Is frozen custard more healthy than ice cream?

Both frozen custard and ice cream are delicious frozen desserts, but when it comes to nutritional value, there are some differences to consider. In this 5000 word article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the ingredients, calories, fat, and other factors that go into frozen custard and ice cream to help determine which one is healthier.

What is Frozen Custard?

Frozen custard is a thick, creamy frozen dessert that is similar to ice cream, but contains egg yolks in addition to cream and sugar. It has a smooth, silky texture and is rich and indulgent. Frozen custard contains 1.4% egg yolk by weight, compared to ice cream which contains no egg yolk. The addition of egg yolks gives frozen custard a thicker, creamier consistency and richer flavor than regular ice cream.

Frozen custard is made by blending a base mixture of cream, milk, sugar and egg yolks, then freezing it while stirring to incorporate air. This mixing process is called “freezing while stirring” and it prevents large ice crystals from forming, resulting in frozen custard’s signature smooth, creamy texture.

The egg yolks thicken the base mixture through a process called coagulation. Heat from pasteurization causes the proteins in the egg yolk to unfold, then when cooled, they refold and link together more tightly, leading to a thicker custard base. The extra fat and emulsifiers in the egg yolk also help contribute to frozen custard’s rich mouthfeel.

In addition to cream, milk, sugar and egg yolks, frozen custard may contain extra ingredients like vanilla, chocolate or fruit. But by definition, frozen custard must contain at least 1.4% egg yolk by weight.

What is Ice Cream?

Ice cream is a sweetened frozen dessert made from dairy products like cream and milk. The basic ingredients in ice cream are cream, milk, and sugar, although other ingredients like eggs, stabilizers, emulsifiers, and extra flavors may also be added.

To make ice cream, the dairy ingredients are blended together into a base mixture, then pasteurized. The base may or may not contain egg yolks. It is then frozen while being churned or stirred to incorporate air bubbles and prevent large ice crystals from forming. This is what gives ice cream its characteristic smooth, creamy texture.

Without egg yolks, ice cream relies more on fat from dairy products like cream and butterfat to contribute richness and a creamy mouthfeel. Stabilizers and emulsifiers are often added to improve consistency and texture.

Ice cream varies widely in ingredients and nutrition profile based on factors like fat content, extra flavors and inclusions. But at its basics, ice cream contains cream, milk, sugar and air incorporated through freezing and mixing.

Calories and Fat in Frozen Custard vs Ice Cream

The two biggest nutritional differences between frozen custard and ice cream are calorie and fat content. Let’s take a look at how they compare:


On average, frozen custard is more calorie dense than ice cream.

A 1/2 cup serving of vanilla frozen custard contains about:

  • 240 calories

A 1/2 cup serving of regular vanilla ice cream contains about:

  • 137 calories

The egg yolks in frozen custard contribute some extra calories compared to ice cream. Egg yolks contain healthy fats, but are still calorie dense at about 55 calories per yolk.


Frozen custard also tends to be higher in fat than ice cream, due to the egg yolks.

A 1/2 cup serving of vanilla frozen custard contains about:

  • 14g fat

A 1/2 cup serving of regular vanilla ice cream contains about:

  • 7g fat

Egg yolks contain about 5g of fat each. So the 1.4% egg yolk by weight in frozen custard adds a significant amount of fat compared to regular ice cream.

However, the type of fat matters too. The fat in egg yolks contains mostly heart-healthy unsaturated fats, compared to the saturated fat found in high amounts in dairy products like cream.

Other Nutrients in Frozen Custard vs Ice Cream

Aside from calories and fat, frozen custard and ice cream are relatively similar in nutrients. Let’s look at how some of the key micronutrients compare in a 1/2 cup serving:

Nutrient Frozen Custard Ice Cream
Protein 5g 4g
Carbs 24g 17g
Sugar 20g 14g
Calcium 15% DV 10% DV

Frozen custard contains a bit more protein and calcium thanks to the added egg yolks. It’s also slightly higher in carbs and sugar since egg yolks contain small amounts of both.

But overall, the nutritional profiles are comparable outside of calories and fat. The main extras you get from frozen custard come from the egg yolks.


One difference is that frozen custard contains cholesterol from the egg yolks, while ice cream has no cholesterol:

  • Frozen custard has about 115mg cholesterol in 1/2 cup
  • Ice cream has 0mg cholesterol

For most healthy adults, the cholesterol from one frozen treat is not a big concern. But for those with diabetes or heart disease, the extra cholesterol could be something to consider.

Health Benefits of Frozen Custard vs Ice Cream

Let’s now compare some of the potential health implications of choosing frozen custard or ice cream.

Weight Loss

If you’re aiming to lose weight, ice cream may be a slightly better choice than frozen custard. Since ice cream is lower in calories and fat, a 1/2 cup serving contains about 100 fewer calories than frozen custard.

However, portion control is key for both treats. Sticking to reasonable serving sizes, like 1/2 cup, can allow room for either dessert in a healthy diet.

Heart Health

Frozen custard may have a slight edge when it comes to heart health. The fat in egg yolks is mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, which are heart healthy types of fat.

