What’s the Difference Between Sherbet and Sorbet?

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Did you ever order rainbow sherbet as a kid? I know I did, but mainly because someone had the ingenious 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.

The Difference Between Sorbet and Sherbet

The difference between these two types of frozen desserts is mainly how much dairy they contain. Sorbet contains no dairy whatsoever, while sherbet contains a little cream or milk to give it a richer, creamier texture.

(Image credit: Sara Kate Gillingham)

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. It contains little to no fat and is also one of the original gluten- and dairy-free desserts!

Sorbet Recipes

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.

(Image credit: Tatiana Vorona)

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, and creamier in texture than sorbet but still lighter than ice cream, as by law, it must contain less than 2% fat.

It’s Sherbet, Not Sherbert

It’s one of the most commonly mispronounced words out there, passed down over the years and causing confusion. Sherbet has only one “r” in it, so it’s only pronounced with one “r.”Time to break old habits and say it correctly!

Sherbet Recipes

A Serving Tip for Sherbet and Sorbet

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.