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Strawberry Pretzel Salad

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Strawberry pretzel salad is a vintage classic. This jello salad features a buttery pretzel crust, tangy cream cheese filling, and a sweet strawberry topping. 

White plate with a slice of strawberry pretzel salad on it. The dessert is topped with whipped cream and a pretzel.

Let me start out this post for Strawberry Pretzel Salad by saying I know this is not a salad. But it’s been a midwest staple dessert for as long as I can remember.

I fondly remember making this with my Nana for all types of occasions. I have lost my Nana’s exact recipe, but recreated it using the same ingredients from her classic sweet-and-salty dessert.

A buttery, salty pretzel crust layered with a no-bake style cheesecake filling and topped with Jell-o and strawberries. As you can imagine, this strawberry pretzel salad speaks to my cheesecake-loving heart.

Two white plates, each with a slice of strawberry pretzel salad, set on a light-colored countertop.

WHAT IS STRAWBERRY PRETZEL SALAD?

Let’s just get this out of the way, ok?

This isn’t a salad in the way that you would normally think of a salad. You know…like a cucumber salad or even Italian pasta salad.

No, strawberry pretzel salad is called “salad” because it is a type of jello salad.

Jello salads such as watergate salad were big in the ‘60s and ‘70s and even though they’re considered retro now, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still delicious!

Strawberry pretzel salad is a layered jello salad. It has a buttery pretzel crust that’s both sweet and salty, a luscious cream cheese layer in the middle, and a strawberry jello layer on the top.

Ingredients for strawberry pretzel salad arranged on a light-colored surface.

I love the flavors of this recipe so much that it was the inspiration for using pretzels in the crust of my fresh strawberry pie. And my friend Megan was inspired by Dolly Parton’s love for it when she created her strawberry pretzel ice cream.

I mean, you know you can’t go wrong with something that Dolly Parton loves!

Is this a dessert?

Again, I know the word “salad” is in the name, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that this needs to be a side dish.

I tend to think of strawberry pretzel salad as more of a dessert, although you could certainly serve it in any way you like!

Baked pretzel crust in a glass baking dish set on a wire cooling rack.

HOW TO MAKE STRAWBERRY PRETZEL SALAD

One thing you can always count on with retro recipes like ambrosia salad or creamy grape salad is that they’re going to be pretty easy to make. This recipe is no different!

Ingredients you’ll need

The ingredients for strawberry pretzel salad are pretty simple. You’ll need:

  • 3 cups tiny pretzel twists
  • 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar, divided use
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 8-ounce container whipped topping
  • 1 6-ounce package strawberry flavored jell-o
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 16-ounce package frozen sliced strawberries

If you need this recipe to be gluten free, simply swap out the regular pretzel twists for gluten-free pretzel twists. You may also want to make sure that you use a strawberry gelatin and whipped topping that was produced in an allergen-free facility, just to be extra safe.

Cream cheese filling for strawberry pretzel salad in a white mixing bowl.

Can you use fresh strawberries instead of frozen?

I prefer to use frozen strawberries for this recipe. The frozen berries help the jello layer to set a bit before you pour it over the cream cheese layer.

If you want to use fresh sliced strawberries, let the jello cool to room temperature before adding the strawberries and pouring the jello over the cream cheese filling.

Making this recipe

Start by preparing the pretzels for the crust by crushing them in a zip-top bag with a rolling pin.

Mix the crushed pretzels with the melted butter and ¼ cup of the sugar, then press the mixture into the bottom of a 13×9-inch baking dish. Bake this for 10 minutes and let it cool completely.

Cream cheese layer being spread over the pretzel crust in a glass baking dish.

Using an electric mixer, mix the cream cheese, remaining sugar, and vanilla for about 5 minutes. Fold in the thawed whipped topping and spread the mixture over the cooled pretzel crust. 

Cover this and let it rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour to set.

Once the cream cheese layer has set in the refrigerator, whisk together the jello and boiling water for 2 minutes. Stir in the frozen strawberries and let this rest for 2 more minutes. Spoon this mixture over the cream cheese filling in an even layer.

Let the entire dessert chill for at least 6 hours before slicing and serving.

Overhead view of assembled strawberry pretzel salad in a glass baking dish.

MAKE-AHEAD & STORAGE

Since strawberry pretzel salad needs to rest in the fridge for at least 6 hours before serving, it’s the perfect dessert to make ahead for any occasion. 

Simply make it the night before and let it chill in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it.

Make sure you store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Because of the jello layer on top, I do not recommend freezing this recipe.

Slice of strawberry pretzel salad on a white plate. The rest of the dessert is in the background.

RECIPE VARIATIONS

The strawberry, pretzel, and cream cheese combination is the classic version of this recipe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative!

Give this a try with your favorite frozen fruits and jello flavors. Raspberries, peaches, pineapple, and even cherries would be great flavors to try!

Bite taken from the corner of a slice of strawberry pretzel salad set on a white plate.

You also have the option to serve this in individual containers instead of a 13×9-inch pan. Choose any size jar or ramekin you like and layer in the crust, filling, and topping as noted in the recipe. 

When I make these in individual servings, I use jars that hold around 5.5 ounces, or just under ¾ cup, and it makes 10 servings.

Whether you’re new to strawberry pretzel salad or it’s something you remember your grandmother making, I hope you’ll give this recipe a try. It is too good to keep in the past!

