What Exactly Is Jell-O Made From?

Where Can You Find Gelatin?

You'd be surprised how many different foods use gelatin as an ingredient.
You'd be surprised how many different foods use gelatin as an ingredient.
Kathryn Kleinman/Getty Images

Gelatin is a common ingredient in foods because it's so versatile. It can be used as a gelling agent (as in Jell-O), as a thickener, to give foods a more pleasing texture and to emulsify (or stabilize) processed foods. It is used to clarify juices, vinegars and even beer. You'll find it in a variety of foods, from yogurt to chewing gum. Special gelatins are made from only certain animals or from fish to meet standards of the Jewish and Muslim religions.

Here are some other foods that commonly contain gelatin:

  • gummy bears
  • sour cream
  • margarine
  • jelly
  • aspics
  • cream cheese
  • cake icing and frosting
  • marshmallows
  • soups, sauces and gravies
  • canned ham and chicken
  • corned beef
  • sausage
  • instant drinks
  • whipped cream

Gelatin is even used to make the coating for pills that makes them easier to swallow. It's also in lozenges and ointments. Cosmetics may contain a form of gelatin that doesn't gel. You may see it on the label as "hydrolyzed collagen."

Gelatins aren't used just in foods or in health or cosmetic products. Here are some other common uses of gelatin:

  • photographic films and papers
  • match heads
  • sandpaper
  • glossy printing papers
  • playing cards
  • simulated human tissue for testing guns and ammunition and for forensic science
  • holding the hair of synchronized swimmers in place

To learn more about Jell-O and related topics, head to the links that follow.

Related Articles

More Great Links


  • Chemistry Daily: The Chemistry Encyclopedia. "Gelatin." (Sept. 24, 2011) http://www.chemistrydaily.com/chemistry/Gelatin
  • GEA Filtration. "Gelatin Processing Aids." (Sept. 24, 2011) http://www.geafiltration.com/library/gelatin_processing_aid.asp
  • Gelatin Manufacturers Institute of America. "Gelatin is pure and natural." (Sept. 25, 2011) http://www.gelatin-gmia.com/html/gelatine.html
  • Gelatin Manufacturers Institute of America. "How We Make Gelatin." (Sept. 25, 2011) http://www.gelatin-gmia.com/html/rawmaterials.html
  • Goodsell, David. "Collagen: April 2000 Molecule of the Month." Protein Data Bank. (Sept. 26, 2011)http://www.pdb.org/pdb/101/motm.do?momID=4
  • Kraft Brands. "The History of the Wiggle." (Sept. 25, 2011) http://w3.kraftbrands.com/Jello/explore/history/
  • National Institutes of Health. "Collagen: The Fibrous Proteins of the Matrix." Bookshelf: U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. (Sept. 24, 2011) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/
  • New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. "The Science of Jell-O." (Sept. 24, 2011) http://infohost.nmt.edu/~fuierer/Mate%20101L%20Posters/Jello%2520revised.pdf
  • Senese, Fred. "What's Jell-O â„¢ Made of?" General Chemistry Online. Frostburg State University. (Sept. 26, 2011) http://antoine.frostburg.edu/chem/senese/101/consumer/faq/jello-composition.shtml