Strawberry Pretzel Salad is Reborn as Dessert!

The Strawberry Pretzel Salad is Born Again as Dessert!

June 3, 2013

This recipe for Strawberry Pretzel Salad goes WAY back. I recall it primarily from when I lived in Raleigh, NC 30 years ago and it was a staple that would often show up at every barbecue and potluck dinner. Even then I never quite got the salad reference because it consisted of a sweetened crust made from pretzels and a filling that combined cream cheese and cool whip that was topped with a strawberry and jello mixture. I never quite liked it either. Blame it on the cool whip and jello. My grandma had me whipping cream in her kitchen when I was ten; it’s what I knew and what I loved and I could never quite get onboard with Cool Whip. Jello? It’s a texture thing; I’ll pass on Jell-O every time for that reason (much less artificial stuff reasons, thank you very much!).


Fast forward to today. I’m staying with friends that have a wealth of antiquities that they use on an everyday basis that are quite charming too. Kitchen utensils from their wedding over 30 years ago (yes, I admit, I see props in that bunch!), Pyrex bowls that are now back in fashion and some OLD cookbooks that I’ve had fun browsing through. Karen has a copy of a Ladies Evening Guild cookbook from 1988 from the church she attended at the time. The role at the time of the women in the group was categorized as Ladies Aid which meant making coffee, cleaning the kitchen and making dinners for church events. My feminist self could get my panties all in a bunch but it was 25 years ago and I’m going to assume times have changed at Grace Lutheran and today I would see men now helping with those chores while more women are busy making church decisions of a different order!

Still, it was quite the trip down memory lane. This book seems one that could have been put together from a myriad number of social events at the time. It includes Layered Salad; a layering of lettuce and veggies that are topped and sealed with a  mayonnaise/sour cream mixture with cheddar cheese and bacon scattered on top before being refrigerated for 8 hours before serving, Frog Eye Salad; a combination of canned fruits, marshmallows, Cool Whip (again!) and Acini de Pepe; the small round pasta that characterized those eyes and last but not least the recipe for Pretzel Salad with words like margarine, Cool Whip, jello and frozen berries just crying out to me to be revisited and revitalized.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad is Reborn!

The pretzel crust stayed intact; it was a precursor to today’s taste for combining salty and sweet and it was good. The Cool Whip is a thing of the past and I cut the sugar in the cream cheese layer in half; a full cup would have been way too sweet in this updated version. Most important to me though is the strawberry layer. Fresh strawberries are sliced and put on the filling and then topped with my own version of Jell-O; fresh strawberries are mashed and cooked with some sugar and cornstarch to thicken and bind it all together. I used this same topping for my strawberry pie so I knew it would be a good change. While I offer ‘optional’ in the recipe for the addition of balsamic vinegar…please take that leap of faith; it adds so much to the end result.

This is no salad; this is full on dessert and I think from the way it disappeared, a very successful attempt to update an old classic.

Strawberry Pretzel Dessert
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
For the crust:
  • 3 Tbsp cane or granulated sugar
  • 2½ cup coarsely crushed pretzels
  • 1 cup butter, melted
For the strawberry glaze:
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup water
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar (optional)
For the filling:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1⅓ cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
For the Berry Layer:
  • 3-4 cups fresh strawberries depending on size; sliced in half
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Use a food processor to crumble the pretzels or put them in a resealable bag and use a rolling pin to crush them.
  3. Place the crumbs in a small bowl and add 3 tablespoons sugar and melted butter, tossing to combine. Press evenly into 9X13" pan.
  4. Bake at 400° for 6 minutes. Place in refrigerator to cool.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the heavy cream with the powdered sugar. and beat on medium speed until cream starts to thicken.
  6. Add vanilla and increase to high speed and beat until stiff peaks form.
  7. Scoop whipped cream into a separate bowl.
  8. Using the same mixing bowl; mix the cream cheese with ½ cup sugar. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute.
  9. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture and then pour over the cooled crust. Refrigerate to chill.
  10. Cut cleaned strawberries in half and lay cut side down on the cream filling.
To Make the Strawberry Glaze:
  1. Crush 1 cup strawberries and cook with 1 cup water for 2 minutes. Sieve berries and return juice to pan. Add sugar, cornstarch and balsamic vinegar; cook and stir til thickened and bubbly. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. Spoon strawberry glaze over strawberries; making sure to cover all the strawberries. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
The original recipe calls for a 9X13" pan but I wanted to use my red ceramic dish which is closer to 10X10" and it worked fine too.


