Almost everybody gets that fuzzy feeling when they hear about that old party favorite, but what exactly is that delicious, wobbly jello?
You might be surprised, if not a little horrified, to discover that gelatin is essentially an animal byproduct made of collagen.
Collagen is a protein found in the connective tissues of animals. Those tough, bouncy bits of the body need to be strong and flexible to support joints and organs. Doesn’t exactly sound like the most delicious base for a kid’s favorite dessert?
So why is gelatin so popular and what are the alternatives?
Read on as we discuss everything you need to know about gelatin, and why you’ll never find this ingredient hidden in our desserts. View our recipes here.
Table of Contents
What Is Gelatin Made Of?
Gelatin is almost 99% protein. However, it can’t be described as a complete protein because it lacks an essential amino acid known as tryptophan. Gelatin is a rich source of the amino acid glycine, which is thought to be particularly good for your health, especially joint and bone health.
Sometimes it will be labeled ‘pork gelatin’ or ‘beef gelatin’ in the ingredients. But sometimes the source isn’t specified, so the company is likely using a combination of animal gelatins in their products. The source includes skin, tendons, ligaments connective tissue, and even bones boiled in water.
Basically, the bits of an animal that most people don’t usually enjoy eating! It’s also commonly associated with a famous jelly brand.
What Does Gelatin Taste Like?
Clear and tasteless, it’s frequently used as a thickening ingredient in soups because it has no taste or odor. It takes on the taste of whatever you make with it.
How Is Jello Usually Made?
Now that we know where the gelatin comes from let’s talk about how it becomes a snack.
Animal hides, bones, and other parts that can not be used as food-grade meat are boiled, dried, and treated with a strong base or acid before being filtered to extract the collagen protein.
That product is then dried again and ground into a fine powder. That is gelatin that can be used to make jellies and other candies or in baking, puddings, and food decoration.
Gelatin can also be found in shampoos, face masks, cosmetics, drug capsules, and photographic film. None of those sounds like anything you’d want to consume voluntarily!
Why Is Gelatin Used In Jello?
The powdered jello you dissolve at home to make your favorite desserts usually contains powdered animal gelatin to give it that sought-after wobbly texture.
Heating it with hot water breaks apart the bonds that hold the collagen together, so the gelatin and other ingredients dissolve.
When the mixture cools, collagen strands reform into a semi-solid state, trapping water molecules inside and creating the well-known and loved texture- gelatinous, jiggly jello!
What Other Ingredients Can You Find In Jello?
Most jellos you can find on supermarket shelves contain animal gelatin alongside other powdered ingredients. These ingredients usually include:
- Artificial flavors
Sweeteners used in popular jello mixes are often aspartame or/and sugar.
At Simply Delish, we use a plant-based sugar substitute called stevia to sweeten our jels. Consumers and scientists agree that this natural, low-calorie sweetener is a great, healthy alternative and is safe for kids!
Artificial flavors are numerous and can occur in any combination to create the flavor profile. They can be made of different things through many different processes, but different food-grade chemicals are usually mixed together until a flavor has been recreated.
Colorings are commonly natural and derived from their origin – e.g., natural strawberry color can be made from real strawberries or artificially produced.
Many jello products are still made with artificial food dyes, but due to demand, manufacturers are using more natural colors.
Can Vegetarians And Vegans Eat Jello?
As we know, old-style jello is made from animal byproducts, so it is not vegan or vegetarian. But there is some good news… Vegetarian gelatin also exists!
Simply Delish has reinvented jello into Simply Delish Jels in a major shake-up of this nostalgic family favorite.
Simply Delish Jels use vegetarian gelatin alternatives, making the jels more accessible to people who can not, or choose not to, consume animal products.
Can You Make Plant-Based Jello? Is There A Gelatin Substitute?
Plant-based gums and seaweed-derived ingredients like carrageenan or agar can be used to achieve the same culinary effect as old-style animal gelatin with no dairy or gluten. This alternative is great for allergy sufferers.
They can be used in practically the same way at home and in manufactured food products that you can find at stores. There are some minor differences in preparation, but that’s it.
This is great news for people who can’t consume animal-derived gelatin for health or ethical reasons!
Other possible alternatives include kudzu, xantham gum, arrowroot and guar gum. However, these are not effective at thickening liquids. So do your research.
Is it possible to make a tasty jelly dessert without gelatin?
Using stevia and a plant-based ingredient derived from seaweed called carrageenan, you can create the family’s favorite flavors (not to mention the iconic wobble) of traditional jello that everyone can enjoy!
For example, Simply Delish jels are entirely vegan, sugar-free, and free from all common allergens! They do not contain GMOs, gluten, or dairy, but they contain many great flavors!
That means you can prepare puddings for a group of people without fretting about extra desserts for friends and family with lactose intolerance or worrying about any of your vegan or vegetarian friends missing out on tasty treats!
Anybody can now enjoy the health benefits of eating desserts that are naturally lower in saturated fats and sugars.
Ready to give Simply Delish jels a try for yourself? Simply Delish Plant-Based Natural Jels come in a range of sugar-free, family-favorite flavors, including