Semifreddo is an Italian, half-frozen dessert similar to ice cream. It is traditionally made in a loaf tin and has mix-ins like fruit sauce and nuts.
This general Semifreddo recipe mixes just 5 ingredients for a creamy cold dessert made without an ice cream maker: fresh fruit, eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, and heavy cream. Choose your favorite fruit and you're ready to go… Perfect for a hot summer day!
In This Post You Will Find
- The Difference Between Semifreddo, Ice Cream, & Gelato
- The Step-by-Step Recipe with Photos of the Components
- Flavor Ideas
- Jump to the Recipe
Comparing Semifreddo, Ice Cream, & Gelato
Semifreddo is light in texture; basically a frozen mousse with mix-ins for flavor. It has more air incorporated in the mixture, giving it the lighter feel.
Ice cream is denser in texture: it has a higher fat content and lower air content, plus it is churned over time to create the characteristic creamy texture.
Gelato is the densest in texture of the three – it has the least air incorporated into the mixture as it is usually churned far more slowly than ice cream. It also contains less cream, and sometimes has no eggs in the recipe.
The General Recipe
Traditionally, semifreddo contains raw eggs. If you would like to make semifreddo without raw eggs, I have full instructions included in my recipe for Strawberry Matcha Semifreddo.
Here is the gist. You whisk the egg whites and sugar over a bain marie, whisking constantly until it reaches 160°F (71°C). Then, allow the eggs to cool for 10 minutes, and proceed with the recipe as-is.
For any semifreddo, you will need the following ingredients for semifreddo: egg whites, sugar, and heavy cream. Vanilla extract is optional, but adds a great depth of flavor.
The base of the semifreddo is a mousse: a meringue mixed with a whipped cream. You make the meringue and whipped cream separately, then gently fold the whipped cream into the meringue. If you are adding flavorings like matcha or chocolate, you would almost always do so in the base.
Whip 3 egg whites until they turn white and begin to stiffen. Then add ⅓ cup of sugar and whip to stiff peaks.
Note: Use caution if consuming raw eggs. If you would like directions for a meringue that uses cooked eggs, see instructions by clicking here.
Whip 1 cup of cold heavy cream until it begins to get stiff. Then, add ⅓ cup of sugar and whip to stiff peaks.
Note: If adding vanilla extract, you can add it at the same time as the sugar.
A great semifreddo has a fruit puree swirled into it. A fruit puree breaks up the mousse texture wonderfully when frozen. Always save 1 cup of the puree for serving.
Add 1.5 cups of fruit (stemmed, seeded, or both depending on the fruit), ⅓ cup of sugar, and a pinch of sea salt to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes (depending on the fruit) until the fruit begins to release their juices. Remove the lid and cook until very soft, about 5 minutes (again, depending on the fruit).
Semifreddo tastes great with and without toppings. You can add a chocolate drizzle or roasted nuts mixed into the semifreddo OR on top after it has been mixed together. Pistachios are commonly used, but feel free to get creative with almonds, toasted coconut, and more.
Mixing It All Together
Fold the whipped cream into the meringue ⅓ at a time until incorporated. Gently (and barely) fold in all but 1 cup of the fruit puree. (Remember, you are reserving the 1 cup for serving.) DO NOT OVER-MIX or you will not get the beautiful swirl of fruit. You barely want this incorporated because it will mix more as you transfer it to the baking pan.
Note: If you over-mix it is ok, the semifreddo will still be delicious.
Transfer to either a ¼ baking sheet (opens in new tab), or any glass baking dish that is 9×13, 9×9, 8×8, 9×5 or similar. Add your toppings now, if any. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
Slice or use an ice cream scoop and serve with the reserved fruit sauce.
Semifreddo Flavors for Every Season
Although I am partial to this Strawberry Matcha Semifreddo, here are some ideas of great fruit purees to weave into a simple semifreddo base:
- Plum, Nectarine, Apricot, or Peach
- Raspberry, Strawberry, Blackberry, or Blueberry
More Ice Cream, Gelato, & Semifreddo
- Vanilla Date Ice Cream
- Matcha Ice Cream
- Hojicha Gelato
- London Fog (Earl Grey) Gelato
- Strawberry Matcha Semifreddo
Or peruse all my favorite desserts here.
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General Semifreddo Recipe with Fruit
- 1.5 lbs fruit stemmed, pitted, and cut into large chunks (if applicable)
- 1 cup sugar divided into thirds
- 3 egg whites
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy cream cold
- Add the fruit and ⅓ cup of sugar to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cover and cook about 3 minutes until the strawberries begin to release their juices, about 3 minutes. Remove the lid and cook another 4-5 minutes until they are very soft.
- Let the fruit mixture cool, then add them to a blender and puree until smooth. Then, strain through a nut milk bag or fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds.
- Set aside 1 cup of the puree for serving. You will use the rest in the semifreddo.
- Add the 3 egg whites to a mixer or large bowl if using a hand mixer. When the egg whites turn white and begin to get stiff, add ⅓ cup of sugar and whip to stiff peaks. Transfer to a large bowl and clean the mixer or hand mixer before moving on.
- Whip 1 cup of cold heavy cream in a clean mixer bowl or medium sized bowl. When the whipped cream begins to get stiff, add ⅓ cup of sugar and vanilla. Whip to stiff peaks.
- Fold the whipped cream into the meringue ⅓ at a time until incorporated.
- Gently (and barely) fold in all but 1 cup of the fruit puree. (Remember, you are reserving the 1 cup for serving.) DO NOT OVER-MIX. You barely want this incorporated because it will mix more as you transfer it to the baking pan.
- Transfer to either a ¼ baking sheet, or any glass baking dish that is 9x13, 9x9, 8x8, 9x5 or similar. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
- Use an ice cream scoop and serve with the reserved fruit sauce.