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Sugar-Free Grapefruit Marmalade with No Added Pectin

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Today I have a special treat for all you grapefruit lovers out there. Or any citrus fruit lovers for that matter, because this recipe can be used to make an orange, tangerine or lemon marmalade as well.

This grapefruit marmalade recipe is super easy and versatile: my original way of making it includes no sugar and no added pectins, but you can easily adapt the method and ingredient list and make it with sugar and pectin if you prefer. Keep reading to find out how!

grapefruit marmalade

I even made a mixed citrus marmalade this way recently – using oranges, grapefruits, lemons and tangerines, and it turned out heavenly. It was an excellent way to preserve some of the beautiful, locally grown citrus fruits that we have in such abundance each winter here in Croatia.

If you are one of the lucky people who have citrus trees growing in their gardens, and just happen to have stumbled upon this blog after wondering how to use up all those fruits that you got this year, it is never too late to turn some of them into a batch of delicious marmalade. It can be a nice present for friends or a cool thing to bring to a family lunch.

grapefruit marmalade

Ingredients for the homemade grapefruit marmalade recipe

To make this tasty grapefruit marmalade, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Fresh organic grapefruits
  • Xylitol

Yep, it is that simple! Optionally, if you want to shorten the cooking time or make the marmalade without peels, you can add some agar agar powder for its natural gelling properties. Keep reading to learn more.

Also, if you prefer to use real sugar instead of xylitol, I recommend using raw cane sugar such as this one.

Why I love this particular grapefruit marmalade recipe

A simple, sugar-free recipe that doesn’t call for added pectin. A bomb, right?

This winter I have already made at least six or seven batches of grapefruit marmalade, so I got to experiment with it quite a bit. I wanted to come up with a simple recipe, without too much mess, too much chopping or too many ingredients.

I also wanted to avoid the usual amounts of sugar that give marmalades their proper consistency. In order to keep the flavours fresh and not destroy the fruits, I decided to keep the cooking time as short as possible.

Fulfilling all these conditions AND not adding any pectin might sound a bit insane, but bear with me. It did not only work perfectly, but it also resulted in one of the most popular winter treats in my friends and family circles. I am actually sharing this recipe because people have already asked for it.

grapefruit marmalade

Making the grapefruit marmalade

This grapefruit marmalade recipe is quite easy and fairly versatile if you want to swap some ingredients or adapt the process. Let’s break down some of the steps because I really enjoy this whole process and want to share it with you.

If you don’t feel like reading this many details, skip to the “Making grapefruit marmalade – quick and easy way” paragraph, or jump to the recipe card below.

1. Working with the naturally occurring pectin

Grapefruit (and other citrus fruit) peels are naturally packed with pectin, and we can create the conditions that will help us make the best use of it.

First of all, we need to soften the peels. As I already mentioned, long cooking time is not really an option for me – we want to preserve as much of that beautiful fruity freshness as we can. This is why I like to soak the chopped grapefruit in water overnight.

Soaking will soften the peels and make the pectins more accessible. The last batch that I made was actually soaked in grapefruit juice rather than water (I used the “leftover” peels to make candied grapefruit peels, as shown in this recipe). If that one was a cake and I needed to give it some cheesy name, it would probably be called something like a Double Grapefruit Fantasy… Not just your everyday marmalade, an experience

So much flavour, insane.

After soaking, the best option is to either mince the fruit into an almost mash-like texture, or – much easier and less messy – to grind them a bit using a stick mixer or a food processor. We don’t want a real fruit mash here, but we want to break down the peels into much smaller pieces. That way we will need less cooking, and the marmalade will not separate once it is cooked.

grapefruit marmalade

The acidity on the mixture is also important. Lowering the pH will help neutralise the negative charges on pectin molecules, making them suitable for forming a “net” that is responsible for setting the marmalade. If your grapefruits are already really sour, that is great in this case. If not, you can use a lemon in the recipe, to lower the pH a bit more.

grapefruit marmalade

2. Cooking the grapefruit marmalade

Cooking time is also essential when working with pectin. You need the heat to form a “gel”, but too much heat can destroy them and make the marmalade lose its natural gelling properties. It is good to start checking if the marmalade has set after about five to ten minutes of cooking (depending on how well ground or minced the peels are).

