Summer is exciting for many reasons, but enjoying ice cream in the warm weather is what I look forward to the most. Although ice cream is a delicious treat any day of the year, nothing compares to a scoop of my favorite ice cream on a hot summer day.
Since ice cream is such a crowd favorite, it comes in many varieties. Types of ice cream vary in preparation, ingredients, and serving methods. There are also types of ice cream that are specific to certain cultures such as the Indian Kulfi and Turkish Dondurma.
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What Is Ice Cream?
In simple terms, ice cream is just a sweetened frozen food enjoyed as dessert or snack. The ingredients usually included in ice cream are milk, sugar, cream, eggs, and flavorings.
The modern ice cream we enjoy today is an ancestor of frozen desserts that have existed since second century B.C. From Alexander The Great to Marco Polo, ice cream has remained a historical favorite. In fact, history suggests that ice cream was a dessert enjoyed solely by the elites.
It wasn’t until 1851 that ice cream became commercially available to the general public. Making ice cream turned into a business and ice cream parlors opened up around the world. A milk vendor by the name of Jacob Fussell was the first one to make ice cream widely available and affordable.
Fun fact: National Ice Cream Day is on the 21st of July.
What Is Included In Ice Cream?
Ice cream usually includes the following ingredients:
- Milk fats such as pure milk fat, butter, and cream which the ice cream smooth and creamy.
- Nutrients such as milk proteins, lactose (milk sugar), and calcium which add body and richness.
- Sweeteners which enhance flavor and lower the melting temperature of the ice cream.
- Stabilizers (some recipes use eggs) which give the ice cream a uniform consistency.
- Flavorings that include fruits, spices, nuts, and liqueurs.
- Optional food colorings.
How Is Ice Cream Made?
To make ice cream, the ingredients are blended together in a homogenous mix. Then they undergo a churning process which adds air and prevents the formation ice crystals. After the ice cream has developed a smooth, uniform consistency, it is frozen below the freezing point. To maintain the ice cream’s texture, it must stay frozen or large ice crystals can develop.
You can also make ice cream at home with few ingredients and an ice cream maker. There are no-churn recipes as well so you can enjoy a scoop of homemade ice cream regardless.
Keep on reading to learn about the different types of ice cream.
Gelato is one of the most popular types of ice cream and is of Italian origin. It contains less fat and air than other types of ice cream. Due to less air, Gelato is dense with a richer flavor than other ice creams. Modern Gelato that is commercially available is credited to the Italian chef Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli who introduced it at his café in the 1600s.
There are many popular flavors of Gelato such as vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, cream (custard-flavored), and stracciatella which is a milk-based ice cream with thin chocolate shavings.
Soft Serve ice cream is a summertime classic in the United States but is also popular worldwide. First introduced in the 1930s, it maintains its soft texture through a unique process which involves the addition of air to a mix of ingredients at a low temperature. A special machine holds the mix of ingredients at a low temperature instead of below freezing point like regular ice cream.
Soft ice cream is creamy, smooth, and lighter than regular ice cream. You cannot find soft serve ice cream at the supermarket. Instead it is available fresh at restaurants, amusement parks, fairs, and specialty shops. Commonly served in a cone, it is usually just chocolate and vanilla flavored.
Dondurma is a Turkish ice cream that originated in the Maraş region of Turkey. This ice cream is particularly hard and resistant to melting compared to regular ice cream. These qualities are a result of the ingredients which include whipped cream, cream, mastic (plant resin), and a thickening agent called salep (ground-up root of the early purple orchid).
In Turkey, Dondurma is available at street vendors as well as store fronts. The ice cream is regularly churned using long-handled paddles. In some regions of Turkey, they slice the Dondurma with a butcher knife before serving.
Sherbet is a North American frozen dessert, typically fruit-flavored. It uses sugar, water, cream, milk, flavoring such as fruit juice, purée, and liqueurs. Although many people confuse Sherbet for sorbet, the two are different since sorbet does not include any dairy.
There are some early American recipes of Sherbet that do not include dairy, but the modern recipes generally incorporate milk, egg whites, citric acid, and even gelatin. Sherbets have a slightly tart flavor, pastel colors, and a lighter mouthfeel compared to regular ice cream. Common flavors for Sherbet are raspberry, orange, and lime or Rainbow Sherbet which contains all three.
