It’s a popular snack food that comes in a wide range of colors and flavors. But is Jello gluten free — or is not compatible with a gluten-free diet?
I’ve had it as a standalone snack, as part of a larger dessert like a trifle, and even as a spiked Jello shot. And those are just a few ways to eat Jello. But if you have a gluten sensitivity, can you still enjoy it?
Jello is made from a range of gluten-free ingredients. So on its own, it is considered gluten-free and safe to consume if you’re on a gluten-free diet. That said, you’ll want to be careful of cross contamination if it’s mixed into other desserts.
In this article, I’ll go over what Jello is, what’s in it, and popular dishes it’s used in to see if any of those may pose a gluten risk.
What is Jello?
This jiggly, gelatin-based snack food has been around in one form or another since the late 19th century when the first patent for what we now call Jello was sold.
Over the course of the 20th century, it grew in popularity, becoming a household name as it was widely marketed across the United States. Eventually, lines of instant pudding and pie filling were also sold under the Jell-o products brand name.
Today, Jello is one of the most popular dessert treats in the country, available in a variety of flavors and colors and easy to find at local grocery stores. This inexpensive treat is also incredibly versatile. Not only does Jello take on the shape of whatever mold it’s put into, it can also be used as a separate ingredient in everything from cakes to pies to salads, and more.
So, what exactly is Jello made of?
What is in Jello?
Jello is comprised of several ingredients. They include gelatin, sugar, natural and artificial flavors, artificial colors, and several additives such as sodium citrate, adipic acid, disodium phosphate, and fumaric acid.
Most of those compounds are used as enhancers, preservatives, and food stabilizers to boost the flavor and extend the shelf life of Jello. And sugar-free Jello will add artificial sweeteners. But the main ingredient that gives Jello its signature giggly texture is the gelatin.
What is gelatin, exactly?
Gelatin is a substance derived from animal collagen, or connective tissue in the body. It’s found in bones, cartilage, meat, tendons, and skin. In order to make gelatin, these tissues are specially treated, then filtered. The extracted collagen is then ground into a powder or made into gelatin sheets. When combined with liquid, they will solidify to help create a gelatinous or jiggly texture.
And that’s basically how Jello gets its shape. By mixing the Jello powder with hot water, then letting it cool in the fridge, the gelatin granules become hydrated. Then they bond together to create a wobbly, jelly-like final product.
Is Jello gluten-free?
Jello doesn’t list any gluten ingredients on its product packaging. So it is considered gluten free and safe to consume for those with Celiac disease, gluten allergies, or another gluten intolerance. That includes regular Jello and sugar-free variants, as well as Jell-o pudding products. However, the manufacturer of Jello, Kraft Heinz, does not explicitly note that these products are certified gluten-free.
Do any Jello products contain gluten?
❌ One Jello product line that is not gluten free is their No-Bake Cheesecake Dessert Kit and No-Bake Oreo Dessert Kit.
These feature two main components:
- a creamy filling mix
- a crust mix
According to the ingredient label, the crust mix in both products includes wheat flour or enriched wheat flour, which are gluten-containing ingredients. So these should be considered off-limits for those on a gluten-free diet.
What foods use Jello?
While Jello can be a delicious treat all on its own, this versatile food is also used in a lot of other dishes. Here’s a look at some of the most popular and whether they contain gluten.
Trifle – This delicious dessert typically includes a jelly layer or filling, but it can sometimes be replaced with Jello. However, many trifles also use angel food cake, pound cake, or sponge cake. All of these are usually made with wheat flour, so they will have gluten.
Jello shots – Jello shots are simply made by making regular Jello and adding some sort of spirit to the mix, like vodka or tequila. While some spirits are wheat-based, such as vodka, the distillation process removes the gluten, so the final product is gluten free. Consequently, jello shots are typically gluten free as well. But it’s always a good idea to check the ingredient list of the spirits used in case any flavorings or other ingredients were added after distillation.
Jello salad – Contrary to the name, Jello salad doesn’t contain any leafy green vegetables. Rather, these Jello desserts are more a jumble of Jello, fruit, marshmallows, and sometimes other ingredients. In most cases, Jello salad will be gluten free. But sometimes things like pretzels are added to Jello salad for extra texture. If that’s the case, it will not be safe to consume on a strict gluten-free diet as pretzels do contain gluten. So be sure to ask whoever made the Jello salad exactly what they put it in.
Jello Rainbow cake – This popular gelatin dessert is made up of layers of different colored Jello between layers of Jello mixed with condensed or evaporated milk. Then it’s usually finished with a whipped topping. No actual cake is in it and it has no gluten products, so this is considered a gluten-free jello dish.
No, Jello is not vegan. One of the key ingredients in Jello is gelatin, which is made from animal collagen — a by-proudct of animal bones, cartilage, ligaments, and skin. So Jello is not compatible with a vegan diet or lifestyle.
The best place to store Jello once it’s made is in the fridge. After it’s cooled down, cover the dish with foil or plastic wrap or transfer it to a sealed airtight container. This will help prevent it from drying out and extend its shelf life. If stored properly, Jello should last up to 10 days in the fridge.
More gluten related answers
Find out whether some of your other favorite foods contain gluten. Tap the posts below.