Jelly vs. Jam and Other Fruit Spreads

Is there a difference between jelly and jam? Is a biscuit or scone smeared with strawberry jelly really any different than a biscuit or scone smeared with strawberry jam? And what about all of those other spreads like marmalade, preserves, and fruit butters? Are those different, too?

Believe it or not, there is a big difference! Below, we break down the main differences between jelly, jam, and other popular fruity condiments. Let’s get to it!

Jelly vs. Jam

Oftentimes people can get jelly and jam confused for the same thing, but in fact, there is a big difference between the two.

Jelly is a clear fruit spread made from cooked fruit juice, sugar, and usually pectin, which reacts with the sugar under heat to create a thicker, spreadable consistency. Jelly is generally strained through a bag or similar to remove any chunks, seeds, or other solids.

On the other hand, the process of making jam begins in the same way. However, instead of going through a straining process, the pulp remains in the mixture. It is a thick spread made from juice; chopped, crushed, or pureed fruit; and sugar. Pectin may also be added to help it gel, but not always. Jams are usually looser than jelly, but contain bits of pulp.

See: How to Make Lingonberry Jam

Marmalade, Preserves, and Other Fruit Spreads

There are a number of ways to make fruit spreads, each of which results in something just a little bit different.

Marmalade is generally produced from citruses such as oranges and lemons. Like jam, marmalade contains small pieces of fruit and/or peel.

Whole fruits (or uniform-size pieces) can be cooked in a thick, clear, and slightly jellied syrup for form preserves.

Conserves, on the other hand, are jams made from a mixture of fruits, nuts, raisins, coconut, and so forth.

Chutney contains chopped or crushed fruit, as well as vegetables. It sometimes melds with the art of pickling in that it also contains vinegar and spices, in addition to sugars.

Curd is made of egg yolks, fruit juices, sugar, and zest or peels, and is cooked into a smooth paste/spread. Though our ancestors made and ate a lot of curds, this delicious spread is less common today.

Finally, fruit butters are similar to jelly in that they are strained to remove any pulp. Pectin and other additives are sometimes blended in to help with consistency. 

Apple butter, one popular fruit butter, is essentially apple sauce in a more concentrated form. It is made by slowly cooking apples with water, cider, and assorted spices until the natural sugar found in the apples caramelizes. The concentrated sugar gives apple butter a much longer shelf life than apple sauce.

Pulp or No Pulp?

Though “jelly” and “jam” are often used interchangeably, the two delicious pantry staples are actually quite different. While the former is usually strained to get rid of any chunks or seeds, the latter retains its pulp. Other popular fruity spreads — including marmalade, preserves, chutney, and fruit butters — are also made with unique processes that result in their own product. Despite the confusion surrounding their differences, what is less debatable is their delicious taste!