Gelatin molds are easy to make, but knowing a few tips and tricks can make a big difference.

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Working with gelatin

Unlike many ingredients in your pantry, gelatin is temperamental and demands specific care. Here are a few tips that will help you transform liquid into gelatinous, wobbly fun.

  • Many recipes call for 2-cups liquid per 1-packet of Knox gelatin. HOWEVER, many people (including my recipes) prefer 1 ¾ cups liquid per 1-packet of gelatin. This creates a stiffer jelly that nicely holds the design of your gelatin mold.
  • Because of the heavy whipping cream, gelatin-to-liquid ratios are different for panna cottas. Many panna cotta recipes call for 1-packet gelatin for 4 cups liquid, but it various.
  • 1- packet of Knox gelatin equals 1 tablespoon.
  • Always soften or “bloom” the gelatin. (I prefer the word “blooming” – it sounds poetic). Blooming involves sprinkling gelatin on top of cold water. Bloomed gelatin has the consistency of runny applesauce.
  • Always add bloomed gelatin to warm or hot liquid. The heat will successfully dissolve the gelatin. If the gelatin doesn’t completely dissolve, you’ll see white clumps or ropes of gelatin in your final product. NOTE: Never add gelatin to boiling water – this apparently deactivates gelling abilities.


I find shopping for vintage molds just as fun as making gelatin. The Goodwill in my neighborhood has a new supply of molds every week – and they’re cheap! Antique malls also have a wide selection, but tend to be more expensive. Ebay and Etsy are other excellent sources for vintage molds. I’ve learned from experience that glass and ceramic molds are heavy and cumbersome, so stick with metal or plastic. Also, when making individual molds, it’s best not to use a muffin tin. Since removing gelatin from a mold can be tricky, it’s much easier to use individual  molds instead.

Suspending objects

One of the fun (and odd) characteristics of gelatin is its ability to freeze fruit in space. In order to accomplish this, put the gelatin (without fruit) in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency, then gently stir in fruit. The gelatin should be easy to stir but thick enough to suspend the fruit.  However, if it’s too thick, stirring in fruit may cause bubbles. Getting the “perfect” thickened consistency takes practice.


Layering is the trickiest gelatin skill, but results in beautiful molds. Layering takes time – the previous layer must be almost set before the next layer is spooned in. Almost set means the gelatin is solid but sticks to your finger when lightly touched. If the gelatin is completely set, it may not stick to the next layer. However, if the previous layer is not set enough, the layers will merge together.


Successfully removing gelatin from a mold takes practice and patience. To remove gelatin, put mold into a bowl or sink full of hot water for a few seconds. The hot water will soften the mold, making it easier to remove. After removing from hot water, gently shake the mold side to side. Put plate on top of mold and flip over. If gelatin does not come out, try repeating the process. Just be careful not to melt the mold in the process.

Thoughts on Booze

Gelatin-based desserts and liquor go together like toast and jam – it is just meant to be. Here are a few thoughts on using alcohol in gelatin molds:

  • Instead of using alcohol to get wasted, consider it as means to accentuate flavor. Quality liqueurs can temper sour citrus, jazz-up rich chocolate, or highlight fresh berries.
  • Quality matters! If you use cheap or poor quality alcohol, you’ll get a sweet, sticky, cheap boozy mess.
  • If you are like me, you do not have the discretionary income to afford expensive spirits. I’m constantly looking for decent tasting and affordable booze (around or under $20 for 750 ml) – and here are some of my favorites: Vodka Monopolowa, Sauza Hornitos Reposado Tequila, New Amsterdam Gin and Evan Williams Bourbon.
  • For more affordable brands, check out this article from The Kitchn on Best Bargain Booze.

Agar Agar

Agar agar, a gelatinous substance derived from algae and popular in Asian desserts, is often used as a vegan substitute for gelatin. Here are a few things I learned experimenting with agar agar:

  • Agar agar can be found at most Chinese grocery stores.
  • Compared to gelatin, agar agar has a more dense and coarse consistency.
  • Use 1-teaspoon agar agar for 2-cups liquid.
  • Using the 1-teaspoon to 2-cups of liquid ratio creates a stiff jelly, often to stiff to work with gelatin molds. Instead pour into a shallow pan, let cool, and cut into squares. To create a softer substance, increase liquid.
  • Agar agar sets faster than gelatin and can set at room temperature.
  • Check out my agar agar recipes: Blood Orange Agar Agar, Blackberry and Tea Agar Agar, and Hibiscus Mint Agar Agar.