Does Jelly Need To Be Refrigerated and Does Jelly Go Bad?

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Jelly – it’s everyone’s favorite fruity dessert. It’s also pretty fun to watch, as it will wibble and wobble just from touching it! From the infamous peanut butter and jelly (with my favorite grape jelly) to the jelly donut, who doesn’t love jelly?

Unfortunately, this sugary delicacy suffers from the same problem that a lot of foods do. That’s right, you need to concern yourself with storage.

Now, generally, when you think of jelly, you think about storing it in the fridge. After all, you usually need to refrigerate jelly in order for it to set properly. But the question here isn’t how you make jelly, it’s about storage.

So, is it really necessary to eat into that limited refrigerator space by putting your jelly in there, or can you leave it out on the counter? What happens if you leave the jelly out overnight when it isn’t refrigerated?

We’re here to answer all of your burning questions about whether jelly really needs to be refrigerated. 

Does Jelly Go Bad Over Time? 

To answer this question, we first need to establish what jelly is made out of. No, contrary to the opinions of children, it isn’t made out of magic. 

Jelly is made out of a few key ingredients, but it’s primarily sugar, fruit juice and something called pectin or powdered pectin. Sometimes people will also put fresh fruit into their jelly.

The pectin is a kind of starch that basically speeds up the jelly cooking process and makes the flavors of fruit that much more obvious. Certain jellies are also made out of things such as preservatives.

So, in short, yes – jelly will eventually become inedible. This is especially the case if you don’t store it correctly. In addition to this, if the jelly contains less sugar, it won’t last for as long. 

Should You Refrigerate Jelly?

The answer to this largely depends on the current state of the jelly. For instance, if you haven’t actually opened the jelly yet and it’s still in cubes, it can last for a number of months in the cupboard before you even need to worry about cooking it.

It’s unnecessary at this stage to put it in the refrigerator.

Likewise, you can often get jellies that are pre-packaged and ready to eat. If you didn’t initially find these jellies refrigerated when you bought them, then you don’t actually have to put them in the refrigerator. You can if you wish to do so, but it certainly isn’t necessary. 

The truth is though, refrigerating something will usually make it last longer. For this reason, if you aren’t guzzling down jelly every other day of the week, you may want to put those jelly jars in the refrigerator for a hot minute. Or a cold minute, really.

Another situation where you should be putting your jelly in the refrigerator is when your jelly doesn’t contain a lot of sugar. It isn’t going to last as long outside of the fridge, and it may also begin to taste weird if you leave it at room temperature. Jelly and jam are similar in this way.

How Long Will Jelly Last if It Hasn’t Been Refrigerated?  

Again, this largely depends on whether you’ve opened it or not. The good news is if you haven’t opened the jelly, you can put it in your kitchen cupboards and it could last for up to 12 months.

Of course, this number is significantly reduced if the jelly has a low sugar content, since the sugar basically acts like a preservative. 

Sometimes we just don’t have room in the fridge, of course. In these situations, you need to make sure that you’re doing everything that you can in order to ensure that the jelly lasts for as long as it possibly can.

For instance if you’re planning to use the jelly for other things like as a dip, you should avoid putting any other food into the jelly since this will mean it doesn’t last as long.

Instead, put the jelly into a new container if you’re going to dip it so the rest of the jelly is left over for you to use for other purposes.

Also, if you’re eating the jelly make sure that you’re eating it with cutlery that’s been properly cleaned. You don’t want bacteria getting into it, after all. 

In addition to this, when your jelly has been opened you should make sure that you keep the lid of it closed so that nothing gets into it and so that it doesn’t end up drying out. This is also important for keeping it out of the sunlight, since this can make it last for less time. 

How Long Will Jelly Last In The Fridge?

The truth is that it’s not strictly necessary to keep your jelly in the fridge. With that being said, it can certainly mean that the jelly has a longer shelf life if you keep it in the fridge. 

For instance, if you make some homemade jelly and put it in the fridge, it will last around 6 to 12 months. This is a pretty incredible shelf life, especially in comparison to when you keep it out. If you don’t put the jelly in the fridge, it will most likely only last for around a month. 

Of course, low sugar and sugar free jelly may last for slightly less time when it’s put in the fridge. In general, a jelly that’s low in sugar may only last in the fridge for around 8 to 9 months.

On the other hand, jelly that’s completely free of sugar will most likely only last for around 6 to 9 months. 

Of course, the same rules that we mentioned above apply. Make sure that you cover the jelly up in a container with a lid on, as this will make it last longer, and try not to introduce any extra bacteria to the jelly since this can make the shelf life a lot shorter. 

