13 Ways To Upgrade Store-Bought Jam

Store-bought jam is a staple pantry item in many homes because of its range of fruity flavors, affordability, and the myriad ways to use it. You don't have the hassle of buying, cooking, and mashing fruit like you would when making jam from scratch. It's helpful to note what makes jam different from jelly, as the latter is like gelatin when compared to the chunks of fruits and seeds you find in jam. Both are tasty, but they have different textures. For these tips, we are upgrading fruit-packed jam. There are plenty of ways to utilize this spread in everyday dishes, like sandwiches or toast, as well as with special-occasion goodies, like brownies laden with fruit jams

If you're looking for ways to upgrade store-bought jam, we have quite a few tips for you to consider. Whether your jam is lacking flavor or the texture needs improvement, we have options to make it better all around. We will share how to upgrade it, why these tips help, or any other aspects that you might need to consider. 

Most of these hacks are pretty easy, and can be done with any jam you have on hand. However, we will highlight combinations that taste especially good together, or if there are any steps required for the tip to produce desired results. After making an upgrade, use the elevated jam right away, since fresh ingredients or alterations can change its shelf life, freshness, and flavor.

1. Thicken runny store-bought jam with chia seeds

If you open a fresh jar of jam only to discover it's runny, or have fruit preserves in the fridge that have been there a while and the consistency is now on the liquid side, try adding some chia seeds. These seeds are the nutritious ingredient that will help thicken jam by absorbing moisture, similarly to their role in chia pudding. The chia seeds expand and add texture, without greatly impacting the flavor. They also provide nutritional value to jam by adding protein, fiber, manganese, calcium, and more. 

Place your desired amount of jam in a bowl or a separate container, sprinkle in chia seeds, and mix thoroughly. You can prepare it ahead of time by covering the chia-infused jam and then putting it in the fridge until you're ready to use it later that day. How much chia you add depends on the jam's liquid content, as well as your textural preference. A light sprinkling of chia in strawberry jam can almost look like strawberry seeds, whereas a hefty tablespoon in apricot jam presents a more apparent addition. However, you can use any jam for this hack, and spread it on toast or add it to yogurt. Also, you can layer it into — you guessed it — chia pudding, instead of adding fresh fruit. 

2. Give it a splash of bourbon

Bourbon is the boozy ingredient you should add to jam for a hint of warmth. Integrate a teaspoon or two of bourbon with 8 ounces of the preserves in a separate container, and stir until the liquid is fully incorporated. The fruit and bourbon duo works particularly nicely with jams made from apples, berries, cherries, citrus, and peaches. While the tasting notes might vary based on your chosen type of bourbon, you can expect sweetness with a trace of caramel notes. 

Keep it simple with the jam and bourbon blend. Don't add any spices or mix different types of fruit jams, as this will overcomplicate and muddle the flavors. This adults-only jam tastes delicious on a biscuit, French toast, waffles, or pancakes, or as a pairing with cheeses. If you prefer the jam to be lightly warmed, gently heat it in a saucepan, but don't let it start bubbling, as this can burn off the bourbon taste. No matter which bourbon you utilize, this is a captivating way to give gourmet flair to affordable store-bought jam. 

3. Sprinkle salt and lemon juice into store-bought jam

One issue with store-bought jam is that it comes with a fixed level of sweetness. When you make preserves at home, you can create a customized ratio of fruit to sugar, and even make it tart with lemon juice. When preserves are a bit too cloying, lemon juice and salt are the two ingredients you need to fix overly sweet store-bought jam. Adding an acidic component to jam is a standard part of making it — whether you choose balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, or another acidic ingredient — and salt can make sweet foods taste better while bringing out more flavor. 

Take that jam jar from your fridge, squeeze in some lemon juice, add a small sprinkle of salt, stir, and taste it to see if more of either ingredient is needed. This is a handy tip, since you are likely to have both ingredients in your kitchen. These flavors work to make the sweetness less overwhelming while giving jam a delicate tartness that works well for thumbprint cookies, raspberry oatmeal breakfast bars, or coconut cake. This upgrade works with any jam variety, but performs particularly pleasingly with sweeter fruits like strawberries, grapes, or cherries. 

4. Try adding herbs for flavor and aromatics

There are plenty of fruit and herb combinations that can inspire an herbal jam. We recommend opting for fresh herbs, because they have a more potent flavor and a softer texture compared to the crispiness of dried herbs. Different herbs provide varied flavor profiles that you can pick based on your jam type, and what you're planning to pair with the finished herbal jam. Chop or tear herbs and mix them directly into the fruit preserves. Fresh herbs add taste without even needing time for their flavors to be infused. 

