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go find it

Recipe: almond jello dessert

There is snow out there. Oh yes, there is. I can find snow any time of year if I’m willing to climb high enough to get to it. Right now, you don’t have to go very far, but it helps to hop on a bike as some (not all) of the roads leading to the backcountry are clear (but not open to cars yet or ever). It’s the season for the bike-ski or bike-hike or bike-bike and I’m getting better at not crashing into things which is always a desirable skill.


lock (the bikes) and go (hiking)

marsh marigolds coming up streamside

plenty of snow and lots of windfall



I’m spending considerably more time on my bikes of late – both my mountain bike and my indoor trainer (also mountain bike – my engagement mountain bike). With local trails clearing up, we’re trail running in the mornings or evenings when it is a comfortable 45°F. It’s a matter of weeks before the high country trails clear out for hiking and backpacking. It must be spring! Of course it is. The Ass Reduction Plan (ARP) is in full speed. That’s one of the reasons we’ve been consuming fruit like nobody’s business. Well, that and the fact that I just got a Vitamix blender a few weeks ago. While I love my daily smoothie (strawberries, mango, orange, apple, blueberries, grapes, kale, and a little Good Belly and almond milk) I still thoroughly enjoy chewing actual fruit.

lychees, raspberries, oranges, kiwis, pears, grapes



When I was a kid, my dad would make the occasional Chinese dessert. I think my favorite was almond jello, which everyone served cubed with canned fruit cocktail and canned mandarin oranges. I’ve made almond jello from the packets you can purchase at Asian grocery stores, but like almost everything else you can buy in a convenient package, it’s pretty straightforward to make your own from scratch.

almond extract, sugar, agar agar, almond milk

stir agar agar into boiling water until dissolved

stir in sugar until dissolved



You can make almond jello with gelatin or agar agar (particularly if you are vegan). Gelatin gives an elastic result – like the jello with which most people are familiar. I found powdered agar agar at my local Whole Foods in the bulk section and the resulting jello was more brittle in that it yields more easily to the teeth and breaks apart with less effort. Agar agar is derived from red algae and commonly used in Asian desserts. My first introduction to it was a refreshing lemony version chilled on ice that my aunt served to me on a sweltering summer day in Pennsylvania.

add almond milk or regular milk

pour in the almond extract



I made two versions of this almond jello. The first time around, I used almond milk because dairy can play havoc on my digestion. I found the texture of the jello to be a touch grainy when made with almond milk. It seemed slightly less cohesive when I unmolded the jello or handled it.

i had a lovely copper mold and a standard baking pan ready

ladling the mixture into the mold



Agar agar seems to set a lot faster than gelatin. Mine were ready in half the time I would have expected them to set if I had used gelatin. While the jello is chilling, you can prepare the fruit. If you’re happy using fruit cocktail or other canned fruits, that’s fine. I rather like the idea of cutting up my own version of a fresh fruit cocktail, with the notable exception of the lychees. It’s hard for me to procure fresh lychees around here as it is, and I think the floral notes from the fruit are a perfect partner to almond jello.

chopped into bite-size pieces

tossed together

add the lychee syrup



When it was time to unmold the almond jello, I only ran into a few glitches with the copper mold. I think it had more to do with the almond milk than the mold though. Once it’s out on your serving vessel, you can garnish it with fruit (i.e. cover up any mishaps) and spoon some of the lychee syrup over it. If you didn’t use canned fruit of any kind, you can easily mix up your own sugar syrup or use fruit juice to pour over the almond jello.

served whole



Alternatively, you could make the almond jello with regular milk (as opposed to almond milk). I think in the future, this will be my choice because the result is a firmer, more cohesive jello that is also easier to handle. The flavor is also closer to what I grew up eating (probably because it was dairy-based). I poured half of the batch into a baking pan and the other half into little silicone ice cube trays.

