I once had a long and involved argument with a friend about whether there was any difference between sorbet and sherbet. We couldn't even agree on whether there was a difference in the pronunciation of the words let alone whether they were used to reference two different desserts or the same one. I would like to say that I was the one who knew that there was a difference between sorbet and sherbet and that I won the argument, but when we delved into personal research to come up with our answer, we discovered that she was right. There was a difference between sorbet and sherbet. At least we had a lot of fun going around buying different sorbet / sherbet combinations trying to come up with the answer!
Of course, it makes sense that she would know the subtle difference between the two. She's far more health-conscious than I am now and definitely more health-conscious than I was at the time. So she knew that although both sorbet and sherbet are considered an ice-cream-like treat, they are not as similar as some of us might think. The main difference is that sorbet is a fruit-based dessert and sherbet is more dairy-based, which is a significant difference for people who are leaning towards fruit sugars or leaning away from dairy.
People who prefer sorbet are those people who want the fruit-based dessert. Sorbet uses fruit juice as its main liquid base. It doesn't have any sort of dairy in it, so it's preferred by people who are either allergic to dairy or opting not to eat dairy for health or other reasons. However, since sorbet doesn't have dairy products in it, it also doesn't have the texture of ice cream that people may be looking for when they go to buy this type of dessert. Those people who prefer sorbet because of the taste tend to like fruitier, tarter flavors and a texture that is more icy than creamy.
In contrast, those people who really want ice cream but who are opting for something else because they want to cut back on the "bad for you" foods will probably be people who lean towards sherbet. Sherbet has a milk base (and it may also contain eggs) which gives it the creamy consistency of ice cream. People who like less intense fruit flavors may prefer fruity sherbet to fruit sorbet. And those who like the texture of their ice cream will definitely want to go with a sherbet.
Whether you opt to go for a sherbet or a sorbet depends a lot on why you aren't just eating plain old ice cream. Maybe ice cream is too rich for your taste so you want something less creamy. Either will do but the sorbet will be the one you'll probably prefer. That's also the one you're probably going to want if you're looking to cut down on the fats on your diet. However, if it's sugars that you're trying to cut out, you might want sherbet. The best thing to do is probably to do what my friend and I did - eat as many different sorbet and sherbet types and flavors that you can and find the one that's right for you!
Aamir on September 09, 2011:
Hmm.. I'm surprised there even can be a debate on difference between sherbet n sorbet. Sherbet is a drink, common in middle-east, arab countries and India sub-continent. It can be fruir based, milk based but it's a drink, not powder or smoothie. The european (primarily the British) took this idea and came up with Sorbet. The Sherbet that they have in the western world is a western customization and a dessert.
Sally on November 26, 2010:
Sherbet... I always thought that was powdery candy that fizzed up in your mouth... I had some today! Yummy!
Dan on November 12, 2010:
Regarding Pete's question about the tub with both terms - here's something from wikipedia:
On sherbet packages which have both English and French labels, sherbet is translated to sorbet laitier which directly translates into English as dairy sorbet, differentiating the milk containing sherbet from milk-less sorbet.
Here it is on August 29, 2010:
By ENGLISH definition:
Sorbet is defined as an ice containing no milk but having a mushy consistency; usually made from fruit juice; sometimes refered to as ice (ie. strawberry ice).
Sherbet is defined as a frozen dessert made primarily of fruit juice and sugar, but also containing milk and sometimes egg-white and/or gelatin for creamy (icecream like) consistency.
In short sherbet contains cholesterol, but is healthier than icecream and sorbet has no significant cholesterol or dairy and is more of a frozen fruit and ice desert.
Pete on May 11, 2010:
I'm wondering if maybe the confusion is based on a language issue.. I live in Canada and have been enjoying a nice tub of Sherbet (in english), or Sorbet (same tub, other side). I have seen this before, and I have never seen the english side of the labelling say "Sorbet". Do we not have this elusive, dairy free Sorbet in Canada? Can someone link to an english labelled "Sorbet"?
The Rope from SE US on February 01, 2010:
The acid content (due to the fruit base) is the reason that many dinners include sorbet between courses to clean the palette. Thanks for a great hub. It was fun to follow your research.
powernetter on September 17, 2009:
wew that's is delicous sorbets, i like the raspberries
Stacie Naczelnik from Seattle on September 06, 2007:
Thanks for the clarification between the two. Many people use sherbet in smoothies (but I prefer simply using frozen fruit instead). I've had some wonderful sorbets though, and they do seem a bit healthier: still need to watch for that high fructose corn syrup though.