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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jamie June 14, 2014 at 7:28 am

First, 1988? In 1988 “Ladies Aid meant making coffee, cleaning the kitchen and making dinners for church events.” What??? No way!

Anyway, this kind of reminds me of my Strawberry Mascarpone Whipped Cream Tart which I love, but I so love the idea of a pretzel crust! Love it! And the glaze is beautiful. I have to make a version of this…. beautiful. I love when retro desserts are modernized!


2 Creative Culinary June 14, 2014 at 1:34 pm

I make a pie/tart with some similar elements too but just a thin layer of cheese and a regular pie crust; so this is similar and different at the same time. Yes 1988…church ladies. Although some are still like that I’m sure! :)


3 Deb March 25, 2014 at 11:11 am

I wanted to make a red, whit and blue dessert for a young neighbor who is going into the navy. Do you think I could put the cream cheese topping on the top and decorate it with strawberries and blueberries OR would it be better to mix some blueberries in with the top layer of strawberries and keep the cream cheese in the center? I was wondering if putting the jello on top of the pretzel bottom might soften the pretzels. What do you think?


4 Creative Culinary March 25, 2014 at 11:43 am

I would keep the layers the same Deb and just mix strawberries and blueberries together in the ‘jello’ layer…for exactly the reason you state; putting that layer next to the crust might make it soggy. You might also make it as is and then decorate the top with some dollops of whipped cream around the edge that you sprinkle with blueberries for more of a red, white and blue effect?

What a sweet gesture and one well deserved. I so respect the people who make that sacrifice for all of us.


5 Deb March 25, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Great idea of using whipped cream and blueberries around the sides! I’ll definitely use your idea. I also think instead of mixing the blueberries in with the strawberries I’ll try my hand at using blueberries to make the navy anchor, surround it with the strawberries and then cover it with the glaze. Thanks so much for your suggestions and getting back to me so quickly!!!! I can’t wait to try this!


6 Creative Culinary March 25, 2014 at 8:47 pm

I expect to see a photo Deb. :)


7 Leann L January 6, 2014 at 5:01 pm

This is my all time favorite dessert. I have tried to find a way around using jello & happened onto your recipe. Boy am I glad I found your recipe. It is a hit & I can’t imagine making/devouring it any other way. Thanks again!!! :-)


8 Creative Culinary January 7, 2014 at 7:58 am

I had never made it before but no way was I going to use jello and cool whip and I’m glad too because we just loved it and so glad you did too Leann. Thanks for letting me know!


9 Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl September 4, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Goodness, this pretzel crust is beautiful! It’s calling my name, I can’t wait to eat it!
Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl Most Recent Post: Candy Corn Oreo White Chocolate Chip Cookies


10 Jenny July 25, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Will the crust get soggy if I make it the night before?


11 Creative Culinary July 26, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Jenny…sorry for the late reply but ours did not; just keep it refrigerated and it should be fine.


12 Sharon July 19, 2013 at 5:45 pm

This is chilling in the fridge as I write this, just waiting to go in and put the strawberry layer on. For many years I’ve always been asked to make the “Pretzel Jello”. This one is for my daughter who is not a fan of jello and always took the top layer off hers. Can’t wait for her to try it. Thanks so much for the recipe.


13 Creative Culinary July 19, 2013 at 6:22 pm

If this doesn’t win her over, nothing will…replacing jello and cool whip the best decision ever. Wish I was there!


14 Michelle July 4, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Cannot wait to make this!

It would be nice change from strawberry shortcake.

I am from the Northeast – I TOTALLY missed out on the Strawberry Pretzel “salad”. It sounds like “ambrosia”, the fruity, marshmallow coconut thing that was on every picnic table with the dinner, not the desserts circa 1975.

You’ve got me thinking….what else did I miss? Thanks for posting!


15 Dina July 1, 2013 at 9:05 pm

FINALLY! I’ve loved this recipe since my coworker brought it to work but, like you, I couldn’t bring myself to use cool whip and jello/glaze in a tub. I am going to make this for the 4th of July this year, and I’ll be proud to say it’s all from scratch! Thank you!


16 Creative Culinary July 1, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Oh thank you Dina…I worried I might step on someone’s toes (and I may have) but I’m long over thinking Cool Whip has a place in any recipe, anywhere. The topping is much better too; I hope you love it as much as we did…Happy 4th!


