Pioneering Today-How to Make Low Sugar No Pectin Strawberry Jam Recipe

Summer is all about homemade strawberry jam, specifically low sugar no pectin strawberry jam. Like any pioneer woman, the beginning of summer marks jam and jelly season at our house. Fingers are sure to be stained with the berry of the moment and snack breaks are taken at the bush with the most ripe fruit.

The first fruit preserving of the summer for us is strawberries. My husband loves strawberry jam, it is his absolute favorite. There is nothing that tastes better than homemade jam, the stuff in the store doesn’t compare. Not only is this homemade strawberry jam recipe tasty, but it’s frugal, two of my favorite things.

Try this low sugar no pectin strawberry jam recipe

If you grow your own fruit see How to Plant Strawberries, have jars (canning jars will last for decades as long as they’re not chipped), then your only cost is lids, sugar, and  pectin. Now you can eliminate the store bought  commercial pectin, cutting your cost even more with this low sugar no pectin strawberry jam recipe.

I received my great-great-grandmother’s cookbook from my mother a few weeks ago and I’ve loved scouring the pages. I combined a recipe from that and another great book, In a Pickle or a Jam by Vicki Wilder, which is unfortunately out of print, but if you ever find it at a garage sale or thrift store, grab it!

I don’t know about you, but homemade jam that contains more sugar or as much sugar as it does fruit, just doesn’t sit right with me. I want my homemade strawberry jam to taste like strawberries, not a bucketful of sugar. Not only is this low sugar strawberry jam recipe healthier, it’s also much more frugal without pectin from the store and loads of sugar.

Plus, I’m all about recipes that don’t rely on store bought items. Anyone else feel they were born a century to late and should have been besties with Laura Ingall’s Wilder in Little House on the Prairie? You, too! Good, grab your apron, your Mason jars, and let’s get to jamming.

Grab your free copy of the Ultimate Home Food Preservation Guide

Lemon and apples are both very high in natural pectin. My grandmother never used pectin and now you don’t have to either. Surprisingly, you just get a hint of the lemon, so if you want it to be stronger, add the juice of one more lemon. Think strawberry lemonade in a jam. Oh, yes, don’t mind if I do.

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Resources for Low Sugar Strawberry Jam without Pectin

Classic Zester- this little beauty makes getting that pectin luscious lemon zest into your strawberry jam without the bitter pith so easy.

Stainless Steel Canner– (Safe for glass top stoves) this water bath canner won’t rust like the granite wear runs and will be your trusty side kick in the kitchen for years to come.

6 Piece Canning Set- The jar lifter is worth five times the price of this. Best part, this 6 piece set is 79% off at time of posting. I use mine with every canning project and can’t believe I ever canned without it. No more burnt fingers!

8 ounce jelly jars- These are the perfect size for jam and jelly making. I use these for pickled garlic as well. Can you ever have too many canning jars? In case you were wondering, the answer is no my friend.

Low Sugar Without Pectin Strawberry Jam 
Low Sugar No Pectin Strawberry Jam Pioneering TOday

8 cups firm strawberries (organic)

2 and 1/2 cups to 3 and 1/2 cups sugar, add by a 1/2 cup until the reaches desired sweetness level

3 lemons, the juice and zest (organic if possible)

Heat your water in your hot water bath canner. Sterilize jars in the dishwasher or in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Have lids in warm water, not boiling, in a small sauce pan.

Rinse and hull your strawberries. Get a large stock pot and a citrus zester or the smallest holes on your grater. Zest the peel of the lemons into your pot. Cut lemons in half and squeeze juice into pot. Cup your hand underneath as you squeeze, or you’ll have to fish out any seeds that drop in.

Stir in your sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until sugar combines into a syrup.

Take pot off of heat and dump in strawberries. If you like your jam to have large bites of strawberries, then leave them whole. My husband doesn’t like chunky jam, so I take a potato masher and mash them up. Stir to fully coat with syrup and leave for 15 minutes.

Put pot back on medium high heat. Stirring frequently, bring strawberry jam to a boil. Once jam begins to boil, stir constantly. Note, without pectin, my berries did not foam. Woo,hoo! Stir for 6 minutes, or until jam sets. Jam has set when it sticks to the back of the spoon.

Ladle your gorgeous low sugar no pectin strawberry jam into jars, wipe rim with a damp cloth, place lid and screw band snugly (not too tight). I put one jar into the fridge to eat right away, but for preserving, place into hot water bath, be sure to use the rack, and process for 10 minutes. Take out and place on a folded over towel for 12 hours, then store in a dark cool place.