cutting traditional squares from the baking pan jello

pouring lychee syrup

individual bowl of almond jello and fruit



The silicone ice cube trays worked beautifully and most of the jellos popped right out without any problems. A few went flying across the room and one or two were crushed when I tried to push them out. Still, the happy shapes would be particularly fun for parties, to serve to kids, or to serve to adults who dig on this sort of thing (me). It adds a nice element of fun to cooling off as the days heat up.

flower-shaped almond jello bites

here’s a bowl of fun for you



Almond Jello
[print recipe]
from Chef Chu’s Distinctive Cuisine of China by Lawrence C. C. Chu

2 quarts water
1 oz agar-agar (I measured this to just shy of 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups milk (you can use almond milk, but I found it to have an inferior texture)
1 oz (2 tbsps) almond extract
fruit of your choice, peeled and/or diced
light syrup (either homemade simple syrup or light syrup from canned fruit)

In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil and stir in the agar-agar until it has completely dissolved. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove the pan from heat and pour in the milk and the almond extract. Pour the almond jello liquid into a shallow pan, mold, or glasses. Refrigerate until they are firm. To serve, cut the jello into cubes or unmold from molds. Place jello in a dish and top with your choice of fruit and some light sugar syrup. I like an assortment of fresh fruits if possible (in this recipe I used raspberries, kiwi, grapes, pears, oranges), but like to add canned lychees and spoon the lychee light syrup from the can over each bowl. I have traditionally seen almond jello served with fruit cocktail. Serves 8-10.

22 nibbles at “go find it”

  1. Siew Kim anderson says:

    Almond jelly brings back happy memories of dim sum. Never thought to make my own.
    Will give it a try. Thanks for the snow pictures and the recipe for the upcoming warm days.

  2. Eva @ Eva Bakes says:

    We used to eat almond jello all the time when I was growing up! Your recipe sounds fantastic, and I will have to give it a try soon.

  3. Mary @ Fit and Fed says:

    I’m quite familiar with those agar desserts. Definitely a different mouth-feel than gelatin, but good. The agar does set at a much lower temperature than gelatin, though I still find it turns out better if I refrigerate it while it’s chilling. Cool recycling in your recipe of the syrup from the canned lychees. I probably would have tried the recipe with almond milk, too, and maybe I will. Just found your blog this morning, and I love the photography, the writing, and the touch of Boulder throughout. Nice work!

  4. luosha says:

    i’ve been wanting to make this for ages, but for one stumbling block.

    where do you find agar-agar? i’ve looked for it in chinatowns, but haven’t had much luck.
    i see it in sheets (for absurd prices! $40/pound?) at health food stores, but not sure it’s the same thing, plus it just seems wrong to pay that much for something so simple.
    you can get “agarose” off amazon (oh chemical supply stores), but again, not sure that’s the same thing.

    thanks!

  5. na says:

    Just made your jello, and it’s setting in the fridge as I write….except I’m calling it milk jello because I skipped the almond extract and used whole milk for almond milk.
    To lousha: I bought agar agar powder off of amazon, I think the brand is called ‘now’.

  6. na says:

    Sorry for another comment but forgot to thank you for the recipe :-)
    Also, here is the link to amazon for agar agar:
    http://www.amazon.com/NOW-Foods-Food-Products-Powder/dp/B000MGSJ5A/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1335807841&sr=8-3

  7. Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence says:

    It’s so cute!!! Love all that fresh fruit too.

  8. Michelle says:

    wow… and this sparks off another idea… if you substitute milk for soy milk u get soy milk jellies!

  9. barbara says:

    I have never seen pears with purple skin down here Jen. Interesting.

    Love ly dessert. Am thinking this might be a dessert suitable for Type 1 Diabetics which means I could make it for Michael.

  10. Jill says:

    Oh this looks so refreshing! I love a fruit salad, and will absolutely try this in a mold. I’ve never had lychees…will look in Whole Foods, or Asian market?

