Fruit Spreads Cheat Sheet

There is a wide range of fruit spreads including jelly, jam, preserves, marmalade, compote, chutney, conserves, and fruit butter. Whether you’re spreading them on toast or pairing them with cheese and crackers, each of these fruit spreads has its own unique character and consistency.

What exactly is the difference between jam, jelly, preserves and all the other fruit spreads?

Before we explore the differences, let’s consider what they have in common. Whether you’re talking about jam, jelly, preserves – or even marmalade, compote, or chutney – they all involve some combination of fruit, sugar, heat, and pectin – a natural thickening agent found in certain plants that helps cooked fruit to gel.

First, let’s compare jam, jelly, and preserves:


This smooth-textured spread is made by crushing fruit and extracting the juice. There are no seeds or pieces of fruit in jelly. Only the strained fruit juice remains, which is then mixed with pectin and heated to create a gelatinous consistency. Jelly has a smooth texture for spreading on bread, filling donuts, or topping desserts. Jellies can also be made from ingredients other than fruit, such as herbs, flowers, and vegetables. Jelly is regulated by the FDA; it must contain fruit juice and at least 65% sugar.


Similar to jelly, jam is also made by mashing fruit. However, jam retains most of the solid pieces of the fruit’s fibers and seeds (if they’re small enough and safe to consume, like those in strawberries). This results in a richer fruit flavor compared to jelly, but it still has a spreadable consistency. Jam is great for spreading on bread, and mixing into cheesecake. Jam is regulated by the FDA; it must come from a single fruit and contain at least 45% fruit and 55% sugar.


Preserves are similar to jam but chunkier. Preserves contain an abundance of fruit pieces, combined with sugar to keep it fresh. The result is a mixable form that contains most of the fruit’s flavor. Preserves can be used in cooking and baking, and are also ideal as a topping, but it’s not as easily spreadable.

NOTE: Some fruits such as blackberries or raspberries will not stay whole during processing so there may not be much difference between the texture of raspberry jam and raspberry preserves.

Regardless of whether you choose jelly, jam, or preserves, they all make sweet spreads for your morning toast or other treats!

Now what about marmalade, chutney, and compote?


Marmalade is a jellylike preserve made from citrus fruit, typically oranges. Pieces of the fruit peel are often embedded in the marmalade. It has a sweet, tangy, and sometimes slightly bitter flavor that pairs well with toast, scones, or even savory dishes. When making marmalade, the natural pectin in the white pith of the oranges (and sometimes lemons) is sufficient to help the mixture set properly. You don’t need to add any extra pectin. According to the FDA, marmalade should contain at least 65% soluble solids.


Chutney is a condiment that contains chopped dried fruits, vinegar, sugar, and spices which are all cooked into a chunky spreadable consistency much like a preserve. Common fruits used in chutney are raisins, mangoes, citrus, apricots, peaches, apples, plums, pineapples, and cranberries. Chutney is more savory and contains less sugar than other preserves. Chutney is excellent with many types of meat, delicious as a spread or as a fruit dip.


A compote is made by briefly cooking whole or pieces of fresh fruit in sugar syrup. The result is a sweet, flavorful mixture that can be served warm or chilled. Typically, compotes consist of fruits like berries, apples, pears, or peaches. The syrup may be seasoned with vanilla, lemon or orange peel, cinnamon, cloves, other spices, grated coconut, candied fruit or raisins. Compote is usually eaten like a dessert rather than used as a spread.

As you can see, marmalade, chutney and compote contain a little bit more flavor than simply the sweetness of fruit and fruit juice.

But wait, there’s more!


While jam must come from one type of fruit to have that legal designation, conserves can be made with an additional ingredient in the mix. So, conserves are basically jams with pieces of nuts, coconut, or raisins in them. They have a very thick and chunky texture, and are often made with dried fruits. Conserves work very well as a condiment for meats and cheeses.

Fruit Butters

Fruit butter is a type of fruit spread made from pureed fruit pulp slow-cooked at a low temperature until the mixture thickens. Fruit butters are not as sweet as preserves, jams, or jellies. Butters tend to be dark because of the exposure to air during the cooking. Fruit butters are often made with apples and pears, and best used as a spread and a filling.

Fruit Spreads

Fruit spreads are 100% mashed fruit with no sugar added. If needed, a sweet fruit juice such as white grape juice or apple juice may be added. But even though they contain no added sugar, these spreads cannot be called sugarless because of the naturally occurring sugar in the fruit. Fruit spreads offer the greatest amount of pure fruit flavor.

Every one of these tasty delights is a different variation on a fruity theme, and each has its own unique charm! What’s your favorite?

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