Makes six 8 ounce jelly size jars. I had a 4 ounces extra and put it in the fridge for immediate use.

Note: Always inspect your jars of jam and jelly before using. If the seal is broken, jar is leaking, off odor, off appearance, or any signs of mold, do not eat or taste it. Throw it out. Check the seal when you go to use jar, even if it sealed when you put it in the pantry. Seals can sometimes come undone over time.

Jam Won’t Set

Jam without added pectin (store bought pectin) isn’t quite as thick as commercial pectin jam, but it is still spreadable and shouldn’t be too runny.

Jam reaches its jelling point at 220 degrees. You can use a candy thermometer or the above guidelines for checking the gel. It’s important to frequently stir your jam as it’s cooking to avoid scorching the jam. A sturdy stock pot instead of a thin one also helps.

If your jam isn’t setting after cooking for 20 minutes you can cook for 5 minutes or/and add another 1/2 cup of sugar. Sugar helps the set of your jam and if you’re having trouble with the set after you’ve reached the ideal temperature, add a bit more sugar.

If you discover your jam is too thin or more like syrup after you’ve sealed it, you can return the jam to the pot, add more sugar, and reprocess it using new lids and clean jars.

One reader wrote in saying the lemon flavor in a batch she did that didn’t set was strong, but after re-cooking the jam until it reached its gelling point, the lemon flavor is barely detectable.

Disclaimer: While every recipe has been tested in our kitchen and to the best of our knowledge is safe, all recipes are used at the risk of the consumer. All advice given in the form of recipes, tutorials, gardening articles, and how to articles is used at the risk of the consumer.

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  1. says

    Although I did help my mom when I was growing up to can strawberries, green beans, etc, I have not canned on my own so some of this lingo has been heard but I don’t know 100% what it means. LOL I may be helping my mom more this summer to get more of a feel so I know what’s going on when I try on my own. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I do hope to try it and like your husband, I don’t like big chunks of fruit. 😉

    • says

      Leslie, which terms didn’t you know? I want this to be a recipe anyone can try so if you let me know what parts weren’t clear or could use more explanation, I can update it. :)

  2. says

    Oh perfect! My husband has been wanting me to start making homemade jam…haven’t tried it yet, but sounds fairly simple. Would this recipe be about the same for raspberries? That is his favorite!!

    • says

      Kelly, I haven’t done raspberries yet this way. Mine won’t be ripe for at least another 3 weeks, but raspberries actually contain more natural pectin than strawberries, so you could bump the lemons down to 2. I believe the sugar ratio would be the same, but if it doesn’t taste sweet enough, or seem to be setting, you can always add a little bit more to taste. I’ll do a batch as soon as mine are ready and let you know the exact measurements. :)

    • says

      Sarah, you can use honey, but it’s recommended to only sub half of the sugar for honey, or the jam might not set as well. I’ve never used honey in my jam, so I’m taking others word on this. Let me know how it turns out if you try the honey route.

  3. says

    This is fabulous! I just wonder…my son has fructose malabsorption and we have to seriously limit fructose in our house. Maple syrup works for him – would it work in this recipe? Thanks!

    • says

      Hmmm, I know you can only substitute half of the sugar with honey, so I’m assuming the same would be with maple syrup. Let me know if you give it a try and your results.

  4. Michele says

    How long will this jam last? We don’t eat our jam very quickly and I want to make jam that will last at least a year, if not more. :) Thanks

    • says

      Michele, most jams have a shelf life of a year. The key is storing it where it’s cool and dark. The light and heat will break it down faster. But we’ve eaten our jam at a year and a half. I practice rotation in my pantry, meaning I put the most recent canned goods at the back of the shelf and use the oldest jars first. Check the seals before eating, even if they were sealed when stored. If there’s any mold or funny odor when you open a jar, don’t eat it. I’ve never had this problem w/ my jams, but some of my pickles came unsealed part way through the year.

  5. Olga says

    For me it was a colossal disappointment and a culinary disaster. I was excited to find a recipe that did not call for pectin AND was a low sugar recipe. I am kicking myself for not doing a test batch. I made a giant pot, following all the proportions from the recipe. Organic strawberries, organic lemons, organic cane sugar. After an hour and 20 minutes of boiling (!), I had a lemon soup. By all accounts it tastes like lemon, I can’t even taste strawberries anymore, the lovely red color is gone, it looks like commercial slop now. It still isn’t coming together so I’m calling it quits and going to buy commercial pectin as it would still be cheaper than trying to make my own from organic apples. I’m heartbroken.

