Jello is such a fun and tasty treat, ideal for kids both big and small! Jello can be enjoyed as a quick dessert, or used to make trifles, fruit salads, cake layers or fillings, and more!
But does Jello need to be refrigerated? Store-bought Jello cups are shelf-stable and should not need to be refrigerated. Homemade Jello is at a higher risk of bacterial contamination and must be stored in the refrigerator. Any type of Jello should be stored away from light and foods with a strong odor or flavor.
Whether you’ve bought a pack of Jello cups or are making a batch at home, you’ll want to make sure they are stored correctly to keep them at their best.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about storing our favorite childhood dessert!
What Is Jello?
There can’t be many people reading this who don’t know what Jello is — this popular dessert is now one of the famous brand names around the world!
Jello, or Jell-O, is the trademarked name for a gelatin-based dessert made by Kraft Foods. You may also see similar products sold under the name jelly, juicy gels, or gelatin.
These simple products are all based on a similar concept — a sweetened, fruit-flavored liquid is jellified using the power of gelatin. This turns it into a wobbly, translucent semi-solid that can be eaten with a spoon.
Jello comes in two forms: either pre-made Jello cups or a mix that you can make yourself at home. The homemade version can be made from Jello powder or concentrated lumps of the jellified mixture.
As anyone following a vegan or vegetarian diet will know, gelatin is an animal product, so most Jello products are not suitable for anyone avoiding these types of foods.
Luckily there are some vegan-friendly Jello products available, so no one needs to miss out!
Does Jello Need To Be Refrigerated?
Whether Jello needs to be refrigerated will depend on whether you’re talking about pre-made Jello cups or a Jello product that you make at home.
Jello cups are shelf-stable and should not need to be refrigerated. However, this does not mean you cannot keep them chilled, as we will find out later!
Homemade Jello is at a higher risk of bacterial contamination and should be stored in the refrigerator.
Do Jello Cups Need To Be Refrigerated?
The joy of premade Jello cups is that they are shelf-stable and do not need to be refrigerated.
This means you can buy a pack from the store and keep them in the pantry, handy for whenever you fancy a sweet fruity treat!
How Long Do Jello Cups Stay Fresh At Room Temperature?
Pre-packaged Jello cups will be labeled with a best-before date indicating when they should be consumed by. This is normally around 3-4 months.
The long storage period of Jello cups is a result of stabilizers and preservatives that stop the jelly from deteriorating.
And the best-before date is just for guidance — if your Jello cups are past this date, you may well still be able to eat them!
There are some steps you can take to keep your Jello cups in prime condition. Store them on a cool shelf away from light and keep them away from foods with a strong aroma, as this can be absorbed by the jelly.
How Long Can Jello Cups Be Stored In The Fridge?
Although it isn’t essential to keep Jello cups in the fridge, keeping them chilled will extend their shelf life by a considerable amount.
A sealed Jello cup can be stored for at least 1 year in the refrigerator. Again, keep them away from foods with a strong flavor or aroma.
Once you’ve opened a Jello cup it becomes more susceptible to bacterial contamination and should be refrigerated in a sealed container. If not consumed within a week, it should be discarded.
Does Homemade Jello Need To Be Refrigerated?
Jello that is prepared at home from a premixed powder or concentrated block of gelatin is not as stable as premade Jello cups and must be refrigerated.
This form of Jello does contain stabilizers and preservatives, but they are not as effective at keeping bacteria at bay.
And, despite our best efforts, it is unlikely that our home kitchens meet the same stringent hygiene standards as the Jell-o factory!
Homemade Jello contains the perfect combination of sugar and liquid that can lead to bacterial contamination. If it isn’t kept chilled, it can quickly start to go rancid.
If your Jello tastes bitter or has an unpleasant tang, this is thanks to bacterial colonization — yuck!
Ideally, homemade Jello should be stored in the fridge in a container with a tightly fitting lid. The most hassle-free way is to make the Jello in this container, then place the lid on it once it has completely cooled and set.
If there is a large air gap between the Jello and the lid, place a layer of plastic wrap over the surface of the Jello. This will protect the Jello from moisture and air, helping to keep it in peak condition for longer.
Never leave Jello uncovered in the fridge, as this jellified mix soaks up flavors and aromas like a sponge! It will also spoil faster due to higher levels of bacterial contamination.
How Long Does Homemade Jello Stay Fresh?
If stored correctly, plain homemade Jello with no added ingredients can stay fresh for up to 10 days. We do recommend that you consume it within 1 week if possible to enjoy it at its best.
As soon as you start adding things to Jello or mixing it with other ingredients, the storage time reduces considerably.
Homemade Jello with added fruit will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. After this the fruit will start to break down, contaminating the Jello.
If you’re using Jello as part of a dessert, such as a trifle or cake filling, the storage time will be dictated by the other ingredients.
Most desserts contain some form of dairy-based item such as whipped cream, which will need to be consumed within a day or two.
How Long Can Homemade Jello Be Kept At Room Temperature?
Homemade Jello is not stable at room temperature and should not be left out for more than a couple of hours.
Any longer than this and bacterial contamination is highly likely to have occurred, and the Jello must be discarded.
If you’re serving Jello as a dessert at a party, leave it in the refrigerator until you are finished with the main course. Keep it covered with a lid or plastic wrap until just before you take it to the table.
Do Jello Packets Need To Be Refrigerated?
Unopened packets of powdered Jello mix are shelf-stable and can be stored in the pantry for a long period of time.
It isn’t unheard of to hear about a packet of Jello mix that is several years old and appears as good as the day it was manufactured!
Once the packet has been opened, the mix will be more susceptible to contamination from moisture and bacteria, and will only last for around three months. Keep it tightly sealed to ensure it stays fresh for as long as possible.
Now we’ve figured out the best way to keep Jello chilled and at its best, let’s take a look at some other Jello-related questions.
Can you freeze Jello?
In theory, you can freeze Jello, but we wouldn’t advise it!
Jello that has been frozen will be safe to eat, but you probably wouldn’t want to. This is because the texture of Jello changes considerably when it has been frozen.
When the water molecules in Jello are frozen, this basically undoes the “jellification” that occurred when you made your Jello.
So, when you take it out of the freezer, it will be mushy and not at all jelly-like.
Does Jello set faster in the freezer?
Jello needs to sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before it will set, which can be frustrating if you’re in a hurry to eat it!
If you don’t have the time or patience to wait, you might be tempted to put it in the freezer to speed up the process.
You can put Jello in the freezer to help it set quicker, but if you leave the Jello in the freezer for too long, it will become frozen and mushy.
We’d recommend that you only pop it into the freezer for 20-30 minutes — any longer than this and you risk ruining the whole thing!
A safer method is to sit the dish of Jello in an ice bath to rapidly chill it without risking it freezing.
How do you know if Jello has gone bad?
Homemade Jello can be kept for up to ten days in the refrigerator — great news if you want to prepare a batch in advance for a party!
But how do you know that Jello is still safe to eat? If you’ve left your Jello in the fridge for longer than planned, here are some signs that it may have gone bad:
- There is a layer of mold on the surface of the jelly.
- Pockets of watery liquid developed in or on the jelly.
- There is a bitter, sharp, or rancid smell to the jelly.
As with any foodstuff that may have gone bad, if in doubt, throw it out!