Custard vs. Ice Cream: Which is Healthier & 2 Key Differences

Custard vs Ice Cream

Custard vs. Ice Cream: Which is Healthier & 2 Key Differences

When you’re in the mood for a frozen treat, ice cream is probably your go-to. It’s sweet, creamy, and comes in over 1,000 different flavors. Depending on what ice cream place you visit, you might also notice frozen custard on the menu and wonder about the difference between custard vs ice cream. Is frozen custard just another name for ice cream?

Frozen custard and ice cream aren’t the same desserts. The main difference between them is the inclusion of egg yolks. While ice cream is generally made with milk, cream, and a type of sweetener, custard includes egg yolks as well. The addition of egg yolks gives custard a creamier texture than ice cream.

Some people have a strong preference for either frozen custard or ice cream while others may not have tried frozen custard before. Keep reading to learn about the difference between custard vs ice cream as well as some differences in their nutritional values.

Variety of ice cream scoops in cones with chocolate, vanilla and strawberry
Frozen custard and ice cream are both delicious treats, but with two major differences.

©Elena Veselova/Shutterstock.com

Custard vs. Ice Cream: What Is the Difference?

When it comes to frozen treats, you really can’t go wrong with a scoop of custard or ice cream. They’re both sweet, creamy, and delicious. Both custard and ice cream come in more flavors than you can possibly imagine. They're also particularly refreshing on warm days. 

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Even though they do look similar, there are differences between frozen custard and ice cream. The main difference between frozen custard and ice cream is that frozen custard includes egg yolks, leading to a creamier texture. 

The process of making custard is a bit more complex than making ice cream. The process of making frozen custard involves tempering the eggs to prevent them from scrambling. However, both custard and ice cream can be made at home with some practice.

2 Key Differences Between Custard vs. Ice Cream

  • Custard has egg yolks
    While some ice cream may contain a small percentage of egg yolks, it contains significantly fewer than custard. To be considered ice cream, the frozen dessert has to contain fewer than 1.4% egg yolks while custard must contain more than 1.4% egg yolks.
  • Ice cream is lighter and has more air
    Ice cream is generally lighter and more airy, while custard is more dense. This is partly because of the way you churn them. Custard is churned with less air than ice cream, which leads to a denser consistency. 

What is Frozen Custard?

Frozen custard is a frozen treat made with milk, cream, sugar, and egg yolks. To be considered custard in the U.S., it must contain at least 10% milkfat and 1.4% egg yolk solids. Frozen custard is a variation of regular custard, which is a dessert made of cream and eggs.

When the frozen custard is made with a professional machine, very little air is churned into it to make it more dense and creamy than ice cream. While ice cream was invented before frozen custard, the idea for frozen custard actually came from two ice cream vendors who decided to mix egg yolks into their ice cream.

Like ice cream, frozen custard comes in a number of flavors. Depending on the flavor you choose, frozen custard may contain a variety of sweeteners, fruits, and other flavorings. Much like ice cream, you can enjoy frozen custard in a cup or cone. 

How to Make Frozen Custard

Frozen custard may be more difficult to find than your typical ice cream treat, depending on where you live. However, there are some well-known chains that serve frozen custard, like Culver’s for example.

If you want to make a frozen custard, there are several ways you can do it. The process may be a bit more complex than making ice cream at home but it’s still achievable. This is especially true with the help of an ice cream maker.

Making frozen custard involves tempering the egg yolks to prevent them from cooking. You’ll start with a mixture of sugar, egg yolks, and a pinch of salt. After heating the mixture, add cream and whisk it thoroughly throughout the process to keep the eggs from scrambling. Once the mixture is cooled, you can add it to the ice cream maker to churn.

An ice cream maker allows you to make ice cream or frozen custard in your own kitchen. You can buy a stand-alone ice cream maker or they even sell ice cream maker attachments for the KitchenAid Mixer.

Tartlets with custard and blueberry, top down view, blank space for a text
Custard is similar to a pudding while frozen custard is similar to ice cream.


Are Custard and Frozen Custard the Same?

If you're comparing custard and ice cream, you're likely thinking of frozen custard. However, custard isn't always frozen. Custard is made by mixing eggs with milk or cream, and is often compared to pudding.

While the base of custard is similar to that of frozen custard, there are numerous types of custard from pastry creams to baked custard. You can even make a savory custard while frozen custard is going to be a sweet treat.

What is Ice Cream?

Ice cream is certainly one of the best and most loved desserts in the world. There are over 1,000 flavors of ice cream. Despite the numerous options, the top flavor in America is still vanilla, a classic flavor that’s hard to beat. Chocolate comes in as a close second, and flavors like strawberry, cookies and cream, and chocolate chip make the top 10 as well.

