List of All Known Gelato Flavors (Some Weird) in the World
If a sweet walk on the Italian side is what you’re looking for, gelati are the answer. This smoother, silkier, and creamier ice cream’s Italian cousin will make you want to scream gelato instead of ice cream. We’ve searched with empty bellies and hungry eyes for all known flavors to compile this list. Here’s the scoop.
Table of Contents
Popular Gelato Flavors
Amarena: Fior di Latte blended with a sour cherry sauce
Cannella: A lightly cinnamon-flavored gelato
Dulce de Leche: Sweetened milk/caramel-flavored gelato
Frutti di Bosco: Mixed berry gelato
Gelato di Banana: Banana
Liquirizia: Licorice gelato
Malaga: A rum-raisin flavored gelato
Noce di Cocco: Coconut
Panna Cotta: Cooked cream
Puffo: A blue, anise-flavored gelato
Riso: Gelato with bits of rice; like a rice pudding
Stracciatella: Fior di Latte with veins of chocolate or chocolate chips
Tiramisù: Gelato version of the Italian dessert
Zuppa Inglese: Cookies and sherry are mixed into a custard-flavored gelato
Cioccolato Fondente: Rich, dark chocolate
Cioccolato Fondente Extra Noir: Extra dark chocolate
Cioccolato al Latte: Milk chocolate
Cioccolato all’Arancia: Orange-flavored dark chocolate; can include bits of candied orange peel
Cioccolato con Peperoncino: Hot pepper-infused dark chocolate
Cioccolato all’Azteca: Cinnamon and hot pepper-infused dark chocolate
Bacio: Dark chocolate and hazelnut combination; often mixed with bits of real hazelnut
Gianduia/Gianduja: Native to Piedmont, this gelato is a mixture of milk chocolate and hazelnut
Caffè: Coffee-cream flavored gelato
Cocco: Coconut cream
Crema: Egg-custard flavor
Fior di Latte: A basic, sweet cream flavor; “flower of milk”
Zabaione: A Marsala wine-tinged custard flavor
Zuppa Inglese: an Italian dessert layering custard and sponge cake, perhaps derived from trifle
Albicocca – Apricot
Fico – Fig
Fragola – Strawberry
Frutti di bosco – These aren’t fruits belonging to some guy named Bosco, this means “fruits of the forest,” generally it’s a mixture of strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, blackcurrants, and raspberries
Lampone – Raspberry
Limone – Lemon
Mandarino – Mandarin orange
Mela – Apple
Melone – Melon (usually cantaloupe)
Pera – Pear
Pesca – Peach flavor that tastes like the real thing!
Tarocco – Blood orange (not very common)
Castagna: A seasonal specialty; chestnut
Nocciola: Plain hazelnut; no chocolate
Pistacchio: Pistachio nut-flavored gelato
Basil Gelato: Vividly green and intensely flavored, a smooth taste of basil (recipe here)
Cannolo Siciliano: Sicilian cannoli-flavored
Foie Gras: Liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened
Lobster: Real Main lobster, buttered (found at Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium in Bar Harbor, Maine)
Olive Oil: Rich olive oil is quite a unique taste and is an elegant dessert
Peanut Butter Cup: Peanut butter (check out this homemade recipe)
White Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake: White chocolate chunks with a strawberry swirl and cheesecake bits throughout
Viagra: Bright blue in color and NOT made with the actual drug, it’s made with an African herbs that are believed to have the effect of an aphrodisiac (taste at your own risk!)
Vietnamese Coffee: Sweetened condensed milk, just like Vietnamese iced coffee (recipe here)!
What’s your favorite gelato flavors? Did we miss any flavors or places that has unique ones?
We’ve searched with empty bellies and hungry eyes for all known gelato flavors to compile this list. Take a sweet walk on the Italian side with this scoop!
Variations on a Theme — Gelato Types
On what the different types of Gelato are, and how to tell them apart.