Italian Ice is a frozen or semi-frozen dessert derived from Granita. This sweet treat often includes just fruit ingredients such as juice, purée, and concentrates. Often food coloring is also used to give it a vibrant color. While traditional recipes for Italian Ice do not include dairy or eggs, modern recipes sometimes include egg whites for a smoother, velvety consistency.
The famous Philadelphia Water Ice is also a variation of Italian Ice. Italian Ice is somewhere in the middle of a slushy and sorbet with a smooth texture. Common flavors include lemon, orange, cherry, blue raspberry, passion fruit, and mango. The bright vivid colors of Italian Ice make it all the more inviting.
Rolled Ice Cream
Rolled ice cream, also known as stir-fried ice cream, is a Thai dessert that grew in popularity across the world since its introduction. It is called “stir-fried” since the preparation involves a steel pan. Rolled ice cream uses a milk base, sugar, flavorings, and extra toppings.
The process for making rolled ice cream is simple, involves only a few ingredients, and takes a minimum of two to five minutes. The milk base (either chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry flavored) is poured onto a freezing-cold pan. The liquid then undergoes a freezing and stirring process till it forms ice cream. The resultant rolls of ice cream are semi-solid, vertically placed in a cup, and topped with fresh fruits and nuts.
Frozen yoghurt is a frozen dessert that uses yoghurt, dairy, and added flavorings. It contains the same ingredients as ice cream along with the live bacterial cultures found in yoghurt. Frozen yoghurt is naturally sweet, slightly tart (due to the presence of lactic acid), and low in fat compared to regular ice cream. It is very popular in the United States where it made its debut in 1983.
Machines used to prepare soft serve ice cream can also be used to prepare frozen yoghurt. Due to its popularity, there are fat and sugar-free alternatives of frozen yoghurt as well. You can enjoy it fresh with a variety of toppings such as fruits, nuts, chocolate chips, and candies.
Kakigōri is a Japanese dessert that uses shaved ice, syrup, and condensed milk. The origins of this dessert date all the way back to 1185 where it was served to Japanese aristocracy during the summer months. The first Kakigōri stored opened in 1869 in Yokohama, although it became widely available somewhere during the 19th century.
The traditional way to make Kakigōri involves hand-shaving blocks of ice to obtain a smooth, fluffy consistency. Its texture has also earned it the appealing name “Angel Snow”. The shaved ice is flavored with a variety of syrups such as strawberry, cherry, green tea, milk tea, and grape. The final topping is condensed milk for sweetness.
Another variety of Kakigōri known as Yakigori also exists. The Yakigori consists of ice cream, caramel sauce, and strawberries or pineapple. Served theatrically in a manner similar to flambé, the Yakigori is lit on fire after Brandy is poured on top.
Kulfi, also Qulfi, is a traditional Indian ice cream that dates all the way back to the 16th century. It is still widely popular in Southeast Asia including India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh to name a few. While Kulfi is similar in taste and appearance to regular ice cream, the texture is denser and creamier. This is due to the fact that the mix of ingredients does not undergo any agitation, resulting in a denser end product.
There are many flavors of Kulfi but the traditional ones include rose, cardamom, mango, pistachio, and saffron. You can also prepare this delicious ice cream at home since it is easy to prepare and only requires a few ingredients.
Sorbet is a frozen dessert that includes no dairy ingredients. It usually includes sweetened water, fruit juice or purée, liqueur, wine, and honey. Since they contain no dairy ingredients, Sorbets are a great choice for those with lactose intolerance.
Desserts similar to the modern Sorbet have been around for centuries. It all started when Europeans discovered the Arabic “sharbat”, a cool drink flavored with pomegranate, rose, or cherries. Cool drinks evolved into frozen desserts, creating the Sorbet we enjoy today. This delicious ice cream is low in calories but packed full of fruity flavor.
Granita is a semi-frozen dessert that consists of sugar, water, and various flavorings. It originated in Sicily but the preferred texture varies by region. Granita is a distinct category since it differs from ice cream and sorbets. It is chunky and crystalline with a unique texture.