    • says

      Olga, oh, no! One thing with jam making is you have to do it in small batches. Large batches don’t set. :( Even with commercial pectin, you can’t make huge batches at once. If you try it with the measurements in the recipe, it should turn out fine. And over cooking will also cause it not to set. I’m so sorry, but don’t give up on your jam making. Just keep it in small batches from here on out.

      • Olga says

        Hi Melissa,
        Thanks for the follow up, I’ll get over my failure and will try again, this time with your suggestion. I ended up salvaging the preserve with a LOT more sugar, but at least it’s still organic.

      • Juanita says

        I followed the recipe as posted. Mine did not set either. Does anyone have any advice? I don’t want to throw it out, but it is so runny. I stopped cooking at 20 minutes when I saw that overcooking can cause it not to set.
        So far, it tastes fine. Any suggestions?

        • Martha says

          Mine did not set well last summer, either, but canned it anyway! It was great on biscuits and as strawberry shortcake topper.

      • Rose Kaye says

        The jam came out amazing. I just replaced the sugar with the Stevia cup for cup. I followed your recipe down to the letter. They are now cooling on the table. The children are raving and want to eat it straight from the jars 😉 Thank you. This will now be my jam recipe.

        • says

          So happy to hear! I’ll let others know that Stevia straight across for sugar works. Glad to hear you didn’t have any problems. My kids adore this one, too. I confess, I scraped the sides of the pot and licked the spoon. lol

  6. Jill says

    So happy to see a recipe with low sugar that doesn’t require freezing! 😀 i’ve been living on the edge with my jam making, and usualy use a ratio of 2:1 berries to sugar regardless of what the recipe calls for, but your is even better at about 4:1.25. Cant wait to see more low sugar jam recipes!

  7. Dave Higdon says

    Hi Melissa,
    Your recipe for low sug strawb jam came up first in my search, but unless I read it wrong ( or wrang as we say here in NE England) I couldn’t work out how much water you use to make the initial syrup. A recipe I followed last year explicitly said “use as little as you can to dissolve and make the syrup – then add the strawbs”.
    Last year’s didn’t gell; I ended up with dark red miserable jam after I’d gone off and bought some &%#¥ing pectin! From what you added above, cearly I’d tried making too big a batch.
    I agree, low sug rasp is a doddle by comparison.
    Wifey, daughter and grandchildren all demand whole fruit in old grandad’s jam!

    • says

      Hello! I prefer chunkier jam, aka whole fruit, too. You don’t use any water, just mix the sugar with the lemon juice until combined and then stir it in with the strawberries. They’ll juice and create enough liquid without adding any water. Hope this one turns out better for you. :)

  8. Stephanie Schmidt says

    After looking all over for a low sugar jam recipe I found this and was so excited! I wanted to make a mixed berry jam though so I altered the recipe. I used strawberries (3 cups), raspberries (2.5 cups), blackberries (1 cup) and blueberries (1.5 cups). I only used 2 lemons since I saw a comment about there being more natural pectin in raspberries. I also added 2 tsp of agar powder when the fruit boiled. The jam tastes amazing! In fact next time I make it I will use less sugar since it is naturally so sweet from the berries.
    Thanks for a great base jam recipe! Next up is a strawberry rhubarb variation :)

  9. alfred garside says

    My wife and I are making home made crab apple jelly ,We have 40 cups of crab apple juice . How much lemon juice and surgar would it take to mix with the crab apple juice to make crab apple jelly .

    • says

      Alfred, whenever making jelly, be sure to do it in small batches, or you won’t get a set. For 4 cups crab apple juice, use 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 4 cups sugar. Boil hard until it sets via the sheet test. Hope this helps and happy jelly making!

  10. Pam says

    Just wondering if I can make a very small batch of the strawberry jelly? I don’t want to go through the canning process if I don’t have to – I would like to use it right away. Also, do I need to put it in glass jars instead of a plastic container? (I am only using 4 cups of strawberries)

    • says

      Pam, yes, feel free to divide it down for the ingredients you have. It should set fine in smaller batches, just not larger ones. You can use plastic if you don’t have glass. You can either freeze it or store it all in the fridge.