17 Melissa @ My Recent Favorite books June 28, 2013 at 1:43 pm

I love this Dessert! I havent had it in a long time, and really need to make it! =)


18 Creative Culinary June 29, 2013 at 8:44 am

I hope you try my version; using real whipped cream alone stepped it up about a zillion notches1


19 Paula June 9, 2013 at 5:19 pm

When I saw this either on your tweet or instagram feed I kept waiting for the recipe. What a beautiful looking summer salad! Personally, I’m glad that there is neither Jello nor Cool Whip in it, though I do admit to having consumed both when I was younger. I’ve never added anything when making whipped cream but a bit of granulated sugar so I’m really curious to see how it tastes with powdered sugar. I’m liking the idea of the Balsamic Vinegar with the strawberries too. Have you ever made this using a different fruit, i.e. blueberries?


20 Creative Culinary June 9, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Thanks Paula. I always use powdered sugar for whipping cream; for me it’s insurance against any chance of graininess. I’ll be curious to see if you can taste a difference! I’ve not made it with blueberries but I would in a heartbeat and for our July 4th I’m thinking I’ll do a combo of strawberries and blueberries for patriotic colors.


21 Tracy June 9, 2013 at 8:49 am

I actually get nostalgic for the lime Jello of my childhood, with canned pears suspended in it. But I’ve been a vegetarian for over 20 years, and don’t use gelatin anymore.

So I was thrilled to find no gelatin in this lovely dessert! I’m already plotting to bring it to the lake for the Fourth of July (maybe sprinkled with some blueberries, just to be patriotic).

Thanks for the recipe!


22 Creative Culinary June 9, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Now that would be pretty! I admit; I don’t share your nostalgia…but maybe my mom made jello a bit too often too; with 6 kids it was always around to fill us up. :)


23 nusrat2010 June 6, 2013 at 9:29 am

My brain is about to explode ! I’m so overwhelmed seeing those sexy, seductive strawberries !

What a lovely take on Strawberry salad :) Love.
nusrat2010 Most Recent Post: Lentil Rice (Khichuri)


24 Creative Culinary June 6, 2013 at 9:35 am

Thanks so much…they are sorta sexy aren’t they? :)


25 Liz June 5, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Oh, yeah. SO much better than the original! Love your updated version.


26 Creative Culinary June 6, 2013 at 9:35 am

Thanks Liz; I have yet to have one person insist I bring back the cool whip or jello!


27 Nisrine June 5, 2013 at 3:20 pm

How simple yet how decadent! Love it.


28 Creative Culinary June 6, 2013 at 9:34 am

Thank you; that sums it up perfectly!


29 Aly ~ Cooking In Stilettos June 5, 2013 at 2:27 pm

I LOVE LOVE LOVE your changes! The minute I saw this, I remembered a strawberry pie that I occasionally would get as a child at a local Big Boy restaurant in Connecticut. This is a must make this summer!
Aly ~ Cooking In Stilettos Most Recent Post: Celebrating Memorial Day With #HebrewNational and a Homemade Hot Dog Relish Recipe


30 Creative Culinary June 6, 2013 at 9:33 am

Aly make sure you check out my strawberry pie; the topping is identical; I figure why mess with success? I made it in a tart shell but often just use a pie plate. Both are so good but the pie is more berry and less filling.


31 Ginny June 5, 2013 at 11:44 am

Same here. Was wanting to try this for Father’s Day coming up but there isn’t even the list of ingredients to write down below the title. Could you please redo your recipe for us?


32 Creative Culinary June 5, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I had a snafu when I published this Monday Ginny but fixed it shortly thereafter. Would you try to refresh? I can see the recipe inside the box with buttons for printing now. If you still can’t let me know and I’ll email it to you…thanks, Barb


33 Maureen | Orgasmic Chef June 5, 2013 at 2:15 am

I lived in the South for a long time but never had strawberry pretzel anything. This sounds really cute.
Maureen | Orgasmic Chef Most Recent Post: Leftover Veggies into a Cheesy Vegetable Roll – and In My Kitchen for June


34 Creative Culinary June 5, 2013 at 9:56 am

Well, your time has come hasn’t it? This recipe is better anyhow! :)


35 Tanya June 4, 2013 at 11:11 am

This looks good. I wonder if it would be good for a picnic. We are gong on one tomorrow with a group of people and I bet everyone would love this.
Tanya Most Recent Post: Three Key Characteristics of a Smart Social Media Policy


36 Creative Culinary June 4, 2013 at 1:56 pm

It’s a great crowd pleaser but it’s best if you can keep it chilled due to the cream cheese and whipping cream layer. I would think a cooler would be adequate though so if it were me I would definitely say, ‘Party On!’


