We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Gelatin?

By S. N. Smith
Updated Jun 04, 2024
Our promise to you
DelightedCooking is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At DelightedCooking, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Gelatin, or gelatine, is a substance derived from the processing of animal collagen. Commercially, this is most typically obtained from cattle hides and bones and pigskins. Contrary to popular belief, it is not rendered from the feet or horns of animals, which are made primarily of keratin rather than collagen.

In its most basic form, commercially processed edible gelatin is a tasteless beige or pale yellow powder or granules. It is composed of mostly protein, with a small percentage of mineral salts and water making up the balance. Gelatin contains 18 amino acids. Of the ten essential amino acids necessary for human health, it lacks only tryptophan.

Edible gelatin is extraordinarily versatile. Aside from the ubiquitous Jell-O® desserts popular both in institutional cafeterias and home kitchens around the world, it can be found in an amazing array of food products. In the processed food industry, it is used a thickener, a gelling agent, a stabilizer, and an emulsifier. As such, it can be found in foods as diverse as yogurt, pate, aspic, marshmallows and gummy candy, soups, salad dressings, and canned ham.

Edible gelatin is also widely used in the pharmaceutical industry. Because it is easily digested, it is favored as a coating for medicinal tablets and caplets. Medicine-containing capsules are also made from this substance.

Other, inedible uses include the production of film in the photographic industry. In the entertainment industry, it is used to produce the paint-containing capsules shot from paintball guns.

Extracting the collagen from the raw animal materials to produce gelatin commercially requires a process that involves stages of boiling and soaking in a strong acidic or basic solution to liberate, or hydrolyze, the protein. Once extracted, the protein is then dried. The gelatin may be formed into sheets, termed leaf gelatin, or ground into granules or powder. Its shelf life is a lengthy one, providing it is kept at a regulated temperature and is protected from humidity.

As it is refined from animal products, strict processing guidelines are observed to ensure the purity and quality of the finished product. Numerous tests examine the gelatin for the presence of pathogens, contaminants, and other impurities.

The home cook who desires to render gelatin for use in aspic or other culinary purposes may easily do so by simmering collagen-containing animal or fish bones, then straining and cooling the liquid. The gelatin will congeal upon refrigeration.

Gelatin, served in a broth or in a shimmering, jewel-toned mound studded with fruit chunks, offers some nutritional perks. Many believe it is beneficial for maintaining healthy bones and joints and attractive hair and nails. It has, for ages, been valued as a digestive aid and intestinal soother, hence the popularity of gravies and soups containing it served alongside rich fare.

As a food additive, however, this substance contributes little but texture to its host product. Very little, if any, nutritional benefit is gained when it is added to processed foods.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By ogyaherd — On Jul 06, 2016

Another aspect is the kashrut or halal consideration: not permissible to be consumed, or even touched in most cases, really.

By anon135448 — On Dec 18, 2010

loki, it seems like it was an accident that must have happened millions of times by now. people have been boiling down animal parts for generations and generations. it seems that discovering gelatin could have almost been impossible to avoid.

By anon84410 — On May 15, 2010

No, vegans cannot have gelatin(e). it comes from animals.

By anon70830 — On Mar 16, 2010

In response to the anon question: yes, vegans and vegetarians who are serious about their dietary choices should be aware of what gelatin is, and check the ingredients of things they buy to make sure they avoid it.

By anon65896 — On Feb 16, 2010

So, does the fact that it comes from animal collagen mean that vegans an vegetarians should avoid eating gelatin?

By lokithebeak — On Dec 28, 2009

Okay I am both a little grossed out and yet impressed at the same time.

I had no idea gelatin came from animal collagen. I also had no idea it was used so many different ways!

I wonder what made that inventor sit down and start boiling animal parts to see what he could do with the results?

DelightedCooking, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

DelightedCooking, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.