Start with a pretzel crust, add a cream cheese layer and top it with a concentrated strawberry jello, a throw back to the 70’s. Strawberry pretzel salad is a fabulous dessert to serve for a crowd. Great for holiday gatherings or potlucks.
While not as quick and easy as a strawberry cobbler, it’s worth the extra steps for a showstopper of a dessert.
I was trying to come up with a dessert that was not cake like and thought about this old fashioned strawberry pretzel salad recipe. Natalie just couldn’t understand how this could be called a salad, and I have to agree, it’s 100% dessert.
The original recipe used Cool Whip mixed with cream cheese and then strawberry Jello. This was something you would see at all family gatherings or potlucks when I was growing up, but I guess it’s gone out of style because I haven’t seen it around.
So feeling nostalgic, I found an updated version from America’s Test Kitchen. The pretzel layer is salty and buttery and the cream cheese filling is rich and smooth and 100 times better than the non-dairy topping combination that I ate growing up.
The strawberry layer can’t even compare to the Jello version. You can use either fresh or frozen strawberries or a combination of the two and non-flavored gelatin for an amazing concentrated layer of strawberries.
When making this, you may need to add more sugar based on the sweetness of the strawberries you have. I would suggest adding the amount called for and then add a little at a time to the puree if it doesn’t seem sweet enough. However, if you don’t add enough sugar, like with jam, the strawberry layer won’t thicken.
Give yourself some time when preparing this strawberry pretzel salad recipe because the gelatin needs to set before you make your layers and once assembled it needs to refrigerate for several hours. Try making it the day before you want to serve it so that everything can set overnight.
What you’ll need
- Strawberries – either fresh or frozen or a combination.
- Pretzels – the shape doesn’t matter because you will crush them
- Cream cheese and cream – for the creamy layer
- Knox gelatin – this helps congeal the strawberry layer
- Butter and sugar – you need the sugar to sweeten things but also to help the strawberries thicken.
PRO TIP: Rinse your fresh strawberries in a vinegar wash and keep them fresh and sweet for two weeks. Check this out for full instructions on how to store strawberries.
Step by step directions
Step 1: Add melted butter and a little sugar to the ground up pretzels and place in the bottom of a baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool.
Step 2: Beat the cream cheese and heavy cream together and place on the cooled pretzel crust and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Step 3: Process 8 cups of fresh or frozen strawberries and add to a saucepan with sugar. Cook until the sugar has dissolved and it has thickened to jam consistency. If it doesn’t thicken, it could be that you didn’t add enough sugar.
Step 4: Soften gelatin in water for 5 minutes then add to hot strawberry mixture. Add sliced fresh strawberries and place in the refrigerator to thicken and cool, at least 30 minutes.
Step 5: Add the cooled thickened strawberry mixture to the top of the cream cheese layer and refrigerate overnight.
The girls were delighted with this salad/dessert as were the rest of us. Of course they’ll be very disappointed if they’re ever served the Jello-Cool Whip version. The salty combined with the sweet berry flavor creates a perfect summer cook-out dessert.
You can make this anytime of the year using frozen strawberries. Since the colors are so vibrant, it’s a great choice for 4th of July or Christmas.
FAQs and tips
Yes, baking the pretzels keeps them from getting soggy from the layers.
After two days, the pretzels will get soggy. It will still taste great but you won’t have the crunchy texture.
Cool Whip is what the original recipe calls for, Just add 8 ounces to the cream cheese.
Do you have extra fresh strawberries on hand and don’t want them to turn moldy before you can eat them? Then read on for information about how long strawberries last in the fridge and steps you can take to make them last longer!
More POTLUCK recipes
Strawberry recipes you’ll love
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Strawberry Pretzel Salad
- 4 cups thin pretzel sticks
- 2 ¼ cups sugar divided
- 12 tablespoons butter melted
- 8 ounces cream cheese room temp
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 10 cups strawberries frozen and fresh
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 ½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin
- ½ cup cold water
- Preheat oven to 400º. Spray 13 X 9 inch baking pan.
- In a food processor, pulse pretzels and ¼ cup sugar until coarsely ground but not powdered. Add melted butter and pulse until combined. Put in the bottom of the prepared pan and press to even it out with fingertips. Bake for 10 minutes until beginning to brown. Let cool for about 20 minutes.
- In an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and ½ cup sugar with the whisk attachment, then add cream slowly and beat until soft peaks form. Spread mixture on cooled crust and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
- While the crust is cooling, make the third layer. Process about 8 cups of frozen or fresh strawberries until pureed. Add to a medium saucepan along with 1 to 1 ½ cups sugar and salt. Cook over medium-high heat until bubbles begin to appear and sugar is dissolved and it has thickened. The time will vary depending on how juicy the strawberries are. Remove from heat.
- While the strawberry puree is cooking, sprinkle gelatin over water in a large bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk strawberry puree into gelatin. Add about 2 cups of sliced strawberries to the gelatin mixture and stir. Refrigerate until gelatin starts to thicken but not until it’s set, about 30 to 60 minutes, make sure it is not warm. Carefully pour over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours or overnight.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- This can easily be halved.
- This needs to be eaten within a couple of days before the pretzels get soggy.
- If the strawberry puree is not getting thick, it could be due to very juicy strawberries. Try adding a little more sugar.
- You can substitute 8 ounces of Cool Whip for heavy cream.
- You can use a mixture of fresh and frozen strawberries.