More a dessert than an actual salad, strawberry pretzel salad layers salty, crunchy pretzels with sweetened cream cheese and juicy strawberries.
I don’t know why this dish is named strawberry pretzel salad. Because honestly, there is nothing salad about this. Dessert is more like it. A crust of crunchy, salty pretzels layered with sweetened cream cheese and sliced strawberries in gelatin provides the perfect combination of textures and tastes.
How to Make Strawberry Pretzel Salad
This salad/dessert is easy to make. However, you will need to plan on making it ahead of time to give the strawberry gelatin used in the top layer plenty of time to set. I recommend a chill time of at least eight hours.
Dissolve the strawberry gelatin
We need one six-ounce box of strawberry gelatin (or two three-ounce boxes if you can’t find the larger size). Either regular or sugar free gelatin is fine, whatever you prefer. Bring two cups of lemonade to a boil over medium high heat. Once the lemonade is boiling, add the package of strawberry gelatin and stir until its dissolved.
Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add two cups of cold water. Remove the gelatin from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. It’s very important to allow the gelatin to cool first, or else it could melt the cream cheese layer.
Make the pretzel crust
I found that 4 ½ cups of salted mini pretzel twists yielded the two cups of crushed pretzels needed to make the pretzel layer. I used my mini food processor to pulverize the pretzels just to the point that there were no large pieces remaining. If you don’t have a food processor, you can always pour the pretzels into a plastic freezer bag and use either a rolling pin or a meat tenderizer to get the job done.
Combine the crushed pretzels with two tablespoons of melted butter and ¼ cup of sugar. Stir until the pretzels are evenly coated with the butter, then spread them out in an even layer along the bottom of a greased 9 x 13-inch casserole dish. With clean hands, press the buttered pretzel crumbs against the bottom of the dish. Then bake the pretzels at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes. As with the gelatin, we need to let the pretzel layer cool completely before moving on to the next step.
Whip the cream cheese.
For best results, set one 8-ounce package of cream cheese out at least 30 minutes beforehand. I prefer to give my cream cheese an hour. It is so much harder to achieve a smooth and creamy cream cheese layer when the brick is still cold from the refrigerator.
Beat the softened cream cheese and one cup of sugar together using and electric mixer at medium speed. Whip until the cream cheese is light and fluffy and the sugar is dissolved (not gritty). Using a spatula, fold one eight-ounce tub of thawed whipped topping. You need to do this by hand rather than use the electric mixer. We want to keep the light and airy texture of the whipped topping. An electric mixer is way to aggressive and will cause the whipped topping to deflate.
Spread the cream cheese over the pretzels
If your pretzels are cool, go ahead and spread the cream cheese layer over the top. I find an off-center spatula, like you might use for frosting a cake, works well. Just be sure to spread the cream cheese in an even layer all the way to the edges. This seals the pretzel layer against the strawberry gelatin and prevents the pretzels from getting soggy.
Can you use fresh strawberries in pretzel salad?
When strawberries are in season, I prefer to use fresh. Wash one pint of fresh strawberries, remove the stems, then cut them into thin slices. Combine them with the cooled gelatin, then immediately pour the gelatin over the top of the cream cheese.
On the other hand, if you are making this in say, November, it might be hard to find decent strawberries. Therefore, frozen might be the way to go. Be sure to purchase frozen berries that are already pre-sliced and don’t worry about thawing them. They will gradually thaw in the refrigerator as the gelatin sets up.
Cover the dessert with a lid, foil, or plastic wrap to keep the gelatin from drying out. Then carefully place the dish in the refrigerator. Keep in mind, the gelatin is still going to be pretty liquidy at this point, so move slowly to prevent the gelatin from splashing if you’ve covered it with something loose like a sheet of foil. Also, be sure to place the dish on a level surface on the refrigerator so the gelatin firms up in an even layer
Can you make strawberry pretzel salad ahead of time?
As mentioned above, you will need to make the salad at least the night before to give it plenty of time to set. However, I wouldn’t make it more than two days ahead of time. The cream cheese will protect the pretzels against moisture up to a point. But remember, there is moisture in the cream cheese as well. While the pretzels salad is still edible after two days, my experience is that the pretzel layer eventually gets soggy by day three.
Strawberry pretzel salad needs to be covered to prevent the top gelatin layer from drying out and stored in the refrigerator. For best results, consume the salad within two days. Unfortunately, strawberry pretzel salad is not a dish that freezes well. The cream cheese can separate and become watery and the pretzels will turn soggy.
More gelatin recipes:
Strawberry Pretzel Salad
- 2 cups lemonade
- 6 ounces strawberry gelatin
- 2 cups cold water
- 4 1/2 cups salted mini pretzel twists
- 3/4 cup butter melted
- 1 1/4 cup sugar divided
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened
- 8 ounces frozen whipped topping
- 16 ounces fresh or frozen sliced strawberries
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Crush the pretzels using a food processor or by hand. This should yield 2 cups crushed.
- Combine the crushed pretzels, butter and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Stir until the pretzels are coated with the butter and sugar.
- Press the coated pretzel crumbs into the bottom of a 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking dish. Bake for 6-8 minutes. Remove the pretzels from the oven and allow them to cool completely.
- Bring the lemonade to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the strawberry gelatin and stir until the gelatin is dissolved.
- Add two cups of cold water. Then remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside to allow the gelatin to cool completely.
- In the mean time, whip together the cream cheese and the remaining cup of sugar until the cream cheese is fluffy.
- Gently fold in the whipped topping. Then carefully spread the cream cheese mixture over the top of the pretzels.
- Add the strawberries to the cooled gelatin. Pour the strawberry mixture over the cream cheese. Cover and chill for eight hours.