You can do this by pouring a few drops of your marmalade onto a cold glass or ceramic dish, preferably one that was properly cooled down in a freezer. If the marmalade forms a light gel when cooled down, you can remove the pot from the heat.

Or, you can skip all that.

3. Making grapefruit marmalade – quick and easy way

After having said all this, I have to admit something. This marmalade will actually turn out amazing even if you forget about all the cooking and setting adventures. You can simply let it simmer for only 5 minutes after bringing it to a boil, and then transfer it into the jars.

The consistency will be so nice that you will not miss the gelling part at all. It made my life a bit easier and most of the time I will do it the savage way, with the shortest possible cooking time and no setting tests. There, now you know my grapefruit secret. Works every time.

Also, if you want the grapefruit marmalade to be thicker, or you want to be sure it will thicken, feel free to use agar powder to help you out. Check out this post where I explain in detail how to use agar. Keep in mind that you need less than half the usual amount if you want to set a marmalade.

The best sweetener for a sugar-free grapefruit marmalade.

This recipe works great with xylitol, and I created it this way because there are not that many recipes for sugar-free marmalades out there. Also, I do prefer fruit marmalades without added sugar, and since grapefruit is naturally really low in sugar, the recipe calls for some kind of a sweetener.

Xylitol is a naturally occurring polyalcohol (sugar alcohol) that is often derived from birch bark or corn cob. Its naturally sweet taste and low glycemic index make it an excellent sugar replacement for those who avoid carbohydrate sugars for whatever reason.

I agree that any non-refined sugar would be the most natural option (since you do need to use some sweetener, especially with the sour yellow grapefruit variety), but I also know that using anything in moderation can be a perfectly fine option for our health and the environment. I rarely use pure sugar alcohols in my recipes, but this is one of the exceptions that are 100% worth it.

grapefruit marmalade

Making grapefruit marmalade the traditional way (with sugar)

If you are in the traditional sugary marmalade team, don’t worry – I’ve got you covered too. This marmalade will also turn out amazing if you use an equal amount of raw cane sugar instead of xylitol.

It won’t work as well with sugars that are high in molasses, such as muscovado, or coconut sugar. It is possible to use them, but you might not get the proper marmalade consistency.

Also, with molasses-rich sugars, the colour and flavour of the marmalade will change, and I think it is a shame not to preserve the best from grapefruits – including their rich flavour and aroma, and beautiful light colour.

That is why I normally choose xylitol for this recipe. It will keep the marmalade looking and tasting fresh, and it doesn’t call for a long cooking time. Equally important (for me at least) – it makes this marmalade sugar-free, which is a better option for your teeth AND blood sugar levels. Everything on point.

grapefruit marmalade

Combine the grapefruit marmalade with…

Grapefruit Marmalade FAQ

1. Does the grapefruit marmalade taste bitter?

Grapefruits, especially the home-grown yellow varieties, are naturally bitter fruits. So yes, this marmalade will naturally have some bitterness to it. However, it is not as intense as eating a grapefruit alone – in fact, I made this recipe because we had more grapefruits in the house than our tastebuds could consume, so I turned them into something nice and sweet – this amazing marmalade.

I personally don’t mind a bit of bitterness in food, I like it. So for me, this marmalade is not even that bitter. If you generally love grapefruits and other citrus fruits, you will likely adore this homemade marmalade recipe.

2. Can I make the grapefruit marmalade less bitter?

Yes! If you are not a big fan of bitter-sweet foods, there are several ways to make this marmalade less bitter.

  • Use pink grapefruits instead of yellow ones – the pink grapefruits are naturally less bitter and more sweet. For my taste, this pink marmalade is almost not bitter at all.
  • To make it even less bitter, you can separate the peels from the pulp, soak only the peels and discard the water afterwards. This method is not that great for using natural pectins, so add some agar powder when cooking the marmalade to make sure it thickens properly.
  • You can use only the thin surface part of the skins – the coloured part that contains most of the aroma – and leave out the thick, white parts of the grapefruit peel (make sure to add agar or other pectin in that case). This will significantly reduce the bitterness, giving you a nice, gentle and sweet marmalade. It will also shorten the time required to make the marmalade, because there is no soaking involved.

