Is Jelly Vegan? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

People who are following a vegan diet have to spend a lot of their time inspecting ingredients lists and checking whether they can eat certain things. It can be a challenge at times, but it’s important to know what’s suitable for you, especially when it comes to common foods like jelly.

Jelly can be confusing, partly because this term is often used to refer to different products. If you want to know about the kind of jelly you can spread on toast or sandwiches with peanut butter, it is probably vegan. The wobbly dessert, otherwise known as Jell-O, often isn’t vegan. Jelly candies frequently are not vegan.

Is Jelly Suitable For Vegans?

jelly

Frustratingly, quite a few products can be referred to as jelly, so it’s important to first establish which one you’re looking at. Jelly is commonly used in America to refer to the fruit-based spread that is often paired with peanut butter and spread on sandwiches.

However, jelly can also refer to:

  • Jam
  • Jell-o
  • Jelly candies

We’ll mostly focus on the product that is meant for spreading, but we will briefly touch on the others in this article too. Let’s start with the spreadable version. On the whole, this kind of jelly is vegan. It is made by boiling fruit juices until they become thick and then adding pectin and sugar to help it set.

This makes for a vegan-friendly product that you can enjoy on bread or toast, and it offers some beneficial vitamins too. Let’s explore this in more detail, and then look at the other products.

Why Is Jelly Vegan?

Jelly is vegan because it is generally only made using 3 ingredients – sugar, pectin, and fruit juices. Sugar is something you need to watch out for, though. If the jelly uses cane sugar, there is a chance that this will have been processed using bone char from cattle bones. If so, it is technically considered unsuitable for vegans.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to tell whether sugar has been processed with bone char unless the packaging tells you. More and more manufacturers are starting to offer this information, but even so, there is a high risk that you might consume non-vegan sugar when you eat jelly.

The best solution to this is to get in touch with the manufacturer and check where they source their sugar from. Some cane sugars are not processed using bone char, and these should be fine for vegans to eat. If the ingredients list says that beet sugar has been used, this is definitely safe for you to eat, as beet sugar isn’t processed with bone char.

In terms of the other ingredients, fruit is vegan, and pectin is produced from fruits and vegetables. It is a naturally occurring starch that helps the jelly to set, and it is suitable for vegans to eat. You don’t need to worry about consuming pectin.

Is Jam Vegan?

jam

First, let’s briefly cover what jam is. Jam is very similar to jelly, in that it’s a spreadable fruit product that is intended to be eaten on bread or toast. However, it is a chunkier product, because the fruit has not been strained out of it before the jam is made.

Jelly is made using only fruit juice, while jam is made using whole or chopped fruits, and it, therefore, contains seeds, pulp, etc. Jam is a lumpier product that some people prefer, and it may be healthier because it contains fiber.

Jam is generally safe for vegans to eat too. Again, there may be some concerns about the sugar content, but on the whole, jam is vegan. However, with both jam and jelly, there are a couple of unusual additions that you should check for before you buy the product, as manufacturers sometimes change the basic recipe.

What Do I Need To Look Out For In Jam Or Jelly?

There are two non-vegan products that sometimes get added to both jam and jelly, which you should be wary of. These are gelatin and some sweeteners. Gelatin is created from the hooves of cows or pigs, and is frequently used in candies to give them a wobbly, satisfying texture. It may be added to jelly or jam for the same reason.

If you see gelatin in the ingredients list, you cannot eat the jelly or jam. This is a rare addition because most jellies and jams can be set perfectly well without any other ingredients, but it is something you should look out for. If a manufacturer has used it, the jelly is not suitable for vegans. Jams are slightly more likely to contain gelatin, but you should check jellies too.

You should also check out the sweeteners list. If the sugar doesn’t give any indication of how it was made, you might need to get in touch with the manufacturer to ask whether it is sourced from places that use bone char. Alternatively, if the manufacturer has added anything like honey, you should avoid that jelly or jam.

It is fairly rare to see honey in the ingredients list for these products, but it may sometimes appear. Keep an eye out for it, and avoid any brands that use it. 

What About The Other Ingredients?

Sometimes, you’ll see a long ingredients list on a jar of jelly or jam, and that might make you pause. Here are a few of the ingredients you might see on such lists, and these are all considered okay for vegans to eat:

  • Citric acid: this is made from lemon juice (or sometimes created synthetically) and is vegan-friendly.
  • Sodium citrate: this is a salt produced from citric acid and it is fine to eat.
  • Corn syrup: a commonly used sweetener, this is not unsafe for vegans.
  • Maple syrup: occasionally used as sweetener, and safe for vegans.
  • Molasses: this has a rich, treacle flavor, and it tends to be made from beet or cane sugar.

These should all be fine for vegans to consume, so don’t worry when these appear on the list!

Can You Make Vegan Jelly Or Jam At Home?

If you want to have full control over the foods that you eat and you don’t like the idea of consuming cane sugar, you might be wondering whether you can make your own jelly or jam so that you can ensure it is vegan friendly. The answer is yes, you certainly can, and many people do.

For this, you just need fruit, sugar, and pectin, although some recipes will call for additional ingredients. The fruit juice needs to be extracted (for jelly) and then cooked with the sugar and pectin, and allowed to cool and set.

Can Vegans Eat Jell-O?

Moving on to the other product that is sometimes called jelly (more often in Britain than in America), you might be wondering whether you can also eat this. Unfortunately, the answer is almost always a firm “no.”

Jell-o gets its texture from gelatin, which we mentioned above. This product is made from the hooves of animals, and therefore it is decidedly not vegan. Unfortunately, many products contain it because it has a unique and strange texture.

It is the thing that makes Jell-O wobbly and satisfying, and without it, it’s difficult to replicate that texture. Vegan manufacturers are getting better, so it’s worth looking out for vegan Jell-O options, but on the whole, you cannot eat this product if you are a vegan.

It may also contain colorings (such as Red 40) that are not safe for vegans, as well as sugar, which can be problematic. However, given the inclusion of gelatin, there is no point in focusing on these ingredients.

Can Vegans Eat Jelly Candies?

Next, you may be wondering if jelly candies are an option. Unfortunately, here you will need to check the ingredients list, because there are so many different kinds of candies out there, and you need to sort through them individually. Overall, however, not many of them are vegan, and you are best avoiding them.

They may contain various ingredients that make them unsuitable for vegans to consume, but the most common is again the gelatin that is used to give them that distinctive, gel-like texture. Without this, most jelly candies wouldn’t exist. Things like gummy bears, fried eggs, and gummy rings are not suitable for vegans.

However, there are now a few manufacturers who make vegan gummy candies, and these are becoming increasingly available. If you want to eat gummy candies, it is best to choose ones that are certified as vegan, because this will make it much easier to determine whether you can eat them or not, without having to read lengthy ingredients lists.

Conclusion

There is no quick answer to whether jelly is vegan because this depends on what product you mean, but in general, jellies that are designed to be eaten with peanut butter should not contain animal-based products. It is still worth checking the ingredients list to make sure, so you don’t risk eating something you want to avoid.