Close up of a slice of strawberry pretzel salad, topped with whipped cream and a pretzel, on a white plate.
Slice of strawberry pretzel salad garnished with whipped cream, strawberries, and a pretzel.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Strawberry pretzel salad is a vintage classic. This jello salad features a buttery pretzel crust, tangy cream cheese filling, and a sweet strawberry topping. 
4.43 from 70 votes
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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Chill Time: 7 hours
Total Time: 7 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 12

Ingredients 

For the Crust

  • 3 cups tiny pretzel twists
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter melted

For the Filling

  • 16 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces frozen whipped topping thawed according to package directions

For the Topping

  • 1 package strawberry flavored jell-o 6 ounces
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 16 ounces frozen sliced strawberries

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Place the pretzels into a gallon size zip-top bag and crush the pretzels into coarse crumbs using a rolling pin. You can also pulse the pretzels in a food processor, just be careful not over-process them as you want there to be varying textures. 
  • Place the pretzels into a mixing bowl and stir in the sugar and melted butter. Transfer the pretzel mixture into a 9×13-inch glass baking dish and gently press the mixture into the bottom of the baking dish to form an even crust layer. Bake crust at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla on medium speed for about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the frozen whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture. Spread evenly over the cooled crust, taking care to spread the filling from edge to edge of the pan so the topping doesn’t seep into the crust layer. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.
  • After the cream cheese layer has been refrigerated for one hour, whisk together the jell-o and boiling water for 2 minutes or until the jell-o has fully dissolved. Stir in the sliced frozen strawberries and allow the mixture to rest for 2 minutes. Spoon the jell-o mixture directly onto the cream cheese filling layer and spread to form an even layer. 
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

Notes

  • When whisking the jell-o with the boiling water, the top will get frothy/bubbly. If you want a super smooth finish on your strawberry topping, simply use a spoon to remove some of the froth (though it won’t affect the taste!).
  • Let the frozen strawberries rest on the counter while you prepare your jell-o mixture, and break up any clumps of berries before adding them to the jell-o – it will be difficult to break them apart after they’ve been added to the jell-o.
  • I prefer to use frozen strawberries in this recipe; the frozen strawberries help the jello to cool quickly before pouring it over the cream cheese layer. If you want to use fresh strawberries, let the jello cool to room temperature before adding the sliced berries and pouring over the cream cheese filling.
  • I have not tried this recipe using whipped cream instead of whipped topping, so I cannot attest to the outcome.

Nutrition

Calories: 388kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 61mg | Sodium: 299mg | Potassium: 155mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 33g | Vitamin A: 778IU | Vitamin C: 22mg | Calcium: 69mg | Iron: 1mg
The default measuring system on My Baking Addiction is US Customary. Unit conversions are provided as a courtesy; please be aware that there may be some discrepancies.
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Recipe Rating




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Carol

Saturday 30th of September 2023

Reminder to let cream cheese mixture set in the refrigerator for an hour was perfect. I always get in hurry and do not leave time to prepare!

Thanks!

Jamie

Tuesday 3rd of October 2023

So glad you enjoyed! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your feedback. Happy baking! Jamie

Ellen McGovern

Thursday 28th of February 2019

This is called a 'salad' because this was one of the Jello Salads that were made back in the day. You know the ones when jello salads were popular! And jello molds! Lime jello with cottage cheese that was chilled before putting on a second, other layer of another color of jello, this time with crushed pineapple. These were always called Jello Salads. These salads were brought to potlucks and picnics and any church function that would include feeding the congregation.

Jamie

Tuesday 5th of March 2019

Thanks so much for stopping by, Ellen! I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Happy Baking! -Jamie

Heather stark

Sunday 8th of January 2017

My family loves this dessert n we have been making it for years . A family friend gave us the recipe n we make it for every occasion even just for dessert after a regular nite dinner. I have also experimented with hello flavors n frozen fruit n it is very versatile.  I've done strawberry jello w frozen strawberrys n raspberries.  Cherry hello w frozen cherries  blue raspberry n strawberry hello mixed with frozen blue berries n also w frozen mixed berries . N I also liked peach jello with frozen peaches but I sliced the frozen pieces into bite size  size pieces. N also there's pineapple jello w frozen pineapple chunks . We liked them all but the original is our favorite

Jamie

Monday 9th of January 2017

What great ideas, Heather! I'm going to give those a try.

Ginny Petersen

Sunday 19th of June 2016

I have made the recipe in the pan for years but made this last night for a bridal shower and have a few suggestions. Check before hand, wish I had, if the jars are oven safe.  Since I didn't know I did bake the crust in a large pan and while still hot from the oven I transferred them into the jars and pressed down and this worked just fine. Secondly, I suggest the wide mouth jars...........less messy mistakes!  I found piping the cream cheese into the jar was neater and I could control just how much I wanted in.  I could not find sliced strawberries so I used whole ones. After adding in the hot gelatin I used a potato masher to 'smoosh" them so that the topping was more jam like than just whole berries in jello. They were a hit and gobbled up. 

Jamie

Monday 20th of June 2016

Great suggestions, Ginny! I'm so glad everyone liked them!

jewle

Monday 18th of May 2015

We make this same dish for Christmas and thanksgiving. But we use gram cracker crust, so good, we always called it jello stuff!!

Jamie

Friday 22nd of May 2015

Jewle- The graham cracker crust sounds like a great variation. Thanks for stopping by.

-Jamie

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