Homemade Gummy Fruit Snacks (Healthy Snacks for Kids)


Summer is officially over. Well, not officially according to the officials who officially officiate these things. But as far as I am concerned, it is officially over. For anyone who has ever been beholden to a school year schedule, which is practically everyone, summer is over when school is back in session. And tomorrow my son heads off to Grade 1, and we become slaves to the school schedule once again. When that first school bell rings and the kids head into their classrooms, that is the start of fall. It hardly matters what the actual temperature is, or what the officials say, I will always feel like summer ends when school begins.

And with the start of school comes the start of packing lunches, one of my least favourite tasks of the day. I steadfastly refuse to purchase the school meal plans because I know I can do much better, both health and cost-wise, with home-packed lunches. But packing meals and snacks that are both healthful and flavourful is more difficult than it might seem. I have multiple children, and keeping track of each child’s likes and dislikes requires some mental dexterity. And since so many schools are nut-free, I have to be mindful of the ingredients in pre-packaged snacks. There is also the possibility that a snack that doesn’t actually contain nuts might have been made on a facility of one that does, thereby risking cross-contamination and disqualifying that snack too.

One snack that my kids love, and that I feel pretty good about giving to them, are these little gummy fruit snacks from Trader Joe’s. They’re called Fruit Flakes and are something like a cross between fruit leather and gummy bears. There are other brands on the market, but the Trader Joe’s brand does not contain any added sugar. My biggest beef with them is that there are only 6 packs to a box, and at $3.50 a box, they aren’t the most economical. So I somehow got it in my head that I should try making my own. How hard could it be?

I cast around for some idea on how to go about it, and although I didn’t come up entirely empty-handed, I didn’t really find what I was looking for. Most of the recipes I came across were made with sugar, and plenty of it, which rather defeated the purpose of my mission. The TJ’s Fruit Flakes are made simply of fruit puree and pectin, but most pectins on the market take sugar to help them jell properly. So I was a little stumped. I finally came across a parenting messageboard where someone had made gummy fruit snacks with gelatin, and as I had plenty of gelatin on hand, I decided to give that a go. It wasn’t quite what I was looking for, but I figured it would please my kids. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, as I used some ideas and instructions from the back of the box of gelatin. I also thought I’d get a little fancy and use these cute little starfish-shaped ice molds I’d bought at Ikea a while ago, just for kicks.

The Results: Although very good in their own way, these definitely weren’t what I was looking for. They were really much more like good-for-you Jell-o Jigglers than the fruit snacks I had in mind, and because they were made with gelatin, they had to be kept cool, lest they melt into goo. That said, they were a hit with my kids, who were perfectly happy to take them to daycamp in their cooler bags for snack time. I tasted them myself and I loved the intense berry flavour and found the jelly texture quite nice. They just weren’t what I’d originally had in mind.

The ones in the starfish molds were a big ol’ pain in the you-know-what to get out in one piece. It may be that the mold is really meant for ice cubes, but I thought they’d just pop right out. When they didn’t, I tried sitting the mold in warm water for 30 seconds, but they just became gooey so I had to refrigerate them again. I know the folks who make jelly shots and such must have good tricks up their sleeves, but I certainly don’t know how to do it. In the end, I had a much easier time with the ones I just poured into a pan and cut into little blocks. You could also try cutting them into shapes after they’ve jelled.

Since making these, I’ve thought a lot about how to make them more like the Trader Joe’s fruit snacks. I think in the end, I would actually use some pectin, and try drying the mixture in the oven for a while, to get that cross between fruit leather and gummies. I may give that a go someday and if I am successful, I will let you know. In the meantime, if you are looking for a healthy, fun snack for you kids, these ought to fit the bill!

Gummy Fruit Snacks

1 cup mixed berries

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup applesauce

1/2 cup fruit juice (apple, cranberry, blueberry, whatever)

2 envelopes gelatin (1 envelope = 2 1/2 tsp)

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the berries and water. Bring to a boil and cook until berries are soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender or use an immersion blender to puree berries until smooth. Return to pot. Add applesauce and return to a boil, then remove from heat, cover and set aside.

In a large bowl, sprinkle gelatin over fruit juice and let stand one minute. Add hot fruit mixture and stir until gelatin completely dissolves, 3 to 5 minutes.

Pour into 8 x 8 inch glass or ceramic baking dish (or into molds, if you want to go that route). Refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours. Cut into blocks or shapes.

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  1. Sommer J says

    My first school year! These look delicious! def will try- my son is anti berry so we will see. My daughter will be def be all over this!