Mar 18, 2019 · 11 min read
In the first article in this series we discussed what we mean by Gelato. We defined it as being ice cream done the Italian way, and introduced the concept of the four cardinal virtues — so long as a cream abides by them, I will happily call it Gelato (with a capital G), my point being that I subscribe to the Italian approach to making ice cream and its strict requirements.
However, the article might ha v e left the impression that any cream done the Italian way and abiding by the rule of the four cardinal virtues will be called gelato, which is kinda right, but in a way an oversimplification.
Because, you see, like all great things in life, there is an incredible amount of diversity going on under that umbrella. For example what if you come across a cream doesn’t contain dairy? Or fat at all? Or any products of animal origin? Is it still a Gelato? And what about other Italian frozen specialties. Are they Gelato as well?
These are all very valid questions.
This article will provide answers and clearly define a number of terms, setting the foundation that we will use throughout our Gelato-making journey.
In Diversity Veritas
They say diversity is the spice of life and the world of Gelato wouldn’t be the same without it. Strictly speaking, Gelato would be something made with milk, sugars and flavours in a particular way in order to produce the experience we described in the article mentioned above.
But being a product with a long and rich history of development across a wide geographical area, limiting the definition to just that would be a bit, well… limiting.
In fact, if you are here reading this article, the odds are that you already heard of Sorbets, Soft Serves and Granitas, just to name a few of the products that come up when the subject is gelato.
Are they Gelato?
To answer that let’s take a step back and think of it through the lens of an analogy.
Let’s take burgers. Strictly speaking, a burger is composed of a beef patty, a bread roll sliced in two, some lettuce and tomatoes, with the occasional addition of bacon or cheese. However we also call burgers similar meals in which the patty is made with chicken, or lamb, or vegetables, and include all sorts of add-ons (think eggs, pineapple, avocados, etc).
Calling them all burgers makes sense because they are all very similar, but it is important to make a distinction, somehow, because certain people have strict dietary frameworks (think vegans and hindus) and may need to avoid certain incarnations. In the world of burgers, an appendix is added to make a clear distinction (i.e. “vegan burger”, “chicken burger”). Technically flawed but perfectly acceptable for practical purposes.
A similar issue arises in the world of Gelato, except that instead of adding an appendix (i.e. milk-free) Italians, in their infinite creativity, gave some of the variations new names while allowing the word gelato to also be a catch-all, referring to a bunch of frozen desserts done the Italian way.
I know it is starting to sound complicated, so let’s get on with the facts and you will understand it in a snap.
First thing we will do is list the terms and explain their characteristics. As we do that, a few patterns will become obvious and we will use them as the base to build a system that will allow us to assess what variety of Gelato a recipe falls into without even thinking about it.
Let’s have a closer look!
First Things First: The Two Main Groups
If we stick to the four cardinal virtues of Consistency, Mouthfeel, Visuals and Flavour, we can divide frozen creams done the Italian into two broad groups:
#1. Gelato [j uh-lah-toh] ¹
In a more restricted meaning, Gelato is the frozen cream done the Italian way using a milk base to which the flavouring is added. Most of the time it is obtained by combining milk and cream (usually at a ratio between 8:1 and 5:1), but several variations are possible: only milk, milk and butter, reconstituted milk, etc.
The key fact is that the overall organoleptic experience (the way our senses interpret a food) is determined by those of milk, resulting in a product that is homogeneous, creamy and silky (remember, milk is a colloidal mixture rich in fat and proteins).
So, strictly speaking, we can define Gelati (see footnotes) as Italian ice cream made with a milk base.
#2. Sorbetto [sohr-bet-oh] ²
Known in English as Sorbet, we could define it simply as water based Gelato, in other words, Italian ice cream made without the addition of milk and cream.
The absence of milk has two major effects: 1) on the structure — we lose all the key structure-enhancing ingredients supplied by milk (i.e. fat and proteins), ending up with a coarser mouthfeel; and 2) on the flavour — without the milk mask, we can experience the full flavour of the main ingredient, be it fruit, nut or chocolate.
