The next time you’re asked to bring a salad to the family reunion or church potluck, just say yes and bring this Strawberry Pretzel Salad. Made with a pretzel crust, cream cheese filling, and strawberry jello topping, we guarantee no one will be mad at you for bringing dessert instead.
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It’s Jello. It’s a salad. It’s a Strawberry Jello Salad.
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who happily accept non-leafy dessert dishes as a
“salad” and those who are wrong.
While it never made much sense to me to call this strawberry pretzel concoction a salad, that’s what it is called, and if my research is correct, anything can be considered a salad as long as it involves small pieces of cut-up food and a dressing of some sort.
In this strawberry pretzel salad, you’ve got strawberries cut into small pieces and you’ve got a creamy and delicious cream cheese layer – a “dressing”, if you will – so, bingo! Salad. (See also: Cranberry Jello Salad).
This dessert is a mainstay of Midwestern cookouts and potlucks, and once I tried it, I understood why.
It’s a three-layer wonder of creamy, crunchy goodness, and it hits alllll those sweet-and-salty notes, if one happens to be that kind of person. (It’s me: I’m that kind of person!)
After wading through many classic jello salad recipes (oh, what delicious “research”!), I discovered the key that makes this particular recipe so good:
MORE CREAM CHEESE. As folks on that bird site like to say, “That’s it. That’s the Tweet.”
The secret to what sets this strawberry pretzel salad apart from the crowd is as simple as that. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Why we love Strawberry Pretzel Salad:
- It can be gluten-free! It’s as simple as substituting gluten-free pretzels for the regular variety and just like that, this dessert becomes a delicious possibility for the gluten-free folks in your life.
- No baking required! (sort of). Aside from toasting the pretzel crust for 10 minutes, the oven doesn’t come into play for the rest of the recipe, which means it’s great for those summer days when the thought of adding heat to your household sounds like a very bad idea.
- Make ahead friendly! This strawberry pretzel salad comes together in three different layers, which each requiring some chilling time. Unfortunately, this means it can’t be whipped up in 30 minutes, but it DOES make it excellent for making ahead of time. Chill it overnight and you’ll be ready to go for the party the next day!
Key Ingredients Needed
- Pretzels + Butter + Sugar for the crust- As I mentioned, you can make this recipe gluten-free by choosing gluten-free pretzels for the crust. You’ll need enough to make approximately 2 cups of crushed pretzels.
- Cream cheese + Sugar + Whipped Topping for the filling- This combo is deliciously creamy and fluffy.
- Strawberries– You need a quart – more if you like to snack as you bake.
- Jello Mix– You will either need one 6 oz. (large) box of strawberry jello or two 3 oz. packages. This is extremely important! One small box of Jello will result in Strawberry Pretzel Soup. Ask me how I know.
How to Make Old Fashioned Strawberry Pretzel Salad
- Plan Ahead: The cream cheese needs to be softened in advance. Depending on what season it
is when you’re making this, it could be a matter of minutes or an hour. If you’re in a rush, pop it in the microwave in 8 second increments until softened.
- Make the jello: Stir boiling water into the gelatin mix for about 2 minutes, or until the powder is completely dissolved. We do this part first to give the jello plenty of time to cool before adding it to the salad.
- Prepare the crust: Mix together the crushed pretzels, sugar, and melted butter. Pour the pretzel mixture into the prepared pan, then use your fingers to gently press it evenly across the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove and allow to cool.
- Prepare the filling: When the crust is almost cooled, place the cream cheese and sugar in
the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until smooth. Fold in the whipped topping until smooth, then spread it over the pretzels, being sure to spread all the way to the edges.
- Arrange the strawberries: You can choose chaos and sprinkle them anywhere, or you can line then up in rows or a design, just know the jello pour might jostle them around a bit. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- Pour the jello and chill again: Once the jello is room temperature, pour it over the strawberries. Some of them may float, and that’s okay! Once it’s all poured out, pop it into the fridge to cool and fully set, about 3 hours.
Make Ahead and Storage Instructions
- Strawberry pretzel salad keeps well in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, which makes this a great option to take to that work function or the summer picnic. Make it when you have time, pop it in the fridge, and grab it on your way out!
- Not that you’ll have any leftovers, but if you do, they’ll need to be refrigerated.
Can I use other fruits or Jello flavors?
You’re welcome to play around with other fruits and jello flavors! This Peach Delight is one of our favorite variations.
Can I prevent a soggy pretzel crust?
Yes! When you’re applying the cream cheese / whipped topping layer, make sure it’s smoothed to the very edge of the pan all the way around in a uniform way. If there are gaps or cracks, the jello will seep down when you pour it over the fruit and fluff and soak into the crust. Think of it like sealing the crust and spread it to the very edge.
Do I have to let the Strawberry Pretzel Salad cool between steps? I’m in a hurry!!
Listen, we’ve all been there! But the answer unfortunately is YES. Some recipes, even simple ones like this, can’t be rushed. The chilling is necessary to ensure all the layers stay intact.
More Strawberry Recipes to Try
If you can’t get enough Strawberry recipes, try some of these other favorites!
- Easy Strawberry Cake
- Strawberry Chocolate Chip Pancakes
- Strawberry Spinach Salad with Sweet Lemon Dressing
- Strawberry Rhubarb Fool
- Strawberry Ice Box Cake
- Ultimate Strawberry Bacon Goat Cheese Grilled Cheese
For the jello:
- 1 6 oz. package strawberry gelatin (the large box)
- 2 cups boiling water
For the crust:
- 4 cups pretzel twists, to equal 2 cups crushed pretzels
- 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
- 2 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 8 oz. container whipped topping
- 1 qt. strawberries, sliced
- For the jello, stir boiling water into the gelatin mix for about 2 minutes, or until powder is completely dissolved. Set aside at room temperature to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
- Place the pretzel twists in a sturdy ziplock bag and use a heavy rolling pin to crush them into small pieces. In a bowl, mix together the pretzels, sugar, and melted butter. Pour the pretzel mixture into the prepared pan, and use your fingers to gently press it evenly across the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes then remove. Allow to cool.
- When the crust is almost cooled, place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until smooth. Fold in the whipped topping until smooth.
- Gently spread the cream cheese mixture over the cooled crust, spreading it all the way to the edges on all sides, sealing the crust. Scatter the sliced strawberries over the cream cheese, cover the dish, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- When the jello is at room temperature, pour over the strawberries. Some of them may float a bit. Cover with saran wrap and chill until firm, at least 3 hours. Serve chilled.
The chilling and cooling steps are very important. Don’t skip them!
To avoid a soggy crust, make sure to spread the cream cheese layer all the way to the edges around the whole length of the pan. This will seal off the crust and allow the Jello layer to set up on top.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 20 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 285Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 263mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 1gSugar: 16gProtein: 3g
Please note nutritional information for my recipes is calculated by a third party service and provided as a courtesy to my readers. For the most accurate calculation, I always recommend running the numbers yourself with the specific products you use.