Jam, Jelly, Marmalade & More: Defining Preserves 

Do you know the difference between jam, jelly, preserves, conserves, fruit butter and marmalade? We break down what each means below.

by Stephanie Thurow
PHOTO: Brent Hofacker/Adobe Stock

Do you know the difference between jam, jelly, preserves, conserves, fruit butter and marmalade? I’m sure you’ve heard the names used somewhat interchangeably. Before I started preserving my own food, I didn’t realize there was actually a difference between jam and jelly.  

Presently, I frequently use the word “preserves” as a blanket word for pretty much all of the fruit-based goods I make. So, in case you are unsure of which is what, let me break it down for you. 


Jam (pictured above) is a fruit-based spread that has pieces of fruit that have been chopped or mashed with sugar. It is a spreadable consistency that will have chunks of the fruit within it. Jam is my favorite to make. 


jelly preserves
Madele/Adobe Stock

Jelly uses the strained juice of fruit, cooked with sugar and sometimes a thickening agent such as a commercial pectin. The preserve is clear and spreadable, without any chunks, and usually is see-through. 

Read more: Sweet springtime violet flowers make a delicious jelly!


Edalin/Adobe Stock

Preserves are similar to jams, however the pieces of fruit aren’t mashed or chopped. Rather, they are left in whole form, though they normally break down during the cooking process. The resulting end product is very similar to jam. 

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conserves preserves
vaclavkrizek/Adobe Stock

Conserves are similar to jams as well, however there is often the addition of nuts, raisins, dried fruits and other spices cooked within. 

Fruit Butter

preserves fruit butter
nata_vkusidey/Adobe Stock

Fruit butter is a smooth and spreadable fruit puree that has been strained of solids. The texture should be thick and silky, without any chunks. It’s generally cooked slowly over many hours to deepen the flavor and thicken the consistency.

Read more: This pear jam brings big fall flavors!


marmalade preserves
MSPhotographic/Adobe Stock

Marmalade is made with various citrus fruits. Citrus peel (with or without pith) is sliced and cooked with sugar, and the end product produces softened pieces of citrus, suspended in an infused, spreadable thickened sugary syrup.  

Now that you know the differences between them, which do you use for what? Generally, these various preserves can be used interchangeably. All go well with the classic buttered toast or spread over a fresh-out-of-the-oven biscuit. And they also taste great mixed into plain yogurt or oatmeal, or used as a topping option for pancakes and waffles.

Preserves also make a great addition to a cheese board, as well as serving well as delicious salad dressings and glazes for grilled or baked proteins.  

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