What’s The Difference Between Snow Cone and Shaved Ice? Solved

Last Updated on February 22, 2024 by Lauren Beck

During the hot summer months, shaved ice and snow cones, both made with flavored syrups and ice, are highly sought after. However, they have notable differences for some unspecified reason.

So, what’s the difference between snow cones and shaved ice? This might sound confusing, but it has a straightforward answer. 

Snow Cones vs Shaved Ice

The main difference between snow cones and shave ice is their texture. Shave ice is a softer, snow-like tasty treat made by ice shavings from a block of ice using electric ice shavers. 

On the other hand, snow cones are made from crushed ice using an ice crusher machine. 

Usually found at large carnivals, ballparks, and movie theaters, snow cones are the most common type of ice treat served with condensed milk, blue raspberry, or sweet flavors. 

Mobile units and roadside stands commonly sell shaved ice, with cream or syrup poured on top of the ice as the toppings, creating a refined and fluffy texture, making the last few bites more flavorful.

We also add different flavors of syrups or fruit juices (we recommend blue raspberry) to both of these icy treats, which kids really like. 

With shave ice, the ice absorbs the syrup and flavor, unlike snow cones where the syrup and flavor just surround the ice. 

A Closer Look at the Differences 

Other Names

Snow cones and shaved ice have many alternative names, depending on tier location.  Snow cones are also known as Sno-cones, Sno Cones, Snowballs, or Sno Balls. 

Shaved ice is also known for some alternative names, including Shave Ice, Shaver, Shave Snow, Fluffy Ice, Hawaiian Shaved Ice, and Snoballs. 

While some prefer calling snow cones to snowball and shave ice to Hawaiian shaved ice, it all means the same. 


When Japanese immigrants started working on sugar plantations in Hawaii in the 1880s, they introduced the tradition of sweetened shaved ice to the islands. 

This type of ice, commonly referred to as kaki-Gori, quickly became a staple and can be found at various concession stands throughout the US. 

However, those who make it quickly point out that this type of ice is correctly spelled as “shave ice” (without the ‘D’).  

In New Orleans, there are strong opinions about the invention of shaved ice. During the 1930s, George Ortolano and Ernest Hansen invented the first electric ice shavers.

On the other hand, the first snow cones were presented at the Texas state fair in 1919. 

In 1920, Samuel Bert invented an ice crusher machine [1], and in 1948, Gold Medal Products Co. introduced the Sno-Kone, an ice shaver. The brand became synonymous with the ice treat, and the company’s products were then expanded to include other accessories and supplies.


Snow cones are made by shaving regular ice cubes, resulting in crunchy and small coarse bits, whereas shaved snow is made from a block of ice. 

Its flat shaving surface makes a finely shaved and snow-like, fluffy consistency. That’s why we see shave ice softer than snow cones. 


Colorful shaved ice treat

Shaved ice is softer and fluffier than snow cones which have crunchy granules due to its preparation process. 

So, we can say that shaved snow is more like ice cream (but not in a cone), with a variety of toppings and flavors compared to a snow cone, in which you can chew bits and are usually in limited flavors.  

Served In

A snow cone and Hawaiian shave ice are served in a cup, but the cup type is different. Shaved ice is presented using a foam cup, recycled paper bowl, and plastic flower cup. Also, it is usually made to order. 

The snow cones are usually presented using waxed paper cups and foam cups. In addition, the ice is crushed in advance– always ready to serve.  


Is shaved ice the same as a snow cone?

No, shaved ice and snow cones have differences in terms of texture, preparation, and how they are served. Though there are similarities like where they are made from (ice), they have distinctive characteristics, especially in the last few bites. 

Which is better, snow cone or shaved ice?

Shave snow is better than a snow cone. Shave ice is less coarse, so it melts in your mouth faster compared to a snow cone with a sleet texture that’s rougher on the tongue. 

Key Takeaways 

So, what’s the difference between snow cones and shave ice? 

The answer is simple: Shave ice is comparable to snow, with a very light, fine, and fluffy texture, unlike a snow cone with larger ice pieces.

While you can usually charge more for shaved ice than a snow cone, snow cones are still a famous concession stand food. 

Both are relatively inexpensive to produce, and they’re consistent bestsellers. 


Lauren Beck

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