Ice cream may be the ideal summer dessert, but there are enough other fantastic frozen treats out there to fill a whole fleet of ice cream trucks, from gelato to ice pops to homemade Dole Whip. Some of the easiest to make yourself, though, are sorbet and granita, which require no special equipment, happen to be pretty healthy, and are also perfect for showcasing summer fruit. So, wait, how exactly are they different?
It’s all in the texture, really. Sorbet is fairly smooth and soft, whereas granita (or, if you’re French, granite) is fluffy and crunchy, more like shaved ice.
In order to get those different textures, there are subtle variations in ingredients and technique, but they still have enough in common to be more like fraternal twins than mere cousins. They’re both dairy-free and low in fat, and even when flavored with heavier ingredients like chocolate, they’re still far lighter than ice cream. Either one can go savory (although savory granita is more common than savory sorbet), but are most often served as sweet desserts. While flavors like coffee and chocolate are common to sorbet and granita alike, they’re both particularly good at highlighting the vibrant taste and color of ripe, juicy fruit like berries, peaches, and melons.
While you can use an ice cream maker to craft extra-smooth sorbet, you don’t technically need one, and granita only requires a shallow pan and a fork.
The manual technique for making both is similar–except, for a no-churn sorbet, you smush and stir it fairly often while it’s freezing, in order to encourage a smoother texture. With granita, you scrape the ice crystals up with a fork during the freezing process, coaxing out a coarser yet lighter texture compared to sorbet’s denser, plusher form.
Sorbet usually has more sugar and less liquid, which also helps it achieve that softer texture. Churned in an ice cream machine, the softness will be even more pronounced and creamy, whereas with the manually stirred method, you might end up with something more akin to a sorbet-granita hybrid.
But any way you go, you’ll get a refreshing, sweet-tart treat to perk you up instead of weighing you down–so feel free to go in for another scoop. Here are some simple recipes for each icy, light dessert with a focus on the fruity flavors they both express so well.
This one’s for fans of slushy cocktails who want something they can scoop. The rum adds an extra tropical note to the pinapple, with lime juice and sugar playing along. For something icier, try our pineapple granite (which is nonalcoholic). Get our Pineapple Rum Sorbet recipe.
Strawberry and basil always get along, and infusing the fresh herb into simple syrup is an especially elegant way to combine it with the berries in this fruity treat. Get the recipe.
Raspberries, whether fresh or frozen, give this sorbet an incredible color, and a tart-sweet flavor augmented by sugar and lemon juice. If you want to put in a little extra work, you can make chocolate-dipped sorbet bars, but it’s just as tasty on its own. (That said, a dash of Kirsch doesn’t hurt either.) Get our Raspberry Sorbet recipe.
Watermelon makes a refreshing granita, with a surprising hint of heat, though you can omit the cayenne if you prefer. Either way, the icy crunch contrasts beautifully with softly whipped cream. Get the recipe.
While most recipes call for granulated sugar in some form, this super-simple 2 ingredient dessert just blends ripe bananas with ripe cantaloupe for a naturally delicious treat. The hardest part is waiting for your fruit to freeze before blending it. Get the recipe.
Kiwi, sugar, and lime juice–that’s all you need for this sweet-tart chartreuse sorbet. Just be careful not to blend too long or you’ll break down the seeds that add such textural and visual interest (although if you don’t like mixing textures, by all means, strain them out of the puree before freezing). Get the recipe.
Mangoes are already one of the most naturally lush fruits around, so it’s no surprise they make such a satiny sorbet. There’s no added sugar, so make sure your mangoes are really ripe. Get the recipe.
Think of this as an icier version of slushy sangria. While single-fruit sorbets and granitas are great for showing off a particular variety’s color and flavor, mixing two complementary types is a nice progression. If the warm and tangy black pepper sour cream sounds a bit too odd, consider replacing it with a vanilla bean whipped cream instead. Get the recipe.
This lovely plum sorbet intensifies the fruit’s flavor by roasting it first, and then brings in a touch of vanilla and a little cinnamon, for something that recalls Christmas sugarplums yet is perfect for summertime. Get the recipe.
Related Video: Why Were Frozen Desserts Only for the Super Rich?
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