Layered Jell-O {4th of July Edition!}

Apparently 4th of July layers are what all the cool kids are doing this week. And by cool kids, I mean Sara and me. And by Sara and me, I really mean Sara because I’m a tiny bit nerdy in almost every way. So, basically, one cool non-kid and one semi-nerdy non-kid are posting layered red, white, and blue recipes this week. But that sounds awkward.

So if you weren’t around during our last venture into the territory of Jell-O creations (or in case you don’t, you know, remember a blog post that’s over 1 1/2 years old), I’m not the biggest fan of Jell-O. I think it’s weird. In my weird world, eating Jell-O Jigglers feels like eating fruit-flavored skin (not that I eat a whole lot of skin, but that’s how I imagine it would feel). However, I think Jell-O is infinitely cool. I like playing around with it and making stuff with it and taking pictures of it and, shockingly, I actually really kind of like this layered Jell-O and for more than its stunning good looks.

I usually make this in a bunch of different colors and flavors (except for lemon…I have an unfounded prejudice against lemon Jell-O), but it’s also really fun to do in holiday colors. Like red, white, and blue for the 4th of July next week.

You’ll need 4 3-ounce packages of Jell-O in whatever colors you want (you can’t see it, but I have strawberry and cherry for my reds and there was a little OCD-ness squirming inside me that I wasn’t using the same two flavors or the same two exact colors), 4 packets of unflavored gelatin (I used Knox packets, each of which had exactly 2 1/2 teaspoons in them), and 1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk. And water. But we’ll get to that later.

Spray a 9×13″ pan with non-stick cooking spray and then use a paper towel to spread it around and remove the excess. This will help release the Jell-O when you cut it (duh), but wiping it will also keep you from getting any little oil slicks.

In a small mixing bowl (or large cereal-type bowl), mix one 3-ounce package of Jell-O with 1 1/4 teaspoons (1/2 a packet) of unflavored gelatin. Add 1 cup of boiling water and pour it into the prepared pan. Place it in a completely level refrigerator and let it set for 20 minutes.

While the Jell-O is setting, mix the can of sweetened condensed milk with 1 cup of boiling water in a smallish-medium mixing bowl.

Place 1/2 cup cold water in a small mixing bowl and sprinkle with 2 packets of unflavored gelatin. Let it stand for 2-3 minutes or until the gelatin soaks up the water and it looks grainy.

Add 1/2 cup boiling water and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.

Add the dissolved gelatin mixture to the sweetened condensed milk mixture and stir to dissolve completely. Allow to cool to room temperature.

When the first layer of Jell-O has set, carefully pour 1 cup of the sweetened condensed milk mixture over the Jell-O. Place the pan back in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes or until set.

Right after you place the pan in the refrigerator, repeat the first step with the next flavor/color of Jell-O. It should reach room temperature by the time the sweetened condensed milk layer has set up, so at that point, carefully pour it over the white layer.

Repeat with the remaining layers of sweetened condensed milk mixture and Jell-O. Because the gelatin has been mixed with the sweetened condensed milk, be sure to keep that mixture in a warmer area and, if it starts to set up, place it in a larger pan or bowl and then add some hot water to the outer bowl to keep the mixture from setting up before you’re able to finish all the layers.

When all 7 layers are complete (4 colored layers and 3 white layers) and have set up, carefully cut them into rectangles. Or cubes.

Or whatever shapes you want. And prepare yourself for ooohs and aaaahs and kids and grown-ups thinking you’re awesome.

Layered Jell-O
Mix and match colors you love for with layered Jell-o! Pretty to look at and fun to eat, you'll be sure to draw in some "oohs" and "aah"s!
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  1. 4 3-ounce packages of Jell-O (or your favorite generic brand...this post not sponsored despite the fact that we've used the word "Jell-O" about 798 times)
  2. 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  3. 4 packets unflavored gelatin
  4. Water as directed
  1. Spray a 9x13" pan with non-stick cooking spray and wipe out the excess with a paper towel. Set the pan aside.
  2. Mix 1 package of Jell-O with 1 1/4 teaspoons (1/2 packet) of unflavored gelatin. Add 1 cup boiling water and stir to combine completely. Pour the first layer into the prepared pan and refrigerate in a completely level shelf of the fridge for 20 minutes.
  3. While the first layer is setting, mix 1 cup boiling water with the can of sweetened condensed milk in a smallish-medium mixing bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, sprinkle 2 packets of gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Allow it to stand for 2-3 minutes or until the gelatin has absorbed the water and it becomes grainy. When it is ready, add 1/2 cup boiling water and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Add the dissolved gelatin mixture to the sweetened condensed milk mixture and stir completely. Allow to come to room temperature.
  5. When the first layer of Jell-O has set, carefully pour 1 cup of the sweetened condensed milk mixture over the Jell-O layer and return the pan to the refrigerator. Chill for 15 minutes or until set.
  6. After you return the pan to the refrigerator, repeat the Jell-O step (1 package Jell-O + 1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin + 1 cup boiling water). If you do it immediately after you put the pan back in the fridge, it should be room temperature by the time the sweetened condensed milk layer has set up. Pour it over the milk layer, chill, repeat with milk, then Jell-O, then milk, then Jell-O. You should begin and end with Jell-O layers and have 4 layers of Jell-O with 3 layers of milk in between. As you go, if the milk begins to set up, place the bowl in a larger bowl or a shallow pan and add some hot water to the larger pan/bowl to keep the milk mixture from setting up.
  7. When the last layer has set up, carefully cut into cubes or use a cookie cutter to cut into shapes. If you run the cookie cutter or knife under hot water for a few seconds and then dry it, it will help make pretty final cuts/shapes.
Adapted from The Food Librarian
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  1. Super cute! I love these festive patriotic posts! Hope you’re feeling good and getting close to having that baby…..

