The signature flavored gelatin known as Jell-O is a staple of many childhoods. It’s one of those brand names that has become so popular it’s synonymous with the entire product itself, like Kleenex or Band-Aids. Today, we think of Jell-O as a child-friendly dessert or sweet snack that can go well with fruit and whipped cream. But did you know that Jell-O has actually released a lot of different flavors throughout the brand’s history and that some of these weren’t even sweet flavors? Sometimes Jell-O is a hit, but some of the flavors they’ve released over the years have just gone way too far. Like every company, they’ve released their fair share of flops and learning lessons that are now hidden in the past. But not for long. We’re taking a look at some of those flavors that we’re not surprised are long gone by now.
We understand the idea behind this particular flavor. In the southern United States, there are many people who love to whip together something called a Coca-Cola salad. This “salad” looks like a big ring of Jell-O and usually contains a combination of Coca-Cola, gelatin, cherries, pineapples, and nuts. So, Jell-O apparently decided they were going to make it one step easier and make a cola flavor. They released this in 1942, but it didn’t really last long. Turns out people were fine with adding Coca-Cola on their own. These types of gelatin-based salads were all the rage in American kitchens in the 1950s and 1960s. People had tons of different Jell-O salad recipes and made them often. As a result, Jell-O was marketed to people as an easy, cheap, and convenient item to keep in your pantry and use with just about any dish. It was also a way that American housewives could make their family’s leftovers go a long way, especially during World War II and the post-war rationing periods. Some people today may cringe at the idea of a bunch of fruits or vegetables stuffed in a sweet, jiggly Jell-O based outer coating. But it serves a really nostalgic purpose for a lot of people who remember being served these dishes as a child. Just to show you how popular they were, we’re going to expose some of the other ridiculous Jell-O flavors that came out at this time.
Here’s another flavor that Jell-O released in order to appeal to the Americans who couldn’t get enough Jell-O salad: celery. This was another one of Jell-O’s clever marketing tactics that took advantage of people’s thirst for easy and convenient dishes to serve their families or take to pot lucks or other gatherings. These flavors were marketed as “Jell-O Salad Gelatin” specifically for this purpose. So, just what kind of dish would you ever need celery Jell-O for? As it turns out, there are tons of varieties of gelatin salads that people would use this for. Here’s an example recipe: celery Jell-O with canned tuna, diced tomato, diced hard-boiled eggs, sliced olives, sliced peppers, sliced onions, and Italian salad dressing. You’d mix all of those ingredients in with the gelatin mixture and then cool it so it ends up in a big molded green blob. Now, we totally understand the appeal of the Jell-O fruit salads. In fact, we’ve tried a few ourselves. Fruit flavored Jell-O and fruit makes sense, because the tastes are similar and Jell-O is sweet. You still see this floating around as a dessert at pot lucks or barbecues here and there, especially in the south. These dishes usually consist of fruit mixed with Jell-O with some type of whipped cream topping. We’re all for that. But a vegetable Jell-O salad just does not sound that appealing, especially made with a vegetable flavored Jell-O.
8. Italian Salad
What vintage family dinner would be complete without Italian salad flavored Jell-O? This particular flavor is extra nauseating because it was actually designed to taste like pasta and Italian dressing. You read that right. All of those flavors were combined inside a little gelatin packet, ready to mix into a gelatin salad stuffed with veggies and the like. We’d imagine this may be similar to the taste of one of the pre-blended Italian seasoning mixes you can buy in the grocery store but in an uneasy gelatin form. Italian pasta salad is still a solid dish that appears at various events and dinners to this day. It’s a go-to, easy recipe and tastes delicious. You can basically throw it together with things leftover in your fridge and some pasta, and a big batch of it can stay in the fridge to provide endless lunches for the week. There aren’t many people out there who don’t enjoy the taste of Italian dressing… or Italian anything, really. But putting this in a Jell-O flavor just doesn’t seem right. This takes things way too far. Simulating these flavors also doesn’t seem easy, and sounds like it could end up really fabricated. We can’t help but be extra curious about what that actually would taste like. Would you be brave enough to try this if you could get your hands on it?
7. Mixed Vegetable
The mixed vegetable flavored Jell-O was also designed specifically for gelatin salads. This one was a particular blend of various vegetables, left to leave a taste of blended artificial salad ingredients in your mouth. So, in case you didn’t want to settle just for celery, you could have a blend of everything. Vintage Jell-O ads, circa 1964, boast that salads made with this particular selection have “a lot of flavor.” You could say that again. If you ever look at vintage images of these gelatin salads with various food bits floating around inside, you’ll see that they are often surrounded by green Jell-O. This may gross you out because we’re accustomed to today’s green Jell-O, which is lime. That doesn’t sound so appealing with a mixture of other foods. However, that green Jell-O was actually most likely mixed vegetable flavor or one of the other vegetable flavors on this list. It’s really too bad these flavors are long gone. There are probably tons of people out there who are curious and willing to try this concoction. Don’t knock it until you try it, right?
6. Seasoned Tomato
Another Jell-O designed “for salads,” seasoned tomato was meant to add tomato flavor to your dishes. Tomatoes do go with everything, so we can see how this particular flavor may have been considered versatile when piling all of your extra food in one dish. It’s one thing to have imitation fruit flavors in your food, but imitation tomato? Sure, tomato is technically a fruit, but we can see why this flavor was nixed. This is just wrong. Maybe it’s because we are so accustomed to Jell-O being marketed toward kids and sweet desserts these days that we just can’t wrap our minds around these gelatin salads. The Jell-O edible slime they released last year doesn’t help that mindset. Around the 1980s, Jell-O took a sharp turn with its marketing tactics due to the gelatin salad craze dying down. They had to think of a new re-brand because the average consumer was beginning to focus on fresh foods for dinner and reduce their intake of processed sugars, so voila! Kids love food that jiggles! Or, maybe it’s the fact that these giant molded salads resembled something more like alien brains than actual salads that turns us off.