As a result, Sorbetti are renown for being more intense in flavour while having a coarser, icier texture.
The good news is, there are techniques to enhance the structure and mouthfeel. The bad news is that sometimes these include ingredients like egg whites or whey powder, so it is important to highlight that, although being by definition free from added fat (except that of the flavouring, of course), Sorbetti are not necessarily free of ingredients of animal origin.
The distinction between milk-based and water-based is a fundamental starting point, but it doesn’t cover it all. As with everything Italian, there are slight variations that don’t fall strictly within those groups and, although not as common, are worthy of mentioning:
#3. Crema [crey-mah]
A Custard Gelato. In some parts of Italy, when egg yolks are added to the cream, it will be called a Crema ³. In fact, many parlours that offer such specialty Gelati call themselves “Cremeria” instead of the usual Gelateria ⁴ (Bologna being notoriously the place with the highest concentration of them that in Italy ⁵).
A Crema will usually have a softer and stickier structure, and an incredibly soft mouthfeel, resulting from the emulsifying action of the egg yolk. They also have a peculiar flavour, which is much appreciated by some (myself included), but is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Worthy of notice is the fact that Creme will usually be higher in fat than regular Gelati, the extra push coming from the fat in the egg yolks.
#4. Vegan Gelato [vee-gan j uh-lah-toh]
As we saw above, although Sorbetti are water-based, they may include products of animal origin. Also, because there is no milk and usually nothing to replace milk’s functional components, they can sometimes be coarser and icier than we would wish.
This means some Sorbetti might not be suitable for vegans and, usually, will fall a bit short in the cardinal virtue requirements of consistency and mouthfeel.
Enter Vegan Gelato — by carefully blending ingredients of plant origin that replace milk’s functional components (again, fat and proteins), the expert Gelatiere will achieve a cream that is not only 100% vegan friendly, but also has a consistency and a mouthfeel that resemble that of a regular milk-based Gelato much more closely than a Sorbetto.
#5. Gelato Soft [j uh-lah-toh soft]
Known in English as Soft-serve, “Mr. Whippy”, or “Soft Whip” among others, for practical purposes we could call this type of ice cream a Gelato, as it leans towards the four cardinal virtues. However, there are important differences: the consistency is slightly different (softer) than artisanal Gelato; it is produced at the moment of serving, in special machines; and the formulation is slightly different to make this possible.
The main characteristic of Gelato Soft is its spiral swirly shape, resulting from the nozzle through which it is served. Flavour choice is usually very limited because: a) each dispensing machine will have a maximum of two production circuits and three nozzles (two individual flavours plus one mixed); and b) it cannot take inclusions (i.e. fruit pieces or nut crunch) as these would block the tubes in the production circuit.
The most common version by far is milk-based, which will have a fat content similar to regular Gelato. However I am told water-based versions can also be found and are equally delicious. So we may want to call them Gelato Soft and Sorbetto Soft respectively, to avoid confusion 🙂
Other Italian Ices
The five groups above probably cover 99.0% of variations to Gelato that you will find when you are out and about indulging yourself in the Italian dessert of the Gods. But Italy being Italy, they don’t exhaust the list of all frozen desserts in existence.
I won’t even try to list all other variations here, but below is a short list with some of the more popular ones:
#6. Granita [gr uh-nee-tah]
This is a frozen dessert that originated in Sicily (and for that reason also known as Granita Siciliana), but these days is available all over Italy. It looks and feels like slush, having a coarse, icy texture, marked by visible ice crystals, which is achieved through a specific production method that is rather different from Gelato.
The aim is to create a product that is coarse not creamy, doesn’t incorporate air, and feels colder in the mouth. In other words, the exact opposite of what we are looking for in a Gelato!
Most often it is water-based, but curiously, there are recipes made with milk. The most common flavours are fruits, coffee and almonds.
