Substitutes for Pectin: Alternatives for Thickening Jams and Jellies

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Let’s explore some substitutes for pectin!

If you’re an avid cook or baker, you’ve probably heard of pectin. Pectin is a naturally occurring substance found in fruits like apples and vegetables that helps them gel and thicken.

It’s commonly used as a thickener in jams, jellies, and other fruit preserves. And it actually can do a lot of other things!

However, if you’re looking to make these types of recipes and don’t have pectin on hand, there are several substitutes you can use instead.

And they work pretty awesome! I have personally used them myself when making homemade jelly.

One substitute for pectin is agar agar, a vegan-friendly thickener made from seaweed. It’s often used in Asian cuisine and is a great alternative to pectin if you’re looking for a plant-based option.

Another substitute is gelatin, which is made from animal collagen. While it’s not suitable for vegetarians or vegans, it’s an easy sub and works really well.

The key with this one is that you need to make sure you put the right amount in or you will end up with JELLO.

Another option is to use chia seeds! When soaked in water, these seeds release a gel-like substance that can be used as a thickener. This is a great option for those looking for an additional health boost, as chia is loaded with fiber and omega-3.

But there are some other options as well! Let’s check them out below.

Substitutes for Pectin

What is Pectin?

You’ve probably heard of pectin if you’ve ever made jam or jelly. Pectin is a type of soluble fiber that dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance. Its like a magical powder that makes things gooey!

Pectin is often used as a gelling agent in food production but also has some health benefits. It’s been shown that it may help lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels.

Pectin is also used in some medications as a thickener or binder. It’s surprising all the random places you find it!

There are different types of pectin, including high methoxyl pectin and low methoxyl pectin. High methoxyl pectin requires the addition of sugar and acid to form a gel, while low methoxyl pectin can form a gel without added sugar or acid.

Most commercial pectin products are made from citrus fruits, but pectin can also be extracted from apples, quince, and other fruits.

As for taste, most commercial pectins are flavorless, which works great when you need it strictly as a gelling component. But, no joke, you can actually make your own pectin. If you’re a badass and want to try it, check out this recipe using apples: Homemade Apple Pectin.

Why Use Substitutes for Pectin?

Using substitutes for pectin can be a great way to save money, experiment with different textures, and avoid having to go to the grocery store (am I right?).

Some people also prefer to use substitutes for pectin because they have dietary restrictions.

But for me, the biggest benefit of using substitutes for pectin is that they can give your spreads a unique texture and sometimes a different flavor. For example, using chia seeds or even flax seeds can add a nutty flavor and a bit of crunch.

Types of Substitutes for Pectin

If you’re looking for a substitute for pectin, there are several options available. Here are a few types of substitutes you can try:

Fruit with High Pectin Content

green apples

Let’s make life easy! You can use fruits that have high pectin content so you don’t have to buy commercial pectin. Pretty simple!

Some fruits that are high in pectin include apples, quinces, and citrus fruits. These fruits can be used to make jams, jellies, and other preserves.


Gelatin is another substitute for pectin. It is a protein derived from collagen from animals and is commonly used to make desserts like jelly and gummy candies.

Gelatin can be used instead of pectin to thicken any spread you want. This is a great option if you want to bump up your recipe with some added protein.


Agar-agar is a type of seaweed that is commonly used as a gelling agent in Asian cuisine like Japanese kanten. It can also be used as a substitute for pectin in jams and jellies.

Agar-agar is vegan-friendly and a good option for those looking for another plant-based substitute for pectin.

Konjac Powder

Confession time is one of my favorites to use mainly because it’s super easy to use and has many health benefits. Konjac powder or also known as Glucomannan powder, comes from the root of the Konjac plant.

It’s naturally carb-free, with no flavor, making it a great gelling agent for jams and jellies.

Tapioca Starch

Tapioca starch is a starchy substance that is extracted from the cassava root. It is commonly used as a thickener in soups, stews, and sauces. Tapioca starch can also be used as a substitute for pectin in jams and jellies.

It’s not my first go to for jams and jellies, as the ones mentioned above work better, but it will work if needed. But I have used it for pie fillings and such.

A note about tapioca starch is that it is high in carbs and will mute the flavor of whatever you are trying to gel. A perk with using tapioca starch is that it will give you nice glossy finish.

Arrowroot Powder

Arrowroot powder is a starch that is extracted from the roots of the arrowroot plant.

It is commonly used as a thickener in sauces, gravies, and puddings. Arrowroot powder will be similar to tapioca in use and flavoring.

Chia Seeds

Chia Pudding and Jam

Chia seeds are tiny black and white seeds that are able to expand 10X their size when in liquid. But when they absorb the liquid, they create a gel-like texture, which is how you can use them to replace pectin.

I have made chai seeds jams, which work great for a quick jam. But they do have a slight crunch to them.

alternatives for pectin infograph

How to Use Substitutes for Pectin

Ok now that we have covered some pectin alternatives. Here are some tips on how to use them:

1. Gelatin: Gelatin is a great replacement for pectin in recipes that require a firmer set. To use gelatin sheets or powder as a substitute, simply dissolve it in cold water and add it to your recipe. Remember that gelatin is an animal-based product, so it’s unsuitable for vegetarians or vegans.

