Know It All: What’s the Difference Between Jelly, Jam, Marmalade, Preserves, and Fruit Spread?

Regardless of what the label says, they all tend to look and taste the same. So why the five distinct categorizations?

Everybody has that moment when they realize they don’t know about something that they should probably know about. Whether it’s history, language, science, or cultural phenomena, you’ve felt the stinging personal embarrassment of a moment wherein you realize there’s some common knowledge that isn’t so common. Don’t feel bad; nobody knows everything. Nobody, that is, except me and my sidekick, The Internet!

Somewhere in the world, a confused soul begs the question…

What’s the Difference Between Jelly, Jam, Marmalade, Preserves, and Fruit Spread?

They all look the same, crammed into a glass jar. They all tend to taste the same when spread on toast or a bagel. But there must be a difference between them all, right? What sort of industry would bestow five different product categorizations for no good reason?

Thankfully, logic can relax – there is an explanation. The difference between these many fruity accoutrements lies in the form of the fruit contained.

In jelly, the fruit contained is in the form of juice. Thus, the only thing “strawberry” in strawberry jelly is strawberry juice. That’s why it’s more gelatinous and easier to spread – it’s just goo (juice and pectin, technically).

In jam, the fruit contained is in the form of pulp. So, your grape jam actually does have some thoroughly smashed-up pieces of grapes.

In preserves, the fruit contained is in the form of larger chunks. However, it should be pointed out that, in many places, the differences between preserves and jam are negligible and the terms are often used interchangeably.

The term “marmalade” is usually applied to citrus preserves (like oranges, lemons, limes, or grapefruits). If you’re wondering why they didn’t just call them “citrus preserves”, it’s because of the French.

Oh and “fruit spread”? That’s just a jam or preserve made without sugar.

Now you know.

Justin Brown is an artist and writer living in Virginia. He channels most of his enthusiasm into making things for his online art shop, Artness! by Justin Brown. You can keep up to date with him, his worldly adventures, and his dogs by following him on Instagram and on Facebook

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  • Rylos4

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
    I work part-time at a grocery store as a night-stocker and have been perplexed by this seemingly redundant and/or asinine delineation between the jarred stuffis. But alas there is an answer that makes sense to my Curious George mind and strife to know all. Thank you for the clarification!

  • Mayurparmar

    Thank you for the valuable information

  • Adam

    The difference between Jam and Marmalade is that you can’t “Marmalade” your cock up your girlfriend’s arse.

  • Paganini

    Good to know… then what is Nutela?

  • seasiren770

    Nutela is hazelnuts and sugar, I think. Thanks for the information. I love the internet!

    • Mintas Lanxor

      Plus milk chocolate.



  • whispernmyghost

    Seriously google things before claiming to know them. Marmalade comes from Portuguese since it was originally a Portuguese item made of quinces. Once oranges became available in Britain they were used since they were more expensive and had popularity at the time.


      Hi! I am not trying to sound snooty or snoby in ANY way, but just so you know. Not every thing on the internet is true! Sure it could have some real stuff like that Tony Bennit is a Family Forgetter ad does not care about his Aunt that just had a stroke!…. But never mind that!, but the truth is wikipedia is NOT ALWAYS the best place to go for the correct answers to iteams or questions! How i learned it in School, yes i know not EVERYTHING in school is correct either, but heres how i know some thing is a GOOD website to go to or a BAD websote to go to;

      (Thats all i can remember right now! But i will re comment if i remember the rest!)

      Thank you SO much for your time!!
      Sincerly,Leia Abigale Bailey

  • Drew

    thankyou. local store had smucker natural fruit spread on sale cheaper than the jelly and jam. I was nervous about buying it though. but if it is just sugarless jelly, it will be great. 🙂

  • itsmeyou

    sorry but the whole article is SO WRONG it hurts.
    Jams and Preserves are legally a similar product. What makes it a bad product is, that it HAS to be made from at least 50% sugar! Great no? Fruits spreads, have less added sugar. Has NOTHING whatsoever to do with the form of the fruit. I am really wondering how you make up all this crap…..

    • Ken Mascaro

      Well if you have to then just say no answer is valid unless a lawyer crafts the answer

  • lkdrjgha

    i looked at that etymology link for marmalade, and you say its because of the french, but the rest of the wikipedia article goes on to explain that it’s actually rooted from ancient greek… so its thanks to the greeks…

  • Mintas Lanxor

    I’ve always thought that “preserves” is a generic term for jams, marmelade, etc. since they once represented a way of preserving fruit for the winter months.

    It seems to me that these distinctions are very fluid and probably best understood by pastry chefs or manufacturers of such products. Also, let’s not forget regional differences in naming various food items. As for me, I’m gonna enjoy them while remaining blissfully ignorant about what exactly I’m eating.