  2. kimmie says

    The key to the shaped ice cube molds is to pop them in the freezer for five minutes before trying to remove – works perfectly for brownies, cake, chocolate, etc and I'm sure might help with your next batch of fruit snacks. =)

  3. Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love. says

    Great idea to attempt these yourself! They may not have turned out like you had hoped, but they sure look good to me! :)

  4. Barbara | Creative Culinary says

    My kids are older and on their own but I think they would still love these…I hated those packages of fruit snacks they seemed to love and would have made these in a heartbeat!

  5. Foodness Gracious says

    What a great idea! I too think when school goes back the summer is gone, shut down like a taco stand at the beach getting ready for winter. I sometimes help at school lunchtime and looking at the school meals provided makes me a little sad. I know some people have little choice but to get school meals, that can be tough. At least I'm garaunteed a few laughs as I watch some of the kids eat their meals backwards starting with the treat and eventually ending with the sandwich or veggies. I usually make Miranda's lunch in front of her before she goes to bed and that way theres no surprises when she opens it. I think she likes to be part of the choosing process also.
    I like the new blog style also!
    Thanks for sharing and good luck with 1st grade, thats where we are headed too.

  6. Erin says

    I need to try fruit snacks sometime! I see recipes, but I don't have a mold. Apparently I can just do blocks like you did!

  7. Semper Fi Momma says

    Next year my son will start Kindergarten. So glad I found this so I can start practicing how to make these to use in his lunch, or as a fun at home snack. Thanks!

  8. The Mom Chef says

    Since we don't have a Trader Joe's around, I don't know what these originals taste like, but the pain-in-the-butt starfish are adorable.

    Don't know if it's worth looking into, but Food Network Mag. has a recipe for fruit roll-ups this month. Combining your flavors with that may give you the texture and solidity you want.

  9. Amy says

    Yum! These sound so much more delicious than the fruit snacks that you can buy at the store! Love that they are healthy and you can actually see the raspberry seeds! I

  10. Emily @ A Cambridge Story says

    So neat! I made fruit leather at home and it felt good knowing that only fruit and water went into it!

  11. Lauren at Keep It Sweet says

    I love that you made these yourself, such a great idea since it is what your kids will be eating. The different shapes are also adorable!

  12. Jen at The Three Little Piglets says

    I'm the same way. With three kids those those boxes don't last long in my house! I finally had to stop buying them because we just couldn't afford them. What a great alternative though.

  13. Katrina {In Katrina's Kitchen} says

    Hmm this interests me. I have a recipe that I intended to use a looong time ago. Will have to dig it out. About the molds- could you pop them in the freezer for a few minutes? That's my first thought anyway.

  14. Ketutar says

    When they make jello shots, they oil the molds. Freezing gelatine might cause it to get watery, but a couple of minutes to harden it shouldn't be a problem…
    Also, use less water than they say in the recipe, to get harder gelatine.
    They make gum drops by boiling a soft caramel and then blending that with gelatine…perhaps making fruit leather and before it's leather, scrape it together and blend with gelatine, to avoid the sugar. (Or just keep boiling the fruit pulp in saucepan until it gets thick. For some reason I think that's more job and less healthy than letting it dry on itself…) You should get just the kind of candy you are talking about.

  15. Kim Bee says

    Your first line cracked me up. So funny! These are so amazing. Wish my kids were younger so I could make these. Might have to make them anyway and hand them out to nieces and nephews. Totally buzzing this one. It's so unique and gorgeous.

  16. Denise @ Creative Kitchen says

    I'm a sucker for fruit snacks though I don't buy them…but sometimes (like last week), I'm crave the haribo gummy bears (the original german ones I think). They aren't as bold in their flavors and I just like the texture SO much!

    THANKS…this will surely hit the spot for me next time I'm having that craving. YUM!!


  17. Nami | Just One Cookbook says

    I love your new layout of your blog! When I came here, I was like hmmm? Did I typed the wrong address?? LOL. I love it! Thank you so much for adding my blog in your blogroll too. It's amazing that you made homemade gummy! These are so cute! You are a supermom who makes all the great snacks and meals while taking care of three kids. I highly admire of you Carolyn!

  18. Ma What's 4 dinner says

    Can I tell you how much I love the name of your blog??? Uh, because I do too!!!! :) These are awesome. I'm sooooo making these with the boys this weekend. Great for school!

    New reader here! Can't wait to check out more!

