Clearjel® vs Sure Jell

Jar of canned pie filling and Clear Jel.  Sure Jell pectin and jar of strawberry jam.
Jar of canned pie filling, Clear Jel, Sure Jell, and jar of strawberry jam. Photo – M Geiger

We get a lot of questions at AnswerLine about Clearjel® and Sure Jell.  Because their names are so similar, there is confusion for two very different products.  Clearjel® and Sure Jell are trade names of two thickening agents used in canning and gelling, respectively.  In addition to having different uses, Clearjel® is not shelf-accessible to most while Sure Jell is easily found among the canning supplies.  Let’s explore what these two products are and how they should be used.


Clearjel® is a waxy maize or corn starch that has been modified to resist break down under high temperatures and different pH levels.  This product is manufactured by the National Starch and Chemical Corporation for the food processing industry and is sold in bulk but is also available in smaller quantities for home use. It is an ideal thickening agent and is widely used commercially.  Clearjel® is recommended for home canning of pie fillings as it remains thin during processing to allow heat to penetrate into the jar and then thickens upon cooling. It does not break down at high temperatures; thus, it remains stable as the pie filling is cooked in preparation for canning, heated during the canning process, and heated a third time as the pie is baked.  Clearjel® is not recommended for frozen sauces since it tends to weep during thawing.

Cornstarch, tapioca, or flour should not be used in canned pie filling.  These thickeners are not suitable because they tend to clump during canning and cloud on the shelf rendering the pie filling unappetizing and unable to thicken when baked.  Pie fillings made with Clearjel® also increase the safety of the products.  Because Clearjel® remains clear and does not clump, heat is better able to penetrate the contents of the jar evenly to kill bacteria and other contaminants during the boiling water canning process.  Jars of pie filling will keep the same consistency after processing, remain shelf stable for at least 12 months, and bake into a perfect pie by simply pouring the filling into a crust and topping as desired.  There will be no starch or flour taste in the filling.

There are two types of Clearjel®, Regular and Instant.  Regular must be used for canning.  Instant Clearjel® will thicken foods without heat thus it is not suitable for canned pie fillings; it thickens when liquid is added.  This makes Instant Clearjel® useful for thickening a room temperature sauce or dressing.  It is also freeze/thaw stable which makes it a good option for preparing a pie filling, pouring into a crust and freezing. Regular, on the other hand, requires heat and can be used for thickening fresh pies and everyday foods.  If preparing a gravy or sauce, mix Clearjel® with a small amount of water and gradually add to the hot mixture, stirring constantly.  Or, everything can be mixed together cold and then heated (stirring constantly) to thicken.  Regular Clearjel® can be used to replace cornstarch or flour as thickening agent in cooking or baking, but cornstarch or flour should not replace Clearjel® for canning.

While there is plenty of praise for Clearjel®, it is not readily available.  For those who live near an Amish grocery, it is likely available there.  The best source is to shop online to find a supplier.  Therefore, one needs to think ahead and allow time for purchase and/or shipping if Clearjel® is to be used.  Clearjel® is recommended, but not required for canning.  The filling can be prepared and canned without thickening with a thickener of choice added at the time of use as if preparing a fresh pie.

There is differing information on the shelf life of Clearjel®; most agree that in a tightly closed container, it should be good for 1 year in the pantry but some list up to 2 years. 

Sure Jell

Sure Jell is pectin.  Pectin is a type of starch, called a hetero-polysaccharide, that occurs naturally in the cell walls of fruits and vegetables giving them structure.  Most commercial pectins, made from apple pomace or citrus rinds, are sold as a dry powder or in liquid form.  When combined with sugar and acid, pectin makes jams and jellies develop a semisolid, gelled texture when they cool. 

Pectin is available in various forms for regular, low-sugar, and freezer jams and jellies depending upon the type of methoxyl used.  High methoxyl is the most common type and used for high sugar jams and jellies; it needs to be cooked to a temperature of 220 F in combination with acid and sugar to form a gel.  Low methoxyl is generally the type used for low- or no-sugar preserves as it relies on calcium (provided in the pectin package) rather than sugar to set or gel. (Liquid pectin is only offered in a regular version and is similar to the regular dry pectin.) Because pectins behave differently, it’s best to use the product listed in the recipe being used or follow the pectin insert directions carefully to assure success. 

Sure Jell and other pectin products are readily available where canning supplies are sold.  Sure Jell or other pectin products are not suitable for pie fillings. 

