Classic strawberry pretzel salad is a favorite holiday and potluck layered dessert. A salty and buttery pretzel and pecan crust topped with a sweet whipped cream cheese layer and then strawberry jello filled with strawberries and pineapple.
This old fashioned recipe is actually a layered dessert that for some reason is called a salad. I don't know why, but a lot of jello desserts go by salad. It's popular for the holiday table as a side or dessert and always welcome at potlucks or when you are tasked with something to bring for a crowd.
It's almost no-bake if not for the bottom crispy pretzel crust that takes just minutes in the oven. Otherwise it's a matter of cooling and layering the dessert and then refrigerating overnight.
Why this recipe works
- The crispy crust is made with crushed pretzels and some chopped pecans, the perfect salty and buttery base for the creamy filling and gelatin layers to come. The perfect flavor combination of salty, sweet, creamy and crunchy in each bite!
- The sweetened cream cheese layer is made with real whipped cream. Most versions of this jello dessert use frozen whipped topping (Cool Whip) which you can definitely use but real whipped cream tastes so much better and is a cinch to make.
- The strawberry gelatin topping is filled with frozen strawberries and pineapple, easy and simple ingredients to find year round.
- It's an ideal and delicious make ahead portable dessert for potlucks and gatherings. It's always a hit!
Here's what you'll need for this easy pretzel salad/dessert:
- Crushed pretzels, chopped pecans, sugar and melted butter for the crust layer which gets baked.
- Heavy cream, sugar and vanilla for the real whipped cream.
- Cream cheese and sugar for the creamy layer that is mixed with the whipped cream and goes on top of the pretzel crust.
- Strawberry gelatin mix, frozen strawberries and canned crushed pineapple for the top strawberry jello layer.
How to make strawberry pretzel salad
Step 1: Combine the crushed pretzels, pecans, melted butter and sugar and press evenly into bottom of baking dish and bake for about 8 minutes, cool. Meanwhile, make the whipped cream.
Step 2: Beat together the cream cheese and sugar.
Step 3: Fold in the whipped cream until well combined and smooth.
Step 4: Spread the cream cheese filling evenly over the crust and chill.
Step 5: Dissolve the gelatin in boing water, cool slightly, add strawberries and pineapple.
Step 6: Carefully pour jello mixture over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate several hours or overnight until set.
Recipe notes and tips
- This recipe uses one (16-ounce) container of frozen sliced strawberries. A lot of recipes call for 2 (10-ounce) packages of frozen strawberries. That size is not easily found these days, at least where I live. Two cups works perfectly in this recipe, plus we are adding crushed pineapple.
- I've not made this with fresh strawberries, but if in season, using 16 ounces of hulled and sliced fresh strawberries should work as well. Be sure gelatin mixture is cool before adding fresh strawberries.
- You'll need 1½ cups of heavy cream to yield 3 cups of real whipped cream. The cream cheese and sugar mixture will stabilize the whipped cream, no worries.
- If folding in the whipped cream is a little challenging, use your hand mixer on low to combine the mixture until smooth.
- You can substitute the real whipped cream with an 8-ounce container of thawed frozen whipped topping, like Cool Whip, if desired.
- Be sure to spread the cream cheese mixture evenly and seal all edges and corners to make a barrier so the gelatin mixture can't seep through and make the crust soggy.
- I think this is best chilled overnight. Cut into squares to serve with a dollop of whipped cream.
Strawberry pretzel salad is a favorite retro layered jello dessert for good reason. It's the perfect combination of salty and sweet in every bite, and that crunchy pretzel and pecan crust is the best! It's such a great dish for the holidays, potlucks and a refreshing, cool and creamy almost no-bake dessert for the summer months, too. xxo- Kelly🍴🐦
Speaking of old-fashioned retro jello salads, this orange sherbet jello is a throwback to mom’s orange sherbet jello salad side for the holidays, orange gelatin with orange sherbet and mandarin oranges.
Strawberry Jello Pretzel Salad
For the crust
- 2 cups crushed pretzels
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- ¾ cup butter, melted 1½ sticks or 12 tablespoons
- 3 tablespoons sugar
For the whipped cream
- 1½ cups heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened to room temp
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 (3-ounce) packages strawberry gelatin mix or 1 (6-ounce) box strawberry Jello mix
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 (16-ounce) container frozen sliced strawberries, thawed or 2 (10-ounce) packages
- 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple
- Preheat oven to 400ºMix together the crushed pretzels, chopped pecans, melted butter and the 3 tablespoons of sugar. Press mixture evenly into bottom of 9" by 13" baking dish and bake for 8 minutes. Set aside to cool on rack.
Make the whipped cream.
- In large bowl, combine whipping cream, sugar and vanilla. Beat with hand held mixer until medium-stiff peaks form. Set aside.
Make cream cheese filling.
- In another mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese and ¾ cup sugar until well combined. Fold in the whipped cream with a spatula or wooden spoon until mixed well and smooth. (Alternately, you can use your mixer on low speed.)
- Spread the cream cheese filling evenly over the cooled crust. Be sure to spread to all sides and corners to seal completely. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.
- In medium bowl, dissolve gelatin thoroughly in boiling water. Allow to cool slightly and then stir in the thawed strawberries and can of crushed pineapple.
- Carefully pour strawberry mixture over chilled cream cheese mixture. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill until set, preferably overnight.
- To serve, cut into squares or slices and top with a dollop of whipped cream.
- I used small pretzel twists and crushed them in a Ziploc bag with a rolling pin.
- Be sure to spread the cream cheese mixture evenly all over the baked crust, sides and corners, every nook and cranny. This prevents the gelatin from seeping down into the crust and possibly making it soggy. You want that crisp salty crust!
- Do not drain the frozen strawberries or crushed pineapple.
- You can use one container of frozen whipped topping instead of the homemade real whipped cream. (I think that's an 8-ounce container of Cool Whip.)
- Chill time varies but I find overnight is best for the dessert to set properly.