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Homemade Gelatin-Free “Jello” Oranges and Fruit Cups

My youngest son loves “jelly” cups (a.k.a. Jello/Gelatin), but when we started a synthetic dye-free challenge a few months ago, out went the Jello brand gelatin cups!  I tried a product by the NutraDrink company called Natural Jel Desserts back in May (see my “Funny Oranges post”) and while I was initially impressed with the product, upon further experimentation I discovered that it is prone to melting, especially when sitting in a child’s lunchbox all morning.  So back to the drawing board.  We are not gelatin-free, but I wanted to find something that works for our friends out there with beef allergies (most gelatin is derived from beef marrow).

Enter Pomona’s Universal Pectin!

Pomona’s Pectin works GREAT with 100% juice to make a gelatin-like dessert! 😀

The recipe for the “sugar-free” jello is on the instruction pamphlet included in the package (the jello is not really sugar-free, as the recipe states; but there is no additional sugar added.  The only sugar in this recipe comes from the natural sugars in the 100% juice).  Not all 100% juices are created equal in the sugar content category, as I found out AFTER I bought some 365 brand Black Cherry juice.  One 8-oz serving contains a whopping 50 grams of sugar!!!!

See?  No sugar added to the juice (above).

But there is still 50 grams of sugar in one cup of the black cherry juice (above).

The good thing about the “jello” cups, is that I don’t make 8-oz. portions, so at least there is less sugar.  I guesstimate about 19 grams of sugar per 3-oz. jello cup, which is still hefty for a snack that does not provide any fiber or protein.

The problem with juice is that there is no fiber to slow down the absorption of the sugar (which is why whole fruits, peel and all, are a much better choice than juice).   I allow Luke to have a maximum of (3) 3-oz. jello cups a week and I usually add chopped whole fruit to it, for a little bit of fiber.  I will also be using 100% juice made from fruits with lower amounts of sugar from now on! 😀

On the days Luke takes a jello cup in his lunch, he must forgo having a juice box, I leave the choice up to him.  I do subscribe to the philosophy of moderation is key (and since my kids can’t eat 99% of the popular convenience/processed foods due to their dietary restrictions, I don’t get too worked up over it).

The “jello” in the above photo is made from Tart Cherry Juice (24 grams of sugar per 8-ounce serving).  The whipped cream is dairy-free and soy-free (MimicCreme’s Healthy Top) and the Maraschino Cherry by Tillen Farms is all-natural (no artificial colors, dyes, or flavors and does not contain sweeteners derived from corn).

The following is the recipe for Pomona’sSugarfree Jello,” including my notes for cutting the recipe in half; which I do because I make a few different flavors at once:

Pomona’s Gelatin-Free “Jello”

4 cups of 100% juice (I used 2 cups)

4 tsp. Calcium Water (I used 2 tsp.) The mix for the calcium water is included in the package of Pomona’s Pectin.

4 tsp. Pomona’s Pectin (I used 2 tsp.)

  • In a saucepan over medium heat, bring juice to a boil.
  • Put 1 cup of boiling juice in a blender/food processor and add 4 tsp. of pectin powder, vent lid, blend 1 – 2 minutes until all powder is dissolved.
  • Add pectin-juice mixture to remaining hot juice, stir well.
  • Pour hot jello into serving bowl or individual dishes; allow to cool down some.  Refrigerate until jelled.

And yes, it will work in a mold! 😀

Here’s how I did it:

Place 2 cups of 100% juice in a saucepan (above).

Add 2 tsp. of calcium water then bring the mixture to a boil (above).

Place 1 cup of boiling juice into a blender or food processor and add 2 tsp. of Pomona’s Universal Pectin, blend well (above).

Add blended juice/pectin mixture into the pan with remaining hot juice.

Whisk to combine then pour through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth* (see note below) into cups or jello mold, allow to cool then refrigerate until jelled.

Fruit jello cups:

Note: I learned by trial and error to strain the jello mixture with a fine mesh sieve (or use cheesecloth) to avoid the unsightly foam you see in the below photo:

I made the above “jello” fruit cups with Juicy Juice:

“Only” 26 grams of sugar (compared to the 50 grams of sugar in the black cherry juice), in one cup of Juicy Juice (Punch flavor), so I estimate a 3-oz. “jello” cup to be about 10 grams of sugar.

Now for the winners of the Goldbaum’s Giveaway!!

Using the Random Number Generator, the winners are:

#33: TinaK and

#80 CDM

Congratulations and I will email you for your shipping information! 😀

I have another giveaway coming up later today, but first I would like to highlight a few of my blogger friends posts from the past week.