    • Connie Thompson-Durant

      I say there IS a difference between preserves and fruit spread. I make these Linzer cookies and when I used fruit spread it “melted” and made a mess. The preserves held together.

  • Tru Freeman

    It’s in the Word. I make marmalade, and ages ago, when I was curious of the word – “Marmalade”, I referenced the Dictionary meaning/s. Mar -to corrupt or ruin; Mal -bad; Ade -action done; thing produced by action, process or material. Sickness is a process/cause. It ‘fits’ that Mar-mal-ade is for Corrupting a Bad action-process ?Sickness…in other words Healing the bad action process in the body ?sickness; warding off a sickness.
    Odd things like movie ref’s, and older-people in the 50’s -80’s, always seemed to eat marmalade- as opposed to the -jam. Nowdays/’modern’ times, Jam contains lots of sugar (sugar Counters/prevents the action of Viamin C) Citrus are Vit C. and Pectin is used to change the fructose or glucose in the fruit, causing it to ‘thicken’.
    To add ‘weight’ to this point of view – there are many modern “medicines” that have warnings /yellow labels, not to take be taken with any marmalade.
    I think it is fascinating how “medicine” takes over, ‘researches’ the essence of all healing nutricien, then discovering that ‘essence’, how to manufacture It synthetically. they then ban the original Natural substances in many cases eg. to name one- hemp/cannabis oil-
    Consequently 1. we get sicker and, 2. we know nothing about it; know nothing about vitamin C enormous healing (even for Cancer); know nothing about words; know nothing about times gone -the Real Nature’s Healing; know nothing about Plants.
    Apple skins and seeds have Pectin which were very likely used before sugar, and with lemons -make alkaline the body- (though ‘Today’ you couldn’t eat apple skins -too many poisons used). Many dots here for the para-noia picture to be seen. The Agenda is Quite clear.

    • Ken Mascaro

      The corrupting is not making it bad for eating, it is in the “smashing” up of a whole fruit into a smashed (corrupted, no longer whole) fruit. Concepts and context need to be applied when translating.

  • Yuri Lee


  • Rich

    I was really in a jam….but you have preserved my sanity. Now i’m going to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich….

  • Luciana

    NO! Fruit spread almost always contains extra sugar, or, sometimes, honey.

  • Tin B.

    They may all be fruit spreads, but they ARE all different. Jams are different from jellies… marmalades.. perserves, etc. And yes, marmalades are normally citrus, thus they are preserves, but marmalade distinguishes them as citrus preserves. So all the arguments below about accuracy are silly, of COURSE there are differences between jams and preserves, haven’t you ever eaten them?????? The only INCORRECT thing here is about the sugars. Fruit Spreads (when called a fruit spread ON THE LABEL) DOES have sugar unless it says it was made sugar free. The thing is there are supposed to be no added sugars. This is true, though, of a lot of jams, jellies and preserves. Many do not have added sugars. Smuckers Orange Marmalade has no added sugar, for instance. Fruit spreads are CHEAP. They are cheaper to make, and here is why:

    WALMART is pushing GV brand Fruit Spreads big time. At eye level, you will now suddenly find nothing but fruit spreads in my city. For preserves, jams, marmalades, jellies you must now reach or squat to pick them out. Meantime, this idea presented above that there are no sugars in fruit spreads is false. There are sugars. The question is whether there are ADDED sugars, and the difference between amounts of sugars. There are no added sugars in Smuckers Orange Marmalade Fruit Spread. The sugars in a 17.25oz jar = 10. However, Smuckers regular Orange Marmalade, with that ooey gooey drippy yummy stuff that fruit spread does NOT have, is only 12 sugars – with no added sugars, in same size jar. Thus, it is only TWO sugars being reduced per serving. This may be a lot for some people, for total daily count. For most, it is exceptionally negligible. Also, the price difference is NIL. For example, the GV (walmart) brand of Red Raspberry Fruit Spread (less flavor and less yummy) is the same price as GV brand Red Raspberry Preserves. Because Walmart is pushing their Great Value brand of fruit spreads even to the point of putting them all at eye level over a 2 shelf area, making you hunt for other forms of jams, preserves, etc., tells me there must be something CHEAPER about making fruit spreads. This may be why there is so much less flavor in Orange Marmalade fruit spread over regular Orange Marmalade, even Smuckers brand. Just food for thought.

  • Logjam2650

    Jam-like spread is fruit spread without added sugar. Once opened, a jar of jam-like spread must be refrigerated due to the lack of preservative sugar.

  • Eric Kennedy

    Fruit Spread is not necessarily made without sugar. It can be made with either Sugar or Fruit Juice. The difference between Fruit Spread and all the other is Fruit Spread contains less than 12 grams of sugar per tablespoon. See this link for more info!