From its conception around the early 1900s, Jell-O is perhaps the most popular gelatin brand in food history. It’s so popular that today the brand name has become the generic name (evolving to “jello”) for all gelatin desserts.
But whether it’s the brand or the generic jellies, do you know what goes into these sweet, jiggly desserts? Is jello vegan? What animal products could be in it? Well before you open another pack, you have to read this first!
Also, find out about the many ways how we vegans can enjoy jello. Yes, there are many ways!
What Is Jell-O Made Out Of?
You probably already know that jellos or jellies are primarily made of gelatin. Aside from that, jellos also contain sweeteners and flavors (usually from fruits), and oftentimes, food colors.
The brand Jell-O specifically contains the following base ingredients:
- Food color
- Artificial flavors
Depending on the variety and flavor, there will be more ingredients such as:
- Adipic acid
- Disodium phosphate
- Trisodium citrate
- Fumaric acid
- Mono- and diglycerides
Now let’s go back to the primary ingredient. Do you know what gelatin really is?
If you love soft candies, especially gummies, you’ll notice how often gelatin appears on the list of ingredients. This is because gelatin can give food a jelly-like texture, depending on the amount you use. Now, how is gelatin made?
Believe it or not, gelatin is made from animal bones and tissues! That includes skin, tendons, and cartilages too! Usually coming from pigs and cows (scraps and leftovers from meat industries, actually!), these parts undergo a long boiling process.
Boiling these scraps in water helps to release all the collagen in it, which is gooey and sticky in texture. This resulting substance undergoes filtering and several commercial processing methods to turn it into gelatin. This can be in the form of sheets or fine powder, and actually has many uses beyond the food industry.
You know what that means now… gelatin and the brand Jell-O is NOT vegan!
But of course, it doesn’t end there for us vegans! As a gelling agent, gelatin is an extremely popular ingredient not only in food but also in cosmetics and even in pharmaceutical products. So it’s not a surprise that gelatin substitutes have been made already. In fact, a lot of them are (you can stop holding your breath now!)… vegan!
Now, what are these substitutes that can give us the vegan jello we need?
What Is Vegan Jello Made Of?
Well, thank heavens for seaweeds! Okay, maybe we should thank the oceans. But hey, the plant world is so vast that seaweeds don’t have to take all the weight! If you love gelatin, take note of these substitutes that vegan jellos are made of!
Vegan Substitutes For Gelatin
The most common gelatin substitutes you’ll see today come from seaweed. Have you heard of agar-agar or kanten and carrageenan? You’ve probably seen them already in food and supplement labels.
Both carrageenan and agar-agar, including other alginates are gelling agents that come from different varieties of seaweed. In most parts of Asia, seaweeds are more common than gelatin when it comes to making jellies.
However, between the two, agar-agar seems to be the more popular option. This is because there are individuals who have carrageenan sensitivities or intolerance.
Pros: Tasteless, which makes it versatile; high in fiber and can aid in weight loss; higher gelling property than gelatin; contains vitamins and minerals.
Cons: Requires a higher temperature to dissolve; some individuals cannot tolerate carrageenan.
This polysaccharide is what makes fruit jams and marmalades naturally jelly-like! Pectin is found in fruits like berries, apples, and oranges. It’s a great gelatin substitute but requires the right amount of sugar and acid to gel properly. It is also denser and firmer than gelatin once it sets.
Pros: Does not require refrigeration to set; does not easily melt in heat once set; rich in fiber.
Cons: Requires an acidic vehicle (like lemon juice) and more sugar; not suitable with recipes that cannot have sugar in it.
3. Konjac/Glucomannan (konnyaku)
Although popular in some Asian regions, not many people have heard of the konjac plant. Similar to yams, konjac is better known as a medicinal plant. It is rich in soluble fiber, which gives it a high absorption capacity.
Pros: Requires a smaller amount (in powder) to create jellies; highly nutritious; can promote weight loss and lower bad cholesterol.
Cons: Requires careful preparation as it can be a choking hazard if it lodges on the esophagus as it picks up fluids around it.
4. Arrowroot (kudzu/kuzu)
A lesser known alternative, arrowroot is similar to cassava and konjac. It’s also a versatile powder that you can use in baking and cooking. Just like konjac, arrowroot is rich in fiber too, and has beneficial vitamins and minerals as well.
Pros: Versatile and has a neutral flavor; nutritious; can help with weight loss.
Cons: Works better in acidic liquid.
5. Vegetable gums
Another popular alternative for commercial gelatin is vegetable gum. There are many vegetable gums that can be a great substitute for gelatin like guar, xanthan, and carob.
Pros: Yields a consistency similar to that of a gelatin; can set at room temperature.
Cons: More difficult to find; requires more amount, may not work well in recipes with highly acidic ingredients.
These vegan substitutes are as versatile as gelatin. You can use them as a thickener, emulsifier, and stabilizer. Each substitute also works differently depending on the amount and form you are using. For example, agar-agar flakes have a higher gelling property than the powder version.
1. Does Jell-O have pork in it?
The brand Jell-O uses gelatin as its primary ingredient in its jelly desserts. Although the brand does not specify it, gelatin can come from pigs or cows, or a mixture of its scraps. Gelatin can come from the scraps of all types of animal meat so yes, there’s a big chance that it contains pork as well.
