Dream Big: Tres Leches and Strawberry Jello


Dream Big: Tres Leches and Strawberry Jello

Red, green, orange, blue… and all the colors you can dream up! Vanilla, cajeta, jamaica, chocolate, coffee, fruits, nuts… and just about any flavor you may crave. Smooth or chunky, creamy or foamy, heavy or light… choose any texture you like. Wait! We haven’t even gotten into shapes. Did you say your son likes Spiderman, your mom likes flowers or you want to go for a simple 2 layer design?

If you haven’t fallen for Jello, then you haven’t tried those in the Mexican repertoire. Forget about the 1950s-style-jello salads. Forget about the Jello you’ve seen people eat, or you may have eaten, in hospitals, too.

Mexican Jello is something to celebrate, to showcase, to boast about.

Gelatinas, in Spanish, many times come in individual servings with different flavors stacked in bright and colorful layers. Sold by street vendors who carry them in see through 2 to 3 tier covered stands, they are a common site in gas stations where cars wait for their turn and passersby can’t help but be tempted. Now you know why I always tagged along with my dad to fill up the tank!

It’s hard to show up at a kids party in Mexico and not see them. You will run into more sophisticated versions of them, standing tall, firm and proud at grown up parties, maybe with generous splashes of rum, tequila or rompope in their mix. There are simpler Jello creations brightening shelves at bakeries and grocery stores, too. In fact, Jello is such a big thing, that some cooks have elevated it to a complex art form with floral and abstract designs.

Most importantly, home-made Jello is a staple dessert in people’s homes. It is simple, easy to make and healthy: it can be tailored to use fresh seasonal ingredients.

The secret to this infinitum of possibilities with Jello is unflavored gelatin, which can be found in just about any grocery store: here and in China. Pick any ingredient, any flavor, and you can turn it into Jello.

Since I am going all out here, plus it is almost my son Juju’s birthday, I decided to translate one of our favorite cakes into Jello. Yup!

Remember Tres Leches Cake? Well, the first layer of my Spring-Time and Almost-Juju’s-Birthday-Jello is a Tres Leches Jello. Whole milk, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk turned into Jello (just follow my super simple recipe below!). The milks are quickly simmered to thicken, the result: rich, almost custardy like and so creamy.

I love serving Tres Leches Cake with strawberries, and Juju happens to be wild about strawberries, so my next layer has them. It is a Tres Leches Cake with strawberries in Jello form. Fully. And decadently.

strawberry jello mixture in cups

I have the berries swimming in a a Jello mix made with cranberry juice. It gives that layer a bright punch, a kick of refreshing tartness and more shine, which counterbalances the creamy Tres Leches layer.

I didn’t add any sugar to that fruit layer, because the Tres Leches layer has all the sweetness I think it needs. Plus, you are eating them together, one on top of the other.

Since you can do almost anything you want (no joke!) with Jello, I played and alternated. Some Jellos started with the Tres Leeches layer and others with the fruity one.

I chose plastic cups, because they are practical, you can see through, making it more colorful and irresistible. As a bonus, the servings are already pre measured. But you can choose many kinds of molds, individual or not.

Tres leches and Strawberry Jello on Tray

It’s a good idea to place all your cups in a baking tray or sheet pan, so that when you move them in and out of the refrigerator they won’t shake much. You don’t have to take so many trips either.

So you prepare your mixes, in a snap. Pour your first layer and refrigerate until it firms up, then pour the second layer and let it firm up again.  You can go crazy and make thick layers, thin layers, 2 layers or 10 layers!

Tres Leches and Strawberry Jello side view on tray

Sometimes experiments in the kitchen are a total failure and you just have to pick up the pieces and move on. But sometimes, it takes a few tries to get it right (this one took three tries!) and when you nail it, they become a treasure to share. If you feel you are onto something, don’t give up on the first try. Go for it, find a treasure and share it.

Here, this is a treasure I sought and found, and now it is yours too.