37 Simone June 4, 2013 at 12:31 am

O that looks to die for! I don’t particularly like jell-o either… The consistency is just terrible and doesn’t add anything to any dish really… Your version looks delicious, though I’ve never used pretzels for a bottom… Interesting!
Simone Most Recent Post: Spaghetti aglio e olio


38 Creative Culinary June 4, 2013 at 1:55 pm

I think this recipe must have started the entire sweet/salty rage with that pretzel crust! We are so in agreement regarding Jello; glad to hear I’m not alone!


39 Wendy Read June 3, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Barb, the photos are incredible. I can’t agree more on the cool whip, we NEVER ate it (nor did we eat cresent rolls or anything that came in a can) when I was growing up. This recipe looks wonderful for a summer treat!


40 john@kitchenriffs June 3, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Boy, there used to be a lot of sweet salads way back when. Marshmallows and Jell-O were big, and a lot of Cool Whip seemed to enter into some of those salads. Too sweet for salad, not interesting enough for dessert. But your updated Strawberry Pretzel Salad, born again as a dessert, is perfect! Really nice – thanks.
john@kitchenriffs Most Recent Post: Wedding Cookies


41 Creative Culinary June 3, 2013 at 9:13 pm

So true John…I know I’ve got an old book or two that illustrates that fact; your statement is ‘right on!’


42 Stacy | Wicked Good Kitchen June 3, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Oh my, Lord! B, have been working on the same idea…riffing on that old classic, Strawberry Pretzel Salad, albeit sans pretzels (as they are processed). Hubby’s little cousin graduated from high school in 1988 and this salad was in full swing! His Aunt Felicia made the salad for his graduation party that summer. And, every summer family picnic and Christmas after that she made it as well! (Hahaha!) This Jello “salad” was all the rage and even made it into every bridal cookbook I put together for brides…they all loved it THAT much. But! My culinary self never liked Cool Whip either. (My mother and grandmother only used real heavy whipping cream.) When the Atkins craze hit (circa 1999), all the low carbers were making what we call “Cheesecake Mousse” for dessert, with fresh berries, using cream cheese and heavy whipping cream. Back when the craze started, they used Splenda for sweetening. I’ve made the 9×13 dish the same way as you have (Strawberry Glaze and all, inspired by a recipe at and using a graham cracker crust for hubby since he loves that crust with this dessert. But, I’m revamping it with a twist. LOVE that we are on the same wavelength and experienced that same craze (even though we didn’t like Cool Whip or Jello!). LOL! Great recipe redo, B! xoxo
Stacy | Wicked Good Kitchen Most Recent Post: Homemade Key Lime Curd {How-To}


43 Creative Culinary June 3, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Seriously? I thought it was lost for the ages! Can’t wait until I see your ‘riff’ Stacy; this was a big uptake. Huge even; we all loved it.


44 Karen Harris June 3, 2013 at 1:32 pm

You will have to pass the word onto Karen that one of my most used cookbooks is a little GBC bound collection from the ladies at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Yoakum Texas. Man, those women can cook, but I’m warning you now Cool Whip is a staple. You know what they say, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!” Your salad looks beyond wonderful Barb. Great job reinventing a classic.
Karen Harris Most Recent Post: Something to Soothe a Summer Cold: Tom Yum Soup


45 Creative Culinary June 3, 2013 at 9:11 pm

I will most definitely do that! I’ve got some old cookbooks from Raleigh and like their kin in Texas; Cool Whip was a staple back then!


46 Karen June 3, 2013 at 12:45 pm

I cannot get the recipe to print – no ingredients list nor prep – is there a way you could include it in the text?


47 Creative Culinary June 3, 2013 at 1:15 pm

My mistake to have the editor open in two windows…seems I managed to wipe out all the work I had done in one by saving the other! It’s there now Karen and thanks for the heads up!


48 vetta June 3, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I tried to print your recipe and it does not come thru for me. Just an x where ingredients should be.

Would love to make it


49 Creative Culinary June 3, 2013 at 1:17 pm

My mistake…it’s fixed now Vetta.


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