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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How to make fruit jello from real fruit or juice

When we begin to tire of some of the fruit we grow in abundance here in the gardens, I look to alternate ways to prepare fruit. Gelatin is an easy, keep-the-kitchen-cool way to make a wholesome, light and delicious dessert. And all it takes is some unflavored gelatin (in the packets or in bulk) and the fruit or juice (plus sugar and lemon juice to taste).

Some suggestions if using whole fruits:
berries, very ripe peaches, nectarines or plums

Some suggestions if using juice:
grape, white grape juice, apple, blueberry, cranberry or any combination of juices 

Using unflavored gelatin is a two-step process.
1) The first step involves separating and softening the gelatin granules. This is achieved by softening the gelatin in cold liquid.

2) The second step actually dissolves the gelatin. Dissolving gelatin requires a hot liquid. If you try to skip the first step, you will wind up with lumps of gelatin in your finished product.

(You may be wondering how you can only follow the second step with packaged jello mixes. Combining gelatin granules with sugar, (as is found in boxed jello), is another way to separate the granules. But as these instructions here concern making jello with minimal added sugar, this won't work well for us.)

To make jello with whole fruit, I use:

4 cups of fresh or frozen fruit (today's jello is made with 3 cups of frozen wild blackberries and a 1 cup of fresh strawberries)
2 packets  (or 2 tablespoons) of unflavored gelatin
sugar (2 to 4 tablespoons, to taste)
lemon juice (1 tablespoon, to taste)
water (to bring the pureed mixture up to 1 quart)

Begin with about 1 quart of berries, or whole fruit, peeled and cut into chunks.

Puree berries/fruit in a food processor or blender, until smooth.

This is 4 cups of pureed blackberries, strawberries, water,
sugar and lemon juice

Measure, and add lemon juice and sugar, to taste. Add water to bring puree up to 4 cups.

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1 cup of cold fruit puree. Allow to stand for about 5-10 minutes (in my experience, softening the gelatin requires a bit more time in fruit puree than in juice alone).

Stir into the puree, making sure to break up any clusters of granules (this prevents gelatin lumps in the finished product). You should have something resembling a paste at this point.

Microwave, or heat on the stove, the remaining 3 cups of puree, until bubbling. (This takes about 4 minutes in our microwave.)

Slowly pour 1/3 of the hot mixture over the bowl of cold, gelatin mixture, while stirring constantly. Now pour the small bowl of gelatin/puree into the large hot container of puree and stir until gelatin is completely dissolved, about 2 minutes.

Pour into serving cups or dishes. I like to use these pretty, little Italian canning jars. But fruit saucers and custard cups are also just the right size.

Chill for about 4 hours.

This makes 8  1/2-cup portions.

Adding softened cream cheese, or silken tofu, to the jello, just before pouring into serving dishes makes a creamy jello dessert. For amounts, reduce the total fruit puree, lemon juice, sugar and water to 3 1/2 cups, total (this will likely mean not adding any water, or just a little). Add 6 to 8 oz of softened cream cheese, or pureed silken tofu to the gelatin/puree mixture, just before spooning into dessert dishes. You can run the entire mixture through a food processor or blender to thoroughly combine, as needed. I make my Creamy Rhubarb Mousse Jello (link to recipe) by adding cream cheese to the rhubarb gelatin.


This is simply bottled cranberry juice cocktail and gelatin

To make jello using fruit juice (bottled, frozen concentrate or fresh), I use:

4 cups of fruit juice
2 packets or 2 tablespoons of unflavored gelatin
(**optional -- sugar, 1-2 tablespoons, lemon juice, 1-2 teaspoons, all to taste)

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1 cup of cold juice. Allow to soften 2 minutes. Stir.

Bring 3 cups of fruit juice to a boil, on the stove or in the microwave. Slowly pour hot juice over softened gelatin, stirring constantly, until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Add optional sugar and lemon juice, to taste, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

Pour into single serving cups or dishes. Chill for 4 hours.

You can add chunks of fruit, canned or fresh, chopped nuts, mini-marshmallows, whatever sounds fun! Simply pre-chill the full bowl of gelatin for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until thickened, but not set, and stir in the extras. Now spoon into individual dishes, and continue chilling until set.

Pure and fresh, a real fruit gelatin dessert, minus the artificial colors, and artificial flavors.