  2. Love this!! And so glad you linked back to the older post. I think I’m going to make the jumble squares with blue and white, and then this layered one with red and white… and then put them on a platter to look like a flag?!! Maybe thats going a little too far…

  3. Approximately how long did this take you to make? I want to make this but I work full time so I want to make sure I have enough time to have each layer set!

    1. Once you get into the swing of things, it doesn’t really take that long–a couple of hours, tops, and that’s with lots of down time. The first 2 layers take the longest because you’re waiting for them to cool, but the rest of the time, the cooling happens while the Jell-O’s setting.

  4. how fun! I’m curious what the layer with the sweetened condensed milk tastes like? Is there anything to compare it to?

  5. I was just thinking yesterday that I would look around on your blog for one of the cool Jell-O recipes and make a patriotic version for next week… Thanks for saving me the trouble! Looks good!!

  6. Boy am I happy you did this post! I had planned on making these and was not in the mood to sift through my recipe collection to find these. One question *no judgment, please!*- think I could make these into Jell-o… shots? Or will the texture (and not just my guests) get sloppy?

      1. No worries- However, if anyone does drink, I added 1/4 c vodka per layer and it worked like a charm! 🙂 Thanks for the great and lovely recipe!

  7. These look so beautiful!! I’m making them for our 4th of July/my daughter’s 8th birthday party. How far in advance can I make them before they start to get yucky? By the way, I’m just taking the brownie crust out of the oven for the ice-cream cake (your mint choc chip ice-cream squares recipe!!) – I made it on Easter, and now everyone wants it for their birthday cake!! Thanks so much for all the fabulous recipes, girls!!

  8. I made these for a church contest yesterday and won several prizes! They looked beautiful and tasted great. Thanks so much for a great recipe (and for making me look good =)

  9. I will have to try this. One of our Thanksgiving traditions is Rainbow Jello – similar to this but with a translucent layer and a whip cream opaque layer for each color – 8 layers total.

  10. I made these for the first time and they were a hit and so simple, just takes a little time. I am planning on changing the colors up for many holidays to come. My kids loved peeling the layers apart. I even ate 2 squares and I really never eat Jell-o.


  11. Beautiful! My question is why do you leave out the cold water? In my experience doing that I have never liked how thick the jello tastes with less water, just wondering if this is an issue with this recipe. Would it mess it up to add more water and just have thicker layers? Thanks!

  12. Thanks a lot for ruining Jello for me! Growing up (and in true Mormon fashion), my mom always made a red, white & blue striped jello mold of the United States for the 4th of July. (My brother & I always fought over who got to eat Texas.) It still doesn’t feel like the 4th to me unless I have jello. Correction: it USED to not feel like the 4th unless I had jello. This year, I took one bite of the plain red jello I made for my kids (give me a break–we just moved & I’m still unpacking, no fancy desserts here), and all I could think of was “fruit flavored skin.” Ack!! You’re right! I don’t think I’ll be able to eat jello again!

    Love your blog, guys. Keep it up!

  13. I have NEVER had a problem making jello in my life! However, I ruined an expensive recipe because it didn’t set up. I have bought a package of unflavored gelatine and want to add to this to see if I can salvage it. Thought before I do add it I would ask you for help. Thank you. Maggi

  14. You know, my mom always made this for Thanksgiving (a multi-colored version, 14 layers!) but she passed away before she was able to teach me how she made it. Thank you for putting this up. It brings back so many happy memories. 🙂

  15. Thank you for the recipe! A note for your Readers – please DO be sure to let the first white layer cool to room temperature (as the recipe says) before pouring it in the pan. Otherwise, you will have a pink layer like I do – Ooops!!! =)

  16. Also works great if you skip the gelatin and just mix every other jello layer with the condensed milk. Those layers will come out paler but makes for pretty rainbow layed jello

  17. I made this today & it looks really good, one suggestion that I have when pouring the second(third,fourth, fifth etc) layers pour the jello over the back of a spoon so it disperses more gently, my first layer got a little messed up but it was smooth sailing after that.

  18. How would these come out with sugar free jello? Husband got all excited when he saw an end cap of jello and didn’t realize he bought the sugar free stuff. Trying to use the stuff up! This looks fun enough my people might try it!

  19. I have lost my original recipe, (daughter took it). I am used to making this with one large red layer with strawberries or rasberries and a blue layer with blueberries. It looks great in a clear pyrex dish. The white layer you gave recipe for is exactly the middle of this.

  20. I wish I would have found this before Independence Day! Really phenomenal idea. When presented, it looks so difficult to make. Your guide makes it seem quite simple, though.

    Thanks for the great looking recipe!

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