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Ice cream is a frozen dessert made of milk, cream, sugar, and different flavors. According to regulations in the U.S., for this frozen dessert to be considered ice cream, it has to contain 10-16% milk fat.

Whether you enjoy the classic sugar cone or you prefer something more fancy like a waffle bowl, there’s no limit to the ways you can eat ice cream. You can also add your favorite toppings with some of the most popular choices being sprinkles, nuts, and fruit.

How to Make Ice Cream

Ice cream is relatively simple to make at home with an ice cream maker and many recipes include only a handful of ingredients. All you need to get started is milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla extract.

The first thing you’ll do is mix the ingredients together except for the vanilla extract and cook the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Then, chill it overnight after adding the vanilla extract. The next day, you can add the mixture to your ice cream maker and let it churn until the desired consistency. You can either serve the ice cream immediately for a soft-serve consistency or place it in the freezer for a few hours to harden.

Nutritional Values of Custard vs. Ice cream

Custard vs Ice Cream Nutritional Facts

Which is Healthier: Custard or Ice Cream?

Neither frozen custard or ice cream are exactly healthy snacks–they’re more of a treat than anything else. So when it comes to comparing which one is healthier, you might be considering which has less sugar, calories, or fat.

While the nutritional value of custard and ice cream is going to depend on the brand, generally, custard has slightly fewer calories and fat. If you’re looking for a healthier substitute, you can always make your own frozen custard or ice cream at home with less sugar.

Can You Substitute Custard for Ice Cream?

Considering the similarities between custard and ice cream, you might wonder if you can substitute frozen custard for ice cream. Most of the time, custard and ice cream are simply served as a frozen treat either in a cone or a cup. If you’re eating ice cream or frozen custard as a frozen treat for dessert, there’s no reason why you can’t make custard instead.

The only thing to consider when it comes to choosing frozen custard or ice cream is taste preference and any allergies. Since ice cream can be made without egg yolks, it’s going to be the better choice if there are any egg allergies to consider. Also, some prefer the taste of custard since it’s a much denser and creamier texture. No matter what your preference is, try making both at home and see which one you prefer!

Substitutes for Frozen Custard or Ice Cream

While both frozen custard and ice cream are delicious any day of the week, there are numerous other options out there if you’re looking for something different. Here are some of the best substitutes for frozen custard or ice cream:

  • Gelato
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Sherbet
  • Sorbet
  • Smoothies

There are plenty of recipes and new ways to try your favorite frozen treats. No matter which you prefer, try experimenting with different recipes and flavors to find what you like.

A Quick Comparison of Custard vs. Ice Cream

Infographic comparing custard and ice cream.
Both of these sweet treats come in a lot of flavors.

One of the biggest differences between custard and ice cream is the use of egg yolks. Custard uses egg yolks, while ice cream does not. This means that custard has a creamier texture than ice cream. Since custard is churned with less air than ice cream, it is denser. Choosing between these two desserts is ultimately up to personal preference!

If ice cream is your choice, check out this cranberry ice cream swirl cake:

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A bowl of French vanilla ice cream with gourmet caramel butter toffee wafers

Cranberry Ice Cream Swirl Cake

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  • Author: Moms Who Think


  • 24 chocolate wafers
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups cranberries
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 cups vanilla ice cream, softened
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. In a food processor or blender, process wafers until finely ground.
  2. Stir ground wafers together with ¼ cup melted butter and press into the bottom and partway up the sides of an 8-inch spring-form pan. Freeze 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a covered saucepan over medium heat, simmer cranberries, corn syrup, sugar and water for 10 minutes. Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Place in a bowl and chill until cold.
  4. Spread half the softened ice cream over the frozen crust. Drizzle all but ⅓ cup of the cold cranberry mixture over the ice cream. Top with remaining ice cream. Draw a knife through the layers to marble. Freeze 30 minutes, or until firm.
  5. Spread remaining ⅓ cup cranberry mixture over top of frozen dessert and freeze 15 minutes more.
  6. Meanwhile, chop pistachios finely and place in a small skillet over medium heat with 1 Tablespoon butter and salt. Cook, stirring, 1 minute, until fragrant. Set aside to cool
  7. In a chilled bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form. Beat in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and whip until stiff peaks form. Fold in cooled pistachios and spread cream over chilled cake.
  8. Freeze 30 minutes, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and foil and freeze 4 hours.
  9. To unmold, wrap a hot, dampened towel around the sides of the pan for 1 to 2 minutes. Then remove the sides of the pan.
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