What Is the Difference Between Jelly, Jam and Preserves?

jars of orange marmalade
These jars are filled with orange marmalade, a type of preserve. Kathrin Ziegler/Getty Images

Jelly, jam and preserves are all made from fruit mixed with sugar and pectin. Pectin is an indigestible carbohydrate (fiber). It is found in the cell walls of most fruit. When heated with sugar in water, pectin gels, giving jam, jelly and preserves their thickness.

The difference between the three spreads comes in the form that the fruit takes.


  • In jelly, the fruit comes in the form of fruit juice. Jelly has the smoothest consistency and is usually clear.
  • In jam, the fruit comes in the form of fruit pulp or crushed fruit. This makes jam less stiff than jelly.
  • In preserves, the fruit comes in the form of chunks in a gel or syrup. Preserves will have more fruit in them than jam will. Marmalade is a type of preserve with citrus fruits in it.

Jell-O is entirely different. It is made from gelatin, which is a protein made from animal skins and bones. Jell-O will have artificial colorings and flavorings but no fruit, unless you add it yourself when you make it.

Which spread should you use? That depends on what you're trying to do. For sandwiches, jelly or jam is preferred as they spread easier. For recipes, preserves would deliver more fruit flavor, though jam could also be used.


Difference Between Jam and Jelly FAQ

What is the difference between jam and jelly?
Both jelly and jam are made with fruit mixed with pectin and sugar. However, the difference between the two comes in the form of the fruit that goes into them. Jelly is made from fruit juice and jam uses both the fruit pulp and juice.
What spreads easier: jam or jelly?
Both jam and jelly are relatively easy to spread, especially compared to preserves. However, since jelly is made out of fruit juice it is the easiest to spread out of the two.
How are jellies preserved?
Jellies are preserved using pectin, which is a fiber found in the cell walls of all fruits. Pectin gives both jam and jelly the ability to be preserved for longer periods.
Why is marmalade not called jam?
Marmalade is similar to jam in that it contains fruit pulp and  similar to jelly because it contains fruit juice. However, marmalade is always made with citrus fruits and incorporates the peel.
Which is better: jelly or jam?
While the choice comes down to your individual preferences, you should opt for jam if you prefer a chunkier texture and jelly if you want a smoother one.

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Related Articles

  • Delany, Alex. "What's the Difference Between Jam and Jelly?" Bon Apetit. (April 26, 2019) https://www.bonappetit.com/story/whats-the-difference-between-jam-and-jelly
  • Encyclopedia Britannica. "What's the Difference Between Jam, Jelly and Preserves? (April 26, 2019) https://www.britannica.com/story/whats-the-difference-between-jam-jelly-and-preserves