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What Is The Difference Between Custard And Ice Cream?

What Is The Difference Between Custard And Ice Cream?

Creamy, sweet and hearty, who doesn’t like some custard or ice cream every now and then? Chances are, if you got served both, you might just throw all your diet away and enjoy them. However, what is the difference between custard and ice cream? Where do they differ?

The only difference between custard and ice cream is that, per USFDA rules, custard must contain 1.4% pasteurized egg yolk. Custard and ice cream may also differ in the preparation method, flavor profile, and ways of serving. 

This post investigates the major difference between ice cream and custard. We also explore how custards and ice cream are made as well. 

We also try to answer some common questions about ice cream and custard, such as if any one of them is healthier than the other. 

How Are Custards Made?

Custard is a thick, rich, creamy dessert. Basic custard comprises egg yolks, milk, cream, and sugar. Some additional ingredients, such as egg whites, vanilla, nutmeg, and honey, may be added. 

Typical custard relies on eggs to thicken the mixture. However, Some recipes included starch to help thicken the custard even more, such as corn flour, flour, or potato starch. 

Custard is a relatively simple dish to make compared to ice cream. You start by combining egg yolks, heavy cream, and sugar in a bowl and stir until a thin yellowish mixture forms. 

When possible, use pasteurized egg yolks so the custard can last longer. Using only heavy cream is also a great idea, as it helps to avoid custard from splitting. It also gives the custard a luscious look and taste.

You then gently heat up some milk in a sauce pot, and when the milk has gotten a little warm, pour in the mixture you just stirred. Continue to stir and not allow the milk and mixture to sit, as it may burn.

As you stir, the milk and mixture may thicken as moisture escapes the mixture from the heat. Keep stirring until a thick creamy mixture forms. Pour into a bowl, and allow to sit to cool. The custard may get thicker as it cools. 

Today, there are instant custard powders on the market. You simply warm up some milk, pour the custard powder into it, and stir until a thick custard is formed. 

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How Is Ice Cream Made?

Ice cream is a sweet frozen edibles, usually eaten as a snack or dessert. In its basic form, Ice cream is made from milk or cream and is flavored with a sweetener, usually sugar. However, ice cream is usually mixed with additional flavorings, such as fruits, cocoa, or vanilla. 

There are also different types of cold desserts called ‘ice cream’ but may have a more proper term for it. For example, frozen yogurt or custard may be mistakenly called ice cream, despite not being made with the same ingredient. In some places, sherbet and sorbet are also called ice cream. 

Ice cream does not require many ingredients but involves long hours to make. Milk, cream, sugar, and other flavorings are mixed before being cooled down under a freezing point of 32°F (0°C). As it is cooled and chilled, the mixture is constantly mixed to introduce air spaces and prevent the formation of ice crystals. This process may take hours by hand, although ice cream makers are available and may speed up production time. 

Constant mixing under the freezing temperature results in smooth and semi-solid foam. The completed ice cream is then scooped up and served. Ice cream melts and becomes a liquid mixture if left at room temperature for long. The liquid mixture can be refrozen and remixed again to form ice cream. 

How Are Custard and Ice Cream Different?

Custard and ice cream can differ in several ways, including ingredients, preparation method, flavor profile, and serving. As per USFDA rule, custard must have 1.4% pasteurized egg yolk, while ice cream does not necessarily need that. 

They may confuse some people, but custard and ice cream are very different from each other, from the taste and ways to eat to prepare them. The only place where they may be similar would be using common ingredients, such as milk, sugar, and cream. 


Basic custards are usually made with milk, cream, egg yolks, and sugar. Some versions of custard may add thickeners such as flour, corn flour, and potato starch. Some will also add additional flavors, such as vanilla and cinnamon.

The most basic ice cream is made with milk, cream, and sugar. However, ice cream has much more variation in ingredients, as ice cream makers are known to experiment and create ice cream of any taste. 

Simpler ice cream may have flavorings like vanilla and chocolate strawberry. Still, it is possible to find ice cream made using ingredients as eccentric as durian, bacon, and sweet Thai chili sauce (Sriracha).

