Strawberry Pretzel Salad is a popular dish in the midwest. Some serve it as a side dish, and others as a dessert. It is a hit with adults and children alike! The pretzel-crust is addicting with its salty-sweet crunch! And the creamy middle layer and refreshing strawberry layer make this a delicious treat!
Making the Pretzel Crust
Making crushed pretzels is a great way to get young children helping you in the kitchen! Just pull out your mallet, place some pretzels in a gallon-sized zip-top bag, and let them go to town! If they get too vicious, the pretzels can poke holes in the bag, so be careful when picking the bag up.
This recipe calls for crushed pretzels. I used about 3 ½ cups to get the 2 cups of crushed pretzels that we needed.
Once crushed, combine the pretzels with melted butter and sugar. Press them into a 9x13 pan and bake. If you have a glass pan then I recommend using it! The layers show beautifully through the sides.
Real Whipped Cream
Most Strawberry Pretzel Salad recipes call for the use of whipped topping, like Cool Whip. I prefer using real ingredients when it is easy, and I really like the fresh whipped cream flavor in this salad.
In order to use real whipped cream without making the crust soggy, we have to stabilize the whipped cream. Lucky for us, this is as easy as adding ¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar to the cream mixture!
Cream of tartar is the ingredient used to stabilize egg whites when making meringue. It works just as perfectly in this recipe!
Assembling the Strawberry Pretzel
It is important to let the pretzel crust cool completely. If it is still warm then it will melt the cream cheese mixture, and you will end up with a soupy Jell-O salad.
Once the crust has cooled, the rest of the salad comes together really easily! Cream cheese and whipped cream make the middle layer, spread over the pretzel crust. Make sure you spread all the way to the edges! You want to essentially create a seal between the cream cheese and the pan. This will keep the Jell-O from seeping down and getting the pretzels soggy.
The cream cheese sets up while you make the Jell-O mixture. This layer is as simple as combining a packet of Jell-O with boiling water, and stirring in the strawberries! Once it has thickened to the consistency of egg whites, it is ready to spread over the top.
Then it goes into the refrigerator for a few hours, until it is ready to serve!
Yes, many recipes call for fresh strawberries instead of frozen. Some call for sliced and some call for whole. It is really up to you! I prefer to use sliced frozen strawberries, because it cools the Jell-O as you mix it in. The Jell-O is then ready to spread onto the cream cheese with hardly any wait time at all!
Yes! If you choose to use whipped topping then you will want to thaw it so that it has a whipped cream consistency. This can be folded into the cream cheese and sugar mixture. You do not need the ¼ cup of sugar, cream of tartar, or vanilla if you choose this route.
This is a great make-ahead recipe! I recommend making at least 4 hours prior to your desired serve-time so that it has plenty of time to set. It can even be made the day prior! It can be kept refrigerated for up to 3 days, though the crust may get a little soggy after a day or so.
This Strawberry Pretzel salad was the dessert for our Iowa state dinner. Check out the other recipes that we served at this dinner!
Strawberry Pretzel Salad (With Real Whipped Cream)
- 2 cups crushed pretzels (3-4 cups whole)
- ⅔ cup butter, melted
- 3 tbsp white sugar
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup white sugar
- 6 ounces strawberry Jell-O
- 2 cups boiling water
- 20 ounces frozen strawberries
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.In a medium bowl, mix together the crushed pretzels, melted butter, and sugar. Pour into a 9x13 pan and press gently into the bottom of the pan.Bake for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool completely.
- Place whipping cream, sugar, cream of tartar, and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Using the whisk attachment for your electric mixer, mix on medium until the mixture begins to thicken. Then turn to high speed and whip for several minutes, until medium-stiff peaks form.Portion 1 cup of whipped cream for the cream cheese mixture. Set the remaining whipped cream aside to decorate the salad, if desired.
- In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese mixture and sugar together until smooth. Gently fold in 1 cup of whipped cream. Spread over cooled pretzel crust, being careful to press against the edges of the pan. This will create a seal that prevents the Jell-O from dripping down and getting the crust soggy.Place in the refrigerator to set while preparing the Jell-O.
- Add strawberry Jell-O to boiling water and stir until the Jell-O granules have dissolved. Add frozen strawberries and stir to combine. Set aside for 10 minutes, or until the Jell-O mixture is no longer liquid.Spread over cream cheese layer and refrigerate until set, 2-4 hours.