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Ice-Cream vs. Sherbet: What's the Difference?

By Harlon Moss & Janet White || Updated on October 12, 2023
Ice-cream is a creamy, frozen dairy dessert, while sherbet is a fruity, frozen dessert with a bit of dairy or fat.

Key Differences

Ice-cream is a beloved dessert known for its rich and creamy texture, derived primarily from its dairy and fat content, whereas sherbet, while also enjoyed as a refreshing frozen treat, offers a fruitier and slightly tart profile with a lower milkfat content.
When looking at the variety and versatility of flavors, ice-cream tends to encompass a vast array, including pure dairy, fruit, chocolate, and countless creative concoctions, while sherbet typically leans towards a fruit-centric palate, exploiting the natural sweetness and tanginess of the incorporated fruits.
From a nutritional standpoint, ice-cream tends to be denser and higher in fat and calories due to the considerable dairy and sugar content, while sherbet, though not completely guilt-free, generally presents a lighter option by virtue of its lower fat content and the incorporation of fruit juices.
In terms of texture, ice-cream boasts a rich, smooth, and creamy consistency which is achieved through its higher fat content and often, the inclusion of egg yolks; conversely, sherbet delivers a lighter, slightly icy, and somewhat creamy texture, owing to its modest dairy content and higher water ratio.
Culinary applications of ice-cream often see it used as a standalone dessert or an accompaniment to pies, cakes, and other sweet dishes, while sherbet might often be employed in beverages, like punches, or served between meals as a palate cleanser due to its refreshing and tangy characteristics.

Comparison Chart

Base Ingredient

Dairy (milk/cream)
Fruit Juice

Dairy Content



Creamy and smooth
Lighter and slightly icy

Typical Flavors

Vast variety (beyond fruit)
Primarily fruity

Usage in Culinary

Dessert/beverage/palate cleanser

Ice-Cream and Sherbet Definitions


It's a sweet treat typically served in a cone or bowl.
She dropped her ice-cream cone and started crying.


Sherbet can act as a palate cleanser between meal courses.
The chef served a raspberry sherbet between the entrée and dessert.


Ice-cream is a frozen dessert made from cream and sugar, often with flavorings.
I love to eat vanilla ice-cream after dinner.


It's a popular choice for fruity frozen beverages and punches.
The punch was made with lime sherbet and ginger ale.


Ice-cream can also be an ingredient in beverages like shakes and floats.
He made a thick milkshake using chocolate ice-cream and milk.


Sherbet is a fruit-based frozen dessert with a small amount of milkfat.
Orange sherbet is my go-to summer refreshment.


It's a versatile dessert that comes in various flavors and forms (like bars and sandwiches).
I ordered an ice-cream sandwich from the food truck.


It's often considered a lighter, refreshing frozen treat.
A scoop of lemon sherbet can be really refreshing on a hot day.


Ice-cream can also be a dish used to enhance the flavor of pies or pastries.
The apple pie was served a la mode with vanilla ice-cream.


Sherbet can come in various fruit flavors, often exhibiting a slightly tart taste.
The strawberry sherbet had a lovely balance of sweet and tart.


A sweet, smooth, frozen dessert made from dairy products such as cream or milk, sugar or other sweeteners, and flavorings.


Also sher·bert (-bûrt′) A frozen dessert made mainly of fruit juice or fruit purée, usually with sugar and milk or cream.


A serving of this dessert
At the ball game, I bought an ice cream.


Chiefly British A usually fruit-flavored effervescent powder, eaten as candy or made into a drink.


Alternative spelling of ice cream


What is the base ingredient in ice-cream?

Dairy, typically milk and/or cream.

Can ice-cream be made without an ice-cream maker?

Yes, there are various methods to make ice-cream without a machine.

Can ice-cream be made with non-dairy alternatives?

Yes, non-dairy ice-cream, often made with coconut milk or almond milk, is available.

Is sherbet a healthy dessert option?

While often lower in fat than ice-cream, sherbet still contains sugars.

How can I make my homemade sherbet creamier?

Ensuring the sugar is fully dissolved and incorporating a bit of gelatin can help.

What are the common flavors of ice-cream?

Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and mint chocolate chip are quite common.

Can I make sherbet without an ice-cream maker?

Yes, you can make sherbet by freezing and stirring periodically.

What is the difference between sherbet and sorbet?

Sherbet contains a bit of dairy or fat, while sorbet is usually dairy-free.

Can I use ice-cream as an ingredient in baking?

Yes, ice-cream can be used in certain baking recipes like ice-cream bread.

Can sherbet be used in beverages?

Yes, sherbet is often used in punches and other drinks for a fruity flavor.

How is the sweetness in ice-cream balanced?

It’s often balanced with flavors, like fruits, chocolate, or vanilla.

Is gelato the same as ice-cream?

No, gelato has less fat and air than ice-cream, offering a denser texture.

What gives sherbet its tart flavor?

The fruit juices, zest, or purees used often lend a tartness to sherbet.

Can ice-cream be savory?

Yes, savory ice-creams, like olive oil or basil, can be made.

What types of fruit are typically used in sherbet?

Common fruits include oranges, limes, lemons, and raspberries.

Does sherbet typically contain eggs?

No, sherbet usually doesn’t contain eggs, unlike certain ice-creams.

Does sherbet contain dairy?

Yes, sherbet contains a small amount of dairy.

Is ice-cream generally higher in fat than sherbet?

Yes, ice-cream typically has a higher fat content compared to sherbet.

What is French-style ice-cream?

French-style ice-cream typically involves an egg custard base.

Is soft serve a type of ice-cream?

Yes, soft serve is a softer and smoother variation of ice-cream.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Co-written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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