Did you ever order rainbow sherbet as a kid? I know I did, but mainly because someone had the genius idea to name a food rainbow. I remember it tasted fruity and creamy, but not as rich as ice cream. Then I encountered sorbets and got confused — were they really just the same kind of fruity frozen dessert?
The names sorbet and sherbet have been used interchangeably to some extent over the years, but there are distinguishing differences between the two, so let's demystify them now.
Sorbet: Just Fruit and Sugar
Sorbet has just two main ingredients: fruit and sugar. There may also be some water, flavorings, or acid added to it, but it's essentially blended fruit that's churned and then frozen. No dairy is added to sorbet, which is how it is different from ice cream.
Sorbet is oftentimes used as a palate cleanser between courses because it's refreshing, cold, and light since it contains little to no fat. It's also one of the original gluten and dairy-free desserts!
Are Granita and Sorbet the Same Thing?
So then what's granita? Granita starts with the same base as sorbet, but instead of churning it in an ice cream maker, the base is just poured into a pan and placed in the freezer. The surface is scraped multiple times as it freezes, creating icy flakes that are coarse and more crystalline in texture than sorbet.
Sherbet: Fruit and Cream
Sherbet is sorbet's creamier cousin. A little cream, milk, egg whites, gelatin, or even buttermilk is added to a sorbet mixture, and the result is a frozen dessert that's richer than sorbet but still lighter than ice cream.
It's Sherbet, Not Sherbert
Let's get something straight here. Sherbet has only one "r" in it, so it's only pronounced with one "r." It's one of the most commonly mispronounced words out there, passed down over the years and causing confusion. Time to break old habits and say it correctly!
Here's a serving tip: since both sorbets and sherbets don't have the high fat content of ice cream, take them out of the freezer at least 5 minutes before you want to serve them so they soften up a bit and are easier to scoop.
(Image credits: Emma Christensen; Sara Kate Gillingham; Liv friis-larsen/Shutterstock; Tatiana Vorona/Shutterstock)