This nostalgic recipe for Strawberry Pretzel Salad is a creamy, fruity, and crunchy Southern classic. What is Strawberry Pretzel Salad you might ask? Well, it’s not a salad at all, it’s what we call an Iconic Southern Dessert that really kind of reminds folks of a Jello-like Cheesecake, with a sweet, yet salty crust, made with hard pretzels, sugar, unsalted butter, topped with juicy ripe sliced strawberries, strawberry Jello, and a big dollop of homemade whipped cream to serve.
For many Southern households, this amazing dessert has been a tradition at potlucks, barbecues, bridal showers, church luncheons, and Southern holiday tables all throughout the year. The first recipe for Strawberry Pretzel Salad is said to have originated in a 1960s cookbook, called “The Joys of Jell-O™” From there, Strawberry Pretzel Salad took off like a well-oiled machine and became an iconic southern tradition.
I always chuckle to myself when I read blog posts concerning this Jello dessert, either you read that non-Southerners love it and were pleasantly surprised or they just don’t. Plain and simple Y’all, straight to the point. I have read rave reviews and then I have read that they more or less thought it was a white trash dessert from below the depths of the earth. Bless their little hearts they simply know no better.
I usually also look at the recipe and sometimes and think, well damn no wonder they were disappointed with the results. Cool Whip? Off Brand gelatin? Frozen strawberries? Margarine? Oh, no Ma’me that isn’t how we do things down here in the South. No wonder that their Strawberry Pretzel Salad came out looking and feeling so darn sad and depressing. I know some of you love your frozen Cool Whip topping but just come to the dark side and try making homemade once, I swear its easy peasy to make.
This yummy Southern Concoction requires Southern love, juicy fresh organic sliced strawberries, brand name Strawberry Jello, quality cream cheese, homemade whipped-topping, unsalted butter, and only super salty crunchy pretzels will do when making a proper batch of Strawberry Pretzel Salad. Trust me these small changes will make all the difference in the world when making this timeless dessert.
Ingredients needed to Make Strawberry Pretzel Salad:
- finely crushed pretzel sticks
- unsalted butter, melted
- light brown sugar
- cream cheese
- vanilla extract
- heavy whipping cream
- strawberry Jello
- boiling water
- ice water
- fresh strawberries
- 2 cups crushed pretzels
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup sugar + 1/4 cup reserved
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 12 ounces Strawberry Jello gelatin
- 2 cups boiling water
- 2 cups ice water
- 1 quart fresh ripe strawberries, sliced
Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a glass bowl combine together the crushed pretzels, unsalted melted butter, and brown sugar. Press the pretzel mixture onto the bottom of a large glass baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a heat-resistant surface to cool completely.
Using a handheld electric mixer whip together softened cream cheese, vanilla extract, and 2/3 cup sugar. Reserve till needed in a glass bowl.
Next using a handheld electric mixer whip together 4 tablespoons of sugar and 2 cups heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Fold ONLY 1/2 of the homemade whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture and spread on the cooled pretzel crust. Refrigerate for about 40 minutes. Store the other half of the homemade whipped topping for later use.
Boil 2 cups of water in a saucepan, then add 2 (6-ounce) packages of strawberry Jello, stirring continuously until fully dissolved. Allow the Jello mixture to cool for 5 minutes, then stir in cold ice water.
Arrange the sliced fresh strawberries over the cream cheese mixture evenly.
At this time slowly pour the Strawberry Jello over the cold strawberries and cream cheese mixture. Place in the refrigerator for 2 plus hours or more to firmly set before serving.
Before serving, add a dollop of reserved homemade whipped topping the top of each slice.