What Is Marmalade?

A Guide to Buying, Cooking With, and Storing Marmalade

what is marmalade

The Spruce Eats / Lindsay Kreighbaum

Marmalade is a fruit preserve often made from citrus fruit like oranges. The modern definition of marmalade is a transparent fruit spread made by boiling citrus, water, and sugar together, including the peel. The preserve goes back to at least Ancient Rome when it was made using quince—similar to what we would now call quince paste.

The most famous version is made using bitter Seville oranges, but sweet oranges, grapefruit, kumquat, lemon, and lime are all used to make marmalade and are sometimes combined with other fruits and ingredients for a variety of flavors. Marmalade is especially popular in British countries but can be found in the U.S. and other areas of the world. It's often served with bread products like toast or scones, or can be used to top or fill cakes and other desserts.

Fast Facts

  • Common Types: Orange and bitter Seville orange
  • Grocery Aisle: Jams and jellies
  • Shelf Life: 1 year
  • Storage: Unopened in pantry, opened in fridge

Marmalade vs. Jam

Jam and marmalade are made in very similar ways and used in very similar applications. Jam is a mixture of mashed or puréed fruit and sugar, making a sweet, spreadable condiment. A variety of fruit can be used, from grape to blackberry to strawberry, but it is not typically made with citrus fruit. Marmalade is made using primarily citrus fruit and includes the peel, often chopped into small pieces. It often has a chunkier texture thanks to the peel and sets up nice and thick similar to a jelly.


Orange marmalade is by far the most common, but the fruit spread can be found in a variety of flavors. Bitter or Seville marmalade is traditional, but sweet orange marmalade made using Valencia, navel, or similar oranges is equally popular. Grapefruit and kumquat marmalade can also be found and lemon and lime are sometimes available as well. A mixture of citrus fruit is popular, as is the addition of a non-citrus fruit or other ingredients, such as rhubarb, lavender, and ginger.

While some preserves made without citrus fruit and their peel are labeled as marmalade, they are not what would be called traditional. They are more akin to fruit preserves or jam and use the term marmalade to set their product apart on the shelves.

How to Cook With Marmalade

Marmalade can easily be made it home with minimal special equipment. The citrus peel is removed and chopped to the desired size with the juice and flesh also incorporated. Sugar and water are added along with any other flavorings. The peel and membranes contain pectin which causes the marmalade to naturally set up when cooked to the correct temperature. Homemade marmalade can be canned and stored almost indefinitely or cooled and stored in the fridge to use fresh.

Marmalade is typically used as a sweet condiment for toast, biscuits, scones, croissants, and other baked goods. It can also be used as a sweet, fruity addition to cakes or in savory applications as a glaze for meats or vegetables.

What Does It Taste Like?

Cooking citrus fruit with sugar softens the tart acidity and the bitterness of the peel, creating a balance of sweet, tart, and bitter in the finished marmalade. The specific flavor will depend on the fruit used and the proportions of ingredients. Some marmalades are sweeter than others, while others are tarter. The texture is thick and smooth, similar to jelly.

Marmalade Substitute

When substituting marmalade as a topping for toast or scones, simply choose a flavorful preserve, jam, or jelly instead. They won't have the same citrus flavor, but they are similarly sweet, fruity, and easy to spread. When using marmalade to glaze a tart or a savory dish like ham or chicken, apricot preserves have a similar shine and relatively similar flavor.

Marmalade Recipes

Marmalade can be made at home or purchased in jars at the store. Making the spread at home is a great way to use up citrus fruit and enjoy their flavors all year long. Use marmalade to add a delicious glaze to chicken, pork, meatballs, or shrimp, or use it as part of layer cake or other pastries like orange rolls.

Where to Buy Marmalade

Orange marmalade is commonly found in supermarkets and grocery stores with other jams and jellies. You'll find a greater selection online and will sometimes find small-batch marmalade at farmers' markets and roadside stands. Marmalade is often sold in 12 to 16-ounce glass or plastic jars and can be found in larger bulk containers at some retailers. Look for marmalade that just contains three ingredients: fruit, sugar, and water.


Unopened, properly canned marmalade will last at least a year (and often two years) in a cool, dark, dry place. Opened marmalade should be kept in the fridge with the lid screwed tight and will last up to a year. If any mold is present on the marmalade or in the jar, discard immediately.

If you make homemade marmalade without hot water or pressure canning, the jars will keep for about six months in the fridge or can be frozen (leave an inch of space at the top) for up to six months.


Watch Now: Delicious Homemade Orange Marmalade Recipe