What is Sorbet?

What is Sorbet

The variety of frozen desserts available these days is almost overwhelming. From ice creams and gelato to frozen yogurt, and more, it’s easy to be spoilt for choice. So what is sorbet and how does it differ from the others?

What is Sorbet

Sorbet is a dairy-free frozen dessert mainly made of fruit juice or fruit puree and sugar. Fresh fruit (like banana, strawberry, and watermelon) is sliced into chunks or made into fruit purée or juice and churned in an ice cream maker with a simple sugar syrup (made with water and white sugar or honey or maple syrup) to make this frozen delight.

Origin of Sorbet

The path to the word sorbet as we know it today took some twists and turns. First the Arabic word shariba (to drink) transformed into the Iranian word sharbat, translating to the Turkized version serbet, becoming sorbetto in Old Italian, that finally gave way to the English word sorbet.

The first recorded recipes of sorbet (sorbetti) appeared in the 1694 edition of Antonio Latini‘s publication, Lo Scalco alla Moderna (The Modern Steward).

However, Roman Emperor Nero is rumored to eat some of the earliest sorbetti ever made (around 1st century BC), getting his ice men to collect snow from atop mountains. It is also believed that Chinese inventors offered their emperors ice-based treats as well.

Owing to the refreshing iciness of sorbet, its texture, and its no-fat content, it has often been used as a palette cleanser between courses of a meal in many high-end restaurants. Sorbet supposedly provides relief for a sore throat as well.

It’s only over the last few years that it has become a popular dessert. It’s a great choice of dessert for those who suffer from lactose intolerance.

Is Sorbet Vegan?

Sorbet is usually vegan since it uses sugar, water, and fresh fruits (fruit juices or purees). It’s a gluten-free, vegan, and dairy-free dessert.

However, with the increasing popularity of sorbet these days, sorbet recipes might occasionally use milk, egg yolk, or honey, so be careful when ordering.

What is Sorbet - Banana

How is Sorbet Different From Ice Cream?

While a bowl of sorbet and ice cream might look deceptively similar, it’s only when you make it that you understand the difference.


Sorbet uses only fresh fruits, sugar, and water. Ice cream has a base made of cream, milk, and even egg yolks at times.


While sorbet has a light and icy texture, ice cream is mostly creamy and fluffy. This is mainly because of the air incorporated into ice cream during the churning process.


Since sorbet mainly uses fresh fruits, it has mostly fruity flavors. Some of the most sought-after flavors these days are mango, strawberry, banana, and grapefruit. It isn’t uncommon to see some adventurous flavors like coffee, green tea, or even champagne, though.

Serving Temperature

Sorbet is usually served at temperatures between 10 – 22 degrees Fahrenheit to keep it soft enough and bring out its rich flavors.

On the other hand, ice cream is served at the coldest temperatures among the frozen desserts, between 6 – 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Since the cold slightly numbs the tongue and taste buds, the flavors of ice cream don’t come through as much as sorbet.

What is Sorbet - Blackberry

How is Sorbet Different From Sherbet?

As much as sorbet might seem similar to sherbet for many, sherbet is, in fact, halfway between ice cream and sorbet. It’s basically sorbet with some added dairy and is always fruit based.


Sorbet and sherbet are made from different ingredients. The two main sorbet ingredients include just fruit and sugar (at times, water and other natural flavors may be used).

On the other hand, sherbet is also made with fruit and sugar but also uses milk or cream (sherbet is required to have 1-2% of milk fat).


Sorbet has a slightly light and icy texture since it’s dairy-free. However, if you use fruits high in pectin and fiber (like bananas, pears, and grapes), they act like thickeners and give the sorbet a nice, creamy texture.

The texture of sherbet is creamy and similar to that of ice cream because of its dairy content.


Sorbet makes a great dessert choice if you’re on a dairy-free or vegan diet. However, in terms of calories, both sorbet and sherbet are equally high in sugar content. Surprisingly, a cup of sorbet can have more calories than a cup of vanilla ice cream.

Fat Content

Since sorbet doesn’t use cream, it has some of the lowest fat content compared to other frozen desserts. The use of dairy (even though it’s in a small amount) in sherbet gives it a 1 – 2% butterfat content which is higher than sorbet yet, significantly lower than ice cream.

What is Sorbet - Strawberry

Storing Sorbet

If you’re making sorbet at home, store it in an airtight container with minimal headspace and avoid keeping it in the freezer door. Homemade sorbet generally keeps good for about a month in the freezer and then starts to get overly icy beyond that.

Sorbet at stores is normally stored between 6 – 10 degrees Fahrenheit. However, at home, this might get difficult to maintain if you’re using your freezer to store sorbet as well as ice cream and other frozen food.

The cherry on top

Sorbet makes a fantastic frozen dessert for those super hot summers. With rich, fruity flavors and no dairy products, it’s an excellent option for vegans and anyone who’d like to relish something other than ice creams and frozen yogurt for a change.

Try some of these places for great sorbet

Try ice cream in these places:

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