**Real fruit juice jello will not be nearly as sweet as boxed jello. It's a lot like comparing Kool-Aid drink powders to real fruit juice. I like the refreshing, less-sweet taste of just juice and gelatin. But if you or your family are used to the commercial jello, you may be more pleased with the addition of lemon juice and sugar. You are still cutting out the excess sugar, additives, artificial flavorings and colorings from the boxed varieties.

About the fruits that cause gelatin to not set:

Some fresh fruits contain enzymes which impair gelatin's setting ability. These include fresh figs, papaya, mango, pineapple, prickly pear and kiwi. With exception to the kiwi, you can mediate the enzymes effect on gelatin by boiling these fruits for 5 minutes, before adding to gelatin. Heating the fruit pieces denatures the enzymes, allowing gelatin to set. That is why canned pineapple works in a jello salad, but fresh pineapple does not. The canned pineapple has been processed with heat, denaturing the enzymes.

Likewise, you can use canned/bottled or processed, frozen pineapple, mango, fig or papaya juice to make fruit juice jello, as it's been heat treated. There's a popular jello salad recipe that uses lime jello and canned pineapple juice, for example. The canned pineapple juice works, because it's been heat-treated for canning.

So, avoid kiwi in jello salads. If you want to use fresh pineapple, mango, papaya, prickly pear or fig, you need to boil the fruits or juices for 5 minutes (per the instructions on the Knox website).


  1. This seems very appealing to make gelatin with less sugar and coloring than the packs one gets in the grocery store. I'm trying to figure out if I like the texture of gelatin enough to try it. When you make it with fruit, do you find the texture much different than when you make it with juice?

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Yes, the texture is different, when made with fruit instead of juice. Have you ever had a berry bavarian, made with whole, unstrained berries? It's much like that, minus the whipping cream. It's almost mousse-like. Whereas the juice gelatin turns out just like the boxed, in texture.

      I was reading the side of a box of Jello and was surprised at all the additives: adipic acid, acetic acid,disodium phosphate, sodium citrate,fumaric acid, Blue 1 (for Berry Blue flavor), artificial flavors and natural flavor (which doesn't have to be related to blueberries at all, just come from a natural source), plus sugar and gelatin.

      Compare this to making gelatin with apple juice (a popular treat/snack for my preschool class) and gelatin. Just apple juice, apple juice concentrate, ascorbic acid (vit. C), plus gelatin (which has no other ingredients listed on the box).

  2. I made this kind of "jello" for our children when they were younger. They loved it. I usually used grape juice and it was really tasty. After reading this I think I will make our grandson next time he comes to visit!

    1. Hi Alicia,
      I'm sure your grandson will love it as much as your children did!

  3. I am seething with jealousy over the idea of having an abundance of garden fruit. I've been trying and trying for 10 years now to grow fruit of one kind or another with very little success. I've given up on melons, don't have room for a fruit tree, and the grapes and berries barely even produce enough to make it indoors (someone, ahem, tends to eat them as she picks them - and since there's never more than a handful at a time, this works OK.) Maybe this year the harvest will be better...

    Anyhow, it looks really yummy!

    1. Hi Cat,
      Yeah, I would think growing berries would be a challenge there, due to how dry it is. The Prudent Homemaker lives in Las Vegas and does manage a lot of fruit in her suburban, home-division yard. But I'm guessing she waters a lot. You could try an espaliered fruit tree, against a fence or wall.

      Oh well, you do get an abundance of pumpkin. Pumpkin jello, perhaps?

  4. I'm really keen to try this now that I'm not vegetarian any more and can eat gelatin :) Plum or nectarine sounds really yum :)

    1. Hi Economies,
      Did you ever try making gelatin with agar? I know using agar-agar is a popular alternative to gelatin for vegans.

  5. I just want to say thanks for this recipe. I made jello for my family last night out of cranberry-raspberry juice and they absolutely loved it!

  6. You're welcome. I'm glad that you and your family enjoyed your homemade jello! Thanks for adding a comment. It's nice to know when someone finds something good, here.

  7. I know boiling fruits or veggies allows loss of nutrients. I was wondering if I can make gummies for my kids, by just boiling the gelatin in the water and once melted in, adding the puree or fresh squeezed juice in the mix and then letting it set. Would that work, or would it not allow for proper setting ?

    1. Hi Dareen,
      I think this would work and set up well, Good luck!


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