Jam and jelly are two popular types of fruit spreads found in households around the world.
They’re used interchangeably in many recipes, yet you may wonder what sets them apart.
This article explains the similarities and differences between jam and jelly.
Though jams and jellies are both sweet and sticky fruit spreads, they differ in some fundamental aspects.
They’re made with similar ingredients: fruit, sugar, water, pectin, and acid — usually from lemon juice.
Pectin is a type of fiber found in the cell walls of plants and fruits. It forms a gel when mixed with acid and is widely used in the food industry to provide texture to fruit- and vegetable-derived products (
And while fruits and their juices naturally contain sugar, adding more supports the gelling process. Sugar also acts as a preservative, preventing the growth of harmful microorganisms (3).
However, jams and jellies differ in texture, appearance, the proportions of their shared ingredients, and how they utilize or include fruit.
Jellies are made from fruit or vegetable juice. They’re characterized by their clear appearance and a firm texture that holds itself in place (4).
The juice is extracted by boiling crushed fruit or fruit pieces in water until soft, after which the peels and pulp are separated from the juice by straining them through a colander with a cheesecloth or jelly bag. This ensures a clear appearance (5).
You can prepare jellies with or without adding pectin, but since a good jelly should have enough gel strength to retain its shape, most recipes include it.
Commercial pectin is usually derived from apples and citrus fruits and sold in both powdered and liquid form (3, 6).
Jams are made from crushed or ground fruit, resulting in a thicker spread that holds its shape but is less firm than jellies.
Unlike jelly, jam is not clear, and you may find fruit chunks or particles dispersed throughout it. That said, fruit stems and pits should be removed (7).
Jams can be prepared with and without added pectin, as fruits naturally provide it. However, you should include some underripe fruits if pectin isn’t added, as these contain more pectin than ripe ones (3, 6).
Jams and jellies are two types of fruit spreads made with the same ingredients. They differ in texture, appearance, and how fruit is utilized to produce them.
Aside from their sweet taste and similar ingredient list, jams and jellies have common nutritional profiles and potential health benefits.
Similar nutritional profiles
Given that they share similar ingredients, it’s no surprise that jams and jellies have a similar nutrient composition.
Below is the nutritional content of 1 tablespoon (20 grams) of these two types of fruit spread (
|Carbs||13.8 grams||14.7 grams|
|Sugar||9.7 grams||10.8 grams|
|Fiber||0.22 grams||0.21 grams|
|Protein||0 grams||0 grams|
|Fat||0 grams||0 grams|
Both spreads provide virtually the same amount of macronutrients and comprise about 48–54% sugar.
Differences in their vitamin and mineral compositions depend on the types of fruits used and whether pectin is added.
For example, spreads prepared without added pectin require a longer cooking time, which may reduce their content of heat-sensitive nutrients like vitamin C (10, 11).
Share health benefits and downsides
Some of the potential health benefits of jams and jellies are related to their pectin content.
Pectin has prebiotic effects — meaning that it feeds your gut’s friendly bacteria to stimulate their growth — which in turn improves gut health (
Recent studies have determined that a healthy gut is essential to maintaining good overall health and helping treat and prevent multiple diseases (
Research also shows that pectin may inhibit dangerous toxins produced by E. coli, a harmful bacteria (
That said, even though jams and jellies may provide some benefits, they’re high sugar products, and consuming too much sugar may lead to weight gain, cavities, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes (
Therefore, you should consume them in moderation.
Jams and jellies have a similar nutrient composition, and their pectin content may offer some health benefits. However, they’re high in sugar and should be consumed in moderation.
The main difference between store-bought and homemade jams and jellies is the ingredient quality.
If you examine the ingredient list of store-bought jam or jelly, you may find that artificial flavors, food dyes, and preservatives are included.
Artificial flavors are used to enhance the taste, while food dyes compensate for color loss from cooking and storage. Studies suggest these dyes may have some negative health effects, including allergic reactions in children and cancer in mice (
Additionally, some brands may sweeten their products with both sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes (
However, making your own jam or jelly at home is easy and gives you full control over the ingredients.
Here’s a simple strawberry jam recipe to get you started:
- 1 cup (166 grams) of washed and crushed strawberries without stems and caps
- 1–3 cups (200–600 grams) of sugar
- 1/4 bottle (65 ml) of liquid pectin (optional)
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) of water
Place the strawberries and water into a saucepan. Add 1 cup (200 grams) of sugar if you won’t add pectin, or 3 cups (600 grams) if you will add pectin. Stir well and bring the mixture to a boil.
If you aren’t using pectin, boil the mixture until it thickens. Remove it from heat, and stir it for 5 more minutes. Then transfer the jam into a glass container.
If you are using pectin, boil the mixture for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove it from heat and add the pectin. Stir for 5 more minutes before transferring the jam into a glass container.
Making a homemade version of your favorite jam or jelly is easy, and it’ll likely be a healthier alternative to store-bought products.
Jam and jelly have virtually the same nutritional value, fruity taste, and spreadable texture. Thus, you can use them interchangeably.
That said, some studies have analyzed the nutritional profile of jams after 9 months in storage and observed no significant losses in their antioxidant content.
Therefore, jams could provide a source of antioxidants when fresh fruit isn’t available (
Since jams and jellies have similar characteristics, you may use them interchangeably. Jams may provide antioxidants, which is beneficial when fresh fruit isn’t available.
Jams and jellies are two types of fruit spreads that provide similar nutritional value and potential health benefits.
However, since jams are made with crushed fruits and jellies are made with fruit juice, they differ in appearance and texture.
Both jams and jellies are high sugar products that should be consumed in small amounts.
For a healthier alternative, try making your own at home.