By Melanie Fincher

Summertime brings an abundance of fresh, seasonal fruit from strawberries to blueberries to peaches. Sadly, they won't last forever. However, canning these delectable fruits into jams or jellies is one way to extend your enjoyment year-round.

But if you're like most of us, you've probably been gifted a jar of jam or jelly at some point and wondered what's inside. These two fruit spreads may look similar in the jar, but there are a few key factors that distinguish the two.

What's the Difference Between Jam and Jelly?

Here's the difference between jam and jelly:

What is Jam?

Jam is made with the pulp or crushed pieces of one fruit that is cooked with sugar and pectin. Pectin is derived from fruit, and helps jam reach its thick consistency. It comes in two forms: powder and liquid.

Photo by Getty Images

While jam can have chunks, most of the fruit pieces are cooked into the syrup making it easily spreadable. Classic jams include fig, raspberry, and strawberry.

Jam is best for use in baked goods because of its rich flavor. Use it in pastries, thumbprint cookies, or between layers on a cake. Despite the name "jelly doughnut," many recipes actually call for jam in this classic pastry for added flavor and texture.

What is Jelly?

Jelly is made from fruit juices or syrups that are cooked with sugar and pectin. Since only juices or syrups are used to make jelly, it has a smoother texture and is easier to spread. Jelly often requires additional pectin to reach its firm texture. The most popular jellies are grape, strawberry, and pepper jelly.

Photo by Getty Images

Jelly is perfect for sandwiches (what's a PB&J without it?) because of its spreadability. It's also delicious spread over crackers with cream cheese as an appetizer. Jelly can also be used as a sweetener in tea because of its syrupy base and smooth consistency.

Jam vs. Jelly

Although it may seem like these two sticky-sweet spreads are virtually the same, there are some differences to note. Since jam is made from crushed fruit or pulp, it tends to be chunkier (but not as chunky as preserves) and more flavorful, but less spreadable. On the other hand, jelly is only made from juice or syrup, so it's easy to spread but doesn't bring as much to the table in terms of flavor.

And of course, you can't forget about pectin. Jelly tends to have more of the fruit-derived substance, which is why it has a firmer texture. If you've ever seen jelly slide out of the jar in one large chunk, that's because of pectin. Jam, on the other hand, is looser and doesn't hold together quite as well. (Science!)

VIDEO: How to Make Strawberry Jam

Here's Chef John's preferred method for making strawberry jam. It calls for considerably less sugar than many other recipes. His secret is a homemade pectin puree. "This recipe is so delicious and fresh!" raves Andrea K. "I enjoy that it isn't so sugary like store bought. I can't wait to use this jam on more toast and in pastries!"

More Popular Jam Recipes

Jalapeno Strawberry Jam

"This jam is not spicy, but can be made to be spicy by adding more peppers or a few habanero peppers," says Lynette Sullivan. "The flavor of the sweet strawberries combined with the flavor of the peppers gives this jam a wonderful flavor dimension. The strawberries may be frozen (thawed and crushed) and the peppers may be canned (drained and chopped)."

Photo by Allrecipes Magazine

Jelly Doughnut Cupcakes

"A French vanilla-flavored cake, filled with strawberry jam and dusted with sugar," says MermaidSmoothie. "Friends and family will gobble them up!"

Photo by lutzflcat

Perfect Thumbprint Cookies

"In case you can't decide between a shortbread-focused cookie and a more jammy one, here's how to make both," says Chef John.

Photo by Chef John

More Popular Jelly Recipes

Habanero Pepper Jelly

"Blazing hot pepper jelly is addictive if you can handle it!" says Lunasea. "The grated carrot adds nice color and texture. Pepper hotness and people's tolerance varies, so you'll have to experiment to find the right number to add. If chopping habaneros by hand, rubber gloves are recommended since the habanero peppers will burn the skin."

Photo by JoniTsosie

Wine Jelly

See how to turn wine into a sweet jelly! Use your favorite variety of wine, red or white, to make a sweet condiment that's a must for wine parties, served with cheese and crackers. It's also delicious spooned onto biscuits and pastries.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

"Meatballs are slow cooked in a sweet and sour sauce featuring grape jelly and bottled chile sauce. Easy and delicious! Took minutes to put ingredients together, cooked for 4 hours on low in crockpot," says shivvyneato.

Photo by Angela F.


Check out our complete collection of Jams and Jellies Recipes.

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