If you enjoy making homemade jams and jellies, you may want to know how and when to use gelatin instead of pectin. So, is gelatin a good substitute for pectin?
Yes, gelatin is a viable substitute for pectin. You can use gelatin instead of pectin for many recipes as long as you are mindful of gelatin’s limitations and texture. Food items made with gelatin must be refrigerated to set and maintain the desired consistency.
How Does Pectin Work?
Pectin comes in liquid or powdered form, and it’s soluble in cold water. Pectin needs other ingredients to gel. Usually, those ingredients are sugar or calcium.
Types of Pectin
You can substitute gelatin with different types of pectin for multiple uses. There are four common pectin types.
High Methoxyl Pectin
This one is the most common type of pectin. It’s labeled as either “rapid-set” or “slow-set.” Both types are come from citrus fruit peels and are almost the same, with the main difference being how much time and temperature they take to set.
Rapid-set pectin takes less time and a higher temperature to set, while slow-set pectin takes more time and a lower temperature. Rapid-set pectin is perfect for preserves and jams. Slow-set pectin is better for recipes with no suspension, like a smooth jelly.
HM pectin needs very specific acid levels and sugar to firm up. That’s why it’s good for fruit preserves, jams, and jellies.
This type of pectin also comes from citrus peels. Use LM pectin for low-calorie jellies and jams since it relies on calcium instead of sugar to solidify. It’s perfect for dairy-based recipes that don’t need sugar.
LM pectin gets firmer as calcium is added until it reaches saturation. At that time, the process reverses, and pectin becomes less firm.
This type of pectin comes from apples, and it’s sold as a powder. You can use it as a gelling and thickening agent and a food stabilizer. It is also common in medicine, as supplements, chews, or an additive to laxatives for its purgative qualities.
Apple pectin has healthy carbohydrates, sodium, dietary fiber, manganese, copper, and zinc.
Pectin NH is an apple-based pectin usually used for fruit glazes and fruit fillings. It’s a type of modified LM pectin. Pectin NH needs calcium to gel, like any other type of LM pectin, but it needs less. It’s also thermally reversible, which means that it can be melted, set, remelted, and then reset again.
Main Differences Between Pectin and Gelatin
Pectin and gelatin differ when it comes to their sources. Pectin comes from fruits and is the best vegan gelatin alternative. The fruits used to make pectin include apples and oranges. Gelatin is a meat-based product from processed ligaments, cartilage, and bones. While pectin is suitable for use in vegan dishes, gelatin is not.
Another big difference is related to function. Pectin sets at a high temperature, while gelatin needs a low temperature to set. This means that you’d have to keep gelatin refrigerated if you want it to remain solid. Pectin remains solid at room temperature. The flavor is another important element. Gelatin is flavorless, but pectin can be bitter.
Pectin requires sugar and acid to set properly, and the sugar helps hide its bitterness. The more pectin you use in any recipe, the more sugar you must add. Gelatin doesn’t require the addition of sugar.
It will have a soft and jelly-like consistency; pectin will be denser, gummy, and moist.
Other Substitutes for Pectin
If you don’t have gelatin on hand or can’t find some in a market, there are many options for pectin substitutes:
The white part or pith of citrus peels is naturally packed with pectin. If you’re making a jam, the citrus will add the boost of pectin without the extra sugar.
This is a natural thickener that works as a great substitute for pectin.
Finally, you can make jams the old-fashioned way: by adding a lot of sugar and cooking them for hours. But cooking for hours will reduce the number of natural nutrients. Plus, you’ll end up eating a lot of added sugar.
To make jam using gelatin or pectin, you must switch the timing on when the thickener is added. While you add pectin before the fruit’s cooked, gelatin must be added afterward.
Pectin is often the best thickener to use when available. And gelatin is the next best substitute for pectin.
Using Gelatin as a Thickener Instead of Pectin
Gelatin is a protein that can thicken liquids. If you roast meat, check the juices at the bottom of the pan. The slightly thick and sticky juices in the pan make delicious sauces due to collagen, the main ingredient used to make gelatin.
When those juices cool, they form a thick gel. It’s the same with powdered gelatin you buy at any grocery store. Powdered gelatin turns into a thickened liquid once you dissolve it in water and heat it.
When that liquid is allowed to cool, it becomes a soft gel. You can use gelatin instead of pectin to thicken gravies, jams, sauces, and many other foods. Using gelatin, you can also make ice cream, cake frostings, marshmallows, and gummy candies.
Here’s one of our favorite recipes for fruits jams:
Note: This recipe uses gelatin in place of pectin.
- 5 cups Strawberries (washed, trimmed, and chopped)
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
- 3 teaspoons Unflavored Gelatin
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- Place sugar, strawberries, and lemon juice in a pot, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Reduce heat, and cook mixture over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently and skimming off any foam.
- Add vanilla and grab a potato masher to mash the fruits to the desired consistency.
- Remove from heat and add powdered gelatin, stirring until completely dissolved.
- Pour into prepared jars, affix lids, and set on a towel to cool. Please make sure you use high-quality jars.
- Once the fruit jam has cooled completely, place it in the refrigerator.
This jam will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Pectin Vegan?
Yes, pectin is a vegan-friendly alternative for gelatin and vice-versa. It’s sourced from real fruit and has no animal by-products. All pectin forms, including dry pectin, liquid pectin, and mass-produced commercial pectin, are sourced entirely from plants.
When should I use pectin, and when should I use gelatin?
Use pectin when making fruit jams to get a distinctive jam-like consistency. You can also use pectin in other desserts, sweet sauces, and candies. In all of these uses, you want jam-like consistency without refrigeration, and that’s what pectin provides. Use gelatin in sweet or savory jellies that will be served cold. It is also helpful when making marshmallows or adding more body to sour cream, yogurt, and other dairy products.