Get your language dictionaries out, ladies and gentlemen, because we're about to embark on a gelato journey that leads through Italy to incredibly sweet goodness! (Also a lot of questions like "What flavor is that?")
Here, we're going to look at 30 different flavors of gelato, and we're going to rank them from worst to best. There certainly are sorts that everyone should try (if they haven’t already) and others that are a little more questionable in taste.
Despite the fact that "gelato" is used interchangeably for "ice cream," the two are quite different—like when it comes to the making of this dessert. There are two things that stand out; one is that gelato is made with less fatty ingredients (hooray!), which somehow leads it to have a more intense flavor. The second is that it's served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream, by about 10 to 15 degrees, so as to keep the texture silky and soft—just the way we like it!
Considering where gelato started—thousands of years ago, back when the Romans would pour honey over crushed ice—I think it's safe to say we've made quite the progression in the way of this delicious dessert.
Just for the fun of it, we'll take a look at a few rare flavors to rank on top of the ones we see more often in our local gelato parlors. But for best results, I suggest tasting these on your next trip to Italy!
So, let's get down to it, shall we? Check out these 30 dynamic gelato flavors and pick out your favorite.
30 "Crema" - Custard
Crema, also known as Custard, appears as an off-white color and also at the bottom of our list. This is only due to the fact that it's gelato at its very base, without any other flavoring yet introduced into the blend. It's even more of a safe choice than Vanilla!
The redeeming quality is that it can be paired with some of the stronger flavors in case they're too much to handle. Crema is harder to find in North America than in Italy, so we may never even come across it.
29 "Fior Di Latte" - Sweetened Cream
"Fior di Latte" translates directly to "Flower of Milk," which is a figure of speech in Italy indicating that something is made with the best quality of milk. This gelato is produced with a single ingredient, creating a sweetened cream flavor.
If you like a back-to-basics taste, then you might be upset I'm placing it second to last on the list. And yes, it's convenient to couple with another gelato. But on its own? There are way too many flavors to choose from, so it'll always be picked last.
28 "Riso" - Rice Pudding
I'm not the biggest fan of Rice Pudding in general—something about the combination of textures gets to me—but don't let my opinion deter you from tasting the apparently well-liked flavor in Italy.
I'm placing this 28th on the list solely because it falls in line with the previous two under the "plain gelato" category. It's made with basmati rice, and even though it's lightly sweetened with honey, it's still not a strong enough (or conventional) flavor to battle the other 27 on the list.
27 "Malaga" - Rum Raisin
There are two ways to make this gelato: with wine or with rum. Since "Malaga" translates to "Rum Raisin", that's the one I'm ranking. The Malaga raisins, which are naturally sweeter than most, are soaked in a dark rum overnight before being added to the basic Crema gelato, thus creating the Rum Raisin flavor.
Now, this is low on the list because not many people like rum or raisins, and they almost completely ceased production of it in Italy, so their own residents can rarely find it anymore.
26 "Zabaglione" - Cream And Sweet Wine
This gelato is based on a dessert and a drink already in existence. Of course, the next step was to make a frozen version!
Another similar to Crema, Zabaglione is that exact flavor—but with the addition of Marsala wine, usually the dry sort.
The flavor is almost as old as gelato itself - I mean, nothing goes better together than people from Italy and wine, right? But when compared to the other flavors, even with the wine, it may be a bit too boring.
25 "Amarena" - Cream and Sour Cherry
Amarena is the name of a small and bitter, dark-colored cherry grown only in Modena and Bologna, Italy. With "Flower of Milk" as its base then doused in a special sour cherry sauce, this sounds a tad bland compared to the many gelato flavors in existence.
The sweetened cream paired with the bitter cherry sauce may do well, but then again, cherry has never been my favorite (ever since that first spoonful of children's medicine...).
There aren't many who like cherry or anything sour, so this gelato isn't for the majority; therefore it's ranked near the bottom.
