in Italy, the frozen treat is growing in popularity within the United States. Unlike Italy which has a strict law saying gelato must have at least 3.5% butterfat in it, here in the United States there is no legal standard even though ice cream must have at least 10% butterfat in it. Due to such gelato is often much richer than ice cream. The cloud-like peaks we often associate gelato with also helps to draw in added attention as it looks so different from typical ice cream or soft serve.

Unlike ice cream and soft serve, gelato is typically prepared using a hot process first. This helps in dissolving the sugars and from there it is treated like most of the other frozen treats and frozen. Ice crystals that form as the mixture freezes help to add to that smooth texture we associate with gelato. Since it offers that richer texture and flavor, more and more people have become attracted to it. Already starting to see a difference?

"Unlike ice cream and soft serve, gelato is typically prepared using a hot process first."

Moving on, let’s talk about frozen yogurt. Most of the time we hear soft serve and frozen yogurt being considered the same item when they are very different. For instance, unlike soft serve which is made of a cream base frozen yogurt’s base is that of yogurt culture and milk solids (powered milk). While the two may share a similar consistency, frozen yogurt has the help of sugar and animal gelatin or vegetable additives to help stabilize its form where as soft serve is more dependent upon the amount of air pumped into the mixture to maintain its shape.

Out of all the options available for a frozen treat, frozen yogurt is also the healthiest to pick considering its lack of butterfat. Unlike soft serve, frozen yogurt also doesn’t have to be dispensed through a machine and can be made by hand much like ice cream. Did you know that frozen yogurt isn’t regulated by the FDA but rather by the U.S. states? Just some food for thought!

"Out of all the options available for a frozen treat, frozen yogurt is also the healthiest to pick considering its lack of butterfat."

For the next topic, let’s discuss what makes ice cream stand out. As mentioned above, the FDA does regulate the amount of butterfat in ice cream and it must contain at least 10% in it always if it’s to be sold. This fact alone lends itself to the fact that ice cream is the creamiest option of the four. Also, out of the four, ice cream has the coldest temperature it must be set and kept at (35 °F) as it tends to be more solid.

Another interesting tidbit about ice cream is that it’s also the most fickle of the bunch. Quick to form ice crystals atop it can be a challenge in terms of time. Then there’s also the fact that hand-made ice cream tends to be inconsistent in terms of both taste and texture. Even still no other frozen treat is going to satisfy that creamy yearning you have better than ice cream. Especially when paired with an apple pie.

"No other frozen treat is going to satisfy that creamy yearning you have better than ice cream."

Lastly, let’s talk a bit more about soft serve. Unlike ice cream which can be inconsistent in both texture and taste, soft serve is always consistent. The main reason for this is because soft serve relies on machines to be formed. Whipped up without eggs, air is injected into the milky base and the machine freezes the mixture a few degrees warmer (-4 °C) than ice cream, which gives it that signature texture and shape we all know and love. To top all that, it’s easy to pull a lever and churn the soft serve out meaning just amount anyone can do it.

However, soft serve also has that note of nostalgia that just attracts us to it. Be it grabbing a cone of it at the State Fair or just remembering it from your childhood days when the soft serve car came around. Of course, frozen yogurt has that touch of nostalgia too with TCBY. Unlike frozen yogurt and the rest of the frozen sweets talked about, soft serve relies purely on a machine to be made. If that doesn’t make it stand out or different, we don’t know what will.

There you have it. Ice cream, soft serve, gelato, and frozen yogurt all have their own differences that set them apart in the frozen treat world. At first glance you may consider a few of them to be alike but beneath that frozen sweet wonderland, they all have their differences.

Thank you for your time and hopefully you enjoyed this article! If you have any suggestions for what you’d like to see in the future, please leave it in the comments below. Also, between gelato, ice cream, soft serve, and frozen yogurt, which is your favorite?


Lane & McClain

Lane & McClain, a proud restaurant equipment distributor of the Taylor Company since 1946, has two locations to better serve your restaurant equipment sales, parts, and service needs. Our Dallas and El Paso offices are open 8:00 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday with an after-hours and weekend answering service available to take your call.

(214) 748-7669 – Dallas, Texas
2062 Irving Blvd, Dallas, Tx 75207 (click to view map and directions)

(915) 843-4600 – El Paso, Texas
3621 Mattox St, El Paso, TX 79925 (click to view map and directions)

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