Chocolate Semifreddo

published Apr 22, 2022
Semifreddo Recipe

It’s not too sweet, quick to make, and elegant enough for a dinner party but simple enough for a summer cookout.


Prep35 minutes

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slices of Semifreddo (a classic Italian frozen dessert that's halfway between ice cream and mousse) on square, pale green plates with a fork next to it.
Credit: Perry Santanachote

Semifreddo is Italian for “semi-cold” and the name of a light and airy dessert that’s a bit like frozen mousse but totally its own. It’s not too sweet, quick to make, and elegant enough for a dinner party but simple enough for a summer cookout. The best part? No ice cream maker is required. But like any homemade ice cream, the riffs you can make on the basic recipe are endless. For this one, we kept it classic with chocolate. Feel free to add hazelnuts, though, for a play on gianduja.

Why Is It Called Semifreddo?

Even though semifreddo is technically frozen but not churned, the Italian dessert stays soft, airy, creamy, and seemingly less frigid than it actually is. That’s how it earned the name semifreddo, which means “semi-cold.” In Italy, it’s sometimes referred to as winter gelato (because who wants a brain freeze when it’s cold out?).

Credit: Perry Santanachote

What’s the Difference Between Ice Cream and Semifreddo?

There are four distinct differences between ice cream and semifreddo.

  1. Semifreddo is not churned in an ice cream maker. It is whipped up, poured into a pan, and frozen.
  2. Semifreddo has a lighter, mousse-like texture, while ice cream is thick and dense.
  3. Semifreddo features meringue (made from egg whites), while ice cream features custard (made from egg yolks).
  4. Semifreddo requires more cream and sugar than ice cream because it’s not being churned. This is to maintain its consistency and avoid ice crystals from forming when it freezes.

How to Store Semifreddo

Because semifreddo isn’t custard-based, it doesn’t keep quite as well as regular ice cream. When freezing, be sure to cover the top tightly with plastic wrap to prevent frost from forming. Semifreddo is best enjoyed within one week of making it. It’ll keep for longer but the texture will become harder and icier over time.

Semifreddo Recipe

It’s not too sweet, quick to make, and elegant enough for a dinner party but simple enough for a summer cookout.

Prep time 35 minutes

Serves 8

Nutritional Info


  • 4

    large eggs

  • 1 1/2 cups

    cold heavy cream

  • 4 ounces

    semisweet chocolate

  • 2/3 cup

    granulated sugar, divided


  1. Separate 4 large eggs, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in a second bowl. Let sit until room temperature.

  2. Place a large bowl (preferably metal) in the refrigerator to chill. Line the bottom and long sides of a 9×5-inch loaf pan with a 12×20-inch sheet of plastic wrap, leaving a 4-inch overhangs on the long sides. Smooth the plastic along the sides and into the corners.

  3. Place 1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Beat with the whisk attachment on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to the chilled bowl and keep in the refrigerator.

  4. Fill a medium saucepan with 1 1/2 inches water and bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, finely chop 4 ounces semisweet chocolate (about 1 cup) and place in a medium bowl that fits over the saucepan without the bottom of the bowl touching the water.

  5. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Fit the bowl of chocolate onto the saucepan and stir occasionally with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is completely melted, about 2 minutes. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and set aside to cool slightly while you beat the egg yolks.

  6. Wash and dry the mixer bowl and whisk attachment. Add the egg yolks and 1/3 cup of the granulated sugar to the bowl. Beat on high speed with the whisk attachment until pale and thickened, about 3 minutes. Add the melted chocolate and whisk until well combined. Transfer to a large bowl.

  7. Wash and dry the mixer bowl and whisk attachment again. Add egg whites to the bowl and beat with the whisk attachment on medium speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to high and slowly pour in the remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar. Continue beating until stiff peaks form, 3 to 4 minutes.

  8. Add 1 cup of the whipped egg whites to the chocolate mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Add the remaining egg whites and gently fold together until just combined. Add the whipped cream and gently fold together just until no streaks remain (do not overmix).

  9. Scrape the mixture into the loaf pan and smooth the top. Wrap the overhanging plastic over the top to cover. Freeze until solid, at least 6 hours but preferably overnight (and up to 3 days).

  10. When ready to serve, peel back the plastic wrap from the top of the semifreddo. Invert onto a cutting board. Remove the pan and plastic wrap, and slice crosswise into 1-inch-thick pieces.

Recipe Notes

Storage: The semifreddo will keep tightly covered in the freezer for up to 3 days. It might develop frost the longer it’s in the freezer.