Granita is available in a variety of flavors but traditional ones include lemon, chocolate, mandarin, coffee, black mulberries, and strawberries. There are many ways to serve Granita but the most popular ways are with coffee, almonds, or on a Sicilian brioche as breakfast.
Faloodeh is a traditional Iranian dessert that consists of vermicelli noodles and a semi-frozen sweet syrup. Flavored simply with sugar and rose water, its common accompaniments include ground pistachios and lime juice. In Iran, Faloodeh is available in many flavors such as saffron, pistachio, honey, and rosewater. Often, it also includes traditional Iranian ice cream called Bastani. The version of Faloodeh from the city of Shiraz in Iran is the most popular.
Many people confuse Faloodeh with Falooda which is an Indian dessert beverage. Although the Falooda is derived from Faloodeh, it contains many additional ingredients such as ice cream, raisins, nuts, basil seeds, and various flavored jellies.
Ice Cream Sandwich
The old school ice cream sandwich makes a great dessert with creamy vanilla ice cream sandwiched between sticky chocolate wafers. They are a delicious summer snack, enjoyed by adults and children alike. There are many varieties of ice cream sandwiches according to the ingredients used. The traditional ice cream sandwich uses wafers but there are modern recipes that use chocolate cookies.
The first ice cream sandwich consisted of vanilla ice cream between two chocolate cookies, sold at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field at baseball games during 1945. There are many types of the ice cream sandwich now that use wafers, bread, and various ice cream flavors.
Halo-halo is a popular Filipino cold dessert that uses crushed ice and various ingredients. At first glance, this dessert looks like something out of Willy Wonka’s factory with its bright contrasting colors. However, this sweet treat tastes nothing like candy and relies on the natural sweetness of the ingredients.
Halo-halo usually consists of five basic ingredients on a bed of crushed ice. They are sweetened beans (can be red, white, garbanzo beans, or corn kernels), fruit (tropical fruits such as pineapple, coconut, mango, and lychee), evaporated or condensed milk, and vibrant ube ice cream. The ingredients work well together to create a delicious and texturally rich summertime treat.
Ais Kacang, which literally translates to “bean ice”, is a popular Malaysian dessert traditionally made with shaved ice and sweetened red beans. It has various names such as ABC (air batu campur) and ice kachang. Considered one of the most unique desserts in Malaysia, you should try it at least once.
While the traditional recipes for Ais Kacang only include shaved ice and red beans, the list of ingredients has expanded in recent years. The dessert now includes additional ingredients such as basil seeds, corn kernels, roasted peanuts, and various jellies. After the preparation of the dessert, a generous helping of condensed or coconut milk, various flavored syrups, and fruit cocktails act as garnish.
Vegan Ice Cream
Vegan ice cream or dairy-free ice cream has become very popular in recent years. Instead of milk from animals, vegan ice cream contains plant-based milk sources such as soy, almond, coconut, and oat milk. Almeda Lambert created the first vegan ice cream which included just nut cream, vanilla, and sugar.
Since then, vegan ice cream has grown popular as a dairy-free alternative to ice cream. Almost every supermarket in the United States now has vegan ice cream in the freezer aisle. Vegan ice cream is also healthier than dairy ice cream since it is rich in protein and low in fat.
Mochi Ice Cream
Mochi is a very popular Japanese dessert made with sticky rice that undergoes steaming and pounding. It has a soft but chewy texture and contains various fillings. Mochi ice cream refers to mochi filled with ice cream.
The ice cream filling adds flavor while the Mochi adds texture and sweetness. The flavor of the Mochi and ice cream usually complement each other such as chocolate and vanilla, coffee and chocolate etc. There are some unusual flavors as well including green tea and milk tea. Mochi ice cream has a very different taste and texture than regular ice cream.
Ice popsicles are one of the most popular summertime treats, enjoyed by children and adults alike. They consist of liquid with various flavorings frozen around a stick. Unlike ice cream or sorbet, ice popsicles are simply frozen without whipping. In 1872, desserts similar to ice popsicles existed but by the name “Hokey-Pokey”. Francis William Epperson created the modern ice pop in 1905.
Most ice popsicles simply include liquid but there are recipes that also include milk. Ice popsicles also gained popularity since they are easy to prepare. You can prepare ice pops at home with flavored liquid, molds, and ice cream sticks.
