A box of Jell-O contains sugar, gelatin, adipic acid, natural and artificial flavorings, disodium phosphate, sodium citrate, fumaric acid and food dye. Dye colors and flavoring agents vary depending on the flavor, such as strawberry or lime. The final ingredient -- water -- is added at home.
Sugar makes Jell-O sweet, while gelatin gives the chilled dessert its jiggly texture. Adipic acid lends tartness, while fumaric acid adds a sour taste. Disodium phosphate and sodium citrate are both agents that control acid, thus extending the product's shelf life. Disodium phosphate also helps the powder mixture to maintain the proper moisture level and prevents the sugar from clumping. Sugar-free Jell-O replaces sugar with aspartame and acesulfame potassium to achieve a similar sweetness.
It is possible to make Jell-O from scratch without artificial flavors or preservatives. The food blog Wellness Mama provides an easy recipe that calls for fruit juice and unflavored gelatin in a post titled "How to Make Healthy Jello." The simple technique involves dissolving the gelatin in cold water, then adding a small amount of boiling water, followed by fruit juice. Homemade Jell-O takes longer to set than the store-bought kind, requiring two to three hours in the refrigerator compared to an hour.