Ice cream tends to be high in saturated fat from the cream and butterfat. Too much saturated fat can negatively impact cholesterol levels.

However, both custard and ice cream are high in calories and should only be eaten in moderation to maintain heart health.


Frozen custard offers slightly higher amounts of protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals compared to ice cream. But both are relatively comparable nutritionally.

The egg yolks in frozen custard provide nutrients like:

  • Protein
  • Healthy fats
  • Choline
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin
  • Vitamin A
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Phosphorous

So if you’re looking to get a little more nutritional bang for your buck, frozen custard may be a better choice. But ice cream can also fit into a healthy diet when enjoyed in moderation.

Blood Sugar Impact

For people with diabetes, the carbohydrate and sugar content are important factors. In this regard, ice cream may have a slight advantage due to its lower amounts of carbs and sugar per serving compared to frozen custard.

However, both foods will raise blood sugar levels and require insulin. As with any sweets, it’s important for diabetics to manage portion sizes carefully and account for the carbs when dosing insulin.

Special Diet Considerations

People following special diets like vegetarian, vegan or lactose-free may also want to consider:


Frozen custard is not suitable for vegetarians or vegans because it contains eggs. However, there are dairy-free frozen custard options made with alternate thickeners.

Many standard ice cream varieties are suitable for vegetarians, but not vegans because they contain milk/cream. There are vegan ice cream options available made from plant-based milks and creams.


Lactose-free forms of both custard and ice cream are available for those who are lactose intolerant. Lactose-free milk or cream is used in the base mixtures.

Lactose-free custard contains egg yolks, while lactose-free ice cream does not. So those avoiding eggs should opt for the ice cream.

Texture and Flavor

When it comes to taste and texture, frozen custard and ice cream each have their merits.


Frozen custard has a signature thick, creamy, smooth texture thanks to the egg yolks. It’s denser than ice cream and almost has a pudding-like richness.

Ice cream can vary widely in texture based on ingredients and fat content. In general, it’s lighter and more airy than frozen custard. Premium ice creams will be creamier and less icy than lower quality versions.


Egg yolks give frozen custard a richer, more indulgent flavor than regular ice cream. But the versatility of ice cream means you can find options bursting with flavors like fresh fruit or cookies.

For ultimate richness, custard wins. But for diverse flavors from rocky road to mint chip, ice cream takes the cake.

Cost Comparison

Frozen custard tends to cost a bit more than ice cream. A pint of premium frozen custard averages around $6 to $8. A pint of gourmet ice cream usually costs $4 to $6 on average.

The extra cost comes from using egg yolks, which are more expensive than plain cream and milk. But for fans of frozen custard, the richness and texture is worth the splurge from time to time.

Storage and Food Safety

Properly storing frozen custard and ice cream is important for both food safety and preserving texture.

Both custard and ice cream are best stored tightly sealed in the freezer at 0°F or below. Kept frozen, they typically last 2 to 4 months before quality declines. Thawing and refreezing can speed up this process.

The egg yolks in frozen custard introduce an increased risk of bacteria and food poisoning if not handled properly. As a good general safety practice, people with sensitivities should avoid any recipe containing raw or undercooked eggs.

When buying frozen custard, look for pasteurized products made by trusted brands. Follow all storage instructions carefully and consume within a few days after thawing.

Making at Home

Want to try your hand at making each treat at home? Here are some tips:

Frozen Custard

Making frozen custard requires a custard base with egg yolks and constant churning as it freezes to create the smooth texture. High quality ingredients like cream, milk and egg yolks are a must. Vanilla and other mix-in ingredients can add flavor.

Ice Cream

Homemade ice cream starts by making a flavored cream base, then freezing while churning occasionally. Eggs may be used in some recipes, but are not required. Let your creativity run wild with mix-in ingredients!

Special equipment like ice cream makers simplify the process but aren’t strictly necessary. You can also make no-churn ice creams by whipping a base mixture and freezing before serving.

Environmental Impacts

Producing dairy-based foods like custard and ice cream has environmental impacts to consider as well.

The dairy industry generates significant greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from cow digestion processes and manure. These contribute to climate change.

Additionally, large amounts of water, land and other resources are required to raise cows and produce milk.

So enjoying frozen custard and ice cream in moderation can help minimize the environmental footprint compared to eating them frequently.


So which frozen treat comes out on top in this custard vs ice cream showdown?

Looking solely at nutrition, frozen custard wins slightly thanks to its egg yolk content providing more protein, healthy fats, and micronutrients. However, it’s also higher in calories, fat and cholesterol than ice cream.

Ultimately, both frozen custard and ice cream can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Stick to reasonable serving sizes to prevent excess calories, fat and sugar.

Those looking for the richest, creamiest, most indulgent texture will love custard. But ice cream offers more versatility and flavor options for the adventurous frozen dessert lover.

As with any treat, be mindful of your individual dietary needs. Those limiting carbs, fat or cholesterol may prefer ice cream over custard. Check labels for allergens if avoiding dairy or eggs.

Whichever creamy treat you decide on, the most important thing is to savor each bite!

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