Frozen Yogurt vs Ice Cream: What’s the Difference?

The first time my mom bought frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, I thought she was trying to kill my sisters and me. We had been a diehard Breyer’s family for generations, so this monumental shift frightened and confused us. We soon adjusted—we were good little dessert boys and girls—but we always knew it just wasn’t the same. So what type of madness compelled my mother to bring this imposter into our home? Let’s talk frozen yogurt vs ice cream. 

What is ice cream?

Ice cream is far and away the best milk innovation in our collective history. Sure, cheese is good and the invention of pasteurization is important, I guess, but if you lined up all the milk-based food items in front of a Neanderthal, they would undoubtedly pick the one that you can reasonably mix with cookie dough and any number of other flavors. But basically, ice cream is flavored frozen milk or cream. And, if you ask the USDA, it must contain at least 10% milkfat.

What is frozen yogurt?

You look at “frozen yogurt” and you immediately know it’s not going to be as good as something with “cream” in its name. That’s because yogurt invokes the less-than-adequate food that you choke down at breakfast. It’s also why at those self-serve frozen yogurt shops they offer so many toppings; they know you have to dress this stuff up to make it a real treat. 

Yogurt has been around since people looked at a cow and said, “Hey, let’s drink from that.” They probably discovered it by accident, because yogurt is made from milk that has been fermented by bacteria. The bacteria eats the naturally occurring sugars in milk and produce lactic acid, giving yogurt its tart taste and consistency.

Frozen yogurt debuted in the 1970s as “Frogurt,” a name that feels more apt for a type of amphibian rather than a type of dessert. The Simpsons were right, this food was cursed. But by the 1980s, brands started perfecting the recipe and frozen yogurt took off in popularity, aligning with the health food trends of the 1980s and 1990s. In 2021, the American frozen yogurt market was valued at $1.69 billion compared to ice cream’s $71.52 billion.

Ice cream vs frozen yogurt: What’s the difference?

While they are basically made in the same way, the most obvious difference can be spotted in their names: Ice cream is made from milk and/or cream, and frozen yogurt is made from yogurt. This accounts for the flavor difference between the two; the lactic acid in yogurt creates a tangier taste than normal milk. As a result, many commercial frozen yogurt brands may add more sugar to their product, which can actually result in higher sugar content than your typical ice cream brand.

Frozen yogurt is “healthier” in some respects, in that it has less calories and fat per volume than ice cream. Commercial brands also claim that the probiotics from yogurt contribute to a healthy gut. That is true for regular yogurt, but the jury’s out on frozen yogurt. Because of the processing frozen yogurt goes through, the probiotic benefits may be counteracted. So take the health benefits with a grain of salt.

I’ve now seen the word yogurt so many times, it no longer looks real to me.

About the Author

Luke Field

Luke Field is a writer and actor originally from Philadelphia. He was the former Head Writer of branded content at CollegeHumor and was also a contributing writer and actor to the CollegeHumor Originals cast. He has extensive improv and sketch stage experience, performing both at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and with their Touring Company. In addition to writing, he also works as a Story Producer, most recently on season 4 of Accident, Suicide, or Murder on Oxygen. Keep your eyes peeled for his brief but impactful appearance as Kevin, the screaming security guard, in the upcoming feature The Disruptors, directed by Adam Frucci.

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