  11. Sulki Choi says:

    I just made this!! but with fruit lying around in the house…. waiting for the jelly to harden! For some reason no matter how hard/long I stirred the agar wouldn’t dissolve completely though… any advice?

  12. Bev says:

    I’ve enjoyed your blog ever since I discovered it (you) but now you’ve put me over the top at finding your almond jelly. My old battered Chinese recipe book has a good recipe using Knox Gelatin and we have enjoyed it for years to round out Asian-style meals, but your recipe, and especially your photos of the finished products using molds, made my day. Now, I’m heading out to find agar-agar and cute little silicon molds. Thankyouthankyou!

  13. farmerpam says:

    Interesting.

  14. ams says:

    Agar represent! I’ve only ever used it in the lab, where we culture our bacterias on nutrient agar. Teehee.

    I love anything almond, but am going low-carb as my ARP. I may have to dream up some less-sweet version of this (I refuse to use artificial sweeteners). Beautiful! I’m adding copper moulds to my dream-list of things to pick up when I finally get to Dehillerin in Paris.

  15. na says:

    I had the same problem as sulki, I just strained out the undissolved agar agar :-)
    The jelly turned out fabulous. I was wondering if I changed up the ratio, ie use more milk, would it set?

  16. LP @dishclips says:

    I love almond jello and lychee fruit. I’m glad you made this!

  17. jenyu says:

    Siew Kim – you’re welcome!

    Eva – thanks!

    Mary – thank you!

    luosha – In the post, I said I found the agar agar at Whole Foods (in the bulk spices section). I bet if you ask around at the shops in Chinatown, you should be able to find some. Sounds like the sheets are the same thing (and yes, it IS expensive in some places, especially if organic).

    na – thanks for the tip and link

    Brandon – aww, thanks!

    Michelle – yes, or rice milk or whatever you want to use!

    barbara – it’s more a red skin than purple, but they are nice. You’ll just have to come out and try some :) Oh yes, this may work well for Michael and you can reduce the sugar as much as you need to.

    Jill – Asian markets will have canned lychees for sure. Maybe try Pacific Ocean Market in Broomfield?

    Sulki – Huh, that’s odd. Maybe the water wasn’t hot enough? Mine dissolved almost completely, although there was a little left in the bottom of the pan. I’m guessing if the water can’t take more and it’s the right temperature then you’re probably fine, even with some left over.

    Bev – thank you, I’m so glad you enjoy the blog :) I can’t decide if I like the agar agar or the gelatin version better ;)

    ams – yeah, I used it in biology lab to culture various things and it was kinda funny to me then (but I was in high school). I’m sure you can reduce the sugar as much as you need to.

    na – at some amount you will reach the tipping point and it will no longer set, but i don’t know what it is.

    LP – thanks!

  18. na says:

    I’ve been quite obsessed with your recipe lately and did some experimenting :-)
    I used 1:1 ratio of water to whole milk, and only used 1 tsp agar agar powder per cup of fluid and it set perfectly. I used sugar one time and some raspberry-strawberry syrup another time for the jello. All the flavoring agents worked beautifully for the jello.
    Thank you for giving us the recipe :-)

  19. Ruby says:

    Thanks for the recipe! I can’t wait to try it! I made the almond dofu from a box and after the jello was made and sat for a while, the water started to drain out of it which really made a mess when transporting to my mother’s house. It looked fine in the pan but started liquifying shortly afterwards. Love your photos!

  20. Cassie says:

    I grew up eating a dessert very similar to this one!! Thank you so much for posting this recipe, your blog is one of the greatest ones out there!!

  21. Tara says:

    The brand of almond milk pictured here is just grainy. I’ll try Trader Joe’s refrigerated almond milk and report back!

  22. Linda says:

    Thanks for the recipe! It is very close to a recipe for rice pudding served by a Japanese Hibachi restaurant years ago. The rice pudding was so light and delicate! Will try your recipe using rice milk and see what happens. And I think the agar agar is the difference texture I have been missing!

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