jello 

We’re in the thick of it: Summertime! And that means fruit coolers, iced tea, fresh pies and gelled desserts! But hold up. Before you get started on the Strawberry Jell-O Mold or the Banana Cream Pie, do you know where your gelatin comes from? If not, read our gelatin article for the not-so appetizing details. Did you read it? Great. Now you’re wondering what alternatives you have for using gelatin in cold pies, gelled dishes and custards. Meet the all-natural, completely plant-based alternative to animal gelatin: Agar.

Made from seaweed, agar is the same stuff scientists use in the bio lab for petri dishes. It’s naturally gelatinous and does exactly the same thing normal gelatin does in the kitchen—it gels! Not only is agar cruelty- and animal-free, it’s also quite nutritious. Virtually calorie- and fat-free, agar is rich in calcium, iron and other minerals. It helps to cleanse the liver, release toxins, increase digestion and soothe the intestines.

With these “No-Jello” recipes, you can indulge in summer gelled treats without the animal cruelty, while giving your body a natural health boost. Rave on with your petri dish, you new-age scientist, you.

Coconut Custard

  • 1 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon agar flakes
  • 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
  • ½ cup raw sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  1. Whisk together ½ cup milk and cornstarch in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Whisk together milk and agar in a small saucepan until dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer 1 minute; reduce heat to low. Add cornstarch mixture, stirring until mixed. Add coconut milk and sugar; cook until thickened, stirring, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove mixture from heat. Whisk in vanilla and salt. Pour into custard dishes or ramekins. Cover and chill until set, about 2 hours. Serve cold.

Strawberry No-Jello

  • 4 cups apple juice
  • 4 tablespoons agar flakes
  • ½ cup rice syrup or maple syrup
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Whisk together juice and agar in a small saucepan until dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer 3 minutes; reduce heat to low.
  2. Remove mixture from heat. Mix in strawberries and vanilla. Pour into dessert bowl. Cover and chill until set, at least 2 hours. Serve cold.

Fresh Cranberry Apple No-Jello

  • 2 cups apple juice
  • ½ cup dried fruit of choice
  • 3 tablespoons agar flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • ½ cup chopped apples
  1. Whisk together juice, dried fruit, agar and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer 5 minutes, until agar is dissolved.
  2. Add cranberries and apples to mixture. Simmer until fruits are softened, about 3 minutes. Pour into dessert bowl. Cover and chill until set, at least 2 hours. Serve cold.

Iced Latte No-Jello

  • 4 cups prepared coffee
  • 4 tablespoons agar flakes
  • ¼ cup sweetener of choice
  • Coconut milk, for serving
  1. Whisk together coffee, agar, and sweetener in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer 5 minutes, until agar is dissolved.
  2. Pour into dessert bowl. Cover and chill until set, at least 2 hours. To serve, cut into cubes and serve in dessert bowls with a hearty splash of coconut milk.

Summer Melon No-Jello

  • 3 pounds mixed summer melon, scooped into rounds with melon baller
  • 4 cups apple juice
  • 1/3 cup agar flakes
  • ¼ cup sweetener of choice
  1. Place melon in a loaf pan; set aside.
  2. Whisk together juice, agar, and sweetener in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer 5 minutes, until agar is dissolved.
  3. Pour mixture over melon in loaf pan. Cover and chill until set, at least 3 hours. To serve, invert mold onto a serving platter, cut into cubes, and enjoy cold.

Image: Furryscaly