24 "Torrone" - Nougat and Nut
Torrone, more commonly known as Nougat, is deceiving due to the fact that it's not even really gelato; it's just a cold, soft nougat with a dark chocolate layer.
This confection is made with nuts, candied fruit, and citrus. Those are a lot of diverse flavors for a little scoop of gelato, and they're flavors that aren't always loved by the people.
I honestly dislike the contents of Nougat and would've placed this at 30 if it were only up to my taste buds, but it's at 24 because it's so flavorful.
23 "Stracciatella" - Cream and Chocolate Sauce
Ah, Stracciatella. Such a fun word to say, but such a basic gelato.
It's made with a simple, sweetened cream flavor, then dressed with a very high-quality, warm chocolate sauce on top. Once the rich chocolate has hardened, it breaks into bits and pieces that they mix all together, influencing it to closely resemble Vanilla and Chocolate Chip ice cream, minus the vanilla.
This is 23rd on the list because it's made with chocolate—which, while tasty, it's still too ordinary.
22 "Puffo" - Smurfs Flavour (Black Licorice or Bubble Gum)
Puffo refers to Italy's version of The Smurfs, and it takes on the same bright-blue color as the cartoon's characters! The gelato was born in the '80s when the animated series stole the hearts of young children.
Despite its sweet-looking color, the taste can be deceiving. It varies from one gelateria to another, ranging from "anise", which is like black licorice, to bubble gum.
It's only placed at 22 because not many enjoy the taste of black licorice, and bubblegum is pretty predictable and gets old quickly.
21 "Menta" - Mint
If you couldn't guess, "Menta" is Italy's word for "Mint."
Most commonly combined with chocolate chips or chunks, Menta is a flavor consistently offered everywhere and quite the favorite choice (not mine, however). It's sometimes known to have Crème de Menthe Liqueur instead of peppermint or spearmint to provide it its special taste.
I've ranked this at number 21 because although it's a go-to for many, there's such a variety of gelato out there that it's almost a waste to choose this one.
20 "Cannella" - Cinnamon
"Cannella" is "Cinnamon," so this gelato is obviously made with powdered cinnamon or freshly ground cinnamon.
In spite of it starting off as the basic Crema gelato with only one added ingredient, much like a few previous entries, I've ranked it where it is because it's not often that you find a cinnamon-flavored gelato.
I also know that cinnamon isn't everyone's cup of tea (certainly not mine), and some are even allergic to the spice. This is why it isn't in the top 10.
19 "Pistacchio" - Pistachio
Let's face it - the Pistacchio flavor can be found in every single ice cream or gelato parlor. It doesn't even need a translation (and not only because it's the same word, minus a "C").
This gelato gets its intense taste through the use of actual pistachios, steadying it on a delicate balance of salty flavor. More often than not, you'll even find your gelato garnished with bits of the nut or sprinkled within.
Despite all of this, its overwhelmingly frequent appearance is the reason why it's number 19 on the list.
18 "Noce Di Cocco" - Coconut
Noce Di Cocco - "Coconut" - is made with the absolute purity of a coconut by grating the contents of the nut. It even has a bit of vanilla sugar added as an ingredient to sweeten it up and help produce a creamier texture.
This type of flavor has more of a sorbet or granita vibe in my opinion than for a gelato. This reason, mixed with the fact that the flavor might just transport us all to a tropical beach, is why it's right near the middle rank.
17 "Noce" - Walnut
"Noce" is translated to "Walnut." This entry refers to just plain walnut, no maple or chocolate in the mix, which is hard to find!
One thing I noticed about gelato from the depths of Italy is how pure and simple the flavors truly are. They somehow managed to intensify this taste, no matter how ordinary you'd expect it to be. Even if you're not a big fan of walnuts, you're sure to enjoy this anyway. That's why it's almost halfway to 1st place!
16 "Cioccolato All’Arancia" - Orange Chocolate
"Cioccolato All'Arancia" is Italy's way of saying "Orange Chocolate." What's interesting about the gelato is that despite the intensity of the 70% dark chocolate coloring, it somehow takes on a slight orange hue, making it easier to spot in each gelateria.