What’s especially cool is that it’s also possible to freeze jelly if you want it to last for an especially long time. This is a good idea if you don’t think that you’ll eat it before the expiration date of the jelly.

You’ll need to make sure that you freeze it correctly if you’re going to do this, however. This means putting it into a container that’s shut tight, and leaving a little bit of space on the top where it will expand when it’s being frozen.

If you put the jelly in the freezer then it’s likely to last for longer than a year, though it’s always better to eat it earlier on than this since the quality will decline the longer that you leave it in the freezer.

How Long Is It Possible to Keep Jelly Out of the Fridge?

It’s often best not to leave any jelly that you’ve opened out of the fridge for longer than a month. You should avoid leaving jelly out in the open at all if it doesn’t contain a lot of sugar.

In short, it’s often best to put it in the refrigerator if you’re in luck.

How Can I Tell If My Jelly Has Gone Bad? 

Thankfully, it’s usually pretty easy to tell if jelly is still okay to eat. You’ll usually see signs that it has spoiled if it’s past its lifespan. You should keep an eye out for any major changes in things such as the texture, the color and the taste.

Some more obvious signs that it’s not safe to eat the jelly include when it’s smelling a little funky or if mold has started to develop in the jelly. Here’s the answer in a little bit of extra depth: 

  • Smell – If the jelly has gone bad, it may begin to smell a little bit strange. The smell may resemble something like yeast or some alcohol. The second that you notice a foul smell such as this, you should throw the jelly away. 
  • Mold – This should be pretty obvious, but you should stay away from any jelly that has mold on the surface, or anywhere else for that matter. As soon as you see mold on the jelly you should get rid of it. No, don’t try scoping the moldy jelly off the surface. If there’s mold on some of the jelly then it means that it’s all bad. You don’t want to be ingesting toxins after all.
  • Color – You should observe the color of the jelly before eating too. Note what the original color was, and if it’s changed that’s a good indication that the jelly is no longer fit for eating. This is only the case if there are other issues present though, such as mold or smell. Jelly can change slightly in color after a while but it should still be okay. You will just need to avoid eating the part that has become discolored. 

Okay, so what about if your jelly has developed extra liquid? If you don’t notice any of the issues we’ve mentioned above, it should still be okay to eat the jelly if there’s a little bit of extra water in it.

A jelly’s texture can change after a while but ultimately it should still be fine to eat if there is a little bit of extra liquid in it. It’s perfectly normal most of the time for jelly to go a little bit watery after a while.

You should get rid of any jelly that has a severe consistency change, though.

What Will Happen If You Eat Bad Jelly? 

Let’s face it – we’ve all accidentally eaten something that’s past its expiry date. It’s normal, though perhaps it’s not ideal. If you do end up eating jelly that has passed its expiry date, there’s no need to panic.

You aren’t going to suddenly sprout wings and start projectile vomiting all over your mom’s freshly washed carpet. The chances are that at this point the jelly isn’t going to be bad enough that it will cause you any issues if you eat it.

So what about jelly that’s actually been spoiled? Well, if jelly has spoiled you will most likely know about it. You’ll see some of the signs that we’ve mentioned above, such as indications that the jelly has gone moldy or it’s starting to smell a little bit unusual.

Really, you just need to be cautious when you’re choosing what foods to eat. Make an informed decision if you can about whether the specific thing in question is going to be good for your overall health.

Some reports have said that if you eat moldy jelly it can be problematic for the sake of your health though, so stay away from eating moldy jelly.

How Long Will Jelly Last When it’s Homemade?

There’s nothing quite like a bit of homemade jelly! Of course, it’s worth mentioning that anything homemade isn’t going to last nearly as long as something that you would find in a store.

The chances are that if you’re making the jelly at home you aren’t going to be adding any preservatives in that will make it last longer.

With that being said, when you’re making jelly, you may be unknowingly adding preservatives into it. That’s because sugar can act as a natural preservative. Thanks to that, your homemade jelly will likely last for a little bit longer.

In general you can probably expect your homemade jelly to last for around 6 to 12 months if you put it in the fridge, though again it’s got about a month of shelf life if you leave it out in the open.


Jelly is a delicious treat that many people can eat in abundance. With that being said, sometimes it’s just not possible to eat it all in one go, which can cause some slight problems when you don’t have a lot of storage space.

In general, if you’re going to be eating most jellies within a month, you can probably get away with leaving it out in the open so long as it’s well sealed for up to a month. If you won’t eat it in that time frame, you should probably put it in the fridge. I love homemade jam. Strawberry jam is my favorite fruit preserve. Just make sure you avoid the spoilage.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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