Mint is a top choice, since you'll see it in fruit-based recipes ranging from fruit salads to drinks; it goes particularly well with plums, cherries, and peaches. Minty fruit jam is perfect for your morning toast or blended into a smoothie. If you happen to have watermelon jam, infuse it with mint to create a refreshing addition to lemonade. Basil goes beautifully with strawberry or blueberry jam, which you could use in a tasty mocktail along with rhubarb. Since this herb can be a little bit sweet and spicy, it makes a complex addition to jam. Try stirring up rosemary and pear jam for a unique and aromatic combination, ideal for using on a sandwich or slathering on an English muffin.

5. Add a floral element to store-bought jam

A floral component can give your jam a sophisticated taste. There are many edible flowers and floral waters that work with jam, such as dried lavender, apple blossoms, chamomile, hibiscus, rose water, or orange blossom water. Warm the jam on the stove, turn off the heat, add whole flower buds, and let the concoction steep until you get the desired flavor. Once it has a floral whiff, you can pick out the flowers. Liquids like rose water are even easier to incorporate, since you can simply splash some in a bowl with your jam and stir.

Strawberry jam mixed with hibiscus is a fantastic starting point if you aren't familiar with floral preserves, as this combination isn't overly perfumy and also has tartness to it. Try infusing peach jam with chamomile, or pair fragrant lavender with the tanginess of blueberries. Enjoy these floral preserves as you would any jam, like spreading them onto a warm pastry. 

No matter which blooms you pick, make sure to choose edible ones specifically sold as food, not something that you pick off the side of the road, as you can't guarantee its quality. Your best bet is to buy edible flowers that are specifically packaged for culinary use from a store or online. 

6. Integrate a spicy boost into store-bought jam

Store-bought jams are typically rather sweet, so one intriguing alternative is to give them a dynamic boost with a spicy inclusion. The resulting sugary and piquant jam has a balance that makes an excellent addition to a grazing platter, or for using as a dipping condiment for meat or poultry. Try mango or pineapple jam paired with habanero peppers by finely chopping the fresh chilies and mixing them into the preserves. Or try Giada De Laurentiis' quick jam trick to elevate your cheese board — she makes Calabrian chili paste with olive oil, garlic, and salt, before mixing it with fig jam and a squeeze of lemon to make a powerful condiment. 

Eliminate any chopping by combining apricot jam with chili oil to make a delicious, memorable addition to vegetables, such as roasted carrots. Chili crisp is an unexpected pantry ingredient that'll spice up fruit jam like strawberry or raspberry. This is a satisfying dip that you can use for fruits and veggies, but you could be more daring by incorporating it into baked goods such as brownies or cakes, or mixing it in with your favorite cake frosting. Both chili oil and crisp are easy to incorporate into fruit preserves, since you can simply add a spoonful of the condiment to the jam for an extra kick. 

7. Reduce it to create a fruity syrup

Use jam as a shortcut to making a fruit-based syrup. It still requires a few steps, but doing this is quicker than making fruit syrup completely from scratch. You can pull off this hack with any jam flavor that you have on hand. For this tip, first put your jam in a saucepan, then pour in water until the blend reaches a thin consistency. Give it a taste to see if it needs more jam or water. The mixture shouldn't have a watery taste, since the flavor isn't going to get stronger with cooking.  

Turn on the heat and stir until it reduces. The syrup will condense as the water evaporates, but will still have a runny consistency. If you don't mind the fruit bits or seeds, leave them as is, or strain them to create a smooth syrup. This makes a scrumptious sweetener for coffee, cocktails, and tea, but you could also drizzle it onto pancakes, waffles, desserts, or your favorite milkshake. 

8. Mix store-bought jams together for fun pairings

There are plenty of blended jams on the market. If you have a couple of differently flavored fruit preserves in your fridge, consider mixing them together. However, rather than integrating the jams into one jar, it's best to combine them in a separate vessel. This way, if you don't like the resulting flavor, you'll still have the original jams in their pristine state. 

You can try this with just about any combination, but there are some particularly tasty blends. Think about fruit medleys that you personally enjoy, such as strawberry kiwi or pineapple mango. Mixed berry is a classic, whether you have raspberry, blackberry, or lingonberry. Or you can try more innovative options, like blending cherry with apple. 

This is a chance to experiment and have fun with flavors. You might find a marvelous combination that you wouldn't readily be able to purchase. Furthermore, this tip is one of the easier ways to upgrade store-bought jams, because you can easily stir the varieties together without having to do any simmering, chopping, or straining. Add your blend to anything from sorbet to cottage cheese. 

9. Add texture with cacao nibs

While chia seeds offer some texture, cacao nibs turn jam up a notch. If you're sitting there pondering what are cacao nibs, also called cocoa nibs, they are simply pieces of cocoa beans. This part of the bean is not sweet whatsoever, and leans toward the fruity, bitter, and earthy side. They are crunchy, which provides a textural juxtaposition compared to the softness of jam, but they also provide iron, magnesium, potassium, fiber, and other nutrients. The nibs are made from cracked cocoa beans, whereas chocolate contains the fatty cocoa butter and added ingredients such as sugar and milk. 