Side note, you don’t want to boil anything with gelatin in it as it can will it ability to gel.

2. Agar-Agar: Agar-agar is made with seaweed! It’s a good option for vegans and vegetarians. To use agar-agar, dissolve it in hot/boiling water and add it to your recipe. Keep in mind that agar-agar sets more firmly than pectin, so you may need to adjust the amount you use.

3. Tapioca Starch and Arrowroot Starch: Arrowroot and Tapicoa are both starches that can be used the same way to replace pectin. Mix arrowroot or tapioca with cold water and create a slurry, then add it to your recipe. Alternatively, if you don’t have these two, you could use cornstarch.

4. Konjac Powder: As I mentioned before, this is my favorite swap for pectin, and use it all the time. Konjac should be dissolved in cold water before adding it. Start with a small amount as the more you add, the firmer it will get, and it can gel to the point it molds like agar agar and gelatin. A little goes a long way.

5. Fruit: Some fruits, such as apples, contain natural pectin. To use fruit as pectin substitute, simply add it to your recipe. Keep in mind that using fruit as a substitute may alter the flavor of your recipe, and you may have to adjust it quite a bit.

Experiment with different substitutes to find the one that works best for your recipe. Keep in mind that each substitute may alter the texture and flavor of your recipe, so it’s important to adjust the amount you use accordingly.

6. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are probably the easiest alternative to pectin as you can just mix it in hot or cold, and all you have to do is wait for them to set. You want to wait at least a minimum of 20min. More on how to make chia jam below.

Recipes Using Substitutes for Pectin

If you’re out of pectin or simply want to try a different approach, there are several substitutes you can use to make jams, jellies, and other fruit preserves. Here are a few recipes to get you started:

1. Apple Jelly

If you have a bunch of apples, you can use them to make a delicious jelly without any pectin. Here’s how:

  • Peel, core, and chop 4 pounds of apples.
  • Place the apples in a large pot with 4 cups of water and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until the apples are very soft.
  • Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or jelly bag, letting the juice drip into a clean pot overnight.
  • Measure the juice and transfer it to a large pot.
  • For every cup of juice, add 3/4 cup of sugar and the juice of 1 lemon.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until it reaches the gel stage (about 220°F on a candy thermometer).
  • Pour the jelly into sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

2. Uncooked Chia Seed Jam

Chia seeds are a popular alternative to pectin because they naturally thicken liquids and give a ton of benefits! Here’s a simple recipe for making jam with chia seeds:

  • Mash 2 cups of fresh or frozen fruit (such as strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries) with a fork or potato masher. You can also blend them in a blender.
  • Stir in 2 tablespoons of chia seeds and 2 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup.
  • Let the mixture sit for 15-20 minutes, occasionally stirring, until it thickens to your desired consistency.
  • Transfer the jam to a jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

If you would prefer to cook your fruit, then go for it. Add the chia seeds at the end when you are done cooking.

Experiment with different fruits, sweeteners, and thickeners to find the perfect substitute for pectin that works for you. Happy jam-making!

FAQ and Final Thoughts On Pectin Substitutes and

We have covered a good amount of information on replacements for pectin, but you might have a few questions. If you happen to have another question you would like answered please write us at [email protected] and we will add it down below!

  1. How do I use lemon juice as a substitute? Lemon juice is another way you can thicken jams and jelly! It’s pretty neat science stuff that happens. According to MasterClass…”Acids like lemon juice help lower the jam mixture’s pH, which reacts with the natural or added pectin to help thicken the jam.”

    If you are working with fruit that already has natural pectin in it then lemon juice will help! To use it, add about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice for every cup of fruit in your recipe.
  2. Can I use cornstarch or other starches substitute? Absolutely! It’s not my first pick but it can work if it’s all you got. Cornstarch and other staches like potatoes, rice, wheat … can act as thickening agents. For cornstarch, mix it with a bit of cold water before stirring it into your fruit mixture.

    Just remember to add little by little until you get the right consistency. Also too much starch can make your recipe thick and hard or weird gooey. But just the right amount can be perfect!
  3. How does the reduction method work? With the reduction method, you’re basically cooking your fruit mixture down until the natural sugars and pectin in the fruit thicken the jam. It’s a bit more time-consuming, but it’s all-natural and doesn’t require any additional ingredients, plus you have a very intense flavored jam!

Finding a replacement for pectin may seem challenging, but it really isn’t. Using the right ingredients and techniques can achieve similar results to what pectin would give you.

If you want another vegan-friendly option, agar agar pr konjac is a great choice.

For those who want to avoid using additional ingredients, reducing fruit into a jam or jelly can work just as well. This method takes a bit longer, but it allows you to control the sweetness and texture of your final product.

Ultimately, the key to finding a good substitute for pectin is to experiment and find what works best for you and your recipe. With a bit of trial and error, you can create delicious jams and jellies without using pectin. Happy Cooking!

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