photo credit: dusan zidar

History Of Granita

According to Alan Davidson in the Oxford Companion to Food, (Oxford University Press:Oxford) the appearance of "water ices" is documented to have taken place in Europe in the 17th century around the same time as ice cream. There is some undocumented conjecture that Marco Polo returned to Venice from China in the 13th century and introduced ice cream or water ices to Italy. Further it is not known for sure if water ices were first found in Spain or in Italy. In any event the mixture seemed to have migrated to London at some later, undocumented time.

Granita is akin to but not quite the same as sorbet. The difference being sorbets tend to be smoother and less granular in texture. Both are made with water, a flavoring such as fruit juice or coffee and typically sweetened with sugar.

Forms And Uses Of Granita

Granita is typically eaten as a refreshing and light dessert. They can also be used in the same way as one would a sorbet, between meal courses to "cleanse the palate".

Recipes can be found for a myriad of flavors from the traditional coffee to more exotic such as pineapple or champagne.

Featured Granita Recipe

Traditional Vietnamese Coffee is made by filtering dark roast coffee directly in a glass. Sweetened condensed milk is then poured in the coffee and mixed. It is served both hot and iced. This frozen version is a simple coffee granita served with sweetened condensed milk.

Vietnamese Coffee Granita

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 cups hot brewed French Roast coffee
  • 1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk

Stir sugar and coffee until sugar has dissolved. Transfer to a 8 x 13" glass baking dish. Freeze at least 3 hours or up to 8 hours.

Before dinner, scrape frozen coffee into shavings using a fork. When ready to serve spoon coffee shavings into serving dishes. Serve with condensed milk drizzled over top.

Granita Machines & Mixes

A variety ogranita making machief machines are available for making granita in large quantities. On the most part they are used commercially but they can be rented or purchased for home use or parties.  Some sellers promote using the machines for making "frozen margaritas" as well.  Here are a few sources.

Affogato - FoodTv - recipe for Affogato, espresso over iced cream and whipped cream.

CW-USA - Sells packaged granita mixes and granita machines

Desert Cool - Sells granita mixes in fruit, vanilla and coffee flavors - A full line of mixes. Site offers a page of recipe suggestions as well. Recommends but does not sell equipment.

Vietnamese Coffee Granita Nutrition

Per serving
Calories 228.41
Total fat (g) 5.82
Saturated fat (g) 3.67
Monounsaturated fat (g) 1.62
Polyunsaturated fat (g) 0.23
Dietary fiber (g) 0
Protein (g) 5.38
Carbohydrate (g) 39.87
Cholesterol (mg) 22.66
Sodium (mg) 86.71
Vitamin C (mg) 1.74

Most of the calories from granita come from the sugar. You can use artificial sweeteners like splenda or the new "shugr" product to reduce calories and carbohydrates.

More Granita Recipes

Vouvray Wine Ice - Vouvray, Pronounced voo-vray. A regional white wine from the Vouvray section of the Loire Valley in France.  This wine ice is a form of Granita.

Espresso Granita - This granita is sweet yet surprisingly refreshing, an effect requiring fiercely rich espresso so don't use espresso powder. Granita is frozen slushy dessert.


Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.