  11. Kari says

    This was the first homemade jam I have ever made and it was amazing! I love that it has no commercial pectin and is low sugar. I actually used frozen organic strawberries ( thawed of course) from Costco and they worked perfectly! One whole bag seemed to be the perfect ratio to the rest of the ingredients.

  12. says

    Hi there,

    just a measuring question: d you measure 8 cups of whole strawberries, cut up or crushed. This will make quite a difference… I have about 7 cups of crushed strawberries and I’m lost about conversions for the sugar… I was thinking about using 2.5 cups, but don’t know if that’s too much or too little…

  13. Tara says

    Would I be able to use just organic lemon juice from a bottle instead of fresh lemons and zest? If so how much would I use?

  14. Kristy says

    Hi. I’m new to canning, in fact, I’ve never done it before! I just bought all my ball canning equipment, and I’m eager to start with your recipe. I have read before that you must leave a ‘headspace’ in the jar, is that right?

    • says

      Hi, Kristy,

      Congratulations on stepping into the world of canning. I warn you, if you’re like me, your kitchen will never be the same because you’ll want to can everything. :) Yes, you do need a head space. You don’t ever want to fill the jar all the way to the top. You want a 1/4 inch head space for jams and jellies. So fill your jar to within a 1/4 inch of the top. Occasionally, I’ll run a tad short on filling the last jar, but as long as it’s nearly full (with leaving the head space) I’ve never had a problem with it. Let me know how it goes or if you have anymore questions!

  15. Deb says

    I just finished making this jam today! It was my very first time ever making jam or canning, and I am happy to report it was a delicious success! My girls and I went strawberry picking a couple days ago and I had a LOT of berries to use up. I loved your recipe for less sugar, which is why I picked this recipe in the first place. But instead of using 3 lemons, I used only 1 lemon and one large unpeeled shredded organic apple. I read that apples are also high in pectin naturally. My jam had to boil for over 30 min. to set up jam-like, but I assume this was because of the switch from lemon to apple. But once it reached the proper consistency of jam, I poured into prepped jars and water bathed, and it was great! Tastes so yummy. Thank you for the lovely recipe and great I instructions for a novice jammer like me. :)

    • says

      Deb, so glad it turned out for you. A word of caution on altering canning recipes. The amount of lemon is not just for the pectin, but also for the acid because we’ve cut the sugar back. Apples also have some acid, but not as much as lemon juice. Be sure you check each jar when you open it. :) Congrats on your first job canning! You’ll be an old hand at it before ya know it!

  16. Sarah says

    Do you think I could use sucanat at the same measurement as sugar? I’m trying to stay away from processed white sugar but we love strawberry jam!

  17. Mrs. Stevens says

    Just wanted to let you know, that the headspace for jams is only 1/4 of an inch. Your photo shows much, much more than that. Headspace IS an important issue when preserving any foods, waterbath and/or pressure canning.

  18. Lisa Baucom says

    I was so excited to find a low sugar recipe because I just picked up a load of fresh strawberries yesterday and they’re already sweet enough, imho. However after boiling and stirring for nearly 20 min, it still wasn’t jelling so I caved and threw in some pectin. I think it will be fine (taste test was awesome) but I’m not sure why it didn’t jell… any ideas?

  19. Shawn says

    This is the first season for my strawberries, very exciting :) I made this jam last night. How much does this jam setup? I noticed this morning that mine is not very firm, more like a sauce. Did I not boil it long enough or is this the consistency it should have?

  20. Bananna says

    I had to add a bit more sugar and cook for about 25 minutes to get my batch to set up. I still used less sugar than the standard 1 cup fruit to 1 cup sugar recipes.

  21. Misha says

    Hi, after using some other no-pectin recipes this week, I went looking for even lower sugar recipes and found yours. Does it make a difference that you start with a sugar syrup? My other recipes all called for macerating the cut fruit in sugar (to bring out the juices) and I love that convenience- getting the cut-up fruit into sugar right away but not having to can until the next day and I would love to still do that with this one!

    • says

      Misha, the lemon juice brings out the juices and my fruit is macerated and mashed, not pureed into a syrup. You could certainly try it with adding the sugar right away. Let me know how it turns out.

      • Misha says

        I just did it- but was unsatisfied. Having the strawberries in from the beginning (mixed with sugar, should have strained them out) made them too soupy. I would have prefered them less cooked. Maybe next year, as 3 flats of strawberries into jam is my limit on one fruit!