Tres Leches and Strawberry Jello

Gelatina de Tres Leches con Fresas
8 servings
Pati Jinich
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: evaporated milk, gelatin, jello, pati's mexican table, strawberries, Sweetened Condensed Milk, tres leches
Author:Pati Jinich
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
If you haven’t fallen for Jello, then you haven’t tried those in the Mexican repertoire. Forget about the 1950s-style-jello salads. Forget about the Jello you’ve seen people eat, or you may have eaten, in hospitals, too. Mexican Jello is something to celebrate, to showcase, to boast about.


For the tres leches jello:

  • 1 cup whole milk, or 2 percent
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin, or about 2 tablespoons
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water

For the strawberry jello:

  • 2 cups cranberry or pomegranate juice
  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin, or 2 about tablespoons
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 pound strawberries, stemmed, rinsed and quartered

To Prepare

To prepare the tres leches jello:
  • Bring 1 cup whole milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium low and allow milk to simmer for 5 minutes. Add the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and vanilla extract and stir to combine. Increase heat to medium high to return to a simmer, then reduce to medium low and let simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bowl.
  • *Pour 1/2 cup lukewarm water into a medium bowl and add 2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin. Stir until well combined, then let rest until the mixture puffs up (it will increase slightly in volume and appear as if it’s solidifying) – approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Fill a small saucepan with up to 2-3 inches of water, and bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Place the bowl with the puffed-up gelatin mixture onto the saucepan with the simmering water. Let it rest there, stirring occasionally, until the gelatin is completely dissolved and the mixture has a barely amber color – approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Pour the dissolved gelatin into the tres leches mixture and stir to combine.
To prepare the strawberry jello:
  • Pour the juice on to a large mixing bowl. Repeat step with * above. Pour the dissolved gelatin into the juice and stir to combine.
To layer your tres leches and strawberry jello:
  • In 6-8oz plastic cups or single-portion gelatin molds, use a liquid measuring cup or small pitcher to fill about 1/3 of the cup with tres leches mixture. Place the cups into the refrigerator until it solidifies (appears solid and does not slosh when moved), about 20 to 30 minutes. Do not put your remaining Tres Leches mix and juice mix in the refrigerator.
  • Remove from the refrigerator and pour juice mixture on top to fill about another 1/3 of the cup and add some strawberry pieces. Return to the refrigerator and let it set for about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • You are at free will to play with your combinations! You can decide how many layers (one or ten!) and how thick or thin you want to make them. You can choose which flavor you want to start with or if you want to alternate. Continue until you are done using all of the flavored mixes. When done, return to the refrigerator, cover with plastic wrap and let chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
  • If you want to use a large 8 to 10 serving mold, fill with Tres Leches mix and refrigerate until set. Then pour strawberry mixture on top along with the fruit. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before unmolding. It should be firm and not feel sticky or sag and should slide easily out of the mold with a few gentle shakes.
  • Hint: If your Jello mixtures start to solidify while you are waiting for layers to set in the refrigerator, not to worry! Adding a little at a time, stir water into the mixture until it becomes more liquid.

66 comments on “Dream Big: Tres Leches and Strawberry Jello

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  1. Eres una estrella ⭐️✨to lo haces ver bien fácil, te voy a estar molestando con diferentes recetas. Me encanta cocinar . Yo vivo en California casi toda mi vida (muchooos años 😆) me encanta cocinar pero, no soy muy bueno con la comida mexicana.
    Gracias de antemano.

  2. Pati, you recently made this on Create, and I had to try it! To capitalize on our beautiful Northwest cherries, I used a tart cherry juice that I sweetened enough, but left a tart kick. Then I quartered Rainier cherries to put in. I made a mold out of it, and it looks gorgeous. I will let you know how we like it and send a pic of it when it’s unmolded.

  3. Hi Pati!
    Love all your recipes and you of course!!
    Wondering how long in advance can I make this or will they last? Gracias xoxo

  4. Hola pati! I love this recipe i think im going to maybe try to make one big bowl of this for a baby shower de mi prima i cant wait to try it.i love watching your cooking show me and my husband enjoy it very much and always get left hungry after we watch especially after that episode with carnitas when you went to where my family is from michoacán.we love you pati and keep doing what your doing you inspire me to be a better chef in my kitchen !!

