Do Canadians know the Difference Between Ice Cream and Gelato?

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Truth be told, if you asked many Canadians what gelato was, they’d likely think it was the Italian name for ice cream.

But the biggest question is, do they care?

In the “New World” Canadians do not have a strong culinary history. No one cuisine unites us as we all come from different cultures.

And as the second largest country in the world, what is available in one region may not be in the next.

And so we are not sticklers for keeping things traditional. There are both good and bad sides to this.

I certainly appreciate the dedication to tradition when it comes to food.

However, on the flip side Canadians are open to innovation. In fact it is welcomed. How can we take something traditional, change the recipe or the techniques for how it is made.

And so you often see this with ice cream.

In fact one of the biggest trends in ice cream, is not to use dairy whatsoever. From banana to oat milk, the definition of ice cream is changing.

Certainly there is a rising number of allergies and people avoiding dairy or animal products. However, the mainstream public is also open to trying non-dairy ice cream or ingredients like charcoal or matcha.

Certainly these are marked commercially as ice cream or gelato – but instead “frozen dessert.”

But Canadians still call it ice cream – because it is close enough.

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Canadian girl holding ice cream in a shop

If you’re curious, I’ve shared a bit of information below on the difference between ice cream and gelato.

What is the Difference Between Ice Cream and Gelato?

The distinction between ice cream and gelato is one that is often made among those who have a real passion for one product or the other.

But at a very basic level, gelato is simply the Italian word for ice cream, so surely they are the same thing?

The connoisseurs of the two products will beg to differ with this opinion, and draw a firm line in the sand between the two delicious cold sweet treats.

There are several differences that appear to set ice cream apart from the traditional Italian gelato, but whichever you prefer, both can still be wonderful in their own right.

chocolate ice cream in a clear bowl

The Churning Process for Ice Cream Compared to Gelato

One of the most distinct differences between the two is that ice cream contains significantly more ice and air, so in order to provide the smooth texture, ice cream is churned at a much higher speed than gelato.

If you are trying to make the product at home, most domestic ice cream makers will actually churn fairly slowly, meaning that what is made at home is often closer to gelato than ice cream.

With less ice and air in the gelato, the churning is largely to help combine the ingredients, so uses much less energy in the production of the dessert.

Homemade chocolate ice cream and cone from above,selective focus

The Fat Content of Both Desserts

Another of the key differences between the two desserts is found in the ingredients, and because of the ice and air content of ice cream, it will often include a lot more cream and egg yolks in the recipe than that found in gelato.

Indeed, gelato is largely made with milk as opposed to cream, which helps to give it a much lower fat content while maintaining the amazing texture that is silky smooth.

This helps to make gelato a much healthier option, although with a reasonably high sugar content, many varieties of gelato are still more of an indulgence and are some way from being a truly healthy dessert.

Serving Temperature

While both ice cream and gelato are served below freezing point, the actual serving temperature can make quite a difference, and for ice cream the serving temperature is usually significantly lower than that of gelato.

Ice cream is served particularly cold to help prevent it from melting too quickly, because its fluffy nature means that heat is lost much more quickly from ice cream and it melts more quickly.

Because gelato is denser, it can be served at a temperature closer to freezing point. If gelato were served at the same temperature as ice cream, it would be far too hard to eat, and would need to be allowed to thaw.

dill pickle ice cream in a hand

Density And Texture

The texture of ice cream and gelato should be quite similar on the whole, with the best types of both products only having very small pieces of ice, and with a smooth and silky feeling in the mouth that makes it such a special dessert.

The key difference is that gelato does this by being served at a cooler temperature and with a higher density, while ice cream achieves this with a higher fat content and a temperature that is further below freezing point.

Ultimately, most people will only realize that there is a difference when they start eating traditional Italian gelato or even visit Italy, where they get to taste the difference for themselves.

The difference in density and temperatures also means that there are some varied flavors of gelato too, which can be an interesting option for those used to eating ice cream regularly.

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