Unsweetened Dessert Jelly (Jell-o!)

I’ve been up since 3am (when Bobby went to sleep) – insomnia much?  I crashed around 10:30pm last night though (very early for me).  So I decided to just get out of bed, call my mom (who is on the east coast, and 3 hours later than me), watch the news, and make a post.  It’s peaceful being up this early.  I might do some morning yoga or go for a walk when it starts to get light out.


I finally discovered the amazingness that is agar agar powder.  Who knew you could make such a nutritious, yummy dessert in about 10 minutes?  Agar agar comes from seaweed.  It’s very popular in Asian desserts, especially in Japan.  It’s a vegetarian/vegan substitute for gelatin too.

Since I’m kind of a linguistics nerdagar comes from the Malay word “agar-agar”, meaning jelly.  Other names are kanten, China grass, and Japanese isinglass.  Cool, right?  There was actually a diet fad in Japan called “the kanten diet” where you eat it with every meal.

Unsweetened Dessert Jelly



  • 3.5 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon agar agar powder
  • 1 can coconut milk OR 2 cups fruit juice (I used coconut milk for one batch; POM pomegranate juice for another)
  • optional: chopped fruits (I used 1 chopped apple in the POM version)


  1. Add the agar agar powder to the water and bring to a boil.  Cook for about 5 minutes (until the powder has completely dissolved).
  2. In a separate pot, heat the coconut milk OR juice for 3-5 minutes.
  3. If you’re using fruit, put it on the bottom of a large flat pan/dish.
  4. Then add the warmed coconut milk OR juice and whisk around until they are mixed well.
  5. Let cool completely before refrigerating.  Cut in squares and eat!

I liked the subtlety of this dessert/snack – usually Jell-O is sickeningly sweet, but that was not the case at all here.  Bobby thought the flavor was almost too subtle, but I liked it.  If you do want to sweeten it, just add sugar/other sweetener to the water and agar mixture and let it dissolve.


I got this salad at Sprout Cafe the other day with lunch – I don’t remember what was in it though.  I know there were lots of kalamata olives, which I love.  They are one of my favorite salad additions!  The salad dressing was a chili-lime vinaigrette, and it was wonderful.

Do you ever get insomnia or wake up really early?  What do you do?

31 Comments on Unsweetened Dessert Jelly (Jell-o!)

  1. Erin
    27 February, 2009 at 8:35 am (8 years ago)

    Thats really cool looking! I love linguistics too, so I think thats neat.
    Sometimes I get insomnia but more often I wake up too early. I usually try to sleep, but I think I’m happier if I just get up. Its nice to have the extra time sometimes.

  2. FoodsThatFit
    27 February, 2009 at 8:36 am (8 years ago)

    I hate when I have insomnia, some hot tea or melatonin helps me the most!

  3. Julie
    27 February, 2009 at 8:53 am (8 years ago)

    Ughh I hatee not being able to sleep. I usually read or put on my ipod with like nice sleep music 🙂

  4. Shelby
    27 February, 2009 at 9:16 am (8 years ago)

    I usually get up at the same time everyday so on the weekends it sucks because I go to bed later. I just can’t sleep in!

    Neat idea for the agar, I might just try this sometime soon!

  5. Diana
    27 February, 2009 at 9:21 am (8 years ago)

    This agar agar powder looks fascinating! It would make an awesome weekly food challenge item, too!

    As for waking up early, one time, I was traveling for work and staying in a hotel room (maybe being away from home threw me off?). I remember waking up, taking a shower, and as I was styling my hair I thought, “Hmm…I don’t remember hearing my alarm clock this morning. How weird?” I went to check the time and it was like 2am!!!! I had to finish styling my hair, which was prob going to get messed up by me sleeping on it, and try to go back to bed for a couple hours. So weird! lol

  6. coco
    27 February, 2009 at 10:02 am (8 years ago)

    dear dear, I was up at 3am today too!!! we really have some connection here! 😀
    I enjoyed a lot my early morning. 3-4am reading in the bed, then some snack, 4-5 blog reading, 5-6 blog writing, 6-7 yoga, and then my normal breakfast!
    it was so enjoyable to explore new blogs that otherwise I don’t have time to do it.
    Fortunately I’m not asleep right now, just finished my lunch and going to work soon! 😀
    oh…. I used to make fruit jelly with agar agar very often during summer! they’re great!

  7. Pearl
    27 February, 2009 at 10:49 am (8 years ago)

    My mom uses agar agar powder to make these dessert gelatins.. 🙂

  8. VeggieGirl
    27 February, 2009 at 12:12 pm (8 years ago)

    Glad that your bout with insomnia turned out to be a blessing in disguise!!

    Vegan jell-o!! Fun!! 😀

  9. Sarah (lovINmytummy)
    27 February, 2009 at 12:14 pm (8 years ago)

    Uck, insomnia. Three words: Nick at Nite.

  10. Divya Vikram
    27 February, 2009 at 12:22 pm (8 years ago)

    Dessert looks too inviting. And I like your change in template.

