We often think of Jello as nothing more than sugar, water, and flavoring. However, Jello contains a critical binding ingredient that gives it a distinct texture and its ability to hold a variety of shapes. The gelatin molecules literally hold it all together. And there are many ways your food prep can break them.
Can You Put Jello in the Freezer?
Yes, you can put fully prepared Jello in the freezer. However, the process of freezing affects the gelatin’s chemical bonds. Freeze it for a short period, and you may alter the texture a little. Freeze it for a long time, and you’ll actually shorten its shelf life once you take it out and leave it at room temperature. We would recommend covering Jello deserts with plastic wrap to protect them from air and moisture.
Here’s What You Should Do With Jello
1. Put Jello in the Fridge
The answer is a resounding yes. You’ll extend its shelf life by several days if it is kept cool. Keep it in the fridge whenever it isn’t being divvied up, and it could last as long as a week.
However, Jello in the fridge can go bad. You may notice the taste becoming bitter, and it may start to smell rancid. If the Jello is forming discolored spots, it is dangerous to eat.
2. Use Frozen Fruit in Jello
Fruit contains sugar and water, both of which can go bad. You can preserve fruit by canning it, drying it, or freezing it. But can you use frozen fruit in Jello? In theory, yes. However, the moisture in the frozen fruit can alter the very recipe for Jello.
Furthermore, the cold regions around the frozen fruit aren’t solidifying at the same rate as the rest of the Jello. This is why you should thaw frozen fruit before you use it in a Jello recipe.
Note that you can’t successfully use thawed fruit if the fruit itself is incompatible with gelatin. Fruits that ruin Jello include pineapple, mango, guava, kiwi, and figs. Add these fruit fresh to the Jello, and it won’t set.
You can’t solve that problem by adding them frozen to the gelatin mix. However, these fruits can generally be cooked and then used with gelatin. Heating them by boiling or steaming them inactivates the protease that interferes in the formation of gelatin molecules. Note that cooking ginger root also neutralizes the proteases inside of it, too.
Note that the canning process cooks fruit. This is why you can use canned pineapple and guava in your gelatin dessert. However, dried fruit has not always been heated to the point that it breaks down these chemicals such that it can be used in gelatin without getting a semi-liquid mess.
There are people who cook raw fruit in order to make it compatible with gelatin. If you put cooked fruit in the freezer to cool it down, take it out as soon as it is close to room temperature. The heat from the fruit will interfere in the solidification process of the gelatin. That’s why you want all the fruit to be room temperature or slightly chilled when you add it to the gelatin, especially if you want a firm gel used in Jello molds.
Ideally, the fruit is partially set or somewhat thick. You’ll know that the fruit in the fridge is the consistency of pudding when you want to add it to the Jello. This is especially true if you’re going to spread a layer of fruit in between two layers of gelatin to make a multi-layered dessert.
3. Eat Frozen Jello
It can be a challenge, but the answer is yes. In fact, there are people who add Kool-Aid to Jello in order to make their own popsicles. The Kool-Aid firms up the texture so that the popsicles are dimensionally stable. In other words, if you freeze Jello and then try to eat it, you’ll get a semi-solid mess in most cases.
Things You Shouldn’t Do With Jello
1. Freeze Jello Powder
Packaged Jello powder should be stored in a cool dry place like a pantry. We do not recommend freezing the powder in the freezer. The rapid temperature change can alter the chemical makeup. And the moisture in the freezer can seep into the packaging and spoil it. That is why you should keep it in the original packaging and store the package in a plastic bag if you didn’t use it all.
Gelatin powder contains water and sugar, the latter of which will definitely spoil over time. That’s why you should throw out expired Jello powder and buy more.
2. Freeze Jello Shots
Jello shots contain gelatin, sugar, and alcohol. Freezing Jello is a common practice when you’re going to make Jello shots, though this isn’t recommended. That’s because alcohol and Jello have different freezing points. You will end up with alcohol separating from the gelatin, and the alcohol itself will remain semi-liquid though the water and gelatin powder freeze hard.
This destroys the very point of making Jello shots, creating a sweet desert that includes and diffuses the alcohol flavor. Instead, you’ll get a squishy Hello with watery lumps. And it will take much longer to freeze than water.
Furthermore, freezing gelatin containing alcohol won’t extend the shelf life of the alcohol because it won’t freeze in the average home’s freezer. Expect frozen Jello shots to go bad after a week.
What Happens if You Let Frozen Jello Thaw?
Freezing the Jello breaks up the gelatin threaded molecular bonds. The artificial and natural flavoring remains. The fats in natural gelatin remain. But you destroy the consistency. You’ll get a semi-solid mess no matter what it looked like before. You cannot turn it back into the original shape with its characteristic bounce.
Will Refrigerating or Freezing Gelatin Remove Extra Moisture?
Suppose you added too much water to the gelatin. Or you used canned fruit without draining the juices, creating the same effect. Freezing this overly-watery gelatin may result in the liquids rising to the top and freezing like ice while the more solid gelatin and fruit sink to the bottom. However, you can’t reliably use this method to remove the extra water or make your gelatin more solid. The only certain solution is adding another package of gelatin to the mix.
Jello can be placed in the freezer to speed up the time it takes to set. There is a risk that the jello will not set correctly after being in the cold temperature for too long. We recommend limiting the time the jello is in the freezer to 15-20 minutes, which should help it set and thicken before turning into a huge mess.