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.

If you haven’t been over to Sea Cuisine yet, click here to check out some fun photos from Sara’s Caribbean adventures last month!


  1. 1
    Carly says:

    Super cute! I love these festive patriotic posts! Hope you’re feeling good and getting close to having that baby…..

  2. 2
  3. 3
    Emily says:

    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…

  4. 4
    Terri Frandsen says:

    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!

    • 4.1

      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.

  5. 5
    anita says:

    could you cut them into stars?

  6. 6
    garysgirl says:

    This is such a cool idea! Love it!

  7. 7
    Michelle H says:

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

  8. 8

    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!!

  9. 9
    Vikki Ivey says:

    Maybe a few drops of blue food coloring to make the blue a little darker?

  10. 10
    Melissa F says:

    …or you could cut them into rectangles and pipe some white frosting stars on top!

  11. 11
    Patti says:

    Kate, stop answering questions and go have that baby!

  12. 12
    Joann says:

    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?

    • 12.1
      sara says:

      We don’t drink so we’re not the girls to ask for that, lol Sorry!

      • JoAnn says:

        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!

  13. 13
    Donna C says:

    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!!

  14. 14
    Boedee says:

    What if I only wanted 3 layers? One red, one white, and one blue.

  15. 15
    Sierra says:

    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 =)

  16. 16
    Misti says:

    Just made these, LOVE THEM! Thank you!

  17. 17
    Marie says:

    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.

  18. 18
    Helena says:

    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.


  19. 19
    Amanda says:

    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!

  20. 20
    Teresa says:

    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!

  21. 21

    This is so cool! Would be totally cute cut using a star cookie cutter!

  22. 22
    Maggi says:

    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

  23. 23
    Carly says:

    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. 🙂

  24. 24
    layal says:

    how many grames in the unflavoured gelatin pack ??

  25. 25
    Heather says:

    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!!! =)

  26. 26
    stacey says:

    how far in advance could I make this recipe?

  27. 27
    Sue says:

    Can I freeze this ?

  28. 28
    Alex Shine says:

    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

  29. 29
    Caryn says:

    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.

  30. 30
    Mary says:

    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!

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