Includes Vegetarian Option With Gelatin-free Gelatin Substitute
Also known as strawberry pretzel salad, this strawberry pretzel dessert recipe with cream cheese is easy to make and with a perfect balance of sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy, topped with fresh juicy strawberries immersed in a layer of gelatin.
This recipe can easily be vegetarian and gluten free by using gluten free pretzels and vegan “gelatin”.
While there are three different layers, they’re all very simple to do. So it’s an easy dessert recipe that checks all the boxes for a crowd-pleasing dessert that’s easy to make and always popular.
These days, you can often find strawberries almost year round, but there’s nothing that heralds early summer like garden fresh strawberries. If you’re growing strawberries in your own garden or balcony pot, then you’re likely to want to make all kinds of desserts with them. Either way, store bought, farmers’ market fresh or from your favorite grocer, definitely give this strawberry pretzel dessert recipe a try.
For vegetarians, you can use a vegan “jello” substitute. There are several options in vegan gelatin substitutes, most of which are also naturally gluten free. The one highlighted above is the “cleanest” for a healthier treat in that it is also keto friendly and sugar free gelatin using stevia and erythritol in place of sugar.
Why is it Also Called Strawberry Pretzel Salad?
The basic definition of salad is a cold mixture of foods. While most of us equate salads as being the green leafy type, the origin of the word salad is from Old French salade, from Old Provençal salada, from salar to season with salt, from Latin sal for salt.((https://www.dictionary.com/browse/salad))
If you volunteer to bring the salad to the next potluck, and show up with this strawberry pretzel dessert recipe, while it may not be what people are expecting, chances are no one will mind. Manufacturers of food products know that the most popular foods are those with a perfectly enchanting blend of sweet and salty. So while this strawberry pretzel salad recipe may not have any greens in it, it checks all taste bud boxes!
What we call “salad”, used to mean “salt”!
For Gluten Free Strawberry Cream Cheese Pretzel Dessert
Just substitute gluten free pretzels for the regular pretzels, and gluten free graham crackers or graham cracker crumbs for the regular ones. Fortunately for those with gluten sensitivities, most foods can now be found in a gluten free version at most grocers, or through Amazon or Whole Foods.
Gluten Free Substitutes
Not Just a Summer Dessert Treat
This strawberry pretzel cream cheese dessert is a frequent summer treat, especially in strawberry season. Yum!!
BUT… you can also make it in winter, in fact the bright red colors make it a festive holiday dessert. Just substitute with frozen strawberries if you can’t find fresh ones shipped into your local store from somewhere southward.
Strawberry Pretzel Dessert – Summary of Steps
Here’s a summary of the preliminary steps you’ll be taking.
First, Make the Crust
- Preheat oven to 400°F
- Crush pretzels in food processor (or, for chunky crust, place in plastic zipper bag and crush with roller pin or pound lightly with sides of your fists (more fun! 😉))
- Mix all crust ingredients together
- Press into a baking pan and bake for 8-10 minutes
Second, Prepare the Strawberries
Wash and slice the strawberries. I like to quarter them, but depending on the size of the strawberries and your personal preferences you can half, quarter, slice or chop up smaller. Just be sure to reserve a few whole strawberries to serve whole or sliced for decorative topping.
Add More — or Less — Strawberries to Taste
If you’re like me, you may want to add more strawberries than the recipe calls for, so increase or decrease according to your preferences.
If you aren’t growing your own strawberries, it can be a fun outing to find a local pick-your-own strawberry farm if you’re in or near a rural area.
Once you’re done preparing the fruit, check on your crust: it should be ready by now. Take it out and let it cool a bit.
Third, Prepare Cream Cheese and Gelatin (or Gelatin-free) Mixtures
While the crust is cooling off, you’ll prepare the cream cheese mixture and make the jello. Then you’ll be ready to assemble everything and set in the fridge to chill.
Variations of the Strawberry Pretzel Dessert
This delicious, fruity dessert is best during the spring and summer months while fresh strawberries are in season. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it in the colder months with frozen fruit.
Strawberry pretzel salad is almost as good any time of year using fresh frozen fruits.
If you love these strawberry pretzel cream cheese squares, you may also enjoy trying it with other fruits in season, including blueberries, peaches, cherries and other berries. Delicious!
Cooking Together – a Fun Family Activity
In many families around the world, family time often occurs in the kitchen. Establishing a family tradition of cooking together and then eating together, versus the rushed microwave meal and “desk dinner” or TV time gorging can establish a healthy family togetherness that will be remembered fondly forever. More than that, it will foster a more close knit family and better habits for this and future generations of your lineage.
This strawberry pretzel dessert recipe is perfect for a group effort. You can assign each member a portion of the recipe to make. E.g., Dad can slice the strawberries, Junior can crush the pretzels and make the crust, Sis can make the gelatin mix while Mom blends the cream cheese batter, (or other role variations).
Cooking and dining together is a wonderful family tradition that will bring your family closer together forever.
Strawberry Pretzel Dessert Recipe
Strawberry Pretzel Dessert
- 2 cups pretzels crushed
- 3/4 cup butter melted
- 3 tbsp sugar for crust
CREAM CHEESE BATTER
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 8 oz whipping cream or sub with store bought premade whipping cream
- 1 3 oz pkg. strawberry gelatin dessert mix
- Cook gelatin according to package instructions
- 4 cups strawberries sliced
- PREHEAT oven to 400 degrees F.
- CRUST: Crumble pretzels in food processor
- MIX CRUST: melt 3/4 cup butter and combine with ground pretzels and 3 tablespoons of sugar, (you can do this in the food processor or in a mixing bowl
- MAKE & BAKE: Press the crust mixture into a 9 by 13-inch pan and bake for 8-10 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.
- WHIP CREAM: If making homemade whipping cream, you can whip that up now.
- CREAM CHEESE MIXTURE: In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and 3/4 cup of sugar. Fold in the whipped cream, and spread over the cooled crust. Refrigerate until well chilled (approximately 4 hours).
- GELATIN: In a small bowl, dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water, and allow to cool slightly, (alternately, half the water as boiling water and mix well; add second half as cold water and mix well. This will speed up the gelatin firming action.
- AFTER 4 HOURS: Place sliced strawberries on top of cheese layer.
- ADD GELATIN: Gently pour the liquid gelatin mixture over the strawberries and cream cheese layers. Refrigerate until serving time.
- SERVE: To serve, cut slices and serve with a dollop of whipped topping.
More delicious desserts to try
- Easy Strawberry Cupcakes
- Easy Breakfast Danish – delicious with strawberries or strawberry sauce
- Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
- Christmas Turtle Candy – A Delicious Treat!
RELATED: See ideas for strawberry planters and how long does it take for strawberries to grow, both on our family’s gardening website.