This Is the Difference Between Jam and Jelly

It's time to get the world out of this jam. (See what we did there?)

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Have you ever wondered what exactly the difference between jam and jelly is? If both were put on a spoon and taste-tested by 100 different people, the identifying results would probably turn out to be a jumbled, coagulated mess. So if it isn’t the consistency, color, or flavor that makes a jam stand apart from a jelly, what is it? And what do preserves and marmalade have to do with any of this?

The difference between jam and jelly (and all the other fruit spreads) is entirely in the manufacturing process. While they all have similarities in ingredients and outcome, the ratios and cooking processes are different.

Jelly

Jelly is made from the juice of a fruit by crushing said fruit, and then straining out the larger chunks. The liquid is then brought to a boil, and additional sugar and pectin, a natural thickening agent, are tossed into the mix. The resulting viscous liquid is jelly. It is the most firm of all cooked fruit spreads, and definitely more of a solid than the other options. Jelly is also the only one to have pectin added. We like jelly on our toast, but if you’re sick of the regular toast toppings, try out one of these new combinations.

Jam

Jam is made almost identically to jelly. The big difference between jam and jelly is that the larger chunks of fruit aren’t strained out when making jelly, but left in the mixture. This generally gives the jam a thicker texture. Because of the cooking process, jam has more fruit in it than jelly does and has a slightly stronger fruit flavor. If you aren’t a fan of chunks, jam probably isn’t for you—though there are some jam recipes that use pureed fruit so you get the extra flavor and fruit without having lumps in your finished product—but if you don’t mind the chunks, jam is a great choice.

Preserves

Here’s another option for PB&J enthusiasts! Preserves are the next step along the line of spreadable fruit. Preserves contain more fruit than either jam or jelly and have the least gel-like consistency. Preserves generally use larger chunks of fruit than jam, and never use purees of that fruit. There are generally fewer additives. Preserves were originally made simply by adding sugar to fruit and heating it to “preserve” that fruit for wintertime consumption before freezing was commonplace. For a full history of peanut butter and jelly, look no further.

Marmalade

This one is a lot easier to differentiate. Marmalade is simply a preserve made with citrus fruit. Lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and mandarins are the most common marmalade flavors. Feeling hungry now? Well, there’s more where that came from—check out 9 more facts you never knew about the origins of your favorite foods.

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Isabel Roy
Isabel Roy has been a writer and editor for RD.com since February of 2019. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing and Rhetoric. She is thrilled to be living and working in the Big Apple although she misses the easy access to freshly made Wisconsin cheese curds and Kopps Custard. When not at the Reader’s Digest office, you can find her downing too many chai lattes and rereading her favorite Harry Potter books.