Sweet Summer Treats: Ice Cream or Froyo?


On a hot summer day (and, honestly, even those freezing winter nights), a beloved goody for many is a bowl of ice cream. When the urge hits you away from home, you may even stop into a local froyo store. Regardless of which you choose, you can pick from a wide selection of flavors and add as many toppings as you desire. Plus, ice cream and frozen yogurt share two main ingredients: dairy and sugar. These frozen dairy foods sound the same, but outside of these ingredients, the two are very different. When picking a frozen treat to enjoy this summer, will you know the difference? 

Ice cream and frozen yogurt are made with different ingredients and via different processes.  

Frozen yogurt incorporates, of course, yogurt, while cream is typically used as the base for ice cream. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ice cream should contain at least 10% milkfat to be considered ice cream. The cream used as a base is the source of its milk fat. Meanwhile, the fat in frozen yogurt comes from cultured milk. Frozen yogurt typically contains 3–6% milkfat, though there is not a milk fat regulation for frozen yogurt. 

To make ice cream, cream is churned along with sugar, and chosen flavorings until frozen. Air is folded into ice cream during the churning process to create that fluffy, light bite everyone loves, and egg yolks may also be added for a thicker consistency. To make frozen yogurt, milk and sugar are heated together, and then active bacterial cultures are added before it’s allowed to cool and ferment. To culture the milk for frozen yogurt, pasteurized milk is fermented with special bacteria. The process then becomes like making ice cream, as air is also needed to create frozen yogurt, and so, as the mixture freezes, air is folded in for a smoother texture. 

When it comes to nutrition, ice cream and frozen yogurt are similar, varying mostly by their fat and sugar contents. Frozen yogurt tends to be lower in fat and calories than ice cream, but it could have more added sugar. This is due to frozen yogurt’s cultured milk giving it a tangier flavor than sweet ice cream. To balance this for those seeking an alternative to their ice cream cravings, some frozen yogurt recipes call for more sugar.  

Southeast Dairy Association - strawberry frozen yogurt bars

Frozen yogurt’s fermentation process creates a lower lactose content compared with ice cream, though lactose-free ice cream options are available. This allows those with lactose sensitivity or lactose intolerance to enjoy the sweet dairy treats, too. Froyo is typically enjoyed as part of an outing, not necessarily at home, but you can make your own frozen yogurt or create a no-cook snack like these Strawberry Frozen Yogurt Bars. To make ice cream with lactose-free milk, try this recipe for your mid-day cool-off. 

With plenty of options available at the store, in recipes, or in local shops, enjoy your summer froyo and ice cream breaks knowing what goes into your sweet summer treat. 

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