Strawberry Pretzel Salad Is The Vintage Dessert Your Summer Needs

Many people look at Jell-O salads as a classic piece of Americana. Well into the 1960s it was unusual to attend a party where some kind of fruit, vegetable, or even meat wasn't suspended into an artfully shaped gelatin mold. Today, for the most part, gelatin molds and salads are absent from soirees and fruit-flavored Jell-O is regarded as a lunchbox treat. But in a handful of lucky states, including Pennsylvania, Delaware, Tennessee, and Utah, Strawberry Pretzel Salad never went out of style and likely never will.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad is a sweet and salty three-layered dessert with a crust composed of salted pretzels, butter, and sugar, and a middle layer consisting of cream cheese, sugar, and Cool Whip. The top layer is where the Jell-O comes in – strawberry-flavored Jell-O and sliced strawberries are combined to create a shiny, refreshing, bright red finish. 

There really isn't anything about this dish that constitutes it as a salad other than the fact that it's served cold, but it's definitely a nod to those mid-century gelatin gems that were so in vogue once upon a time.

It's unpretentious but does take time

While there is nothing complicated or fancy about this dish, it does require both baking and chilling time so patience is necessary.

The bottom layer is baked in a baking pan until it's browned up and then needs to cool completely before you add the next layer. Once the cream cheese layer is poured on top of the pretzel layer, it too needs to cool and firm up in the refrigerator. Finally, you'll combine the Jell-O mix with boiling water and add the strawberries to the mixture. Once it's at room temperature, it's poured over the cream layer and refrigerated again until it's totally set.

To serve, the salad can be cut into squares or simply spooned out. The salty, buttery kick you get when combined with the other sweet and tart elements is incredibly surprising and satisfying. Both adults and kids tend to go bonkers over this dish despite the passé reputation of Jell-O desserts.

Gelatin or not, Strawberry Pretzel Salad is just plain good and deserves a spot in your summer recipe lineup.