In today’s post: Often called raspberry pretzel salad, this pretty layered dessert is easy to make in about an hour, looks gorgeous, and is a total crowd pleaser.
Raspberry Jello Pretzel Salad
When I first tried raspberry pretzel “salad” I was pretty confused: nothing about this looks like a salad, and why in the world would you combine jello and pretzels? I’ll admit that I still have no idea why this is called a “salad” – I guess it’s a Midwest thing? – but the combination of a pretzel crust, sweet whipped cream cheese layer, and bright raspberry jello is actually pretty amazing! I definitely consider this a dessert, but if calling it a salad means you can eat it with your meal at the potluck and still have dessert, then I’m ok with that too.
Here’s what you need for raspberry pretzel jello:
- Pretzels: The crust for this dessert is similar to a graham cracker crust, but it’s made with pretzels instead of graham crackers. That make it a little salty instead of sweet, which is a great compliment to the other layers. Any shape of crunchy pretzels will work: sticks, twists, or snaps. You’ll need 8 oz of pretzels (it’s easier to go with weight here since different pretzel shapes will measure differently) which will give you about 2 cups of crushed pretzels.
- Sugar: Just a couple tablespoons of sugar sweetens up the crust
- Butter: Melted butter holds the crust together
- Cream Cheese: This is the star of the creamy middle layer.
- Sugar: To sweeten the cream cheese
- Frozen Whipped Topping (aka Cool Whip): This lightens up the middle layer, making it super creamy. You can use whipped cream if you prefer, but Cool Whip is a little more stable.
- Raspberry Jello: You’ll need a 6 oz box of raspberry jello for the top layer of this dessert (8 serving size) or two 3 oz boxes
- Frozen Raspberries: These are mixed into the raspberry jello for a burst of flavor. Fresh raspberries would probably also work, but frozen berries speed up the total prep time by cooling down the jello mixture quickly.
How to Make Raspberry Pretzel Jello Salad
There’s nothing hard about making this dessert! But because there are three separate layers to make, you’ll want to plan about an hour for prep time (only about half of that is hands on time). Additionally, you’ll need to let the finished dessert chill for 4-6 hours before serving to make sure everything is completely set up. Here’s how to make it:
Make the Crust
For the first layer, start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (also take the cream cheese out of the fridge to let it soften). Thoroughly crush approximately 8 oz of pretzels. I used the pulse button on my blender to break down the pretzels until they were mostly crumbs. You could also use a food processor, or place the pretzels in a heavy duty plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin – this method just takes quite a bit longer. They don’t have to be all completely dust, but if you leave large pieces of pretzel the crust won’t stick together very well. Once the pretzels are crushed, you can pour them into a 9×13 baking dish and add three tablespoons of sugar and 12 tablespoons of melted butter. Stir that up and press the crust down into the bottom of the pan:
Bake for 10 minutes, then allow the crust to cool completely. After a couple of minutes I like to put the crust in the freezer so it will cool in about ten minutes.
Make the Cream Cheese Layer
Once the crust is cool, make the cream cheese layer. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together 8 oz of cream cheese and 3/4 cup of granulated sugar. Add a teaspoon of vanilla and continue to beat until everything is well incorporated. Finally, beat a thawed 8 oz container of frozen whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture (no need to fold it in, beating is just fine). Spread the creamy layer evenly over the cooled pretzel crust. Make sure you spread the creamy layer all the way out to the edges of the pan – you don’t want the top jello layer to leak down to the crust. Place the dessert in the refrigerator while you prepare the top layer.
Make the Jello
In a medium bowl, mix the raspberry jello with two cups of boiling water, whisking for two minutes to make sure the jello is completely dissolved. Drop the bag of frozen raspberries on the counter a couple of times to break up any clumps, then stir the frozen berries into the jello mixture – do not thaw the berries first. Then put the bowl into the fridge for about ten minutes until the jello is just starting to thicken. At that point you can spoon the jello over the creamy layer. Cover it all with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for 4-6 hours until very cold and completely set.
This is an adaptable recipe if you prefer other fruit flavors to raspberry. Try using:
- Strawberry jello and strawberries
- Orange jello and well drained mandarin oranges
- Pineapple jello and well drained pineapple tidbits
- Lemon jello with pineapple or oranges
- 8 oz Pretzels crushed to make 2 cups
- 3 tablespoons Sugar
- 3/4 cup Melted butter 12 tablespoons
- 8 oz Cream Cheese softened
- 3/4 cup Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 8 oz Frozen Whipped Topping thawed
- 6 oz Box Raspberry Jello
- 2 cups Boiling Water
- 12 oz Frozen Raspberries do not thaw
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- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take the cream cheese out of the fridge to soften.
- Crush the pretzels until mostly crumbs. You can use the pusle setting on a blender to do this. Mix with sugar and melted butter and press into the bottom of a 9×13 pan.
- Bake crust for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on counter for a few minutes, then place in freezer for 10 minutes to cool.
- Once the crust is cool, beat together the cream cheese and sugar. Beat in vanilla. Beat in thawed whipped topping.
- Spread the creamy layer evenly over the pretzel crust, making sure to get all the way to the edge. Place in the fridge.
- Combine jello and boiling water in a bowl and whisk together for 2 minutes. Stir in the frozen raspberries, then place in the fridge for 10 minutes to allow the jello to just start to thicken.
- Spoon the jello over the creamy layer. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4-6 hours until very cold and completely set. Store leftovers in the fridge (best eaten within 2 days).