Even though the whole process here relies on using natural pectins from these white parts of the peels, you can skip it by using agar agar powder. Read this article to learn how to use agar in cooking, and remember only to use up to half the amount to set a marmalade (even a third if you want a softer consistency).

3. What if the marmalade doesn’t thicken enough?

If you use only natural pectin from grapefruit peels, this marmalade will turn out nice and jelly-like, but not too thick. It will still be very spreadable and perfect for having on a slice of bread.

In my experience, the marmalade with xylitol will have a thicker consistency than the one with raw cane sugar. If you choose to use raw sugar and your marmalade turns out too runny, you can reheat it and add some agar powder, as described in this post.

4. How to sterilise jars for canning the marmalade?

To learn how to prepare the jars for canning, check out this post about sterilising jars for preserving jams, marmalades and other foods.

5. How long can the canned marmalade last?

If kept in a cool place such as a basement, pantry or fridge, this grapefruit marmalade can last for at least a couple of months. Just make sure you properly sterilise the jars and seal them well.

If you want to be absolutely sure there won’t be any spoilage or mould development, feel free to keep the marmalade in the fridge and spend it within a month or so. But they should definitely last longer if canned and stored properly.

Signs of spoilage are very easy to recognise, so don’t worry – if your marmalade smells and looks nice and fresh like when you made it, it is good for eating.

Equipment for making grapefruit marmalade

Yield: about 1,2 l or 40 oz (10 × 120 ml or 4 oz jars)

Sugar-Free Grapefruit Marmalade (with no Pectin Added)

Sugar-Free Grapefruit Marmalade (with no Pectin Added)

This easy grapefruit marmalade recipe is one of the best ways to preserve some of the grapefruit season's deliciousness. I originally made it with no sugar or added pectin, but I included options with sugar and pectin so anyone can make it according to their taste. Enjoy!!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 30 minutes


  • 2 cups of chopped grapefruits with peels (2 whole large grapefruits, chopped)
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (juice of 2 large grapefruits)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 lemon (juice and peel)
  • 1 cup xylitol (200 g or 7 oz)


    1. Cut two large grapefruits into 1 - 2 cm (0,4 - 0,8 inch) long pieces.
    2. Squeeze the juice from the other two grapefruits. Save the peels for another recipe (for example this recipe for candied grapefruit peels).
    3. Squeeze the lemon to get the juice, and chop the peel.
    4. Put the chopped grapefruits and lemon peel into a glass or ceramic bowl. Pour the squeezed grapefruit juice, water and lemon juice over the fruits. Press gently if needed, to keep the fruits submerged.
    5. Let the fruits soak in the liquid for about 8 hours. If it is warm in your kitchen, you can keep the bowl in the fridge.
    6. After the chopped grapefruits have soaked for long enough (you will notice that the peels have gotten softer), gently blend them with the soaking liquid to break them into smaller pieces. The best way to do this is by using an immersion blender or a food processor, but a smoothie blender can also work. Just make sure you don't overdo it - we want to mince the fruit (mainly to break down the peel), not blend it or turn it into a fine mash. An equipment-free way to do it would be to simply mince the fruits with a knife.
    7. Transfer the minced fruits into a cooking pot, add the xylitol and stir to combine.
    8. Put it on the stove, start cooking over low heat and bring to a boil.
    9. Cook for 5-10 minutes over the lowest heat, while stirring regularly.
    10. After 5-10 minutes of cooking, you can start testing if the marmalade has started setting. You can do this by pouring a few drops onto a chilled glass or ceramic dish. If the cooled marmalade has a somewhat gel-like, even a bit wobbly texture, it is time to turn off the heat. From my experience, this doesn't take more than 10 minutes to happen, so be careful and make sure you don't overcook it - if cooked for too long, the marmalade could lose its setting ability.
    11. Pour the marmalade into sterilised glass jars.