  5. Como no se me habia ocurrido antes! yo hago las gelatinas mosaico mas o menos con la misma receta de la de 3 leches y claro, con gelatinas de todos los sabores! Pero Paty una pregunta, crees que quede bien con gelatina de fresa, para la parte de agua? o tiene que ser jugo de granada o arandanos? Claro que me encantan los arandanos y las granadas, pero solo es una duda.

    1. Hola! Lukewarm quiere decir “tibia” que no este ni fría, ni caliente. A temperatura un poquito mas calienta que ambiente….

  6. Hey pati!

    Im just curious as to why you heat the milk before mixing it with the dissolved gelatin? It is because youre using regular milk? Here in mexico, I always use a combo of media crema, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk and i never heat them before mixing them with the dissolved gelatin. Another thing that speeds up the process is you can microwave the puffed up gelatin. Give it about 20 seconds two times and its good to go. I then toss all the ingredients in a blender for 10 seconds or so and empty it into the mold. Fast and delicious!

    1. Hi Serena,
      It thickens it a bit and it helps it all dilute together nicely. I do not have a microwave…. but I hear you!

  7. Hola Pati!
    Felicidades en tu programa y todo el éxito que has tenido! Gracias por hacer tantas recetas disponibles para todo tu público, pero sobre todo, proveer una pequeña lección sobre la cultura y tradición detrás de los ingredientes y los platillos! Me encanta que todo que vea tu show, aprende no solo cocinar, pero también sobre nuestra cultura mexicana y nuestro hermoso país, México!

    p.d. Voy a bautizar a mis hijos la próxima semana y voy hacer esta receta de gelatina de Fresa y Tres leches! Gracias!! <3

    1. Hola Belén!
      Muchas felicidades del bautizo de tos hijos, no sabes que gusto me da que vayas a preparar la gelatina. Espero que les guste mucho a todos y muchas gracias por ver mi programa. Saludos!

  8. Hi Pati
    Two of my greatgrandchildren spent the weekend with me. They wanted to learn how I made my Jell-O. When I remembered your recipe of Tres Leches & Strawberry Jello. So we went to the grocery store for supplies. We were very impatient and wished the jello would form quickly. Finally, we were able to eat it. It was delicious! We made a second batch because my greatgrandson(age 14) & greatgranddaughter (age 12) wanted to take some home to their parents. They also took a copy of the recipe. Thank you so much, your recipes bring me and my family joy. PS: made extra for me & my husband

  9. EXCELLENT! I tested this recipe at a family function a couple weeks ago and it was a huge hit! I will be making it again for another family function for 100 people this weekend. Every good Mexican party has to have Gelatina as one of the desserts. Muchas gracias por tus recetas 100% Mexicanas….me encantan!

  10. Thank you so much for your show! My husband is from NY, Irish/German. Loves seasoned food, not spicy. Because of your show he has moved from kitchup on his tacos to a mild sauce. It has taken 45 years, but we are getting there! I try your recipes and tone them down. I love Mexican food, peppers which I grow in my garden. We live in Kansas and can grow some amazing peppers!

    Thank You!

    1. It is good news that he has moved from Ketchup to a mild salsa… Specially with all the peppers you grow, you can make so many different kinds!

  11. Pati:

    I made the 3 Leches Jello for the weekend and it turned out great. You mention making Vanilla and cajeta jello. How would I do this? Thanks!


  12. Pati
    Thanks so much for your recipes. I have tried several and they’re delicious. My family enjoys them too. Please don’t stop writing your delicious recipes, I look forward to them, and so does my family. I will definitely try your jello recipe, I must go to the store now; so I can serve it for dinner tonight !!

  13. hola pati, thank you for such a great treat. When I was little my mom and grandparents use to buy us gelatin de Jerez con Rompope, hayyyy que rico era eso. por casualidad no tienes receta de la gelatina de jerez. muchos abrazos amiga!

