Granita, Ice Cream & Sorbet
Cooking Knowledge

Granita, Ice Cream & Sorbet

One thing’s for certain: in summer all three are a refreshing treat

Whether fruity fresh or creamy smooth, ice cream is many-faceted. Don’t be confused by its various names. Learn what distinguishes an ice cream from a granita and a sorbet.

Not all Frozen Desserts are the Same

A delicately melting vanilla ice cream, a fruity mango sorbet or a wonderfully refreshing lemon granita? The main thing is that it tastes good and is refreshing – and they all are. But if you want to dazzle with your expert knowledge of the different types of frozen desserts on your next visit to the gelateria, we’ll elucidate the differences. We’ll also show you how to prepare the sweet treats at home.

Granita: Italian Shaved Ice

Granita or granita siciliana – as you’ll see on the menu in Italy especially – is characterised by a coarse, crystalline structure. The basic recipe consists simply of water, sugar, and lemon juice – an enjoyable refreshment that can be prepared quickly.

Dissolve the sugar in water and boil it down a little, then add fresh lemon juice. The resulting mixture freezes best in a shallow bowl. Remove from the freezer roughly every 30 minutes and stir gently with a fork. This produces coarse ice flakes for the desired consistency. After about two hours, the lemon granita is ready to serve. If it is too firm, simply scrape off the desired amount from the surface.

Another classic granita flavour is coffee. It works just as well with black tea, or flavour your granita with herbs like rosemary or basil.


If you think you can't get good results without special equipment, you're wrong. Creamy ice cream without an ice cream maker is indeed difficult to achieve, but there are still lots of frozen treat alternatives. In fact, granita almost works better without a special machine. And with ice lolly moulds, you can conjure up a variety of creations in no time at all.

Ice Cream: The Creamy Classic

Classic ice cream with cream and milk surpasses all other types of frozen desserts in creaminess. Sugar and egg yolk are also added. As far as flavours go the possibilities are endless, from vanilla or melted chocolate, to fruit purée or exotic spices and herbs. If you don't have an ice cream maker at home, just call it parfait. Because of its firmer consistency, it is usually served in slices.

Alternatively, you can fill the mixture into special moulds and inset an ice lolly stick towards the end of the freezing process. There is plenty of room to experiment, for example, freeze whole berries or slices of fruit. Alternating layers of creamy ice cream and fruit purée is not only visually appealing, but delicious too. Or use yoghurt instead of cream for a lower calorie result.

Sorbet: It Doesn’t get any Fruitier

Sorbet is a mixture of granita and ice: it has a soft consistency, but no hard ice crystals. The best way to achieve this is to stir the mixture thoroughly but gently during freezing.

The fruit content is important for sorbet: while granita is more of a water-based iced treat flavoured with juice and fruits, sorbet is made from fruit purée. It should be at least 20 percent, although with citrus fruits slightly less is permissible; there should be no cream or milk involved. This makes sorbet lighter than ice cream overall – although no less sweet, because sugar is also an important component.


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