Baobing is a frozen Chinese dessert that is popular in Taiwan, Greater China, and Malaysia. Traditionally, the ice is hand-shaved but now machines are used for thinner, finer shavings.
The dessert consists of a frozen mound of ice shavings topped with various ingredients. Common toppings include condensed milk, tapioca pearls, adzuki or mung beans, and seasonal fruit. In summer, you will find mango Baobing, while strawberry Baobing is popular in winter.
Philadelphia Ice Cream
Philadelphia-style ice cream, also known as New York ice cream or American ice cream, is the common name for ice cream made without eggs. Although eggless ice cream is the norm across the world now, it was initially created in Philadelphia as an alternative to the custard-like and rich French ice cream made with egg yolks.
During Revolutionary times, when ice cream was an elite dessert in Europe, Philadelphia-style ice cream was an egg-free alternative to the popular treat. It is now one of the most popular commercial varieties of ice cream.
Bingsu is a popular Korean dessert made with shaved ice and various toppings. The traditional Bingsu, called Pat-bingsu consists of shaved ice and red bean paste. However, there are many popular varieties of Bingsu now that include green tea, strawberry, and chocolate to name a few.
The origin of Bingsu was in China where snow with fruit juice and honey was a popular dessert. Old recipes for Bingsu contained shaved ice, red bean paste, Korean rice cakes, and ground nuts. In current times, Bingsu is popular across the world and has many recipes that leave out red bean paste. Yoghurt, strawberry, coffee, green tea, and mango are popular flavors of Bingsu.
Snow Fluff is a popular Taiwanese shaved ice dessert that has many popular names including Snowflake Ice, Snow Ice, and Snow Cream. Instead of just ice, a mixture of water, flavorings, and condensed milk is frozen and shaved in sheets. The resultant frozen mix has a fluffier and more decadent texture compared to shaved ice. Light and airy with a texture similar to cotton candy, the Snow Fluff is rich in flavor and melts in your mouth.
Traditional toppings for Snow Fluff include red beans and condensed milk, but tropical fruits such as mango and kiwi are also popular. This frozen dessert is so simple and delicious, you can also enjoy it with just condensed milk.
Jipangi is a popular Korean ice cream that includes a J-shaped cone made from puffed corn. The Jipangi is large in size and usually includes soft serve vanilla or chocolate ice cream. You can also opt for various toppings. If you have a sweet tooth, Jipangi is the one for you. With a naturally sweet cone (it is made with corn) and ice cream, it has the best of both worlds.
Ice Cream Cone
Ice cream cone refers to the brittle waffle-like pastry filled with ice cream. There are many types of ice cream cones such as waffle cones, cake cones, and sugar cones. Modern varieties also exist such as pretzel cones and chocolate-coated cones.
Generally, the most popular ice cream cone is the waffle cone. They are brittle and high in sugar. The sugar cone is sturdier and contains less sugar than waffle cones. Finally, the cake cone or wafer cone is a crisp and flaky cone that comes in a variety of shapes.
Ice Cream Sundae
An ice cream sundae is a popular way to serve ice cream that includes a couple scoops of ice cream, flavored syrup, and toppings. Classic sundae includes vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup topped with maraschino cherries. Now there are many takes on the classic sundae that include bananas, sprinkles, whipped cream, peanuts, and marshmallows to name a few. Recipes inspired by the classic sundae include Banana Split, American Parfait, and Knickerbocker Glory.
One of the most popular versions of ice cream sundae is the hot fudge sundae that includes vanilla ice cream, heated flavored sauce (often chocolate, caramel, and butterscotch), whipped cream, and nuts.
Sorbetes is a popular ice cream that originated in Philippines, not to be confused with sorbet. It is distinct from other ice cream types due to its use of coconut or carabao (Asian water buffalo) milk and cassava flour. The Sorbetes gets it name from “sorbeteros“, the name of the wooden pushcarts used by street vendors that sell the ice cream.
Sorbetes ice cream are bright in color, available in unusual and conventional flavors. The unusual flavors include ube, mango, avocado, jackfruit, and melon, while conventional flavors such as chocolate, cheese, and strawberry are also popular. The common ways of serving the ice cream include sugar cones or as an ice cream sandwich with Filipino bread rolls called pandesal.
