Canning 101: How to Substitute Pectin

pectin containers

During the time I was writing my first cookbook, I was something of a liquid pectin fan girl. I liked its ability to create a natural, not-too-firm set. However, as time has gone by, I’ve become more of an equal opportunity pectin user. I regularly use regular powdered pectin, Pomona’s Pectin, and even sometimes boost the set of my jams with some grated apple or ground lemon peel. I also make preserves without any additional pectin at all (thanks to the size of the batches, there’s not a drop of extra pectin at all in the next book).

I get a couple of pectin questions a lot. The first is, how do you choose the kind of pectin you use in each recipe? Unfortunately, I don’t have a really great answer for that one. I typically just reach for whatever’s closest in the kitchen. There’s no true formula. I do tend to use powdered pectin when I’m working with lower pectin fruits, but if there’s no powdered pectin around that day, I reach for the liquid. If I don’t have either kind of traditional pectin, I’ll use a splash of calcium water and a little bit of pectin from a box of Pomona’s Pectin.

The second thing I’m frequently asked is, how do you swap powdered pectin for liquid? Happily, I have a more concrete answer for this one. You use two tablespoons of powdered regular pectin for every packet of liquid pectin. The difference in usage is that instead of adding the pectin at the end of cooking like you do with liquid, you whisk the powdered pectin into the sugar before you combine it with the fruit. It responds better when you cook it the entire time and you avoid the risk of pectin clumping that can appear if you try and add powdered pectin at the end of cooking.

I’ve not come up yet with a perfect formula for converting full sugar recipes to lower sugar ones that use Pomona’s Pectin. The only tip I have about that pectin is that I always use about half as much as the recipes in the packet call for. I find that if you follow their instructions, you end up with a VERY firmly set jam. As someone who prefers a softer set, I find that using half as much gives me a satisfying outcome.

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57 Responses to Canning 101: How to Substitute Pectin

  1. 1
    Whitney says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! (and perfect timing!) I’m just getting ready to make your strawberry vanilla jam, and thought I was going to have to run to the store to get some liquid pectin. So happy to know that I can swap it out for the powdered pectin sitting in my pantry!

  2. 2
    Jess says:

    I’m with you on using half of the pectin the recipe calls for, no matter how much the pectin pamphlet might freak me out about looming SET FAILURE. ;) I prefer a softer set, too. I’m so excited for your new cookbook!

  3. 3
    Alice Mac says:

    No matter what pectin you use, you need to test for jelling on a cold saucer. Start with less than is recommended and the go with the stiffness that you prefer.
    I use Pomona pectin exclusively since it comes from oranges and will jell on calcium (rather than sugar for the apple based pectins). The I only add the sweetness that I want in my jams and jellies. That usually means no sugar for blueberries, applies, or figs; a little for strawberries and peaches; and enough to taste for anything else. YRMV.

    Canoe Creek Community Kitchen

  4. 4
    Mary Brockmeyer says:

    I’ve been wondering the opposite…how do I take a non-pectin recipe, and use pectin to increase my set success rate and shorten cooking time?

    • 4.1
      Liz says:

      Mary, I’ve had success kind of “merging” the two methods. I’ll take a non-pectin recipe, and start to cook it down with very little sugar (so I can add the sugar and pectin later, as is called for with most pectins). Then, I cook it down where I like the consistency (usually it’ll look “jammy” but definitely wouldn’t pass any set test), then add the sugar and pectin following the instructions for the pectin I use (I usually use Pomona’s, so I would add the amount of pectin called for using the amount/type of fruit I started with, combined with the smallest amount of sugar, so that I could use more sugar to start with) and then follow instructions regarding how long to boil after pectin has been stirred in, etc. Then can and boil as usual. Hopefully that makes sense.

  5. 5
    Cynthia says:

    Living overseas I have a hard time accessing many ingredients like liquid pectin. I normally bring pomonas from the states but agree regarding reducing quantities of pectin. I recently made sour cherry jam as per pomonas pamphlet and the texture is horrible, impossible to spread ( resembles gumdrops with whole cherries). Any idea on a ratio for subbing pomonas for liquid pectin? Thanks, Cynthia

  6. 6
    lynn says:

    Great post, Marisa! Happy jam-making :)

  7. 7
    aneelee says:

    does omitting pectin from recipes that call for it do anything aside from effecting the set? guess i’m wondering if i am making it unsafe for canning…

  8. 8
    Kelly says:

    I love to find a good clearance sale on pectin and will use what I find. I, too, prefer jam with a little bit softer set. When it spreads nicely on toast, it is perfect!