    Lots of yummy love,
    Alex aka Ma What's For Dinner

  19. Jeanette says

    Love the new look of your blog! I know what you mean about making school lunches and snacks – it takes some thinking to come up with healthy choices, especially for multiple kids. These gummies look really good even if they're not exactly what you were looking for. I've never had the Trader Joe ones, but wondering if agar agar might work – it sets at room temperature and is firmer than gelatin.

  20. Lizzy says

    My 18 y/o takes fruit snacks to school in his lunch each day! Your version is much more appealing…especially with an intense berry flavor. I'm afraid these would disappear before they made it to Nick's lunch :) You are such a great mom, Carolyn!!!

  21. Sandra says

    New layout look amazing, congrats on the new domain..and I need to make this for my kids asap..Wonderful recipe, and pictures are soo beautiful!

  22. Joanne says

    I feel like I can almost taste the intense berry flavor of these! Way better than the sugary storebought alternative!

  23. kitchenarian says

    What a great idea for school lunches. My youngest starts school tomorrow and I will be packing his lunch every day. I need a lot of lunch snack ideas! Thanks for sharing this recipe, I'm going to have to give it a try.

  24. Paper Plates and China Recipe Blog says

    I've been considering making these myself. But, have run into the same problem of not wanting to use so much sugar. I love the idea and hope you find the perfect recipe (and share it). Thanks!

  25. Becka (The Elegant Eggplant) says

    Okay, THIS is amazing! I don't have kids but I want to make these for myself!!! Fruit snacks are a weakness of mine. :)

  26. Karen says

    I'm with you on the price of the little snacks…it's highway robbery! Kudos to you for trying to recreate…they sound delicious even if they weren't the exact texture you were going for.

  27. Shirley says

    Too bad they weren't what you were looking for, but I would have loved to have had these in my lunchbox as a kid! They're not only really pretty with that gorgeous purplish color, they look healthy and natural.

  28. Jule Dragstrem says

    I love this recipe and can't wait to try it! One thing folks, cafeteria lunches are regulated. The cafeteria can only give a specific amount of carbs, salts, sugars, etc. for the whole week. When they sit in warming pans, they lose their luster. What was tasty and beautiful once, may not look as appetizing later on. Sorry, I'll get off my soap box now. The former cafeteria lady is losing her mind.

  29. Parsley Sage says

    I'd happy rock my cooler pack to have some of these at the office. I mean, one can use these for adult brown bags too, right!? Buzzzzz!

  30. Anonymous says

    Thanks for the idea!

    Did something like this with dried apricots (boiled until soft) and pure of pears instead of berries and apple sauce. Otherwise almost the same (perhaps a bit less gelatin because of the apricots)

  31. Allisha says

    If you decide using pectin next time I would recommend trying the Ball Instant Pectin it requires 1/2 the amount of sugar that the other pectins do. I just discovered it this year and used it for freezer jam and it was awesome!

  32. spinnersharvest says

    hi there! i found this post via pinterest …you've got some yummy stuff i'd like to try…i thought you might like to know about this http://www.pomonapectin.com/ it might solve your "keep it cool coz its gelatin" problem thanks for blogging tasty things! kathy

  33. Cheri says

    how about trying Ball's low/no-sugar pectin!?! i just discovered it (at walmart) and made a batch of plum jam and only had to add 2 cups of sugar….the week before, i made a batch with regular pectin and it required 8 CUPS of sugar!! thanks for a great recipe idea!! :)

  34. Bekki says

    These look amazing. I gave up on fruit snacks because of all the yucky ingredients long ago. My hildren would LOVE to be able to eat them again.

    Have you heard of the Pamona Pectin? You can use as little as 3/4 cup surar or subistute wtih honey, stevia or other natural sweeteners. I find I can purchase it on amazon. While it looks more expensive than other pectins its not due to the fact that one box can make between 2 and 4 batches. I love using it and thought you might want to give it a try.

    I am going to make these soon!

  35. mele and makani says

    Great attempt :) I was going to recommend Pamona as well. It requires no sugar or sweetener to set up. We love it! I found your blog through pintrest, btw. :)

  36. Ms. Stacia says

    I just tried it last night and your right I may put in the oven because the water from being the fridge is making it wet.

  37. Carolyn says

    Hi Ms. Stacia…sounds to me like your gelatin didn't set properly. Did you boil the mixture properly that you added to the juice and gelatin?
    Don't put it in the oven, because the gelatin will become ever MORE liquidy!

  38. Christy says

    I've also read on some Japanese bento forums that they make homemade fruit snacks using agar-agar instead of gelatin or pectin. Might be worth looking into, also.

