The Delicious Difference Between Gelato and Custard

Hey there, dessert enthusiasts! Have you ever wondered about the delightful differences between gelato and custard? These frozen treats may seem similar at first glance, but let me tell you, they each have their own unique qualities that make them a true delight to savor. From their distinct ingredients to their preparation methods, gelato and custard offer a world of flavors and textures that are worth exploring. So, grab a spoon and join me on this mouthwatering journey as we dive into the delicious differences between gelato and custard.

Key Facts

  1. Gelato and custard are both frozen desserts, but they have distinct differences in their ingredients and preparation methods.
  2. Gelato is an Italian frozen dessert that has a custard base, similar to ice cream. However, gelato typically contains less milk fat and less air churned into it during freezing, resulting in a denser and creamier texture[3].
  3. Custard, on the other hand, is a frozen dessert that is made by adding a generous serving of eggs to the base. The eggs are cooked in a double boiler before being frozen, giving custard a denser and richer texture compared to ice cream.
  4. Gelato relies more heavily on milk, while ice cream contains regulated amounts of milk fat in the form of cream.
  5. Gelato is churned more slowly and in smaller batches, resulting in less air being whipped into the mixture. This slower churn creates a smoother and more elastic mouthfeel.
  6. Gelato is traditionally served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream, which gives it a softer consistency and a glossier appearance.

Origins and History

Origins and History of Gelato and Custard


  • Originated in Italy in the 16th century.
  • Inventor unknown, but Bernardo Buontalenti credited with creating a form of modern gelato.
  • Gained popularity in Italy and spread to Europe.
  • Contains less butterfat and is more dense than ice cream due to slow churning with less air.
  • Served at a slightly higher temperature than ice cream.


  • Historical background dates to ancient times.
  • Custard-like dishes found in ancient Roman and medieval European cuisines.
  • Introduced to Europe by Arabs in the 9th century.
  • Evolved over time and became popular in European countries.
  • Made with cream, eggs, and vanilla.
  • Versatile dessert enjoyed on its own or as a base for other desserts.


  • Gelato: Made from a custard base of milk, cream, and sugar.
  • Custard: Typically includes milk, cream, sugar, and eggs.
  • Gelato has a higher proportion of milk and a lower proportion of cream and eggs (or no eggs at all) compared to custard.
  • Custard contains eggs, which give it a richer and creamier texture, while gelato usually does not contain eggs.

Role of Milk, Cream, Eggs, and Sugar

  • Milk and cream provide the creamy and smooth texture in both gelato and custard.
  • Eggs play a significant role in custard, adding richness and thickness.
  • Sugar is used in both gelato and custard to sweeten the desserts.

Texture and Consistency


  • Denser and creamier texture compared to ice cream.
  • Churned at a slower speed, resulting in a smoother and more velvety consistency.
  • Typically contains less butterfat than ice cream, making it lighter and less heavy on the palate.


  • Rich and velvety texture.
  • Addition of egg yolks gives it a thicker and creamier consistency compared to gelato and ice cream.
  • Can be cooked on the stovetop or baked in the oven to create a thick, pudding-like consistency.

Factors Contributing to Texture

  • Gelato’s dense and smooth texture is due to the slow churning process, which incorporates less air.
  • Ice cream’s rich and creamy texture is due to its higher butterfat content and faster churning process, which incorporates more air.
  • Custard’s rich and creamy texture is due to the addition of egg yolks.

Churning and Production Process


  • Churned at a slower speed than ice cream.
  • Slow churning incorporates less air, resulting in a denser and creamier product.
  • Slower churning also allows for more flavor to be packed into the gelato.


  • Used as a common base in gelato production.
  • Sugar is dissolved and heated in the dairy liquid to break down sugar crystals.
  • Starch thickener, such as corn flour, is added to achieve a smooth and creamy texture and act as a stabilizer.
  • Custard mixture is cooked until it thickens.
  • After cooling, flavor ingredients are added before processing in an ice cream machine.

Flavor Profiles


  • Wide range of flavors, including traditional and unique combinations.
  • Popular flavors include chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, pistachio, hazelnut, coffee, and fruit flavors.
  • Flavors can vary in intensity, from subtle to bold.
  • Highlights the natural flavors of the ingredients.


  • More limited flavor selection, with a focus on classic options.
  • Popular flavors include vanilla, chocolate, caramel, butterscotch, and fruit flavors.
  • Flavors tend to be richer and more indulgent.
  • Emphasizes sweetness and creaminess.


  • Gelato flavors are lighter and more delicate, allowing the natural flavors to shine through.
  • Custard flavors are richer and creamier, with a stronger emphasis on sweetness and creaminess.
  • Gelato has a lower fat content, resulting in a lighter texture.
  • Custard has a higher proportion of cream and egg yolks, resulting in a creamier and denser texture.

Serving Temperature


  • Served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream (-10 to -12 degrees Celsius).
  • Maintains firmness while remaining soft and creamy.
  • Display cases have temperature control systems to ensure optimal serving temperature.
  • Ambient temperature should be considered to prevent softening.


  • Served chilled or at room temperature.
  • Chilled custard desserts stored in the refrigerator.
  • Room temperature custard desserts, like crème brûlée, have a caramelized sugar crust that contrasts with the cool custard.

Popular Variations and Recipes

  • Gelato:
    • Endless flavor combinations, including classics and unique options.
    • Can incorporate fresh summer fruits.
    • Recipes available for Sicilian-style and vegan gelato bases.
    • Can be made at home using step-by-step tutorials or video classes.
    • Made with various ingredients, including fruit purees, chocolate, nuts, and herbs.
    • Served in various ways, including as an affogato (coffee-based treat).


The world of frozen desserts is a tantalizing one, and gelato and custard stand out as two delectable options. While gelato entices us with its dense, creamy texture and slower churn, custard captivates our taste buds with its rich, egg-infused indulgence. Whether you prefer the smoother mouthfeel of gelato or the denser consistency of custard, both of these frozen treats offer a delightful escape into a world of flavors. So, the next time you find yourself craving a frozen delight, remember the delicious differences between gelato and custard and choose the one that suits your palate. Happy scooping!



What is the difference between gelato and custard?

  • Gelato is made with a custard base, while custard is made with a cream base.
  • Gelato has a lower fat content than custard.
  • Gelato is churned at a slower speed than custard, resulting in a denser and smoother texture.

Which is healthier, gelato or custard?

  • Gelato is generally healthier than custard because it has a lower fat content.

What are some popular gelato flavors?

  • Popular gelato flavors include chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, pistachio, hazelnut, coffee, and fruit flavors like lemon and raspberry.

What are some popular custard flavors?

  • Popular custard flavors include vanilla, chocolate, caramel, butterscotch, and fruit flavors like banana and coconut.

How is gelato served?

  • Gelato is typically served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream, allowing it to maintain its firmness while still being soft and creamy.

How is custard served?

  • Custard can be served chilled or at room temperature. Chilled custard desserts are often stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve, while room temperature custard desserts, like crème brûlée, are often served with a caramelized sugar crust on top.