Plombir is a rich Russian ice cream that includes much more fat and sugar than regular ice cream. It is common in Russia and other central European countries such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It derives its name from the French dessert called Plombières, a combination of ice cream made with kirsch and candied fruit. However, the Plombir is different from the French dessert.
Plombir is available in a variety of flavors but the most common ones are vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. The traditional way to serve Plombir is with a topping of thick fruit-flavored sauce that includes Armenian Brandy.
Ice Gola is a shaved ice dessert that is popular in Southeast Asia, particularly India and Pakistan. It has many names including baraf gola, gola ganda, and ice lolly. The dessert consists of shaved ice, various brightly-colored syrups, condensed milk, and chocolate syrup. Unlike other shaved ice desserts, this one includes no fruit or nuts. It is a simple treat enjoyed on hot summer days. Gola ganda is mainly available at street vendors who prepare it fresh.
It is a colorful dessert with shades of green and red, topped with a generous helping of chocolate syrup and condensed milk. It is usually served in a cup, bowl, or as a mound of ice on a stick.
Booza Ice Cream
Booza is a Middle Eastern ice cream that is similar to the Turkish Dondurma in texture. It uses milk, cream, sugar, mastic, and orchid flour. It is different from regular ice cream because of its chewy and stretchy texture. Unlike the churning process that conventional ice creams undergo, Booza is prepared by pounding and stretching inside a freezer drum.
You might think that Booza could be rubbery but it is actually very creamy. It contains less air than regular ice cream, resulting in a rich and intense flavor. Booza is available in traditional Middle Eastern flavors such as saffron, cardamom, and pistachio as well as more commercial ones like chocolate and vanilla.
French Ice Cream
The most popular commercial recipe of ice cream is the Philadelphia-style ice cream which was inspired by French ice cream. French ice cream uses a custard-base, a mixture of dairy, sugar, and eggs heated at a high temperature. It contains more butterfat so it has a silkier, creamier texture compared to regular ice cream. French ice cream can also be refrozen more easily since it develops less ice crystals.
Ice Cream Bar
An ice cream bar, formerly known as Eskimo Pie, is ice cream on a stick coated with a thin layer of chocolate. It is one of the most popular ways to serve ice cream and there are many varieties with the addition of fruits of nuts. However, the classic ice cream bar with just vanilla ice cream and a coating of chocolate has a delectable flavor and crunch. The common name for ice cream bars in the UK is Choc ice or Choco bar.
Fried Ice Cream
Fried ice cream is like the ice cream version of Mozzarella sticks. Basically, it consists of a scoop of ice cream frozen well below the typical freezing temperature of ice cream which undergoes a breading and deep-frying process. Since the ice cream is frozen hard, it does not melt during the deep-frying process.
The origins of fried ice cream are mysterious but common associations are with Asian cuisine including Chinese, Japanese, and Polynesian. Fried ice cream is also popular in Mexican cuisine where they use tortillas or corn flakes for coating. Asian recipes of fried ice cream use tempura batter.
This dessert with soft cold ice cream inside a thin, crisp shell is a treat regardless of the recipe. The common way to serve fried ice cream is with a dollop of whipped cream, chocolate or caramel syrup, and a single maraschino cherry.
Bastani Sonnati is a traditional Iranian ice cream (more popularly known as Persian ice cream) that consists of milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, rose water, saffron, and pistachios. It also includes flakes of frozen clotted cream which give it a creamier texture than regular ice cream. This ice cream has a unique and delicate taste unlike any commercial ice cream. With earthiness from saffron and the floral sweetness of rosewater, this ice cream is easy to love.
The traditional way to serve Bastani is between two thin and crispy waffles, called “Bastani-e Nooni” which means ice cream sandwich.
Although the Italian Semifreddo is not an ice cream, it is a frozen dessert that uses the same ingredients as ice cream. Semifreddo translates to “half cold” or “half frozen” in Italian since this dessert has a unique texture.
The main ingredients for the Semifreddo are cream, sugar, and egg yolks. It has a light and airy texture, similar to a mousse rather than ice cream. In appearance, it is very similar to ice cream but the lightness of the Semifreddo makes it a guilt-free treat. You can easily prepare it at home with a few simple ingredients.