Differentiating Preserves, Jelly, and Jam

Differentiating Preserves, Jelly, and Jam

You've undoubtedly encountered preserves, jellies, and jams in supermarkets, farmer's markets, specialty shops, and even at Ben's Sugar Shack, but do you know what differentiates the three? Few do; often the lines between the three are blurred, making distinguishing one from another even more difficult. Today, we'll help to spread some knowledge on this sticky subject.

Is It Preserves? Jam? Jelly?

When you're looking to buy any of these three toppings, you should first recognize that the manufacturer and product itself is often far more important for the overall flavor than the specific type of jellification used. Basically, you should judge the quality of an unbought preserve by the brand and manufacturer more than the type of preserve that it is. Still, knowing the difference does help, so here are some ways to tell the tree apart:


The most confusing and difficult to identify of the three is where we'll begin: Preserves. This catch-all term can mean a jam, a jelly, or its actual namesake, all depending on the manufacturer. Basically, this term is widely used to describe all of the three, or two, but especially applies to jams or jellies that are made with thick chunks of fruit, rather than a more jellied or spreadable mixture.


The term “jam” is used to specifically describe a fruit preserve that is made from mashed fruit, added sugar or sweetener, and pectin for jellification. While the actual ingredients of a jam are nearly limitless, this typically constitutes the basic three ingredients. Typically, preserves and jam are one and the same, but the term “jam” is often reserved for less-chunky preserves.


While jam and preserves are especially close in nature, the term “jelly” is almost always reserved for juice-based spreads. Basically, a jelly can be preserves if it is chunky, but is almost never confused with a jam, as they are more fruit-based, rather than juice-based. Jelly is an extremely popular option in households around the world, largely for how easy it is to spread and how long a jar can last before and after being opened.

Smearing the Three Together

Ultimately, you can't ever really trust if a jelly is actually a jam, a jam is really a jelly, or either of the two are simply a preserve (or not), because of how incredibly similar the three are. Ultimately, as mentioned above, the most important aspects of any fruit-based jellied spread is that you like the ingredients, trust the manufacturer, and can find a tasty way to eat it. If you have these three things, then who cares what the jar says?

Shop Our Preserves (Jams and Jellies, Too)

At Ben's Sugar Shack, we specialize in more than just tasty New Hampshire maple syrup - we also have dozens of seasonal preserves! Whether you're into a hot pepper preserve or a sweet and sour strawberry and rhubarb jelly, we have plenty of awesome options to pick through!

Check out our selection of jams, jellies, and preserves available online today!

Back to blog