The reason why this is ranked at 16 is that not everyone likes dark chocolate or orange—or the two together! But the redeeming quality is that it's made with liquor! Grand Marnier, to be precise, to give it that special orange kick.
15 "Cioccolato All’Azteca" - Spiced Hot Chocolate
Not only is this a rare flavor to find, it's also an acquired taste, which is why it's the middle rank. I use the word "acquired" loosely, though, as anyone who enjoys a spiced hot chocolate would definitely enjoy this.
Cioccolato All'Azteca is a dark-chocolate-based flavor with infused hot pepper and cinnamon to taste. First, you have to fancy dark chocolate. Then you'd have to enjoy the spiciness. And lastly, you'd have to like cinnamon.
I prefer none of those, but there are so many in the world who'd hunt this for a taste.
14 "Cioccolato Con Peperoncino" - Chocolate with Chili
Here's another dark chocolate entry where, much like the Cioccolato All’Azteca, it's a hot and spicy gelato—which is why it immediately follows the last one in ranking. These two have almost exactly the same flavoring, but now, it's without cinnamon.
The direct translation is "Chocolate with Chili," meaning it's made with chili peppers (and also chili powder). There's even a little honey added into the mix most of the time, maybe to soften up the frozen fire they're afraid to cause in your mouth.
13 "Cioccolato Fondente Extra Noir" - Extra Dark Chocolate
I think what I love most about this gelato is that the name is literally three languages combined! Italy, the UK and France came together for "Dark Chocolate Extra Dark." Magnificent, isn't it?
This recipe includes bitter cocoa powder and dark chocolate, thus giving it that extra dark, dark chocolate taste. It's often presented with swirls of melted dark chocolate over it as well.
I've ranked this at number 13 because the half who love bitter, dark chocolate would jump at this flavor, but the other half would run and hide.
12 "Castagna" - Chestnut
Castagna, also known as Chestnut, isn't only for roasting on an open fire during the cold, winter nights. It's also for creamy, delicious gelato that's quite difficult to find outside of the holiday season.
Sometimes, you'll also find Castagna topped with bits of crushed chestnuts to add an extra natural flavor and some texture to the normally silky-smooth gelato.
This one travels way past the middle rank because it's so rare and such a unique, earthy flavor.
11 "Bacio" - Dark Chocolate Hazelnut
Baci chocolate, sold by the company Perugina, has quite the reputation, especially with the little romantic fortune-like notes inside. If you've tasted those chocolates, then you know what Bacio gelato tastes like.
Usually made of dark chocolate combined with hazelnut, this is definitely a general favorite of the people, thus ranking it close to the top 10.
The translation of the word "Bacio" means "kiss", so be careful of the next time you tell a gelateria, "I'd like a bacio." Make sure they don't think you're actually asking for a kiss!
10 "Dulce De Leche" - Caramel
"Dulce de Leche," translating directly to "Candy of Milk," is one of the most common gelato flavors these days. It's also a big crowd pleaser, so I've ranked it in 10th place.
Made with a sweetened, caramel-like flavored milk, Dulce de Leche is a delicacy that truly originated in Latin America. Dulce de Leche is actually just condensed milk, and it's so easy to make... yet so intriguing and rich in flavor.
9 "Mandorla" - Almonds
"Mandorla" means "Almond", and the gelato is made with actual almonds reduced to a paste. This is why it's in the top 10. Not only is it a rare flavor, but it's also fresh and made from its purest form to top it off.
The gelato is made with toasted almonds—they're the best to use in the recipe because they generate a more intense flavor. Almond flavor is one of my absolute favorites, and I'm always disappointed when I don't see it on display at my local gelateria.
8 "Cantucci" - Almond Cookie
Cantucci is a Tuscan Almond cookie, much like what's known as "Biscotti" around here. If you've never dipped one of these in your coffee, then you're truly missing out.
