Gourmet Jell-o Recipes

joy of jello cookbook cover

Joys of Jell-o
General Foods
1960 (est)

I’ll admit it. I have a certain fondness for the old cookbooks, especially the ones with molded food. We have featured quite a few over the years, but I think this one might be a favorite. Nearly every page has a recipe or two that takes creative to a whole new level. You can see the yellow frozen jello loaf below. Looks okay so far. Then we move to the next picture, which has a melon filled with jello. Unfortunately we can’t tell from the black and white picture what flavor of jello was inflicted upon the poor melon, but the recipe suggests lime or red. I shudder to think what flavor is “red,” rather than cherry or strawberry.

But wait, there is more! Now we jump to some savory jello recipes featuring tuna, tomatoes, and cabbage. As a child of the Midwest in the 1960s, of course I love jello. But please, let jello just be jello.


frozen fruit salad and recipe

frozen melon recipe

salad mold with jello

Summer salad jello molds

green jello with olives and tuna - Ring Around the Tuna

Quick tomato mold with jello




  1. My mom has a ‘Joys of Jello’ “cook”book with those same horrifying recipes but different cover art. Ew, just ew! Fruit salad Jello…fine…but holy crap you can’t get any nastier than cauliflower Jello.

    1. It can get worse. My mother had a recipe card for a sauerkraut jello salad with olives.

  2. My parents understood why I didn’t like jello because they seldom served it. My aunts, however, thought I was a weird kid for avoiding horrible jello dishes like the ones above. I still cringe when I see jello served at the last bastions of this despicable food–family restaurants and buffets. As an aside, I love plain crunchy peanut butter but hate peanut butter and jelly or butter. I wonder how many of us have these small acts of rebellion.

  3. I’ve owned several editions of “The Joys of Jello.” My favorite Jello cookbook comes from some decades before that — late 20’s, maybe — when the instructions gave the option of putting the gelatin in the refrigerator “or on the window sill” to set. BTW, my sister shared our inheritance with me at Christmastime: six boxes of Jello from our mother’s cupboard. (Mother died in 2002. My sister did a final kitchen cleanout and just put stuff in a box. She came across the box this fall.) We don’t know what the shelf-life of Jello is . . .

  4. I’ve heard that they make jello from the hooves and horns of cows and other animals, but that’s really just an urban myth. What it actually is made from, however, is also quite unappetizing.

  5. Oh my, I do love the Day-Glo colors, though. I mean, I wouldn’t eat a single one of these, but they sure are radiant. These dishes…ick, sort of the head cheese of the gelatin world. (Like Nann above, cleaning out my parents’ pantry years ago unearthed boxes of Jell-0 dating back 30 years. Oddly, they never ate Jell-0. I think the word “sale!” caught my mom’s eye…

  6. I’ll never understand why people did this, or how it could possibly have tasted good. Lime jello filled with tuna and olives? I could wrap my head around some form of molded tuna dish, but when you’re using sugary sweet jello with flavors reminiscent of Kool-Aid, I just don’t get it. It seems like a lot of extra work to make something potentially good taste terrible.

    1. Cheap way to make a meal filling. And they had celery and other savory jellos back then. Or you could get the unflavored kind and flavor it yourself.

  7. In home economics in the 60’s we learned how to make a gelatin dessert starting with unflavored gelatin. My fourteen year old self wondered if I’d ever be in a position where I couldn’t afford actual Jello. (Now, I never eat it.)

  8. In my opinion the best things to add to jello are: 100% fruit juice instead of cold water, and whipped cream for topping. That is all.

  9. Ohhhh! it says SEA dream! Ok, got it. I guess reading about all the different kinds of molds made my eyes glaze over.

  10. Some of the images from this book ended up on the website Gallery of Regrettable Foods. Check it out for more food horrors I was raised Lutheran so Jello was one of the staples at church pot luck supper. I too gave my sister a box filled with Jello when my mother died but I kept the Jello molds(both metal and Tupperware). My partner loves the stuff but I can’t stand it.

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