5. Cotton Candy
It wasn’t just the random salad flavors that Jell-O came out with and then discontinued. Some sticky-sweet flavors also made the list for a short period of time, including this cotton candy one. It actually came out for a few different occasions, all as part of marketing campaigns for various movie releases. When the Trolls movie came out in 2017, Jell-O released limited-edition themed flavors to correspond with the movie. One of these was a cotton candy flavor, which had Branch, the main male character voiced by Justin Timberlake, on a blue box. They also released a limited-edition Wonder Woman version to correspond with that movie. It was still same blue cotton candy flavor, but with Gal Gadot in costume on the box. In theory, cotton candy Jell-O doesn’t actually sound that bad. Cotton candy is super sweet, and the flavor is used in a lot of other candies and treats. It’s even a popular ice cream flavor. However, there are a lot of people out there who don’t really like this flavor because it can be way too sweet at times. After all, cotton candy itself is basically just a ton of sugar swirled together and mixed with food coloring. You can see why it’s mostly associated with and marketed to children, who generally can’t get enough of the sweet stuff.
4. Maple Syrup
Maple Syrup is already sticky and sweet enough. That’s why it can be a huge hit or miss when it comes to maple syrup flavored things, or maple syrup flavor going into various food items. But it only really goes with certain tastes, like bacon, ice cream, and various breakfast foods. When it’s mixed into gelatin form, it’s hard to think of how this could actually be used. What could you make with maple syrup Jell-O? If we had to guess, it would likely have been in dessert form like the Coca-Cola salad recipe we mentioned above. It’s pretty hard to find a lot of resources with information about this long lost flavor, which is a big indicator that it really didn’t last long and wasn’t super successful. There is a strong taste difference between simulated maple syrup and the real, pure stuff. People have been debating this forever. Simulated maple syrup, like the classic Aunt Jemima brand, is cheaper, so a lot of Americans prefer it for their breakfast items and various other uses. However, the cheap stuff is basically just corn syrup with artificial flavor and does not have the same sugary taste the real stuff does. Once you try the real stuff, it can be pretty hard to go back to the simulated stuff, unless you’re really watching your budget. It’s pretty safe to say that this same type of artificial flavor was probably used for the maple syrup Jell-O flavor.
It makes sense that someone would have wanted to try this. People are putting coffee flavor in everything nowadays. So, you’d think that Jell-O released this particular flavor to appeal to that popular market. However, coffee-flavored Jell-O actually came out way before today’s days of Artisan and hipster coffee-aholics. It made its rounds in 1918. Originally, the minds behind the Jell-O brand thought this was going to be a huge success. People liked to have a cup of java with their dessert, so combining coffee flavor into that dessert seemed like the perfect solution. However, they soon realized that people who enjoyed coffee enjoyed having it in that warm beverage form. Plus, the simulated coffee didn’t really do it since it didn’t have the caffeine people relied on from the real thing. Needless to say, this didn’t really catch on. There is a box from 1918 that still exists, but if there’s anything left in it, we strongly do not recommend tasting it. To some, this is kind of a shame that the flavor is discontinued. It doesn’t provide the actual caffeine content that people rely on these days, which could be a major downfall for those who rely on that jolt more than once a day. But for those who genuinely just enjoy the taste of coffee, this could have been beneficial. Imagine the cool uses you could get out of coffee-flavored Jell-O. You could cut it into cubes and use it with iced coffee somehow. Or, you could use it with your dessert for a little bit of extra flavor.
2. Bubble Gum
Bubble gum is one of those flavors that people are divided over. Some people think it’s much too childish and sweet, while others simply love it. This flavor translates really well to just about anything sweet or dessert related, from gum itself to ice cream and milkshakes. Since the flavor itself is a simulated creation, you don’t have to worry about imitation versions being too overly fake. It’s all fake! As a result, we get a pretty good consistency with bubble gum flavored products. That being said, Jell-O just doesn’t fit in with the crowd on this one. We’re all familiar with Jell-O and its pudding products, both pre-made and sold by the powder mix. At one point in time, Jell-O sold pudding versions of bubble gum and cotton candy flavors. The bubble gum one, which you can’t see in this image, was pink, while the cotton candy was blue. Now, there’s something about eating pink pudding that just doesn’t really feel right. First of all, when we think about bubble gum, we think about blowing big huge fruity flavored bubbles and popping them for fun. Eating a mouthful of bubble gum flavored goop doesn’t let you do that, so where is the fun of it all? Do we need bubble gum Jell-O pudding? Probably not.
1. Imitation Apple
Here’s another throwback to top off our list. The flavor itself was actually called “Imitation Apple.” No masquerade here. That’s because the imitation part actually appealed to people when it came out in the 1950s. Sounds like a big contrast to today’s anti-GMO, anti-additive, pro-organic culture, doesn’t it? Well, back in the day, people were actually intrigued by the concept of GMOs and laboratory-produced food items because they were excited about the technology of the future. So, the idea that they could make an imitation apple flavor in a lab instead of using real apples was actually impressive to the general American population. As a result, imitation products were purposely used to market to the average consumer. The imitation apple Jell-O flavor was released right around the time that people were going nuts for the gelatin salads and jiggly molded desserts. Therefore, it’s pretty obvious that this was another creation that people could use to stuff fruit and other items into. Apple sounds like it would at least be better for a dessert salad than many of the other items on this list. We know what simulated apple pie tastes like, thanks to fast food companies like McDonald’s who sell them for dessert, so we can imagine it probably tasted something like that.