  9. 9
    Rosie says:

    I prefer using a low- or no-sugar needed pectin to the liquid, which always seems to call for more sugar in the recipes. I’m bummed that I have not found a recipe for lower-sugar jalepeño jelly. I use 1.5 pouches of liquid pectin instead of the called-for two, but it’s so sweet. Also, any suggestions on making or buying organic pectin?

    • 9.1
      Marisa says:

      Rosie, I’m not sure that anyone out there is making organic pectin. But Kaela has a couple posts on how to make it yourself. Look here and here.

  10. 10
    Sandra says:

    Is there any reason not to adjust the sugar in a recipe to taste?
    I know it may be weird, but I don’t like most of my jams super sweet (I always have my husband taste too so that I can be sure to balance the sweetness for his taste). I like to use thinly sliced lemons in my jams but have been trying out Pomona Pectin this year.

  11. 11
    Karla says:

    The only pectin I’ve ever used is Pomona’s, and I remember thinking after my first batch of jam (blueberry) that it was incredibly sweet and that I couldn’t imagine using any recipe that would call for more sugar. I’ve not had any problems with any batches being too stiff; the stiffer ones softened to very spreadable if given a little time out of the fridge. The directions for including honey haven’t worked for me, though, and I use honey only in no-pectin preparations now.

  12. 12
    Amanda says:

    I wish this had been published one day earlier! I just made your rhubarb vanilla jam and had only powdered pectin on hand. After reading your post on it a couple of times and knowing I actually had 1.5 times the amount if rhubarb called for in the recipe I went ahead and added six Tbs of powdered to the jam. It’s worked beautifully but I think I just got lucky! I’ll be bookmarking this post anyway, for all my future projects.

  13. 13
    Adrienne says:

    What a helpful post! I googled everywhere looking for the ratio and here you are spelling it right out. Do you think the same applies for jellies? I’ve had my eye on this recipe for jasmine tea jelly from BHG but I usually only have liquid pectin on hand and don’t use pectin at all for fruit preserves. I did actually find some powdered pectin in my canning stash yesterday, but I think it’s a couple of years old. Does it expire?

  14. 14
    Liz says:

    Marisa, I’m wondering about the safety of only using some of the Pomona’s. I pretty much only use their pectin, and I have noticed that it has a very firm set, but I assumed that was part of what made it more shelf-safe. Do you think using less than recommended will affect the shelf life?

    • 14.1
      Marisa says:

      Liz, pectin does not play a role in shelf stability. Sugar is the primarily preservative when it comes to jam. So jams made with less sugar don’t last as long, but reducing pectin has no impact.

  15. 15
    Susan says:

    Hi Marisa,

    Thanks for the post. I’ve only used Pomona’s pectin so far (pretty new to canning), and I like it but yes sometimes it does gel a little more solidly than I’d like. To clarify; do you only halve the pectin and use the same amount of calcium water, or do you use half of both pectin and calcium water?

    I did experiment myself this weekend, using Pomona’s pectin with your blueberry jam recipe instead of liquid. It turned out yummy!

  16. 16
    Lucindaville says:

    There is a new cookbook out there — Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin. I just ordered a copy. Last year I had no trouble with liquid pectin. This year I had a box that would not set anything!

  17. 17
    llp says:

    This is a good summary of how to use pectin – thank you very much.

  18. 18
    Kim says:

    I use almost exclusively pomona’s pectin. I convert your recipes by using how much calcium water and pectin they call for for the amount of fruit you use, using their amount of sugar(or in most cases honey), and your extras (although I usually use their amount of lemon/lime if it is more) It has worked for me, although indeed the set can be a bit firm which I don’t mind.

  19. 19
    Donna says:

    So I was about to start some blackberry jam, but have only the light pectin; the recipe calls for the liquid pectin. Should I just look for a lower sugar jam recipe? I love your site Marisa, and have learned so much here. In advance, thanks for your help.