Method Of Preparation

Basic custard can be prepared in as fast as 15 minutes from scratch. You usually start by combining milk, heavy cream, egg yolks, and sugar in a bowl before stirring them constantly until the sugar melts, and everything forms a thin, slightly runny liquid. 

Then, warm up some milk over a low fire with a sauce pot. Once the milk is a little warm, you add in your mixture, and again, constantly stir it to prevent it from curdling or burning. You may notice the mixture thickens as less water remains in the mixture. 

You then pour out the custard and allow it to cool. The custard may thicken even more as it cools.

With ice cream, the preparation is much simpler but takes a long time. You start by mixing milk, cream, sugar, and flavorings of your choice until even. You then place the mixture inside a fridge under a freezing temperature of 32°F (0°C). 

As the mixture cools and chills, you constantly stir and mix the mixture. This prevents ice crystals from forming and introduces some air into the mixture, making the ice cream more fluffy. 

The ice cream is considered ready when it is semi-solid under freezing temperature and is smooth and fluffy. Serve fast or keep at a frozen temperature to keep the texture. 

Flavor Profile

Basic custard and ice cream may not differ too much in taste, as they contain similar ingredients. Custard contains additional egg yolks, which may be a little creamier and richer than ice cream. 

However, ice cream tends to have much more flavor than custard, as ice cream as a recipe can incorporate all sorts of other ingredients. Traditional ice creams may include chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry flavors. 

However, ice cream makers constantly experiment with flavors. It may not be surprising to find ice creams with ingredients such as durian, bacon, and even Thai sweet chili sauce (Sriracha). Many fast food operators mix regular ice creams with snacks such as Oreo and M&Ms to incorporate new flavor profiles. 

On the other end, custard tends to be more traditional in its flavor. Experimentation and addition of flavors do occur in custards. Still, more common ingredients, such as vanilla, cinnamon, and fruits, are used. 

Ways Of Serving

When it comes to flavor, ice cream varies in flavor so much more than custard. But when it comes to serving, custard can be served in much more ways than ice cream. 

As a start, custard can be served hot, warm, or cold. Hot or warm custards are usually served alongside pastries such as pies, crumbles, or tarts. Cold custards could be served as a frozen dessert and stirred to form a rich, fluffy texture similar to ice cream. These are called frozen custards. 

Custards can also be served in a creamy form or hardened. Runny creamy custards are usually consumed similarly to a jam with pastry or bread. Some baked pastries also use custards as filling. Hardened, solid custards could be served with a layer of baked sugar such as crème brûlée, flan, or bread pudding. 

Due to the limitations of its temperature, ice cream is not servable in many other ways, except cold. When ice cream is warmed, they turn into a liquid mixture, just as before they are chilled. 

Ice cream could be served on its own or served with toppings. Often crunchy, fresh toppings such as nuts and fruits are added. Some ice creams are also served with cones to make consumption easier on the go. 

Ice cream could also be served with other desserts, such as cakes, waffles, and custards.

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Is Ice Cream Healthier Than Custard?

In general, ice cream may have more calories and saturated fat than custards. However, custards may also have more sugar. Custard and ice cream are both high-calorie foods, which means if you are trying to stay healthy or to lose weight, they should be consumed sparingly. 

It may be hard to objectively compare the two, as custards can come in many forms and brands, and the same could be said about ice cream too. 

However, it is generally accepted that if you compare the same volume of plain vanilla ice cream and custard:

  • Ice cream would have about 10% extra calories, 
  • Ice cream would have twice the amount of saturated fat than custard. 
  • Custard may have more sugar compared to ice cream. 

The general consensus is that custard may be a little healthier than ice cream, as the extra sugar may be a lesser evil than additional calories and saturated fat. However, the best way to approach this is to prepare your own custard with as little sugar as possible. 

Lesser sugar may reduce the calorie amount in the custard, making it less fattening and less acute on your blood sugar level. However, lesser sugar may affect the thickening process slightly. Adding additional thickeners such as corn flour may help to reduce the issue.

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