The main differences between ice cream and gelato are the amount of air in the mixture, fat content, serving temperature, flavor and texture. Ice cream typically uses much more heavy cream and eggs than gelato, which relies more on whole milk and rarely contains eggs. This makes gelato less fatty than ice cream and allows the flavors to be more pronounced rather than subdued by cream.
Ice cream and gelato are churned differently, which directly affects the amount of air incorporated into the mixture. Ice cream is churned faster and harder, which gives it significantly more air bubbles. In fact, some brands of ice cream have as much as 50 percent air content. Gelato is churned much slower than ice cream, which gives it a denser texture and sometimes stronger, concentrated flavors.
Gelato has a lower fat content because it has more whole milk and less cream than ice cream. Gelato usually only comes in a few flavors, such as vanilla, chocolate and hazelnut, while ice cream is available in many different flavors. This is because the higher fat content in ice cream often masks simple flavors used in gelato.
Gelato is served slightly warmer than ice cream, which melts if served at the same temperature. In general, ice cream is richer and creamier than gelato. Gelato tends to have a texture that is soft yet still dense with a unique elasticity. While ice cream and gelato can both have strong, intense flavors, the way they come across differs. Gelato tends to have an immediate strong flavor that melts away quickly, whereas the heavy cream in ice cream coats the mouth, which mellows and slows the flavors
Ice cream recipes first appeared around the 18th century in America and England, while gelato was invented in Italy sometime in the 16th century. Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli was one of the first people to sell gelato in Italy, and the name comes from the Italian word for frozen. Ice cream was typically a treat reserved for the rich during the 19th century because they were the only ones who could afford to keep it cold. Once electricity was invented, it became a treat enjoyed by many people.