You say gelato, I say ice cream… we both say YUM.


Ah, gelato, newest pop star of the fancy ice cream crowd.

So, what IS gelato, exactly?

Ice cream.

Italian ice cream, to be exact. But it’s a bit more complicated than that…

The ancient progenitor of ice cream, a simple combination of Alpine snow, sweetening, and flavor, was created in Roman times. Modern ice cream was invented in Italy in 1565, followed by the first ice cream machine, in 1686 – also in Italy.

Clearly, the Italians know ice cream. And gelato. And sorbet, a dairy- and egg-free subset of gelato.

But what, exactly, distinguishes Italian gelato from American ice cream? Inquiring minds want to know!

It’s not just a language difference. Gelato has a lower butterfat content, and slightly less sugar, than most American ice creams. While top-quality American ice cream is typically made from heavy or whipping cream, Italian gelato is based on milk, with egg yolks added for richness, and perhaps nonfat dry milk stirred in for body and texture.

In addition, gelato is mixed differently. Due to the way most manufacturers choose to freeze it, American ice cream might include up to 50% air. Italian gelato, frozen quickly in small batches, includes much less air; it’s denser and heavier than American ice cream and thus, despite its lower butterfat, often comes across as creamier and richer.

So the question is, when you make the following pineapple-coconut gelato without benefit of a gelato freezer – is it truly gelato?

Well, it’s made with gelato-type ingredients: milk rather than cream, with egg yolks for richness. But it’s made in an American-style ice cream maker – or stirred together by hand. Either way, you won’t get gelato’s signature dense texture.

Still, why quibble over nomenclature? A rose by any other, etc. Bottom line, the following pineapple-coconut gelato/ice cream is both delicious… and attainable at home.

Oh, and one more thing: do you need an ice cream maker to make ice cream?

It definitely helps. This Cuisinart is a fixture in our hectic test kitchen. Simply add the ingredients, push a button, walk away, and come back less than 30 minutes later to find wonderfully creamy, perfectly frozen ice cream.

Can’t beat that!

Still, you can definitely make this “gelato” without an ice cream maker; check out the tip accompanying the recipe.

First step: pineapple.

Let’s start with a 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple. To get rid of the liquid and concentrate the flavor, we’ll simmer it for about 20 minutes in a large saucepan, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

If you want to skip this step, simply drain the pineapple, pressing to remove as much juice as possible, and discard the juice. Refrigerate the pineapple while you prepare the rest of the gelato base.

While nonfat dry milk powder can be substituted for coconut milk powder (pictured above), we love the boost of flavor provided by the coconut milk powder.

Whisk together the following in a saucepan:

1 cup coconut milk (“light” is fine)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk granules (NOT Baker’s Special dry milk)
2 tablespoons coconut milk powder, optional but tasty

*You’ll need a 13.6-ounce can coconut milk; you’ll use 1 cup here , and the remainder later on.

Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture begins to simmer. It won’t be totally smooth, but whisk to remove as many lumps as possible.

While the milk/sugar mixture is heating, put 2 large egg yolks in a bowl, and whisk to combine.

Gradually pour about 1 cup of the hot mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks.

Whisk to combine…

…then transfer the egg yolk mixture back to the saucepan.

Stir the custard over medium-low heat for a couple of minutes, until it thickens a bit; it should be about as thick as heavy cream. If you have an instant-read thermometer, the temperature should reach 178°F.

Remove from the heat, and stir in the remaining 2/3 cup (approx.) coconut milk.

And now, for a little flavor boost, courtesy of one of our extra-strong flavors. I’ve chosen coconut today; pineapple or banana would be equally tasty, methinks.

Add 1/8 teaspoon extra-strong flavor; or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Transfer the custard to a food processor or blender, add the pineapple, and process until it’s as smooth as possible.

The pineapple won’t become a purée, but there shouldn’t be any large chunks.

Transfer the custard to a covered container and refrigerate overnight. Make sure the canister of your ice cream maker is in the freezer, too.

Within about 4 hours of when you want to serve the gelato, pour the custard into the canister of the freezer, turn on the machine, and let it work for about 20 minutes.

You’ll see the gelato gradually begin to thicken.

Looking good!

When it’s thick enough to mound on a spoon without dripping, add 1 to 2 tablespoons rum, or your other favorite spirit, if desired. The rum not only adds its own tropical flavor; like all alcohols, it’s a flavor carrier, enhancing the taste of all its surrounding elements.

Can you leave the rum out? Of course. But oh, my, it surely adds a tasty touch! Plus, if you use the full 2 tablespoons, the rum will prevent the gelato from becoming rock-hard in the freezer. Even after a week (if it lasts that long), it’ll be beautifully scoopable.

Continue to mix briefly, until the rum is fully incorporated.

Enjoy the gelato immediately, if you like; it’ll be the consistency of soft-serve ice cream.

For firmer texture, place the gelato in your refrigerator’s freezer compartment for 3 to 4 hours. If it gets too hard, simply let it sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes, or until it’s soft enough to scoop.

A garnish of diced dried pineapple is a nice touch, both taste- and texture-wise.

Here’s the gelato after it’s been in the freezer for a few days. Because of the rum, it’s still nicely scoopable, not ridiculously hard.

And the flavor – I’m not a huge fan of tropical-type ice creams, my taste running more towards caramel swirl mocha chocolate chunk and its ilk. But the pineapple and coconut in this gelato… well, they’re just pure blue-water, white-sand, Coppertone bliss.

Interested in more ice cream recipes? Check out Strawberry Sorbet, Sorbet Two Ways, Coconut Ice Cream, Mocha Madness, Chocolate Decadence, and Vanilla Frozen Yogurt.

