What Is Granita, And How Is It Different From Sorbet?

There are few things more refreshing than a scoop of ice cream on a hot summer day. While there are many options and varieties for what frozen delight to reach for, some days just call for a lighter, more refreshing sweet treat. And on those days, you might want to reach for granita. 

Granita is a frozen dessert commonly enjoyed in Sicily, Italy. Though somewhat less talked-about than Italian sorbet, the two are comparable when it comes to ingredients. Both chilly deserts are often made with a handful of simple, often plant-based ingredients, including fresh fruit, liquid, sugar, and flavorings or spices. 

Popular granita flavors include mint, almond, and coffee. In fact, Sicilians enjoy coffee granita for breakfast or brunch, topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. While there are ingredient likenesses between sorbet and granita, there are a few key differences in preparing and enjoying granita that make it stand out. The most notable difference between granita and sorbet is the texture.

Granita has a crystallized texture

You may recognize granita for its chunky flakes of ice. A scoop of sorbet, meanwhile, is creamier, similar to a dairy-free gelato. 

Sorbet achieves its creamy texture via a churning process (commonly done in an ice cream maker) that incorporates air and reduces the formation of ice crystals, creating a smooth, melt-in-your mouth texture. Sorbet is also highly dependent on the sugar content and uses simple syrup to lower the freezing point, resulting in smaller ice crystals.

Granita, on the other hand, is all about the ice crystals, which impart its textural goodness. To make fresh-fruit granita, the fruit, liquid, sugar, and flavorings are puréed, transferred straight to the freezer in a shallow baking dish, and then flaked with a fork repeatedly throughout a two-to-four hour freezing process as the mixture firms up. The resulting chunks of flavorful ice are then served in small bowls and topped with fresh whipped cream or a splash of alcohol. 

Granita's approachable prep makes it a home cook's dream

Perhaps the greatest barrier to entry to making ice cream or sorbet is not having the right equipment. Buying an ice cream maker can be a large investment. You may find yourself asking: how often will I use this? Do I have the space? Granita, however, can be whipped up in a home kitchen by hand with a fork. And it's just as impressive to serve at a dinner party.

To make granita at home, use fresh, seasonal fruit in the summer, letting the quality of the ingredients speak for itself. 

To adopt the Sicilian way of enjoying coffee granita for breakfast, simply blend coffee and sugar in a bowl and then freeze the mixture, flaking every 30 minutes for two hours, before serving with a fresh dollop of whipped cream. For a boozy, celebratory treat, try adding Champagne to granita recipes.