The moment you're looking for a sweet but almond-nutty flavor, with a touch of wine to kick things up a notch, be sure to hunt this down to satisfy your craving—and try pairing it with a coffee-style gelato to complete its flavor!
There's so much flavor to Cantucci that I had to rank it right here.
7 "Panna Cotta" - Cooked Cream
"Panna Cotta" means "Cooked Cream", and that's exactly what this gelato is—again, simple ingredients but rich in flavor nonetheless. However ordinary, this gelato is often mixed with a sort of nut-based caramel drizzle, giving it a beautiful beige coloring. That's why it's ranked at number 7 on the list.
Due to its warm tone and subtle, nutty flavor, Panna Cotta is apparently really sought after during the colder months. This, unfortunately, refers to Italy statistics because this flavor is a rare find elsewhere.
6 "Zuppa Inglese" - Custard, Chocolate, Lady Fingers
Despite the direct translation being "Soup," fear not. It's not a frozen creamy soup. It's a dessert from Italy consisting of custard and sponge cake with powdered sugar, whipped cream, and chocolate covering it. Doesn't that sound amazing? That's why it's so close to the top 5 favorites!
The gelato starts with a simple custard base and finishes with Alchermes liquor, ladyfingers, and chocolate melted over the entire concoction. People from Italy love their liquor and chocolate, and so do we! Unfortunately, we'll have a hard time finding Zuppa Inglese anywhere.
5 "Biscotto Della Nonna" - Chocolate Chip Cookie
Welcome to the top 5!
Directly translating to "Grandmother's Cookie," there are many, many versions of this flavor in every gelateria. It's essentially chocolate-chip-cookie-flavored gelato that's sometimes basked in chocolate fondue.
This is everybody's favorite; this gelato is great for any mood and to couple with a lot of other flavors if desired. That's why I ranked it so high. You can absolutely not go wrong with chocolate chip cookies coated in melted chocolate fondue. You can't go wrong with Grandma's cookies.
4 "Caffè" - Coffee
I know it's an extremely common gelato found in every single parlor, but I had to include this in the top 5! It just pairs so well with so many other flavors, so I couldn't let it be forgotten.
When made right, it can taste like you're actually enjoying a cup of coffee. Some places add more espresso while others make it more like a Caffè latte, but never have I ever tasted a coffee-flavored gelato that I didn't love. Why overlook something that's never let you down?
3 "Tiramisù" - Tiramisu
Tiramisù has, since long ago, made its way in all of our hearts, so it's a popular flavor to have in any gelateria. It's also one of my ultimate favorites, so it's definitely top-3-worthy.
The recipe for this dessert has been manipulated in many ways depending on who makes it, but it rarely disappoints with its burst of flavor.
An authentic Tiramisù cake will consist of (as most important ingredients) Marscapone cream cheese, ladyfinger cookies, espresso, and a coffee-liquor. This stays true to the delicious gelato form as well.
2 "Gianduia" - Milk Chocolate And Hazelnuts
Very similar to Nutella, this gelato is composed of the same basic ingredients: Milk Chocolate and Hazelnuts.
To be honest, you're really more likely to find the flavor named as "Nutella" in North America, but it's called "Gianduia" in Italy.
This gelato is whipped up with a special, high-quality chocolate. I prefer the milk chocolate version, but sometimes a dark, unsweetened chocolate is used in the recipe; it all depends on your gelateria.
Nutella or Gianduia, this gelato holds a special place in my heart and was really close to being first place.
1 "Nocciola" - Hazelnut
"Nocciola" means "Hazelnut", and it's the most delicious gelato I've ever had the pleasure of consuming. This will, by far, always be ranked as the number 1 best in my book!
This flavor is basically Nutella without the chocolate ingredient, but I promise that it's just as sweet. The experience will be like there's a dance of flavorful 'hazelnuttiness' on your taste buds.
Despite it not being that well known when I first tasted it twenty years ago, it's now (thankfully) in every gelateria I come by.