The Difference Between Jam, Jelly, and Marmalade

Homemade Orange Marmalade, on toast

The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

It is so easy to pick up fruits at the market when they are plentiful and so fresh during their seasonal time. So what better than to turn them into a lovely jam, jelly, or even a marmalade to bring that summer sunshine onto the table in the middle of winter. It is the berries from hedgerows, fruits from the orchard or farm, gathered seasonally and made into preserves for serving year-round. But why?

Preserves of jams and jellies are a quintessential part of an afternoon tea. A breakfast without marmalade on your toast is a sin. You can buy all of these in any supermarket, often quite cheaply. However, making your own is so much fun, and such a delight when you offer them to friends and family.

But what are the differences between them?

difference between jam, jelly, and marmalade

Illustration: © The Spruce, 2018

What Is Jam?

Jam is always made from the whole or cut fruits, cooked to a pulp with sugar, producing a thick, fruity, spread. Jam is slathered onto toast, fresh scones or used as a base for tarts such as a Bakewell.

Jam, when made correctly and potted into sterile jars, will keep for up to a year, as the quantity of sugar in the jam in the cooking helps in the preserving (keeping) qualities.

Fresh fig jam in jars and on a piece of toast

The Spruce Eats

What Is Jelly?

Jelly is made using only the juice of the fruit and sugar. It should be bright and sparkling when finished. It is a slightly more complicated method as the fruit, once cooked needs to be strained slowly overnight through a muslin cloth or jelly bag. This juice once collected, then is cooked with sugar to produce the lovely clear jelly. Any over handling or squeezing of the fruit pulp can make the jelly cloudy though it will still look good, isn't as pretty.

Jelly can be used the same way as jam on toast and scones, but not as a base in tarts; it melts very quickly. Another good use for jelly is to sweeten and gloss up a sauce or gravy. Redcurrant is the one most often used. Quince and Rowan's jelly make good partners for game and cheese.

bread with peanut butter, bread with jelly

The Spruce Eats / Eric Kleinberg

What Is Marmalade?

Marmalade is similar to jam but made only from bitter Seville oranges from Spain or Portugal. The name of Marmalade originates from the Portuguese Marmelos, which is a quince paste similar in texture to an orange spread. 

Marmalade is eaten most often for breakfast on toast and also used in some recipes like duck and sponge puddings.

Homemade Orange Marmalade, on toast

The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

What About Lemon Curd?

Lemon Curd, also known as Lemon Cheese, is made with lemons, eggs, and butter. It differs from jam or jelly as it contains less sugar and must be eaten within weeks of making so is not classed as a traditional preserve.

Instant Pot Lemon Curd in a bowl with a spoon

The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Making Jam, Jelly, and Marmalade

The making of jam, jelly, or marmalade is straightforward and does not require lots of equipment or time. 10 Tips to Jam, Jelly, and Marmalade will guide you through.

Please note: In the UK jam is what in the US is called jelly. Jelly in the UK is better known as jello in the States. Confusing, but true.

cutting out orange segments with a knife, into a glass bowl

The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack