What’s the Difference Between Jam, Jelly, and Fruit Butter?

When it comes to preserves, what’s the difference between jam, jelly, and fruit butter?

In this post, we’ll define five contrasts among these three spreads and why one might suit your taste better than the other.

1. Texture

If you’re picky about textures, then you’ve probably noticed that not all fruit spreads are created equal.

If you like thinner preserves, you’ll go for a jar of jelly. A jar of jam is a thicker alternative if you don’t mind pulp or seeds.

Both jams and jellies use pectin as a thickener, but jam incorporates whole fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.

This makes jam naturally thicker than jelly—even with a thickener added.

Fruit butter still comes out on top with its apple-sauce-like consistency.

When measuring by textures, jellies are the thinnest, jams are in the middle, and fruit butters are the thickest.

2. Ingredients

Texture isn’t the only variation amongst our preserves.

We use four simple ingredients that make all the difference—fruit, water, sugar, and a thickener (like pectin).

Here’s a closer look at how ingredients vary during our cooking process.

Fruit and Water

The first and most important ingredient in any fruit spread is—fruit.

For in-house jams, we start with locally grown or internationally sourced fruit. Our jellies come from fruit concentrates.

Our fruit butter is outsourced, but our producers use whole fruits for the apple, pumpkin, strawberry, peach, and blueberry butters.

As a point of reference, our jellies contain one part concentrate to two parts water (1:2).

Jams are the opposite, using two parts fruit to one part water (2:1).

Butters contain the most fruit, and our recipes include little to no water.

Cane Sugar

Another important ingredient that affects the texture and flavor of jam, jelly, and fruit butter is cane sugar.

Like fruit, there are different amounts of cane sugar in each recipe.

Although jelly contains less fruit than jam, both our jam and jelly recipes call for the same amount of sugar.

Fruit butter, on the other hand, uses whole fruits and gets its sweetness from the fruit’s natural sugar.

Aside from natural sugar, fruit butter contains the least amount of sugar.


Fruit, sugar, and water aren’t the only ingredients making a difference in our fruit spreads.

All our jams and jellies use pectin as a thickener.

But Peach Butter is the only fruit butter calling for pectin.

Our Blueberry and Strawberry Butters include cornstarch, while the natural pectin in apples and pumpkins acts as a thickener for these two butters.

Each spread’s consistency results from a combination of ingredients—and the cooking process—which we’ll look at next.

3. Cooking and Processing

Making jams, jellies, and fruit butters doesn’t mean just combining different amounts of the same ingredients.

How you cook and process ingredients also makes a difference.

Both jam and jelly recipes involve mixing together the ingredients, bringing them to a boil, then removing them from the heat.

Jellies contain 2 parts water to 1 part fruit juice, cane sugar, and pectin. Jams combine 1 part water with 2 parts fruit, cane sugar, and pectin.

Our fruit butters use different ingredients and cooking times to achieve their consistency.

First, the whole fruit—apple, peach, pumpkin, etc.—is cooked down. Then, the seeds and skin are strained out of the fruit butter.

Later, additional ingredients like thickeners and water are added (if necessary). Some of our fruit butters don’t include water, pectin, or cornstarch.

In a nutshell, fruit butters include whole fruits and are cooked much longer than jams and jellies.

Additionally, our fruit butters are outsourced and made in larger batches while our jams and jellies are made in 12-quart kettles in-house.

We use smaller batches to retain the best flavor for our jams and jellies.

Our producers make fruit butters in larger batches, providing efficiency while still retaining quality.

4. Color

You might think that using the same fruit in three different recipes wouldn’t affect the color.

But typically, jellies are lighter, jams are slightly darker, and fruit butters turn out the darkest—with brownish tones.

Some fruits, like strawberries and blueberries, hold their colors amongst jam, jelly, and fruit butters.

On the other hand, strawberries, raspberries, apples, and other pale fruits follow the light-to-dark scale—jelly, jam, fruit butter.

Blackberries, elderberries, and so on will produce darker preserves across the board.

Nonetheless, if you’re not particular about color, each spread works wonderfully in cooking or baking.

5. Flavor

If you’d like to add the sweet flavor of preserves to your recipes, you’ve come to the right place.

Our jams, jellies, and fruit butters all serve as wonderful complements to your kitchen.

But does jam taste different than fruit butter? And what about jelly? Can you use all three interchangeably?

The short answer is yes! While these three preserves have slightly different flavors, the results in baking and cooking are almost the same.

For starters, we’ve found that jam packs the most flavor since it has more fruit than jelly and more sugar than fruit butter.

Jelly is next in line with its combination of fruit concentrate and sugar.

This might surprise you, but we rate fruit butter as having the least amount of flavor since the added cornstarch alters the fruity taste.

However, we do use all three interchangeably. If you want more texture and tang, go with jam in baked goods.

If you’re partial to seedless preserves, jelly or fruit butter is the way to go.

For those who like quick snacks, add spreads to toast, on top of cottage cheese, or over cream cheese for a charcuterie board. 

Whatever you choose, we guarantee that our preserves will add the flavor and quality Grandma’s Jam House became famous for.

Taste the Difference

Jam, jelly, and fruit butter come in different colors, textures, and flavors. And now you know why.

If you’re ready to whip up a recipe—or need a new spread for your toast—then you should try a jar of jam, jelly, or fruit butter from Grandma’s Jam House.

Try some of our most popular preserves like apple butter, strawberry jam, or elderberry jelly. Or branch out and try a new flavor.

Order online or find a retailer near you and taste the Grandma’s-Jam-House difference in three different ways!