Glossary of Frozen Desserts

Strawberry Sorbet with Fresh Mint
Strawberry sorbet. Bob Ingelhart / Getty Images

Frozen Custard

Frozen custard is a dairy-based frozen dessert that also contains egg yolks for added richness. Although very similar to ice cream, less air is whipped into frozen custard during freezing, which creates a distinctly dense, creamy texture.

Frozen Yogurt

Unlike ice cream or iced milk, frozen yogurt is made with cultured milk rather than fresh. The bacterial cultures in the yogurt provide a tangy flavor and thick texture.

The thickness of yogurt provides a creamy texture without a high fat content. Fat and sugar contents of frozen yogurt vary widely from brand to brand. Frozen yogurt became popular in the United States as a low-fat alternative to ice cream during the later part of the 20th century.

Gelato

A rich, dairy-based dessert with approximately 4-8% butter fat and 12-16% sugar. This Italian dessert is more dense than ice cream due to the fact that less air is whipped in during the freezing process. Gelatos are often flavored with fruit, nut butters, and sometimes fresh herbs.

Granita

Granitas are a crunchy frozen dessert made primarily with sugar and water. Granitas have a delightful crunchy texture due to the large ice crystals that are allowed to form during freezing. The coarse texture defines a granita, making it distinctly different from sorbet or Italian Ice. Popular flavorings for granites include fruit juices, coffee, or fresh herbs.

Granitas originated in Sicily and are often served between meals as a palate cleanser.

Ice Cream

Ice cream is a frozen dairy dessert that contains between 10 and 16 percent butter fat. The high fat content and generous amount of air that is whipped in during freezing creates an unparalleled level of creaminess.

The higher fat and air content makes ice cream distinctly different from similar desserts, such as gelato.

Italian Ice

Italian ice is a smooth, non-dairy frozen dessert. Although it contains no dairy, it is made in a similar manner to ice cream. Sweetened and flavored water is agitated during the freezing process to create very fine ice crystals, which yield a soft, smooth product. The freezing method and resulting texture are what makes Italian ice different from it's more rustic counterparts, granita and shaved ice.

Sherbet

Sherbet is a very low-fat frozen dairy product. Unlike ice cream, sherbet contains a mere 1-2% butterfat. To maintain a soft smooth texture, sherbet compensates for the low fat content with a much higher sugar content. The high level of sugar prevents large ice crystals from forming and keeps the mixture soft. Sherbet is often found in fruit flavors, most notably orange, strawberry, and lime. In many European countries, sherbet and sorbet are synonymous, both terms being used for a non-dairy type of frozen dessert.

Slush, Slushie, or Slushy

"Slush" is the common term given to frozen carbonated beverages. These beverages are frozen while being constantly churned in a machine that doubles as a dispenser. Slushies are also known as Slurpees, frozen Cokes, or ICEEs and are a popular item sold in convenience stores.

Sno Cone

Sno Cones are a popular summertime treat in the Southern United States. They consist of a ball made from finely shaved ice topped with a flavored syrup and sometimes sweetened condensed milk.

Sorbet

Sorbets are a frozen, non-dairy dessert made with sugar, water, and a fruit puree or other flavoring. Sorbets have a fine, soft texture due to constant churning during the freezing process. Sorbets are sometimes also flavored with wine or liqueur in addition to fruit.