Read, make, and review (please) our recipe for Pineapple-Coconut Gelato.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...


  1. KAPP

    PJ now you’ve done it! you have totally made me want to go out this wkend and purchase the Cuisinart ice cream maker…just so i can make this recipe. I have a profound weakness for coconut ice cream and our local spot charges almost $5 for a waffle bowl of it. I was wondering…can the pineapple be processed separately from the custard and then just mixed in by hand with the custard or is it important that the two be mixed together simultaneously in the food processor? Thanks!

    For a “traditional” smooth gelato you’ll want to use the processor. That said, there is no technical reason why you could not add the prepared pineapple directly to the custard, stirring to incorporate. Give it a try. Frank @ KAF.

    I actually bought one of the Cuisinart ice cream makers myself, John – I’m a total cheapskate, but it’s just plain fun, especially when kids are around or you’re having a party. And I can justify the calories by making sorbet a regular part of the repertoire… :) PJH

  2. sandra Alicante

    Gone and forgotten password again and it’s remembered on the Community not here! I swear there are Gremlins at work.
    Anyway, back to Gelato. I’ve just ordered a new toy, a digital candy thermometer and low and behold, here is a use for it!
    Well done! :) Hope it arrives, unlike the book I ordered! (Not from KAF, don’t panic!)

    If you need help with that password, just give us a call: 800-827-6836. One of us will be happy to get you set back up. Frank @ KAF.

  3. amgbooth

    I LOVE tropical flavors (and caramel mocha swirl, too) AND I have nearly everything to make this already. Can’t wait to try it. But I’ll add passionfruit vodka instead of the rum. And I’ll have to remember to add that coconut milk powder to my next order. Thanks!

  4. amgbooth

    OOPS. I don’t have coconut milk. Cream of coconut and coconut water. Will the cream of coconut work?

    Sorry, we have not tried that substitution. I think it will be safer to wait until you have the ingredients as written before attempting this one. Frank @ KAF.

    Or you could try this substitute I found at “For 1 cup coconut milk, substitute 3 tablespoons canned cream of coconut plus hot water or warm low-fat milk to equal 1 cup.” No guarantees, but if you’re willing to try it, let us know how it comes out, OK? PJH

  5. Sarah

    This recipe looks great. I just got my cuisinart and have been experimenting with different ways to make ice cream and frozen yogurt – looking for the tastiest recipe that is somewhat lower in fat than traditional heavy cream plus a zillion egg yolks ice cream. I have one question: could I omit the pineapple from this recipe altogether and get decent results? Would I have to adjust any of the other ingredients? Also, and this probably a dumb question, when the recipe calls for “nonfat dry milk granules” – are granules the same as powder?


    Hi Sarah! Here is our recipe for plain coconut ice cream, and this one uses heavy cream, but does not use yolks:
    Omitting the pineapple from the gelato recipe would also be fine. ~Amy

  6. Teresa

    Ooo, this sounds really good. I now want to ditch our old fashioned ice cream maker (the kind you need to salt to keep cold) and get the cuisanart! I’ve made coconut ice cream with coconut milk and coconut cream (not the kind for drinks) and it came out great. So I think it’s worth a try on the coconut cream for more coconut flavor and creamy taste.

  7. lenored

    since i’ve just seen the first lightening bugs of the summer, i’ll be making ice cream this weekend. for those that are lactose intolerant, I’ve made a custard-type base (like this without the coconut milk) using lactose free milk. Don’t get the ‘calcium added’ kind because the extra calcium curdles the custard – been there, done that.

  8. leebaker

    Would this work without the powdered milk for someone who is lactose intolerent?
    You shouldn’t have any problems omitting the dry milk, but you can always use soy milk powder instead. ~Amy

  9. sandymillerhays

    This does sound great…I have the Cuisinart machine (bought it last year) and I just love it! I definitely want to try this recipe, but to repeat Sarah’s question from above: Are “non-fat dry milk granules” the same as non-fat dry milk powder? I have plenty of the Baker’s Special Dry Milk on hand, but the recipe says specifically not to use that. So what are “non-fat dry milk granules”? I don’t see them offered on your website….please advise!

    Sandy, yes, same as nonfat dry milk powder. Measure by weight, though, as the powder weighs different than the granules. If you don’t have a scale, just wing it – use a bit less powder than the recipe specifies. PJH

  10. julieannemartin

    I can’t use the dry milk powder, could I simply use 4 tablespoons total powdered coconut milk?
    You could omit the milk powder, or you can use soy milk powder instead, as previously stated in a lower comment. It just helps build a bit of extra creamyness. You can use more coconut powder if you wish, as increasing the coconut powder would definitely make this extra coconutty! ~Jessica

  11. campl

    Wow! Put this in a fancy glass, garnish with a pineapple wedge and a little paper umbrella and waalla – my favorite tropical drink – a Pina Colada, Double Yum!

  12. Irene in TO


    Just use coconut milk from Thailand sold in cans. The “regular” is pretty rich, and the “lite” is still thick enough to make a good gelato. Warm up each can in hot water for a minute to make sure you can blend smooth.

  13. Angeltea9

    Yippy! I just bought a White Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker! And just look at your recipes! Can’t wait to try it out, & your Coconut & Chocolate Decadence Recipes. Oh, & I do have a Food Processer as well-just in case I need it to make the right consistancy for other recipes.Looking forward to making lots of Gelato, & Granita as well.Thanks a lot.

    Grainta – now I didn’t think of that. Thanks for the reminder! Enjoy – PJH

  14. Nicola @ unhip squirrel

    I am floored. I’m dying. I want this gelato right now!! I am obsessed with anything pina colada. I can’t fathom making it through the day without it, but unfortunately I already baked a cake. Next weekend for sure!


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