Don’t worry about the name—old fashioned Strawberry Pretzel Salad is definitely more dessert than diet food. This sweet and salty strawberry wonder is also one of the best Jell-o recipes around. It loves to be made ahead, and is an absolute winner at potlucks and parties.
This recipe for Strawberry Pretzel Salad is fiercely debated, mostly because of one word: salad. People just come undone about the salad part. They’ve even developed other names for this recipe, so they don’t confuse anyone who might be expecting a big bowl of leafy greens.
Here are some aliases:
- Strawberry Pretzel Cream Cake
- Strawberry Pretzel Dessert
- Judy’s Strawberry Salad (or Helen’s, or Paula’s…you get the idea)
- Pretzel Torte
- Strawberry Jello Delight
- Jello Pretzel Salad
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you call it, just as long as you make it. Because the one thing that everybody can agree on is that this creamy, crunchy, and divinely easy dessert is just plain wonderful.
Making the biggest Strawberry Pretzel Salad ever? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
How to make Strawberry Pretzel Salad:
These steps take you through the basic instructions, without giving exact quantities. Who knows-- you might be making more or less! Look at the recipe card below for details.
No need to use the stove for this recipe. Just turn on the oven to 350 degrees and get going!
- First, you have to crush the pretzels. You can do this by pulsing them in a food processor until crushed, or you can put them in a zip-top bag and crush them with a rolling pin to cut down on the mess.
- Mix together the butter, crushed pretzels, and sugar. Then press the mixture into the bottom of a baking dish.
- Bake the pretzel crust for 10 minutes, then remove it from the oven and let cool.
- To make the cream cheese layer, beat the cream cheese and the sugar until smooth. Fold in the whipped topping.
- Spread the cream cheese layer over the cooled crust, from edge to edge of the casserole, and refrigerate until chilled—at least 30 minutes. This will keep the pretzels crispy.
- To make the Jello layer, dissolve the gelatin in boiling water. Stir in the thawed strawberries and chill until just beginning to set up.
- Next, spoon the fruit and Jello mixture over the cream cheese layer and smooth the top.
- Finally, chill the dessert until firm, about 4 to 6 hours.
- If you like, use any extra whipped topping to make a fourth layer, garnishing with more crushed pretzels.
Tips for making your best Strawberry Pretzel Salad:
- Make it ahead of time. Can you make strawberry pretzel salad the night before? Absolutely! Strawberry Pretzel Salad is best when made about half a day in advance. It will keep for up to three days in the refrigerator.
- Keep the pretzels crunchy. No one wants soggy pretzels! Make sure you spread the cream cheese layer all the way to the edges of the baking dish, to protect the pretzels from coming into contact with the gelatin. Also, the pretzels will stay crunchy while chilled. Left out at room temperature, the pretzels will start to soften. But they will stay crunchy in the refrigerator. Serve at the last minute.
- Chill. Chill between every step, and try not to rush. Allow the Jell-o to cool down to room temperature before pouring on the strawberries so the warmth doesn’t soak in.
- Whip it. This is definitely a recipe that needs whipped topping, not fresh whipped cream. The whipped topping is a little more stable, plus it sets better and makes it last longer in the refrigerator.
Strawberry Pretzel Dessert Variations:
- Pineapple juice. Some families swear by making the gelatin layer with hot pineapple juice for an extra je ne sais quoi. Use only 1 cup hot pineapple juice with the frozen berries, or it might not set correctly!
- Pecans. Other cooks love adding a handful or two of chopped pecans to the crushed pretzels. If you love nuts, try it and write about it in the comments.
- Brown sugar. Switching up brown sugar and even some cinnamon for the granulated sugar in the pretzel crust takes things up one or two delicious notches.
- Cranberry sauce. No strawberries? Use a one can of whole cranberry sauce instead of strawberries and mix it into the jello. It makes the dessert tart and sweet.
- Raspberry Jello. Berry lovers add strawberries to raspberry gelatin to make this dessert all the time, and love it.
- Mixed fruit. Mandarin orange slices, canned cherries, blueberries, fresh raspberries. Once you see how easy Strawberry Pretzel Salad is to make, you can switch up the flavors depending on what you have or what you love. There’s no wrong way to make this famous dessert...unless you add tuna.
- Lower calories. Strawberry Pretzel Salad. Make the recipe with stevia, or monk fruit sugar. Use fat-free cream cheese and sugar-free Jell-o.
Strawberry Pretzel Salad Recipe
For the pretzels:
- 2 cups crushed pretzels (about 8 ounces)
- 3/4 cup butter melted (1 1/2 sticks)
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
For the filling:
- 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups whipped topping thawed (from one 8-ounce container, see notes)
For the topping:
- 2 (3 ounce) packages strawberry gelatin
- 2 cups boiling water
- 2 (16 ounce) packages frozen sweetened strawberries thawed
- Whipped topping for garnish, optional
- Pretzels Uncrushed, for garnish, optional
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, add crushed pretzels, butter, and sugar. Toss well to combine.
- Press into an un-greased 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish. Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Stir in whipped topping until combined.
- Spread over pretzel crust and refrigerate until chilled (at least 30 minutes).
- In a large bowl, dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Stir in strawberries and chill until partially set. Carefully spoon over filling. Chill until firm, 4 to 6 hours.
- Garnish with additional whipped topping and pretzels if desired.
- The salad can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. The pretzels will stay crunchy in the refrigerator. When you serve the salad, as it sits at room temperature for two to three hours, the pretzels will start to soften. But, in the refrigerator they will stay crunchy.
- 12 thin (stick) pretzels will yield about 1/2 cup crushed pretzels.
- To crush pretzels, place in a zipper-top plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin or mallet. Or, place in a food processor and pulse until crushed.
- One 8-ounce container of whipped topping contains about 3 cups. This recipe calls for 2 cups whipped topping. You can use the last cup for garnish, if desired.