Culinary Arts

What’s the Difference Between Jam, Jelly, and Marmalade?

Written by MasterClass

Apr 26, 2019 • 5 min read

Our buttery morning toast wouldn’t be the same without a slather of sweet fruit spread on top. And what would a sandwich with peanut butter be without grape jelly? While cruising through the condiment aisle at the grocery store, you’ll find rows and rows of colorful fruit spreads labeled jam, jelly and marmalade, but what exactly is the difference between them?


What Is Jam?

Jam is typically made from chunks of fruit (chopped or crushed), cooked with sugar until the fruit reduces down and thickens to a spreadable consistency. Berries, grapes and other small fruits are typically used, as well as larger cut-up stone fruits like apricots, peaches and plums. A good jam is perfect for flooding the nooks and crannies of English muffins.

What Are the Qualities of Jam?

When it comes to fruit spreads, think of jam as the life of the party. It’s looser, chunkier and less rigid than its conservative cousin, jelly. The consistency of a good jam should be textural, soft enough to spoon and easily spreadable, with pieces of fruit in it. In other words, it likes to mingle with the crowd.

How Is Jam Made?

To make jam, take fruit (whole, crushed or cut up), and combine it with water and sugar. Cook in a large pot over heat to reduce its liquid and activate its pectin, resulting in a thickened mixture. Once it reaches its setting point (220°F, when measured with a candy thermometer), it is ready and can be transferred to clean jars.

How Much Sugar Do You Need to Make Jam?

The amount of sugar you need to make jam depends on the amount of pectin in your chosen fruit. Some fruits such as apricots, berries, and peaches are low in pectin. In order to thicken, they must be combined with higher pectin fruits (such as lemon juice) or made with commercially produced pectin.

Can You Make Jam Without Sugar or Pectin?

For those of you that want to skip the guessing game with pectin, while also using less sugar, try making fruit butter. It’s made by cooking down the fruit mixture until thick and sticky instead of adding pectin to set the mixture as you would with jam.

How Long Does Jam Last?

Homemade jam can be cooled and stored in the refrigerator for up to a month. If processed by canning in a hot water bath, you can expect to get about a year of shelf life when stored in a cool, dry place.

What Is Jam Used For?

Besides spreading on bread, jams can be used with sweet and savory foods.

What Is Jelly?

Jelly is the rigid cousin to jam, just as sweet, but firm, smooth and gelatinous. It’s often made from fruit juice that isn’t suitable for jam because it doesn’t contain enough natural pectin (the gelling ingredient), or it has seeds that are difficult to remove, such as those found in grapes.

After the initial cooking, jelly is strained through a strainer or jelly bag to remove any solids. Powdered, commercially made pectin can be added to help the cooking process along, setting the mixture into a clear, jiggly texture.

What Are the Qualities of Jelly?

Jelly contains the most pectin and least pulp content of all the spreads. It’s the clearest fruit condiment and should be firm enough to hold its shape when turned out of the container.

How Is Jelly Made?

Fruit juice (or strained juice from fruit pulp) is combined with sugar and pectin and brought to a boil. The mixture is then simmered until it thickens and reaches the setting point. It’s immediately transferred to clean jars and can be left to cool or finished using a canning method.

How long does jelly last?

You can expect your jelly to last as long as jam, depending on the amount of sugar you added and the type of fruit. Once opened, it will last in the refrigerator for up to a month. For safe eating practices, store your opened jar of jelly in the refrigerator until consumed, and check for signs of spoilage before consuming.

What Is Jelly Used For?

Jelly pairs perfectly with nut butters for jelly sandwiches, but can also shine in savory dishes alongside meats. Try lamb with a dollop of mint jelly or combining fruit jelly with bbq sauce to glaze your ribs.

What Is Marmalade?

A marmalade is a fruit preserve made from citrus fruits. The fruit, including the peel, is simmered in boiling water until soft, then cooked with sugar to thicken. The end result can be lightly textured or gelatinous with larger chunks of rind throughout. The best types of fruit to make marmalade include:

  • Orange
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemons
  • Kumquats

What Are the Qualities of Marmalade?

Marmalade is the refined British cousin to jam and jelly. Marmalade combines the sweetness of jam with the bitterness of citrus peel, which gives you a rich, complex flavor. In the UK, marmalade is made mainly from Spanish Seville oranges, favored with a higher pectin content that helps the preserve set to a thickened consistency.

How to Make Marmalade

Simmer the whole oranges in water before making the marmalade to remove bitterness from the peel. Bring cut up oranges, along with the peel, and lemon juice to a boil, then stir in sugar and heat until marmalade reaches the setting point of 105°C or approximately 221°F.

How Long Does Marmalade Last?

Marmalade will last the same as jam and jellies (about one year when stored properly or opened in the refrigerator for up to a month).

What Is Marmalade Used For?

Beyond toast, marmalade can make a tangy topping for oatmeal, with cheese on crackers, and glazed over juicy pork chops.

So, What Is the Difference Between Jam, Jelly, and Marmalade?

Thinks of jam, jelly, and marmalade as members of the same family, all related but a little different. All of them are made by heating fruit with sugar, which causes the fruit to lose liquid and the natural pectin releases to cause jams and jellies to firm up. The difference between each depends on how much fruit is left in the final product and the finished consistency.

  • Jam is made from whole or cut up pieces of fruit with sugar.
  • Jelly is made from only the fruit juice and sugar.
  • Marmalade is preserves made with citrus—using the whole fruit, along with the rind.