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The Difference Between Jimmies vs Sprinkles

Learn about the differences and similarities between jimmies and sprinkles.

A hot debate in the world of sweets has always been jimmies versus sprinkles. What’s the difference? Is there a difference? You’ll get different answers from different people, and the region they hail from plays a huge role in this. 

Hand holding a dripping ice cream cone with colorful sprinkles

In the technical world of sweets, there is no differentiation between sprinkles and jimmies, but in the hearts of many Americans, there are stark differences in flavor, texture, and use. 

Keep reading for the official distinction between these two sweet toppings. 


What Are Jimmies?

For those that believe jimmies and sprinkles are not equivalent, there are three distinctions one can argue. 

Those three differences are color, use, and texture.

Color

The most common belief is that jimmies are chocolate. So there is no such thing as “rainbow jimmies” because they have to be chocolate.

This belief is the most common among people from the Northeast of America, specifically New England.

Many people in Northeast America wholly subscribe to this notion, but many beliefs are a bit more specific on what jimmies are. 

Use

Another argument is that the name changes depending on the use. Many people in Boston say that jimmies are the correct name when they are a topping for ice cream.

These people often say that the color doesn’t matter; it only matters what you use the topping for. 

If you are decorating a cake or another dessert, then you could call them sprinkles by this logic.

Texture

Most people are familiar with “jimmies” as the topping with a chunky rod shape and a waxy texture. But in the eyes of many, these are not real jimmies.

Real jimmies are made from high-quality chocolate and do not have this waxy outer layer. Instead, they have a much thinner rod shape and are also smaller. 

They have a crunchy texture and have a bolder chocolate flavor. Sometimes people call these skinny jimmies or thin jimmies, but in local ice cream shops in Boston, these are considered the “good” kind of jimmies.

A lot of people seem to subscribe to this rule and write off the chocolate waxy ones as fake jimmies. 


What Are Sprinkles? 

Based on the definitions of jimmies above, you can guess what people consider to be sprinkles. Some people say the rainbow color is what defines them as sprinkles. 

Others say sprinkles are exclusively for decorating treats other than ice cream. So the topping used on cookies, cupcakes, donuts, or cake is deemed sprinkles, even if they’re the same topping you just put on your ice cream cone and called jimmies. 

Many people believe the true essence of jimmies is the texture. Sprinkles have that waxy, soft texture and are thicker and more rounded.

To be clear, many New Englanders are a big fan of both of these sugary toppings but refuse to let anyone tell them they are interchangeable. 

To many other people around the US and the world, however, there may not be any difference between the two.


How Are Sprinkles and Jimmies Different? 

It’s hard to say definitively what differentiates sprinkles from jimmies other than regional dialect.

It can be determined by the color, use, texture, or just the location in the US. The most common differentiation is the color.

In the end, the terms sprinkles and jimmies are used interchangeably by most, with the universal word being sprinkles. But if you visit Boston or Philly, ask for jimmies to blend in with the locals. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Below are questions people often ask when discussing the jimmies versus sprinkles debate. 

Where do people say jimmies versus sprinkles?

The name jimmies is used most in Boston and Philadelphia, but the Northeast region of America is generally where you’ll hear the term.

New Englanders use the name jimmies most often but have different definitions of the difference. 

Why are sprinkles called jimmies?

There are two theories as to where the term jimmies originated.

The first is that the company “Just Born,” which makes marshmallow Peeps, coined the phrase. They advertised a sponge cake with creamy butter frosting and chocolate jimmies. The ad for this cake ran in the Pittsburgh Press in 1930, and supposedly, the name caught on. 

The second theory is that a gentleman named Jimmy worked at a candy company. He ran the sprinkles machine at the candy company, so people started calling the sprinkles jimmies. 

The term sprinkles came first, originating in the 18th century, while there is no evidence of the term jimmies before the 1900s. 

Are rainbow sprinkles and chocolate sprinkles the same?

According to many people from the Northeast, rainbow sprinkles are sprinkles, and chocolate sprinkles are knock-off jimmies.

But in terms of flavor, they are not the same. Both consist of confectioner’s sugar, but the chocolate ones have chocolate flavoring, while the rainbow sprinkles only taste like sugar. 


Final Thoughts

No matter what you call them, they’re sugary and delicious.

Whether you believe the difference comes down to the color, use, or texture, or they believe they are the same, there’s no reason not to enjoy the ice cream topping and the debate around them!

Whether you add sprinkles or jimmies, check out the most popular ice cream brands to pick your next cone. Or, try the most popular Talenti Gelato or our favorite Ben n Jerry’s pints!

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Written by Erin B.

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.