#7. Semifreddo [sem-ee-freh-doh]
Semifreddi could be called a variation of Gelato. Essentially they: are based on milk and cream (which will usually be whipped); will always include eggs (sometimes only the whipped whites, sometimes only the yolks, sometimes both); contain more solids than Gelato (50–55% versus 35–40%); and are stored and served at lower temperatures (-18º to -20ºC) so are more solid when eaten.
The lower temperatures also allow for shaping the final product and setting sophisticated decorations before exposing it for sale. Layering is common but not necessary, and glazing is becoming increasing popular. They can be served as individual portions or larger cake-size pieces.
#8. Spumone [spoo-mow-ney]
This is actually a variation of Gelato, meaning simply the layering of different Gelato flavours in a block of varying shapes, and adding inclusions between the layers.
The classic ‘Neapolitan’ flavour is in fact a version of Spumone, and originally consisted of one layer of Pistacchio, one of Cherry and one of Chocolate, with candied cherry pieces, pistacchio crumbs and/or chocolate shavings in between them. These were later changed to the chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavours we are used to today.
Visualising the Keys
Although it all sounds utterly delicious, I can imagine that all the information above might have got you a bit confused. It is a lot to take in, particularly if you were not familiar with the subject.
You will be pleased to hear then, that in most of our articles we will almost exclusively refer to the five main types only: Gelato, Sorbetto, Crema, Vegan Gelato and Gelato Soft.
And in order to make it easier to tell them apart, I created a little visualisation chart that expresses each type with regards to eight key factors, five of which relate to content (water, milk, cream, eggs, fat) and three to structure (fineness, silkiness, hardness): ⁶
Notice how Creme are the most complete of them, with the structure most in line with the four cardinal virtues, while Sorbetti are the least. We could argue that the broader the spread, the more complex the product and the richer the experience it yields.
So there you go, you now have an overview of the main types of Gelato, plus a good understanding of the main variations in terms of ingredients and structure among them.
- Gelato is the quintessential ice cream done the Italian way, made with milk and cream and displaying characteristics that constitute the benchmark for the four cardinal virtues;
- Crema is the rich cousin of Gelato, incorporating egg yolks for an extra smooth and elastic structure. It has a characteristic flavour, and a very fine mouthfeel.
- Sorbetto is the water-based cousin of Gelato. Containing no dairy and no added fat, its structure is not as smooth and fine as the latter, although there are techniques available to mitigate this. Sometimes it can include ingredients of animal origin;
- Vegan Gelato is also water-based, but special ingredients of plant origin are added (i.e. fat, fibre and proteins) to achieve an extra smooth structure that closely resembles that of milk-based Gelato. Vegan Gelati should never include products of animal origin;
- Gelato Soft is a type of Gelato that is milk-based, churned on demand, served in a swirly shape and slightly softer and less dense than regular milk Gelato.
(1) Italian singular form Gelato, plural Gelati [j uh-lah-tee] . It being an Italian word, I will stick to the Italian declinations for plurals in all my articles.
(2) Italian singular form Sorbetto, plural Sorbetti [sawr-bet-tee]. Like with Gelato and Gelati, it being an Italian word, I will stick to the Italian declinations for plurals in all my articles.
(3) Italian singular form Crema, plural Creme [cray-mee] . As above, it being an Italian word, I will stick to the Italian declinations for plurals in all my articles.
(4) Italian singular form Gelateria [j uh-lah-tuh-ree-ah], plural Gelaterie [j uh-lah-tuh-ree-ey] . A Gelato shop or parlour. As above, it being an Italian word, I will stick to the Italian declinations for plurals in all my articles.
(6) To avoid doubts, this classification system is my own creation, for my own practical applications only, and does not pretend to be an authoritative treaty on assessing to which of the different types of Italian ice creams a recipe fits 🙂
*Note : this story is part of a series of articles comprising an introduction to Gelato-making. You can access the full series here:
In the first article in this series we discussed what we mean by Gelato. We defined it as being ice cream done the Italian way, and introduced the concept of the four cardinal virtues — so long as a…