Powdered pectin can be kept in the pantry and is best used within a year; after that time, it may not perform as well.  Unopened liquid pectin is good for a year in the pantry; if opened, it should be refrigerated and used within one month (Still

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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59 thoughts on “Clearjel® vs Sure Jell

  1. Hi Cheryle, pie filling must be made with Clear Jel which is a modified cornstarch; Sure Jel is a fruit pectin for jams and jellies. Sure Jel should not be used for pie fillings as Clear Jel is the only producted tested and approved for pie filling; Clear Jel fascilitates heat penetration adquately for a safe, shelf-stable product and does not break down during processing. Your filling can be frozen but I have no idea what the outcome (quality) will be when you go to use it.

  2. I have processed sand plum jelly twice using surejell. It’s not setting up. I drove 40 miles just now to get some Certo for added pectin. How much do I us? I started out with six pints, now down to five jars. Please help.

  3. Hi Patti, there isn’t enough information in your question for me to provide you with a sound answer. To begin, if the jelly was originally made with powdered pectin, it is not recommended to thicken with liquid pectin. The two pectin types are different in the way they contribute to gelling. Most remaking recipes specify that you work with only 4 cups of jelly at a time. Please see these link: ;

  4. I made some pecan praline jelly and it did not set. It called for Dutch Gel 11/3 cup. How much Sure Jell should I use. It also called to mix the Dutch gel with the sugar. Do you always boil sure gel first. Please let me know the amout of sure gel I need to use. Thank you

  5. Hi Mary, I could not find a recipe for pecan praline jelly to gather more information before replying; often knowing the recipe and process adds a great deal of insight when we are not able to talk to the client. Per the info I found for Dutch Gel, use 1/3 cup (rounded) Dutch Gel instead of Sure-Jell, Certo, or Ball prepared Fruit Pectin Blends when making jams or jellies. My take is that 1/3 cup+ of Dutch Gel will replace one box or packet of the prepared pectins. The directions that I found for Dutch Gel are as follows: Carefully measure your fruit and sugar. Bring fruit and sugar to a boil; let cook for 2 minutes (do not allow to boil over). Using a whisk, GRADUALLY add the carefully measured amount of Dutch Gel. Keep stirring to incorporate all dry Dutch Gel pectin. Return to a boil; boil for 2 minutes. Skim off the foam. Pour into sterile jelly jars. Seal jars with water bath process according to the recommendations of the canner of your recipe.
    For Sure Jell or Ball dry pectin the process is this: When using powdered pectin for cooked jam, add it to the strained juice or chopped fruit BEFORE heating. Next, bring the mixture to a full rolling boil (a boil that cannot be stirred down). THEN add the sugar. Bring to a boil again and boil for 1 minute.

    Remaking directions can be found here:
    OR here:

  6. I was gifted 1.5 pound jar of Hoosier Hill Farm Clear Jel powder. Ingredient list only says “corn starch”. Upon receipt I was giddy thinking I had a bunch of “sure jel” to make my jams with. After seeing that it’s just corn starch I’m hesitant to use it instead of Sure Jel. Is it interchangeable or not please?

  7. Hi Mysteri,
    Thank you for reaching out to AnswerLine. Clear Jel and Sure Jell are two very different products–Clear Jel being a modified corn starch and Sure Jell being a pectin derived from pectin rich fruits. The two are NOT interchangable. Sure Jell or similar pectin products are best for making fruit spreads, jams, and jellies. Fruits which contain enough of their own pectin can be made without adding a pectin product. Clear Jel can be used to thicken fruit sufficiently to be used as a jam. Oregon State and Washington State University publications provides more information on using Clear Jel for jams: and

  8. Hello, I want to thicken cold crushed strawberries for pavlova dessert.
    How do use sure jell to accomplish the thickening.
    Thank you

  9. Hi Denise, the Sure Jell box should have instructions. If not, gather: 4 cups sugar, 2 cups fresh strawberries, 1.75 ounces Original Sure Jell Premium Fruit Pectin and ¾ cup water. Wash and hull the strawberries. Place strawberries in a large bowl. Use a potato masher to crush the strawberries. Add sugar to crushed berries. Whisk vigorously to combine and allow to sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    In a small saucepan, add water and pectin. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Allow to boil for one minute, whisking constantly, then remove from the heat.
    Add to strawberry sugar mixture and stir for 3 minutes, until sugar is completely dissolved.
    Fill containers with the jam mixture, leaving ½-¾ inch space at the top incase the jam expands while freezing. Allow to stand at room temperature 24 hours to set.
    Transfer to the refrigerator (good for 3 weeks) or freezer (good for a year) to store.

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