  39. Anonymous says

    Line molds with Saran Wrap. Make sure the wrap is in every nook and cranny of the mold, and when the snack has set, pulling up on the Saran Wrap will release the snacks with the shape you want and no difficulty for removal.

  40. Patty says

    I too am a victim of the pricey TJ's fruit flakes. My son loves them and, like you said, they contain way less sugar than the other fruit snacks. I'm excited to give this recipe a try! Thanks!

  41. jodi says

    Agar Agar is totally the way to go for these! It's a vegetarian gelatin of sorts and stays set at room temp! I've done it millions of times and it works brilliantly :)

  42. Michelle says

    I was wondering if anyone has made this with frozen fruit and if it would work so long as you decrease the amount of water used.

  43. Anonymous says

    What is the difference between pectin and gelatin? If you were to use pectin, would you still make it the same way?

  44. Carolyn says

    Hi there. Gelatin requires cold to gel, while pectin, which is the thickener in jams and jellies, does not. So no, you wouldn't do things the same way at all, and in fact I made these again and used pectin. You can search for the post and see how I did it differently.

  45. Melissa says

    You should try some Agar Agar instead of gelatin. It doenst require refridgeration & it is not made from Animal Marrow. It gels up very well!
    Check out Mary Janes Farm to order some! I also use it in jams too!

  46. Pynk Nymphette says

    I love fruit snacks but I hate seeing those giant lists of ingredients on the packages. I can't wait to try out this recipe & all the comments here have fabulous tips! Thanks for sharing with us.

  47. Cold Oatmeal and Purple Cows says

    If someone didn't mention it… Ball has a low/ no sugar pectin. It comes in a 4.7 oz container. I used it to make sugar free freezer jam last

  48. sophistimom says

    Love this idea. I tried making these myself once, but ended up just making fruit leather instead. Way to go the distance!

  49. Kinda Like a Chef says

    What about Pomona's pectin? Doesn't required added sugar. I use that for my jams, I barely add any sweetener at all to my jams.

  50. Anonymous says

    lightly oil your molds before using with a oil spray or some oil on a towel they will pop out fine just don't use an oil with a lot of flovor an da little goes a long way.

  51. alyssa says

    My son and I made these today after I saw it on Pinterest, and we love them!! We will likely try your other version too, but I had some gelatin on hand. My boy thinks they are "THE BEST THING EVER!" Thanks!

  52. Anonymous says

    Love this recipe. Made it first with berries but the second time I made it with pears, cinnamon, lemon and pomegranate juice. Omitted water completely and just used juice. A healthy snacky version of poached pears! Amazing!

  53. Anonymous says

    I don't know if anyone suggested it, but you might also try knox gelatin. It sets up just like jell-o but doesn't have to be kept cold to hold up.

  54. Christy says

    Got my first batch of these in the fridge and can’t wait till I can give one to my almost-two-year-old!

    Word to the wise, though: small saucepan + immersion blender = boiling hot fruit splatter all over. If people want to use an immersion blender, they need to cook the fruit in a DEEP pot!

  55. Judy C says

    Didn’t get through all the comments but had this thought I wanted to share.
    Apples have their own pectin to set the fruit. You can also make homemade pectin from apples…. Possibly using raw apple in the recipe might set them and add a bit more nutrition since it hasn’t been cooked out….

  56. roxy says

    This sounds Yummy!!!! Maybe use a bit more gelatin and maybe strain the puree to remove any seeds that may be from the berries that were used! Idk about you but I HATE trying to get the seeds out of my teeth from black berrys and such!! May have to give these a try one rainy or snowy day!!!

  57. Leslie says

    Hey i wanted to know if you came up with the recipe for the fruit snack yet you said you where going to try it again. well did you do it and what was the results? are you still making these for your kids? thanks! :)

  58. Meghan says

    I am Definately trying these! I wanted to mention that with canning season upon us I have seen and bought no sugar needed pectin, just FYI. I might try them both ways. Thanks for the recipe.

  59. RACHEL VICORY says


  60. Lindsey says

    I made these today thinking that they would be a healthy snack alternative. Not so much, they have a grittty texture and don’t have much flavor. My kiddo (who eats almost everything) told me he didn’t like them. They don’t set up very firm either. I think the idea is great but this recipe just doesn’t deliver. I think I will make some modifications and try again.