2. Is Jell-O plant-based?
No. The brand Jell-O isn’t plant-based at all since it contains gelatin in majority of its products.
3. Is Jell-O pudding vegan?
Jell-O’s pudding mixes come in many flavors. While the base do not contain gelatin, they contain mono- and diglycerides. This may come from either animal fatty acids or vegetable oils, but the label does not indicate this.
Their pudding mixes also use food dyes that go through animal testing such as Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6.
4. Is Jell-O (instant) pudding mix vegan?
See the answer on question number 3.
5. Is Jell-O chocolate pudding vegan?
No. All of Jell-Os pudding mix flavors contain animal-tested food dyes, even the chocolate flavor.
6. Is sugar-free Jell-O vegan?
Jell-O offers sugar-free flavors in both their gelatin and pudding line, but none of them are vegan. All their gelatin mixes contain animal gelatin while their pudding mixes contain food dyes that go through extensive animal testing.
Where To Buy Vegan Jello
Now that you’ll have to cross out the Jell-O brand from your list, where can you find vegan alternatives? Here are some of the best places to find them:
- Natural food shops – more and more health food stores are opening across the country. Although they’re of course not all-vegan, natural food stores offer more vegan-friendly food products than a standard grocery.
- Vegan stores – check convenient online vegan stores here. Most of them are online stores only but there are some with physical stores that may be near you. Also, a lot of the online stores deliver anywhere in the U.S.!
- Major retail shopping sites – leading shopping sites like Amazon and Walmart has made online vegan shopping easier through their vegan filter in their food section. Make sure to use this!
Vegan Jelly Brands
If you can only shop in groceries near you, there’s no need to worry! Here are some of the vegan brands you can look for when you fancy some jiggly jellies.
You can also get any of these vegan gelling agents (as pure as possible, no additives!):
- Agar-agar or carrageenan powder or flakes
- Arrowroot powder
- Konjac flour
- Pectin powder
- Any vegetable gum powder
Just remember that these alternatives require different preparation methods. So always check the instructions, but also feel free to adjust the amount until you get the consistency you want.
DIY Vegan Jello Recipes
Are you ready to make your own vegan jellies at home? Here are some easy recipe ideas using different vegan alternatives! Feel free to have your way with the fruit flavors (and even the sweeteners!)
From Loving It Vegan
- 1 ½ tsp agar-agar flakes OR ¾ tsp agar-agar powder
- 1 cup (240ml) water
- ¼ cup (50g) white sugar (or your choice of sweetener)
For flavor, any of the following:
- 1 cup (240ml) red grape juice or strawberry juice
- 1 cup (240ml) green apple juice
Note: Use 100% fruit juice as much as possible. You can also use any juice flavor.
- A few drops of food color according to your chosen fruit flavor (adjust amount to your preference)
- Combine agar flakes/powder with the fruit juice and sugar on a pot and heat it. Stir the mixture until it boils. Continue boiling for 2 minutes then remove from heat.
- If you’re using food color, stir the mixture in it after boiling.
- Pour mixture into bowls or molds, then refrigerate.
From Little Green Dot
- Fruits of your choice, chopped into small pieces
- 10g konjac powder
- 150g castor sugar (or your choice of sweetener)
- 950ml water
- ⅛ tsp citric acid
- Place a few bits of the fruits at the bottom of the molds. You can also add a few pieces of edible flowers for decoration.
- Combine the konjac powder and sugar. Pour the water in a pot and gradually add the powder mixture. Stir until it boils, then remove from heat.
- Continue stirring for 5 more minutes or until the fine bubbles disappear.
- Add the citric acid and stir thoroughly.
- Carefully pour the mixture into the molds with fruits. You can pour ⅓ of the mold at a time until it’s full. This will help to distribute the fruit bits evenly in the mold.
- Chill the molds in the fridge. After 3 hours, you can remove the jellies from their molds.
From Green Cuisine
- 2 tsp arrowroot powder
- 1 tsp cold water
- 9 fl oz water
- 2 tbsp castor sugar (or your choice of sweetener)
- pieces of fruit, cut into small bits
Any of the following for flavor:
- 1 tsp lime juice
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
- 1 tsp rosewater
- 1 tsp orange flower water
- 2 drops of any food color that matches your choice of fruit flavor
- Add a tablespoon of cold water to the arrowroot powder and mix thoroughly then set aside. In a saucepan, pour the 9 fl oz of water and bring to a boil.
- Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves completely. Place on low heat until the mixture simmers.
- Take the arrowroot and water mixture and stir it again before you add it to the simmering water and sugar mixture. Stir until it becomes thick and clear.
- Now you can add your choice of flavor and color. Put the fruits on the mold first before you pour the jelly mixture in it. Chill in the fridge to set.
The brand Jell-O uses gelatin in its base ingredients and is therefore NOT vegan. As for their pudding mixes, they all contain food dyes that are known for animal testing. Yikes!
The good news is vegan alternatives aren’t just plenty, they’re also easy to find and make! Now go ahead and make your own jello, the vegan way!
Which vegan gelatin substitutes have you tried so far and how was it? Let me know in the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article on your favorite social media platform.