  11. Sharon
    27 February, 2009 at 12:53 pm (8 years ago)

    Oh wow, that is awesome Maggie!

  12. Sagan
    27 February, 2009 at 2:08 pm (8 years ago)

    Mmm sounds very tasty. I have big problems with sleeping, haven’t really figured out a way to solve them yet though.

  13. Michelle
    27 February, 2009 at 2:37 pm (8 years ago)

    No way!! It’s agar agar! hahah that stuff used to gross me out because we grew bacteria on agar jelly in college. hahaha but now I’ve come to understand that agar agar is EVERYWHERE and creates tasty foods!! Your jello totally reminded me of almond jello! Good for you for being so creative with you breakfasts!

    Hope you have a kick butt weekend!!

  14. Lara
    27 February, 2009 at 3:02 pm (8 years ago)

    I really suffered through insomnia in college. It’s been better in recent years, but it still a problem sometimes. Have you tried valerian root? It’s nice and gentle and really is relaxing.

  15. NAOmni
    27 February, 2009 at 5:31 pm (8 years ago)

    I learn a lot from your blog, especially posts like this.

    Great work.


  16. carolinebee
    27 February, 2009 at 6:17 pm (8 years ago)

    Hey that is exciting that u are tutoring also! I think it will be a perfect job for me right now 😀 That totally sucks about the insomnia..i will wake up randomly at like 2 unable to sleep..i try and force myself, just think, sleep for 4 more hours then u can go eat!! Otherwise I’ll just get up and go with it! Good luck

  17. For the Love of Peanut Butter
    27 February, 2009 at 6:55 pm (8 years ago)

    wow!!! i love learning about new foods. was the consistency similar to jelo?

  18. Clean Veggie
    27 February, 2009 at 7:10 pm (8 years ago)

    sounds delicious!

    i love being up when no one else in the house is – its so relaxing.

    thank you for all your lovely comments 🙂

  19. ttfn300
    27 February, 2009 at 7:26 pm (8 years ago)

    ooh, i like this idea 🙂 i’ll have to give it a go!

  20. Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter)
    27 February, 2009 at 8:50 pm (8 years ago)

    That’s it? I always thought agar agar was so tricky to use, but you made it look easy. Hmm, I’m thinking major pudding action soon. 🙂

  21. Jasmine (Sweet and Fit)
    27 February, 2009 at 10:01 pm (8 years ago)

    that jelly looks really good! I do have insomnia pretty often actually, and I don’t really have any good solutions – I sometimes resort to taking a sleeping aid, but I want to try something like reading until I get tired.

  22. Jenni
    28 February, 2009 at 2:34 pm (8 years ago)

    ooh, i just bought agar agar the other day in hopes of making some of this! i was planning on using some orange juice, but i think that coconut milk sounds way better! thanks for the idea 🙂

  23. Jude
    28 February, 2009 at 9:30 pm (8 years ago)

    Very cool info on agar agar. Thanks for the read!

  24. Andrea
    4 September, 2012 at 7:49 am (4 years ago)


    I tried it with the coconut milk but it sort of separated. On the bottom it became all clear and at the top it was white from the coconut. Do you know why it would separate like this? Maybe I didn’t boil it enough?


    • Maggie
      4 September, 2012 at 12:05 pm (4 years ago)

      @Andrea: Hi Andrea and thank you for trying the recipe! I wonder if it has to do with the type of coconut milk you use. I believe I used the “light” kind, which does come in a can but you don’t have to mix it. I know the full-fat kind you have to stir up and it does keep separating when you let it sit. Which kind did you use? Was it jello-ish the whole way through and just different colors on top and bottom, or did it not solidify?

      I will have to make this again; I haven’t made it in at least 2 years now 🙂 So thanks for the reminder.

  25. Andrea
    4 September, 2012 at 12:46 pm (4 years ago)

    @Maggie: thanks for answering!
    I used coconut milk that was not so fat, so I am guessing it is the light version. At the Asian supermarket they had severaltypes and of one brand they had the dessert and cooking versions so I went for dessert. The jelly solidified completely but the transparent part doesn’t taste of much as you can imagine.

    BTW, I was googling a little bit more and I found this:
    So it seems the secret lies in when you mix in the coconut milk. Will try again and let you know 🙂

    • Maggie
      4 September, 2012 at 12:50 pm (4 years ago)

      @Andrea – thank you for the info! I must have accidentally gotten it right when I did it, so I didn’t realize it might not work depending on when you add the milk. Definitely let me know how it goes.

  26. Vee
    12 June, 2013 at 7:04 am (4 years ago)

    I made this today and it was completely tasteless!
    Next time I will add some sugar.
    My jelly turned out homogenous without any separation.

    • Maggie
      12 June, 2013 at 8:44 am (4 years ago)

      @Vee: Oh no! I have not made this lately but I will try again to make sure the instructions are correct. When I made it previously it was always really good.

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