Difference Between American Jellies, Jams And Preserves


Jellies and jams are staples in many people’s households through out America. From being used on peanut butter sandwiches to being stuffed in cookies or donuts, jellies and jams are deliciously versatile ingredients with almost identical nutritional values. The main difference between jams and jellies is that jelly is made from the juice of the fruit only. Fruit is crushed, strained, and then is boiled with sugar and pectin in order to make a spreadable product. Jams on the other hand, feature crushed fruit, often with seeds left in berry jams. This means when you spread a jam, it will be somewhat lumpy since it contains some whole fruit. It is not the same with jelly, which spreads evenly.

Preserves is a term simply meaning fruit that is preserved through a canning method. Jams, marmalades and jellies are the most common type of fruit preserves. Making jelly, jam, and other fruit preserves involves mixing fruit with sugar and pectin. The main difference between the three spreads is in the form the fruit takes — some people use the terms preserves, jellies and jams interchangeably. Below are more insights on jellies, jams and preserves.

What are Preserves?

Fruit preserves are preparations of fruits whose main preserving agent is sugar and sometimes acid, often stored in glass jars and used as a condiment or spread. There are many varieties of fruit preserves globally, distinguished by the method of preparation, type of fruit used, and place in a meal.

Sweet fruit preserves such as jams, jellies, and marmalades are often eaten at breakfast with bread or as an ingredient of a pastry or dessert, whereas more savory and acidic preserves made from “vegetable fruits” such as tomato, squash or zucchini, are eaten alongside savory foods such as cheese, cold meats, and curries.

What is Jam?

Jam is a mixture of fruit, sugar, and sometimes pectin, which is used as a thickener. It all gets boiled quickly until the fruit breaks down just enough to soften but still holds much of its shape. The result is something that is thick and spreadable but a bit clumpy here and there. Homemade jam may be downright runny, while store-bought usually contains pectin, a thickener that adds a firmer, more gelled consistency. Jam is wonderful as a spread but also spooned onto yogurt, oatmeal, or even ice cream.

What is Jelly?

Jelly is made by cooking fruit juice with sugar and acid. The juice is extracted by boiling crushed fruit or fruit pieces in water until soft, after which the pulp and peels are separated from the juice using a sieve to remove any fruit or seeds, resulting in a smooth, transparent spread. The jelly texture isn’t loose like jam or preserves – it’s more like gelatin. Jellies can be prepared with or without adding pectin, but most recipes include it since a good jelly should have enough gel strength to retain its shape and firm texture.

Jelly can also be made with other ingredients, such as herbs, wine, or flowers. It’s best used as a spread or a condiment for things like cheese or even meat, depending on what it’s made from.

Jelly vs Jam vs Preserves

Jelly has the smoothest consistency and is made by crushing a fruit and discarding the solid chunky leftovers. This leaves only the fruit juice, which is then mixed with a substance called pectin and heated to form the gelatinous spread. Jam is similarly made by crushing a fruit, but this spread leaves in most of the solid pieces of the fruit’s fibers and seeds (if they’re small enough and safe to consume) to give it a spreadable consistency. Of the three, preserves use the most of the fruit and are simply chopped smaller pieces of fruit that are mixed with sugar to keep them fresh and combined with a syrup or jam to contain them.

What you need to know:

  • Making jelly, jam, and preserves involves mixing fruit with sugar and pectin. The main difference between the three spreads is in the form the fruit takes.
  • Jam is made from fruit pulp or crushed fruit. As a result, jam is less stiff than jelly.
  • Jelly is made from fruit juice. It has the smoothest consistency and is usually clear.
  • In preserves, the fruit comes in chunks in a gel or syrup. Preserves contain more fruit than jam. 

Jelly vs Jam: Key Differences

Points of ComparisonJamJelly
IngredientsIt contains mashed fruit, sugar, and pectin.It contains fruit juice, sugar, and pectin.
ShapeIt doesn’t hold its shape and is runny and soft to scoop out.It holds its shape and stays firm while being scooped out. 
ColorIt has a darker and rich color from the fruit it contains. It has a lighter and clear color from the fruit it contains.
TextureIt has a sticky and pulpy texture due to crushed fruit pieces inside.It has a clear and sparkling texture.
ConsistencyIt has a thicker consistency.It has a smoother consistency.
Fruit contentIt carries more fruit as it keeps both the fruit and its juice.It carries a lesser quantity of fruit as it only keeps the juice from a fruit leaving its pulp behind.

Key Takeaways

  • Jam is made from fruit that has been crushed or chopped and then cooked with sugar until the pieces of fruit become soft and lose their shape.
  • Jelly is made from cooked, clarified fruit juice, sugar and pectin. After cooking, but before it has had time to cool, the mixture is strained through a fine mesh jelly bag to remove impurities and solids.
  • Jelly has less flavor but is more spreadable.
  • Jam has more flavor but is chunkier and harder to spread
  • Jam has more texture than jelly, including pieces of fruit and seeds.
  • Preserves have an even consistency. They are soft, bright in color, and have no free liquid.
  • Jam works better in baking than jelly because it is thicker and denser, which lends itself better to being piped into desserts such as donuts. It also has a nicer texture and a more robust flavor due to the natural fruit included.