  22. says

    Hello! I wanted to let you know that I used your recipe this weekend and my jam was amazing, so I wrote a post about it on my blog. I used your side bar picture as the picture on my post. I credited your website for the image, mentioned I used your recipe and linked this specific post to my post. If you prefer I remove the link to your site or the mention of your recipe please let me know, I just wanted to give you credit (and perhaps a little traffic to your site) for helping out my jamming weekend.

  23. Barb says

    I did something really wrong. I used only one lemon, as it was a large one, but otherwise followed the recipe directions. The jam turned out dark and had very little strawberry taste, but an overbearing lemon taste. Not sure what I didn’t do correctly.

    • says

      Barb, I’m not sure what went wrong. Mine only had a slight lemon flavor and stayed a pretty red. Sorry it didn’t turn out. If you want to use store bought pectin the only brand I use is Pomona’s Pectin, it allows you to do a low sugar or honey variation and is all natural.

  24. holly says

    Hi there,

    could you tell me what type of sugar you use – is it caster or granulated sugra, please?


  25. says

    Can you substitute lime for lemon? I have done this with freezer jam…but did not know if that would affect the acidity in the canned jars.

  26. JayJay says

    I used 2 lemons with 2 cups frozen(picked, cleaned by me!!!)strawberries minus the juice and 1 1/2 cups sugar.
    I will cut back to 1 1/2 lemons next batch but these were huge lemons and I almost decided to only use one they were so huge.
    I like the tangy taste, but not this much–so easy.
    No more store bought jam and jelly.
    Will use this for all berries. I just planted two raspberry bushes last week, mulched them with pine because they love acid. Already have a cane with all new leaves!!!


  27. Connie says

    I was looking for a low sugar jam recipe and ran across your recipe. I made a different recipe a few days ago that called for 4 cups of strawberries, 4 cups of sugar and one teaspoon of lemon juice (& no pectin). It set up beautifully, has a pretty red color and tastes good, but it has a lot of sugar. I was wondering why you put so much lemon juice in your recipe and does it taste too lemony? I’m looking for a recipe that has a strong taste of strawberries with less sugar.

  28. Jane says

    I’m sorry to report, mine did not set .. and I followed the instructions to the letter (including my gorgeous, organic strawberries!), so disappointing. )):
    …the only item step where I went off-course was the strawberry mashing. My masher wasn’t working very effectively, so i pulsed the berries (now coated in the syrup) in the Cuisineart. Could that possibly affected the outcome?

    I have to admit, while I enjoy your style of making things casual and relaxed (it should be fun too, after all!), in terms relating to amounts, I really appreciate exactitude. As someone mentioned in a comment a ways back, strawberry prep (whole, sliced or mashed) can affect the strawberry amount per cup — weights for fruit is perfect. As well, lemons can have quite a bit of variation juice and size-wise.

    Maybe I’ll never know what happened today … but, I’ve got a DELICIOUS desert sauce now, thank you! LOVE the lemon and the lack of too much sugar.

  29. megan says

    I am pleased to see that you are water bathing(canning) the jam, the only other site I found with natural or no pectin & low jams had interesting flavors but no mention of the risk of spoilage and food poisoning increases with the reduction of sugar. She was not recommending water baths and even suggested the reuse of lids! I have been using regular pectin some of the time but have been having a hard time finding no sugar pectin brand that I prefer. In an reprint of a circa 1917 cookbook has a strawberry jam that’s 8 cups berries ,8 cups and 1/2 cup lemon juice .It wants you to leave sugar over berries 2 hours then boil then add lemon then boil to jam stage (you have to know what to look for) It is still half the sugar of the regular pectin manufacture calls for, but I was hoping for still less thanks!

  30. Mark says

    Hi Melissa
    Your recipe looks great……… I just have one question before I start…..

    How many strawberries in weight do you use ? Is one cup about half a pound in weight ?


  31. Jenn says

    Hello! I was really excited to find this recipe, because (like you) I enjoy tasty and frugal things :) I’ve picked a bunch of saskatoon berries (I think they also might be called service berries?) and would like to make them into jam…They are similar to blueberries…do you recommend trying this recipe with them?

  32. Terri D. says

    I fell in love with this recipe since there is no commercial pectin, & it is low in sugar. The flavor is bright and not overly sweet nor tangy or tart. This is definitely a new go to berry jam. Thank you so much!


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