  20. 20
    Audrey Sawatske says:

    I made damson plum jam and it did not set. Not too sure if I had enough sugar to the quantity of fruit I had would it help if I added more sugar and powder pectin and boil until thickened or just add liquid pectin and process. To 5 cups on jam what ratio of sugar would I use. Thank you

    • 20.1
      Marisa says:

      How much sugar did you use? Did you follow a recipe? I can’t really give you guidance without knowing more about what you did.

  21. 21
    Tania says:

    I appreciate all the commentary here and this very helpful and informative website. I too have exclusively used Pomona’s low-methoxyl pectin very successfully for years. I have followed the recommendations for the amount of pectin and calcium water and have been pleased with the results – neither too firm nor too soft. This year is the first time ever that I had two batches of concord grape jam turn out runny after processing them. Earlier batches were fine. My sister-in-law suggested I may have just gotten a “bad batch of pectin”. Is there such a thing?

    I cannot imagine skimping on the amount of pectin and calcium water when trying to gel concord grapes, but I can imagine it for blueberries because the blueberries naturally contain a great deal of pectin in their skins. Black raspberries similarly have a lot of natural pectin and probably don’t need as much Pomona pectin to be added to make jam. I find strawberries, red raspberries and peaches do require the full amount of Pomona pectin recommended. We always use a medium amount of sugar – inbetween the minimum and maximum amounts recommended. There are clearly a number of factors to take into consideration in this gelling process!

  22. 22
    Erika says:

    I’m getting ready to make the cranberry wine jelly out of the recent Ball Book, that uses cranberry juice coctail and burgundy wine. And liquid pectin. Do you think it would be okay to sub out the liquid for the Classic in this case? I would have to make another trip to the store if not, and frankly, I just don’t want to when I have an entire jar of the Classic at home. Thanks!

    • 22.1
      Marisa says:

      Yes. Use two tablespoons of the Classic pectin for every packet of liquid pectin. Whisk the pectin into the sugar before adding the sugar to the juice and wine. After that, proceed as normal.

      • Erika says:

        Well that didn’t work. It didn’t come even close to jelling, it’s just syrup. Should taste good on pancakes or ice cream or ham, maybe, though, so I guess it isn’t a total loss.

  23. 23
    Erika says:

    Thank you so much!

  24. 24
    Janet says:

    I am canning muscadine jelly. I only have the no cook pectin now. Can it be used if i am cooking the berries? I am afraid to try the non-cooked. Also, how can you tell if it is jelled enough after they have sealed? I made several quarts with sure jel. You can tell it jelled but can’t tell how stiff.

    Thanks

    • 24.1
      Marisa says:

      I don’t recommend using the no-cook pectin for muscadine jelly. That pectin is really only appropriate for freezer jams.

  25. 25
    Kiki says:

    I bought some Great Lakes Gelatin and I was wondering how I could make grape jelly out of that, using grape juice, can anyone please help? I have a quick recipe from food.com that I wanted to try, which calls for 3 oz of liquid pectin. Thanks in advance for any assistance.

  26. 26
    Gary says:

    “I have a more concrete answer for this one. You use two tablespoons of powdered regular pectin for every packet of liquid pectin.”

    Uh, w/o the size of the “packet” of liquid pectin, this formula is useless. Kinda weak concrete . . . ;)

    • 26.1
      Marisa says:

      Gary, in all my years of canning, I have only ever seen liquid pectin sold in one size, which is why I phrased it like that. However, to make things clearer, the formula is two tablespoons of powdered pectin for every 3 ounce packet of liquid pectin.

      • Miss M says:

        I’m just getting ready to make my first jelly ever (honeysuckle), and I’ve never seen liquid pectin. So I needed this information, too! Thank you!

  27. 27

    […] to Food In Jars, no, you cannot use gelatin in jelly-making (although they do not specify […]

  28. 28
    Lee says:

    I have a recipe that calls for 1.75 ounces of powdered pectin. But all I have is liquid in 85 ML packets. I’m unsure how to convert this.

