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Strawberry Pretzel Salad (without Jell-o)

Strawberry pretzel salad is a classic potluck dish complete with a salty-crunchy pretzel crust, cream cheese and (usually) red jell-o to hold it all together. But this version pulls out all the junk colors and additives and makes a more natural scratch version you can serve with confidence and tastes every bit as good as the original.

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a slice of strawberry pretzel salad on a plate

There’s something to be said for making the decision to make a recipe more from scratch. Sure it takes a bit longer and the ingredient list will have a few more items than the shortcut version, but it’s worth it.

In this case we’re cutting out two deal breaker ingredients that I just won’t compromise on–that’s red Jell-o and whipped topping (AKA Cool Whip). Neither fall into my category of real food, and if you don’t know our story about synthetic colors, you can find out why we those are absolutely off limits.

But to make this strawberry pretzel salad, I still needed that gelled ingredient–something to hold it all together and we’re doing that with our own homemade strawberry gel. It’s not as red as the classic, thank goodness for that) and you’ll want to use the best strawberries you can get since their flavor actually matters here. This is certainly a dish to make when berries are at their best.

If you want to just do a strawberry glaze here and skip the gelled part altogether, you can check out my recipe here.

Can strawberry pretzel salad be frozen?

For this particular recipe, probably not. When you freeze dairy products (like cream cheese and whipped cream) they will often separate when thawed. It’s not a very pretty sight. I’d just make it the day ahead and go with it.

Tips for the best salad:

  • Make this at least 24 hours before you want to serve it. I’m making that bold so you don’t write and tell me how evil I am when you miss- read the instructions. It needs time for the gel to set properly.
  • We are using plain gelatin here which you can get next to all the regular Jell-o but you can buy grass fed gelatin online if you’d rather use that in yours.
  • To replace the whipped topping we are making our own whipped cream. Because it’s not full of stabilizers, whipped cream can soften slightly if it sits a long time. That’s why I recommend making this dish only 24 hours before serving and not days and days ahead.
  • You can make this recipe gluten free by using gluten free pretzels too. It will work great.

How to make strawberry pretzel salad

Start by crushing pretzels. Crush them first then measure them for the recipe.

Add melted butter and sugar and stir. Press into a 9×13 baking dish and bake at 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Puree the strawberries, lemon juice, and honey until it’s pureed totally. Strain into a pot and press well to remove the seeds.

Bring to a simmer and add gelatin. Stir to dissolve and allow to cool to almost room temperature.

While the gel cools, beat the cream cheese with the sugar. Set aside. Whip the cream with the vanilla and sugar to stiff peaks. Fold gently in to the cream cheese. Spread over the pretzel crust.

Slice fresh strawberries thinly. Stir into the gelatin and pour over the cream cheese mixture. Cover in plastic wrap and chill overnight for the gel to firm completely.

steps to make strawberry pretzel salad

How to make strawberry pretzel salad in a bowl or as a dip

If you’d rather make your salad as a dip, you have a few options. You can just do the cream cheese and whipped cream portions and stir them together with crushed pretzels and fresh strawberries.

Or make the gelled component, pour it into a bowl, allow it to chill and firm about 50% of the way and stir it in to the other ingredients so you get “streaks” of the gel in there too. I think that would be delicious! If you want to see an example of a dip version, check out this one.

Make even more amazing strawberry desserts!

If you like this, you’ll love my many other amazing strawberry desserts! Check out:

Strawberry Angel Food Lush (with natural glaze)

Homemade strawberry shortcake and

Strawberry Lemonade Cake

a slice of strawberry pretzel salad on a plate

Strawberry Pretzel Salad (with no Jell-O)

Dump the colored Jell-O and synthetic whipped topping for a totally homemade strawberry pretzel salad that tastes better and is healthier than the classic. 
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 9 minutes
Chill time 1 day
Total Time 39 minutes
Servings 12 people
Author Rachel Ballard


For the strawberry gel

  • 2 pints (16 ounces) fresh strawberries tops and stems removed
  • 5 tablespoons honey
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin

For the crust

  • 2 cups finely chopped salted pretzels chop then measure
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter melted
  • 3 tablespoons sugar

For the cream cheese layer

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

For the whipped cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  • Preheat the oven to 400. 

Make the crust

  • In a medium bowl add the crushed pretzels, sugar and butter and stir to combine. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9×13 baking pan. Bake 8 to 10 minutes then allow to cool slightly while you make the other layers. 

Make the strawberry gel

  • In a food processor, add ONE PINT of the strawberries, honey, lemon juice and water. Blend until totally smooth. Pour through a strainer into a pot and press with a spoon to get out as much of the juice as possible. 
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer (it doesn’t need to boil) then add the gelatin and whisk vigorously to get out any lumps. Set aside to cool slightly while you make the cream cheese mixture. 

Make the cream cheese mixture

  • In a small bowl beat the cream cheese with 1/2 cup powdered sugar until smooth. Set aside. 
  • In a medium bowl, beat the whipping cream, remaining sugar and vanilla to stiff peaks–about 5 to 6 minutes with a hand mixer. 
  • Fold half the whipped cream into the cream cheese to loosen it then add the remaining half and fold until everything is combined. Spread over the slightly cool pretzel crust. 
  • Slice the remaining pint of strawberries in to bite size pieces. Add them to the cooling strawberry gel. When just barely warm, pour over the cream cheese mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight until totally set. 


Calories: 395kcalCarbohydrates: 38gProtein: 5gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 78mgSodium: 245mgPotassium: 187mgFiber: 1gSugar: 24gVitamin A: 910IUVitamin C: 46.5mgCalcium: 52mgIron: 1.2mg
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Course Dessert
Cuisine American

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  1. if you add some (grass fed) gelatin to your whipped cream, it is like a copy cat cool whip! then it wont melt as easily:)

    thanks for sharing! I want to make this version for my kids one day!

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About the Author

Rachel Ballard, RN, BSN brings more than 20 years of professional nursing expertise to Feast and Farm. With a love for nutrient dense foods that support wellness, she works to distill complex health information and current trends into recipes that fuel the best version of yourself. Read more about Rachel here.