1. Raw cane sugar instead of xylitol - works in the same amount and with the same instructions (read more in the post).

2. Agar agar powder for better thickening of the marmalade - learn all you need to know about using agar in this post.

* In case you find grapefruit flavour and acidity a bit intense, you can replace the squeezed grapefruit juice in this recipe with water. I tried both versions and loved them equally. The one with water turned out milder, less sour and a bit less bitter. In both cases, I used the yellow grapefruit variety, which is naturally more sour and bitter, with almost no sweetness to it.

* If you are the brave grapefruit lover who will use the grapefruit juice as instructed, you can save the leftover peels for later - I created a really nice candied peel recipe (without refined sugar!), especially for cases like that.

* You can skip the last step with the setting test and simply turn the heat off already after 5 minutes of cooking. I have done this multiple times, and the result was always great. The marmalade consistency was really nice, it was not watery and did not separate while cooling down.

* After filling the jars, it is best to keep this marmalade in the fridge - that way it will last for months. Since this is not a classic preserve with a lot of sugar and a long cooking time, it might not have the same longevity if stored at room temperature (my concern here is that it might catch mould if kept in a warm place). In case you decide to test this, I'd be happy to hear how it went!

* Learn more about preparing the jars in this post - how to sterilise glass jars for canning.

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  1. I made this.It came out very nice.Next time I will try leaving the white pith out for maybe a clearer jam.And try as you have mentioned using water instead of the grapefruit juice.Thank you for the recipe.Its lovely!

  2. Oh yea!! And thanks so much for replying 🙂 I’ll use erythritol. Can I just use the same amount as a direct swap do you think?

    1. I usually do a direct swap with the same amount to achieve the same consistency and volume. But if you’d like to get the same sweetness as with xylitol, you can also use 1+1/3 cup erythritol instead of 1 cup xylitol (erythritol is less sweet, it has around 70% sweetness compared to xylitol). Both options are cool! Btw good choice, erythritol is a better swap than stevia for this recipe, because stevia is way sweeter and does change the flavour a bit. Hope your marmalade turns out amazing 🙂

      1. I love the grapefruit marmalade but have just been put on blood pressure tablets and can no longer have grapefruit. Can you please give me the quantities for orange or clementine.❤️

        1. Hi Beryl! It will work the same with oranges (2 cups of chopped oranges with peels + 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice + 2/3 cup water). I’ve made it with a combination of oranges and tangerines too and it worked great. For clementines, since they have a thinner peel, you might end up with less natural pectin – you can add a bit of agar-agar to be sure it sets. So 2 cups chopped clementintes with peels, 1 cup freshly squeezed clementine juice, 2/3 cup water and half a teaspoon of agar powder – added at the end of cooking (it needs to be cooked for a minute or so until it fully dissolves).

          https://sunberryjam.com/how-to-use-agar-in-cooking/ – here is my agar cheat-sheet just in case!

          Hope this helps, good luck with making the marmalade 🙂

  3. So sorry just one more question. When you say if you just cook it for 5 minutes, it will set fine, is that a full on boil or like a 5 minute simmer?

    1. Hi, so sorry for a late reply. I meant a 5 min simmer – it doesn’t necessarily have to be the lowest possible heat, but it shouldn’t be fully boiling. I hope you managed to make a great marmalade anyway!

  4. Hi, just one question, Isn’t the marmalade bitter with white membranes? (don’t know how it’s called)
    i did few marmolades and even a small white from orange or lemon makes it bitter
    Thank you

    1. Hi! This marmalade is a little bitter, but that is mostly because yellow grapefruits are naturally bitter (not only the white part of their skin, but the pulp as well). Making it with pink grapefruits instead will have a significantly less bitter result. I’ve made this recipe with oranges, tangerines and lemons too, and none of them turned out bitter. It might be because I only used freshly picked local fruits, but really this white part of their skins didn’t ruin the flavour at all. It is important to use the whole skins in this recipe because they add natural pectin. But, if it makes the marmalade too bitter for your taste, I recommend using only pulp, juice and thin outer layer of the skin just for the aroma. In that case, you can thicken it by using agar.

      https://sunberryjam.com/how-to-use-agar-in-cooking/ – for thickening a marmalade, I would use up to half the amount of agar that is used to set a jelly.

      Hope this helps!

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