Gelato (Italian pronunciation: [dʒeˈlaːto]; plural: gelati) is the Italian word for ice cream, derived from the Latin word "gelātus." (meaning frozen). Gelato is made with milk, cream, various sugars, and flavoring such as fresh fruit and nut purees.
Gelato is defined in English as a soft ice cream containing little or no air. The ambiguity in use of the word in the United States stems from the fact that there is no standard of identity for gelato set forth by the US Department of Agriculture, as there is for ice cream. Whereas ice cream in the US is defined by the Federal Code both by its ingredients, which includes milk fat (also known as butterfat) of 10% or more, gelato in the US covers a wide range of products including frozen desserts eaten like ice cream; products that are identical to ice cream with the exception of their butterfat contents; and premium ice cream containing butterfat far exceeding the minimums set forth in Italy. Depending on the recipe and the person making it, dairy-based gelato contains 16–24% sugar. Most ice cream in the United States contains 12 to 16% sugar. The sugar content in homemade gelato, as in traditional ice cream, is balanced with the water content to act as an anti-freeze to prevent it from freezing solid. Types of sugar used include sucrose, dextrose, and inverted sugar to control apparent sweetness. Typically, gelato—like any other ice cream—needs a stabilizing base. Egg yolks are used in yellow custard-based gelato flavors, including zabaione and creme caramel, and non-fat milk solids are also added to gelato to stabilize the base. Starches and gums, especially corn starch, are sometimes also used to thicken and stabilize the mix.