  14. This looks delicious! Any chance it can be converted to dairy-free? We have to do it all the time in our family, just wondered if you had any tips. Thanks!
    By the way, yours is the only cooking show I watch, you’re awesome!

    1. Thank you Irene,
      You can try with other kinds of milk, like almond milk, rice or coconut milk, but you have to taste for sweetness. Thanks for watching the show!

      1. Hi Pati,

        So a year ago (or so) I did attempt to make tres leche Jello with coconut milk. You were so right about tasting for sweetness, I wish I had continued to taste as I went. It was still well-received, though I will be doing it again for Mother’s Day this year and will be careful to add more light agave syrup. Love your show!

  15. This was a delicious dessert and a big favorite with my family and friends. I loved the tres leches flavor combined with the strawberries. Your directions were easy to follow and it worked so well I think I now have enough courage to try it again with other flavors. Thank you for sharing the results of your hard work!

  16. I love your show and your passion for food! The way you demonstrate the subtleties and beauty of everyday cooking is like learning recipes from a family member! My grandmother used to make strawberry-banana jello with fruit cocktail and she would put it in a puddle of evaporated (not condensed) milk! Looking back as a grown up it was such a humble dessert but it always made me feel like a princess when she made it for me! I can’t wait to make this recipe in honor of my gramma!! By the way…can you share the brand of your beautiful red mixer (the one you use the show)??

    1. Hola Kathleen, I’m so happy this recipe brings back memories of your grandmother! Thank you for sharing about her jello and, please, feel free to play with flavors. Also, the mixer is made by Viking!

      1. Thank you so much for the info!!! I love your show… and your mixer!! Today I am making Polvorones!! 🙂

  17. The one thing i forgot to mention in my previous comment is that i was a little confused because i prepared both the milk and the juice mixture at the same time.. and by the time the milk was solidified in the fridge the juice (although i had left it out) was also gelatinous. I think i needed to wait to mix the juice and gelatin until after the milk had solidified… have you had this problem before?

  18. What a delicious treat! I made these over the weekend and they are amazing. I will make a bigger batch for my son’s birthday… Thank you so much for the recipe! Kind regards,

  19. Hola Pati, quiero preguntarte si de casualidad tienes una receta para galletas hojarascas por favor. parece que son de Monterey Mexico gracias

  20. Thank you Pati for another wonderful recipe. I am going to try to make this for *my* birthday! My son Juju (Julian to the rest of the world)just had his birthday, but I think I’ll share my finished treats with him anyway ;-).

    I look forward to everything that you share…thank you again for your wonderful recipes and insights <3

  21. After reading your article I was instantly transported to my Mexico City childhood, back in the 70’s. My mom used to serve us jello with leche condensada dribbled all over it. I have never seen people eat jello like that since, but your article elevates that simple combination to a whole new level. Thanks and I too can’t wait to try it!

  22. Pati HOLA!
    Yo miraba tu show, pero desde que cambiamos de serv. De cable not anymore!! Hasta qué encontré tu website. Gracias.
    Sabes me encantan tus recetas, especialmente por ser supermega mexicana! I LOVE mis sabores mexicanos!
    Esta específicamente, y voy a tratar piña colada I just know its going to be delicious!!
    Saludos y abrazo.

  23. Pati, I love having a recipe for Jello with no artificial ingredients!~ Thank you! My campers and I will make this at my Camp Amigas this summer!! Gracias! And happy birthday to your lucky son!

    1. Gracias Kathryn!! Oh: this is a great idea for your campers this summer!! You can do aaaaall sorts of flavors and they are always refreshing. Un abrazo!

  24. I cannot wait to try this. It looks great! Thank you so much & I love your show! I have tried other recipes of yours and loved them. I love Mexican food.

    Thanks Again,

  25. Be careful Pati, “Jello” is a brand name and they may not like you using it. Maybe “gelatin” is a better word to describe this delicious treat.

    1. Thanks for the heads up! I did find out that Jell-O is a brand name… but if you just say Jello it is ok… Will inquire more though ; )

      1. Patti can I use American strawberry jello with fruit to save time and effort and then make your tres leches gelatina for second layer?