    • 28.1
      Marisa says:

      85 ML is the equivalent of 6 ounces, which is how much you find in two packets of liquid pectin. Essentially, you’ll get pretty much the same set power from your package of liquid pectin as you will from 1.75 ounces of powdered pectin.

      • Dear Marisa,

        Your post and all the comments is making my head spin. I want to make Simple Bites’ honey sweetened strawberry jam using liquid pectin. You said that 2 pouches of (sugar-free) liquid pectin gives me pretty much the same set power as 2 pouches of (sugar-packed­) powdered pectin. Did I not get that right?

        My question is : will my jam spoil because of the lack of sugar?

        • Marisa says:

          Sophie, you didn’t read the post correctly. Two pouches of liquid pectin has the same set power as four tablespoons of powdered pectin, not two pouches of powdered pectin. However, just so you know, neither kind of pectin has any additional sugar.

          The question of whether your jam will spoil is entirely separate from the pectin question, though. Because that recipe is relatively low in sweetener, it won’t last as long on the shelf as a higher sugar preserve. However, as long as you did the boiling water bath, it should last at least a year on the shelf.

          • Sophie says:

            Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. The jam is so good it won’t last more than a year on my shelf anyways.

            I consider dextrose to be additionnal sugar, don’t you?

            • Marisa says:

              Sophie, you are right, dextrose is a form of sugar. It is used in powdered pectin to help prevent clumping (I’d forgotten). It sounds to me like you should look into Pomona’s Pectin, because it doesn’t contain sugar in any form and allows you to get a set with honey and other alternative sweeteners. Honestly, that Simple Bites recipe shouldn’t actually work, because regular fruit pectin requires more sugar (whether in the form of granulated sugar or honey) to activate.

  29. 29
    Kim says:

    I have allergies to some high pectin fruits (apples and pears) and would like to make my own pectin from citrus to use with some of the food in jars recipes — my question is how much home made pectin would I use instead of the packaged powder or liquid?

    I found a recipe for citrus pectin here: http://foodpreservation.about.com/od/Preserves/r/Homemade-Citrus-Pectin.htm but I also saw that some of the recipes in the food in jars book says to tie lemon seeds in cheese cloth instead of using pectin. Would using lemon seeds in cheesecloth instead of pectin work for the vanilla rhubarb jam with earl gray?

    • 29.1
      Marisa says:

      Kim, I honestly don’t know for sure how to make the substitutions that you’re asking for. However, my best advice would be to look into using Pomona’s Pectin, because it is made from citrus and so would avoid your allergy.

  30. 30
    JennyBakes says:

    Thanks for making this post! I’m making the rhubarb earl grey vanilla jam today and got the wrong kind of pectin at the store.

  31. 31
    KJ says:

    Perfect. Thank you so much for this info!

  32. 32
    Dessertcrazy says:

    Are the Ball pectins the same as Certo or Surejell? If I have a recipe that uses ball liquid, can I use Certo instead? Or Ball powder switched with Surejell? Thanks!

  33. 33

    […] more about Substituting Pectin […]

  34. 34
    Melissa says:

    Hi Marisa,

    I’d like to make your Cantaloupe/Vanilla Jam from one of your books (can’t remember off-hand which one it’s in). It calls for liquid pectin – could you perhaps advise as to whether or not I can substitute Pomona’s and what amount I’d need and any adjustments that might need to be made the the recipe?

    Many thanks,
    Melissa

    • 34.1
      Marisa says:

      Using Pomona’s Pectin is an entirely different style of jam making and so I have no idea how to advise you to proceed with that particular preserve. So sorry!

  35. 35
    Josie A. says:

    Thanks for this awesomely informative post – I’m saving it for reference! Just out of curiosity, although it’s sort of the opposite of what you’re talking about here, is there any food-safety reason I couldn’t follow a jam recipe but SKIP the pectin? I rarely use jam because I can rarely eat bread anymore, and gluten-free bread is just sad and expensive. :( But I do eat yogurt and oatmeal fairly often. These applications don’t require my fruit preserves to have any set – in fact, firmly-set jam doesn’t stir into yogurt very nicely. So is there anything wrong with just leaving out the pectin step? It would then be like a chunky fruit syrup, which my dad loves the idea of for putting on ice cream.

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