  • Shirley, from GFE is hosting this month’s “Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger,” and I plan on doing my first adoption (can I adopt 10??)!
  • Tia, from Glügle Gluten Free shared a recipe for Gluten-Free Banana Muffins, including a variation for Chocolate Banana Muffins (they are also dairy-free)  These will be perfect for a healthy school-day breakfast!
  • Do you dream of gluten-free Pierogi?  Well, dream no more, my friends!  Both Alta, from Tasty Eats At Home and Lauren from Celiac Teen shared recipes and photos of their gluten-free pierogi as part of the August 2010 Daring Baker’s Challenge.
  • Do you have a garden overgrowing with Basil?  On Friday, Diane, from The W.H.O.L.E. Gang announced that the theme for this week’s Friday Foodie Fix is Basil. Be sure to check it out for some great ideas for using all that yummy basil!
  • Lastly, Erin, over at Gluten-Free Fitness has quite a few great posts on gluten-free living, celiac disease and nutrition news , which is a great resource for all of us.  Gluten-Free doesn’t always equal “healthy” and Erin does a great job breaking it down for us!

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  1. Thanks for the shout out Heidi!

    I am always amazed by your creativity. You are incredible! And you must have a camera glued to you 😉

    • You're welcome and thank you for all the nutrition help and encouragement you provide us!! 😀

      Thanks for the kind words, I'm not sure if I'm creative or just plain nuts, LOL! 😉

  2. lovin' the lego molds!!!!Awesome jello recipe! Where's my little 2 thumbs up smiley guy =0)

    • Thanks Kelly! I may as well live in Legoland, I also bought some Lego ice cube molds and Lego salt & pepper shakers! 😀

      We are converting one of our spare bedrooms into a Lego room for the boys (so they can set up their creations on a table and not fear mom will make them tear it all down at the end of the day). I'm going to try and make my own Lego artwork with this mold, I am wondering if I could get an impression in some FIMO clay??

  3. Okay, I am completely amazed at how you manage to pull this stuff off with the boys still home! What a great post!! Are those the Williams Star Wars molds? If so, I have them too! What a great idea to do healthy jello in them!

    I love how creative you were for this recipe! Will definitely be making this!

    Thank you so so much for linking to my gut post. Made a few more updates and additions today to it.

    • Kim,

      Thank you! Don't be fooled into thinking I did all this in one day, LOL! 😉

      The jello mold is actually a Lego Minifigure Mold that I picked up when we were at Legoland a couple of weeks ago. I tried to find it online, but on Amazon, someone is selling it for $99.95! That is sheer craziness! Had I known that, I would have bought several when I was at Legoland at sold them at cost to people.

      I have seen the Star Wars cookie cutters in the Williams Sonoma catalog. Sam is dying to have those and the pancake molds. 😀

      I loved your leaky gut post! I think this is a HUGE problem that needs much more attention and recognition, so kudos to you for providing such a wealth of information for all of us.

  4. I'm not a jello fan, but those molds look pretty cool. Super mom!

    Thanks so much for the shout out, dear!



  5. Oh, and as far as I'm concerned, you can absolutely adopt 10! I am shooting for 50 adoptions. I got 10 signed up on day one … I am thinking positive. 🙂


  6. I like the "jello", they look so yummy.

  7. Yessss, I've been waiting for this! Just got the Pomona's order the other day, so now I just have to figure out what kind of juice to use. And that mold is amazing…haha. Do you think this would work for infamous 'Jello cake'? I tried it once with vegan 'gel' but it was kind of a disaster.

    Well done!!

    • I initially wanted to do the mold with a layer of the MimicCreme Healthy Top Dairy-Free Whipped cream between the two layers of "jello" but I was out! I will try that next time for sure. I have a lot of classic jello salad mold recipes that I would love to re-make.

      I will say this: I just received a new product to try called Better Bowls: They make a gluten-free, naturally colored gelatin mix that is AWESOME (but it does contain gelatin, so it's not vegan). I made the strawberry flavor and it came out the same bright red color of the Jello brand! The coloring comes from red beet juice and annatto.

      I have been wondering the same thing Jenn about the cake! I love the jello poke cake!

      I *think* it will work, but it may need some tweaking. I need to pull up my recipe for my strawberry jello poke cake and do some experimenting. I will keep you posted or if you find out before me, please let me know! 😀


  8. Thanks for the treats! So far, so good.. .

  9. HI. This looks great! I’m so glad I found your posting/blog in a search. 
    I’ve been avoiding jello because I hate all the unnatural stuff (partcularly food coloring), and we don’t do well with gelatin. I’m definitely going to give this a try. I am wondering if you’ve tried making a layered “jello” with this? I’m not sure if anyone will read/respond in time, but I really want to make something like rainbow jello eggs for easter/daughter’s bday party. ( I’ll probably try anyway & will post how it went. 🙂
    Thank you!!


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jayne, Aunt Jayne and Kim, Heidi Kelly. Heidi Kelly said: New Blog Post Homemade Gelatin-Free “#Jello” (plus Goldbaum’s Giveaway Winners) #desserts […]