What’s the Difference Between Jams, Jellies, Preserves & Butters (EXPLAINED)

Disclosure: As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.

What's the Difference Between Jams, Jellies, Preserves & Butters

Wondering what the difference is between Jams, Jellies, Preserves, and Butters? You’re in the right place.

First, let’s define what each one is, and then we’ll tell you what you can expect when you try them: 



Jams are a fruit spread made by either cutting or crushing whole fruits, mixing them with sugar and water,  and then cooking them down to their “setting” or “jelling” point. Extra pectin can be added to shorten the cooking time if desired. The resulting spreads can be very chunky but also very nutritious.  



Jelly is a fruit spread made from fruit juices or syrups, sugar, and fruit pectin or gelatin. Because jellies contain no fruit pieces or particles, they are very smooth compared to other spreads.

Fruit Spreads:

Fruit spreads are any form of concentrated fruit juices or cooked fruits combined with sugar and pectin or gelation. Jam, jelly, marmalade, fruit preserves, fruit butter, are all types of fruit spreads.


fruit butter

Fruit butter is traditionally made by cooking fruits with water, juice, or cider until they become soft enough to press through a sieve. They are then further reduced to a thick paste-like consistency. Many times herbs and spices are added to butter to enhance the fruit’s flavor. Apple cinnamon is considered a classic. Today, many chefs and most manufacturers prefer to puree the cooked fruit as it is much less labor-intensive.

What’s the Difference Between Jams and Butters?

Fruit butter and jams both use the whole fruit, but that is where the similarities end.

  • In jam, fruits are sliced or crushed but left in sizable pieces. To make butters, the fruits are either pureed or mashed through a fine sieve.
  • Butters usually contain little to no added sugar. They use concentrated fruit juices or ciders for added sweetness. Jams can have large amounts of added sugar.
  • Jams are cooked down until they nearly gell at room temperatures. Butters have a consistency closer to a thick apple sauce.
  • Butters are grainy but relatively smooth and easy to spread. Jams are chunky.

What’s the Difference Between Jams and Jellies?

The major difference between jams and jellies is that you make jams from crushed whole fruits and jellies from fruit juices and syrups. This leads to their other differences.

  • Because they contain whole fruits, jams are more nutritious than jellies.
  • Jelly is much smoother and easy to spread evenly than jams with its chunks of fruit.
  • Jam tends to have a more robust, natural fruit flavor, while jelly tends to be sweeter due to having more added sugar.

What’s the Difference Between Marmalade and Preserves?


People generally think of preserves as coming from sweet fruits and berries. The name “Marmalade,” on the other hand, is usually reserved for preserved citrus fruits. The most classic form of marmalade is the English favorite made from bitter oranges. However, bergamots, grapefruits, lemons, limes, mandarins, sweet oranges, and many other citrus fruits make excellent marmalade.

Which is Better: Jelly, Jam, or Preserves?

fruit preserves

Which is better, jelly, jam, or preserves, is a matter of personal taste and how you intend to use them. Preserves and jams coming from whole fruit are healthier than jelly, with the preserves having a slight edge due to their reduced sugar content.

If you use any of these fruit spreads for baking, then jelly is the easiest to work with. Lacking the large pieces of fruit that jams and preserves contain, jelly is much easier to pipe and spreads the smoothest.

If you want natural fruit flavor, the preserves should probably top your list. They contain no added pectin or gelatine and fewer sweeteners. Jams would follow closely, and jellies last. Of course, this can vary greatly depending on the exact recipes used.

For sweetness, jellies are king. They usually have the highest concentration of sugars, followed closely by jams and then preserves.

Can Preserves Be Substituted for Jam?


Yes, in many cases, you can use preserves as a substitute for jam. The major difference between jams and preserves is that preserves contain larger chunks of fruit, and in some cases, whole fruits and jams crushed fruits. Jams also tend to be thicker but are more spreadable.

As long as you keep these factors in mind, you can use them interchangeably.