• Yield: Serves 4

A homemade gelatin dessert without artificial flavors and synthetic dyes is a great thing that almost nobody gets to experience anymore. It is simple - a good fruit juice jelled with unflavored gelatin.


An easy way to make real "Jell-O" is to buy some high-quality fruit juice, such as imported pear, peach, passion fruit, or cassis, available at specialty and gourmet markets, or guava nectar from Goya, with its tropical flavor and lovely coral color. Or, juice fresh fruits with an electric juicer and sweeten to taste.


For a thicker, less limpid gelatin, puree the fruit in a food processor, strain out any seeds, and use the puree instead of juice. Frozen juice concentrates, especially purple grape juice, make great "Jell-O." I reconstitute them in a proportion of 1 part concentrate to 2 parts water.

Certain raw fruits have an enzyme that will prevent gelatin from setting. Pineapple, mango, kiwi, and ginger must all be cooked for 5 minutes to destroy the enzyme before using. Fructose is available at health food stores.


  • 2 cups fresh or good-quality bottled fruit juice or puree

  • 1 envelope (1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin

  • 2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (optional)

  • Sugar, honey, maple syrup, or fructose to taste (optional)


1. Pour 1/2 cup of the fruit juice into a medium glass bowl or measuring cup and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let stand for 1 minute.

2. In a medium saucepan, bring the remaining 1-1/2 cups fruit juice to a boil. Stir into the gelatin mixture until dissolved. Add the lemon juice and sweetener to taste, if desired. Pour into individual bowls or into one bowl. Let cool, then refrigerate for several hours, until set. You can prepare the "Jell-O" up to 5 days ahead.

Excerpted from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider (Artisan, 2001). © 2001 by Sally Schneider.

Sally Schneider
A former chef, Sally Schneider has won numerous awards—including four James Beard awards—for her books and magazine writing. She is creator of the lifestyle blog Improvised Life, a featured blogger on The Atlantic Monthly's Food Blog, and author of The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook. She has served as a contributing editor to both Saveur and Food & Wine, and her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Saveur, Food & Wine, SELF and Connoisseur.