Types of Frozen Desserts

Ice cream and frozen desserts come in many flavors and types with numerous delicious choices. Whether the flavor is vanilla, chocolate, cookie dough or chocolate chip, ice cream and its related products share certain basic characteristics that are often unknown or misunderstood by us.

Frozen desserts come in many forms. Each of the following types has its own definition, and many are standardized by federal regulations:

Ice Cream

Ice Cream consists of a mixture of dairy ingredients such as milk and nonfat milk, and ingredients for sweetening and flavoring, such as extracts, fruits, nuts and chocolate chips. Functional ingredients, such as stabilizers and emulsifiers, are often included to promote proper texture and enhance the eating experience. By federal law, ice cream must contain at least 10 percent milkfat, before the addition of bulky ingredients, and must weigh a minimum of 4.5 pounds to the gallon.

Frozen Custard or French Ice Cream

Frozen Custard or French Ice Cream must also contain a minimum of 10 percent milkfat, as well as at least 1.4 percent egg yolk solids.


Sherbets have a milkfat content of between 1 and 2 percent, and a slightly higher sweetener content than ice cream. Sherbet weighs a minimum of 6 pounds to the gallon and is flavored either with fruit or other similar ingredients.


Gelato has an intense flavor and is served in a semi-frozen state that is similar to "soft serve" ice cream. Italian-style gelato is more dense than ice cream, since it has less air. Typically, gelato has more milk than cream, if any, and also contains sweeteners, egg yolks and flavoring.

Sorbet and Water Ices

Sorbet and Water Ices are similar to sherbets, but contain no dairy ingredients.

Quiescently Frozen Confection

A Quiescently Frozen Confection is a frozen novelty such as a water ice novelty on a stick (e.g. Popsicles).

Frozen Yogurt

Frozen Yogurt consists of a mixture of dairy ingredients such as milk and nonfat milk which have been cultured, as well as ingredients for sweetening and flavoring.


Novelties are separately packaged single servings of a frozen dessert (e.g. ice cream sandwiches, fudge sticks and juice bars) that may or may not contain dairy ingredients.

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