  61. Aimee says

    About.com has a reciped for these fruit candies called “pate de fruits.” I made them and they sound like exactly what you’re looking for, they do use pectin and are a little labor intensive but the result was worth it. The other plus side if they don’t set then you have compote. The other advice I would give is to use a larger non stick pan then what’s recommended, still use the non stick spray but no foil.

  62. Lindsey says

    Due to an apple allergy my son cannot have apple sauce. Anyway I could eliminate the applesauce or use baby food instead? A fine puree would also be lovely to add more nutrients and “hidden” vegetables.

    • Carolyn says

      Apples have pectin in them so it helps gel things up, but I do think you could use another fruit puree or baby food.

  63. Kitty says

    Try dusting the mold with sugar, or cornstarch to make them come out easier or spray with kitchen spray. I’m not sure what would work best, but ome of those should do the job.

  64. rosyapple says

    you could use agar-agar instead of gelatine – agar won’t melt til it gets over 85 C hence it’s popularity in tropical countries. try an asian deli for where to get it.

  65. Pina says

    I don’t want to be a party spoiler, but I am not sure gelatin is something I want my kids to grow up on. As we can read in Wikipedia:
    “Gelatin is a mixture of peptides and proteins produced by partial hydrolysis of collagen extracted from the skin, boiled crushed horn, hoof and bones, connective tissues, organs and some intestines of animals such as domesticated cattle, chicken, pigs, and horses.”
    ….definitely not vegetarian.

    • Carolyn says

      Hi Pina,

      I appreciate your opinion but I am not in the least bit a vegetarian, nor do I have any qualms about eating things made from these parts of animals. So if this recipe is not for you, I understand. Thanks!

  66. Carrie says

    Brilliant! Thank you so much. I haven’t seen any recipes with the actual amount of the gelatin, as I buy mine in bulk (it’s great for us with arthritis!).

  67. Robin Leclerc says

    thanks so much for the recipe..just tried the jello , water and plain gelatin recipe and they came out as cute little bunnies but they are sticky and i’m not impressed….its like eating old jello thats been in the frig too long…lol… your recipe sounds delicious!

  68. Dacia Garcia says

    I have tried this today to give it a go. and I agree, they weren’t what I was expecting as far as fruit snacks go and were a lot like a JELLO jigglers. The texture kinda through us off at first, but still was good and my son likes them too. We did a blueberry/raspberry batch. If you find a way to make a recipe that makes them more like the gummy fruit snacks on the market please let me know :) Thanks!

  69. Lianne says

    I just made them yesterday ( no kids here around, but I just wanted to try :)) but for how long can I keep them, and where is the best place to keep them? Probably the fridge, but like to hear it from somebody, especially for how long…Thank you, from Holland! :)

  70. Donna says

    I found a ‘no sugar pectin’ at Walmart to make my Prickly Pear Jelly. I had a quart of juice and used 1/2 cup Xylitol and 6 Tbsp of the pectin. It came out great. I’m going to try your recipe with more pectin and see if that works better.

  71. says

    Thanks for sharing your recipe. I appreciate your candidness in admitting that yours didn’t come out of the molds perfectly. Some other bloggers say they freeze their molds (and fruit snacks) for 5-10 minutes first before trying to get the snacks out.

    I have been looking at LOTS of fruit snack recipes today. Most of them call for using 1/2 cup of gelatin powder, plus pureed fruit, some fruit juice, and honey for sweetener.

  72. Ashley says

    Omg, my toddler loves these! We used watered down homemade pear juice for the juice and sugar-free homemade pear sauce (we have a couple pear trees and I’m always desperate to use up and give away all the pear stuff we have before we get fruit again each year) and it’s just sweet enough without being something I wouldn’t want to feed him. You can also slow cook/roast fruit slices and chop them up to sprinkle on top of this and the gummy holds the fruit nicely for a little more texture and a different/varied taste. Mine even loves it with raw fruit chunks sprinkled in. Thank you!!!!!

  73. Angela Raum says

    Do you think cranberries would work with this with still adding applesauce. Is it store bought applesauce or homemade applesauce?

  74. says

    I would include a little sugar. I know why you don’t do it, but sugar exists in the fruit as well. Also, a little applesauce and lemon juice, because those work well in fruit roll-ups.

    Low sugar is realistic in cooking. No sugar? It’s too useful and versatile as an ingredient.

    • Carolyn says

      Sorry, but no sugar cooking is VERY realistic and I’ve made a full career out of amazing sugar-free recipes. So I will have to disagree with you there. I know there is natural sugar in fruit, but I’d like my family to avoid any added white sugar as much as possible.


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