Combine your desired amount of nibs and jam in a bowl. These pair satisfactorily with any jam that needs a boost in consistency. Try them in a raspberry or strawberry jam, or with the floral, sweet, and tart notes you'll find in pear jam. 

This is an effective way to upgrade your store-bought jam to serve at brunch, on waffles, or layered into a parfait for a alternative to granola. The pieces are considerably crunchy, so if you prefer smaller bits, use a mortar and pestle to lightly grind them. But don't turn the nibs into a powder, since you still want texture. Cacao nibs are a delightful option to balance the sugary jam with a slightly bitter chocolate note.  

10. Sprinkle powdered spices into store-bought jam

When in doubt, powdered spices are a powerful and straightforward way to provide an abundance of flavor to jam. Cinnamon, allspice, clove, cardamom, nutmeg, and ginger are commonly found in sweet treats, so you can add a dash of these powdered spices to your jam when you want to upgrade it without messing with the texture. Whole spices require simmering and steeping, so opt for powdered spices to keep things easy. This is one of the most effortless ways to upgrade store-bought jam, since you need only sprinkle and stir. You can also combine spices with jam to make a pastry filling, or spread your spiced preserves on a flaky buttery croissant or a plain bagel with cream cheese.

Cinnamon pairs well with many fruit jams, such as cherries and blackberries. Blend strawberry jam with cinnamon to create a cool morning smoothie. Lingonberry jam, allspice, and cinnamon can be the starting point of making a lingonberry pie. Mix cardamom with apricot jam to eat on a piece of toast. These combinations complement each other and are remarkably versatile, whether you want to add it to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, swirl it into muffins, or use it to make assorted fruit danishes with cream cheese. You can also lightly warm the jam on the stove for a comforting topping. 

11. Use it to whip up fruity compound butter

Jam and butter is a prevalent duo that you'll find on the breakfast tables of many homes every day. Give this combination an enhancement by making compound butter with jam, which isn't too hard to whip up. 

You might often see compound butter with herbs, but in this case, pair it with the jam of your choice. To make it, consider a couple of tips you need when making compound butter, such as letting the butter reach room temperature and whipping it until airy. This way, it's soft and easy to work with as you mix in your jam. Use a stand mixer to beat the butter, or you can always use a fork and a little elbow grease.

The result is a light, creamy, and sweet condiment that looks and tastes expensive, no matter which jam or butter you pick. It also turns the dairy product into a beautiful color, whether you select the purple hue of blueberry or the orange-yellow of apricot. Spread it on biscuits, bagels, waffles, muffins, you name it. Once the jam is fully incorporated, shape the butter and then chill it until firm. You can roll it into a log and wrap it in parchment paper if you want to be able to cut it into coins to place atop a hot dessert. Or, put the compound butter in an airtight container with a lid if you don't plan to display it. 

12. Mix store-bought jam with tahini for a tasty condiment

We know peanut butter and jelly is a match made in taste bud heaven. Attempt something different (but equally delicious) by mixing your preferred jam with tahini. As a bonus, tahini contains fiber, copper, selenium, zinc, and other nutrients. The process of making this is uncomplicated, since you only have to integrate the jam and tahini until fully combined. 

For just a hint of nuttiness, add a drizzle of tahini to your jam, or combine equal parts if you prefer a balanced, less sweet version. Double up on the nutty flavor by also adding peanut butter or almond butter in your jam mixture.

Turn a run-of-the-mill lunch into an extraordinary one with this combo. The pair works well for an elevated tahini and jam sandwich that you can beef up with other ingredients, such as dried blueberries, ground walnuts, or chocolaty Nutella. But you could also enjoy this tahini and jam combination on ice cream sandwiches, as an addition to a bagel with cream cheese, or drizzled onto muffins. Heighten dessert by using tahini-infused preserves as a tasty dip for fruit or chocolate, or incorporate the mixture into a smoothie with dates and cardamom. 

13. Include chopped candied ginger

Candied ginger is a happy mixture of sweet and a hint of spicy. Making this treat from scratch only requires three ingredients, but you can always buy the store-bought version if you want to cut down on prep time. Fresh ginger tends to be crisp and fibrous, but candied ginger is cooked, giving it a more tender mouthfeel. The crispy sugar morsels add a light texture, combining with the chewy ginger pieces to provide zing when you don't want something overly sweet. 

To use candied ginger in jam, chop the ginger confection into small pieces. Since it can be sticky, make sure to detach the pieces from each other if they start to clump together during the cutting process. Add the separated chopped ginger to your jam, and blend it well so that the pieces are equally distributed. This enhanced jam will add a vibrant kick to anything. 

Try making this spreadable delicacy with pear jam for a ginger pear crisp. This ginger-infused jam also goes well with baked goods, like an elegant apricot frangipane tart, when you desire a spicy-sweet dimension. Sometimes the most unexpected combinations have the best and most balanced taste.