Food & Drink

Sherbet, Gelato, and Frozen Yogurt: A Guide to Summer’s Cold, Creamy Treats

With summer once again upon us, a host of familiar sounds return to the world: chirping birds, gurgling garden hoses, and, of course, the roving melody of the ice cream truck. Nowadays, of course, there are far more options for procuring frozen treats than traveling vendors. In the past twenty years, alternatives like sherbet, gelato, and frozen yogurt have grown in popularity. Such diversity begs the question, “What makes these different from one another?” Despite having many similarities, each one has a unique set of characteristics.


Sherbet is distinguished from gelato and frozen yogurt in that it must contain fruit and water in addition to cream. This makes the flavor profile for sherbet fresher and fruitier than ice cream and its derivatives. While it isn’t uncommon to see strawberry flavored ice cream, for example,  strawberry sherbet is likely to contain more fruit content. Other sherbet flavors, such as pineapple and lime, showcase a bright array of tropical flavors. Because of the higher water content, sherbet tends to have a lighter, icier texture than frozen yogurt or gelato. In fact, this dessert is more closely related to sorbet, according to What’s The Difference, although slight differences do exist.


Gelato is a desert of Italian heritage with a famously silky texture. This dessert must contain 3.5 percent butterfat by law, which is only around one-third of what’s required for American ice cream. Since cream helps these desserts absorb air during the churning process, gelato is a denser, more flavorful concoction that will not melt as quickly. According to Culinary Crafts, since gelato stays frozen at relatively higher temperatures, it is often served at warmer temperatures, allowing for flavors to shine through better.

Frozen Yogurt

In contrast to gelato and sherbet, frozen yogurt didn’t become ubiquitous until the late 1970s. Like gelato, it’s a close cousin of ice cream but has traits all its own. According to My Fearless Kitchen, it tends to have fewer calories than either gelato or ice cream, owing in part to the fact that there’s no butterfat content required by law. Still, many people don’t know that despite its name, frozen yogurt isn’t primarily yogurt. Rather, the ratio of yogurt to other dairy products is 1:4.

Whether you prefer a fresh, fruity style dessert, a dense, silky indulgence, or a hip, healthier alternative, frozen treats are a sure way to beat the summer heat. The good news is that with sherbet widely available at grocery stores, gelato becoming increasingly popular at restaurants, and new frozen yogurt shops popping up all the time, you don’t have to choose just one!

If you’re lactose intolerant or just not into dairy, try these easy vegan desserts!