I have a soft spot for the sweet, high-calorie dishes us Southerners call “salads”, but which are really more like dessert. But as salads, we can eat them as a side dish, pretend they aren’t desserts, and still eat cakes and cookies later on.
This Strawberry Pretzel Salad is one such dish. It’s also one my Granny use to make very often, which makes it really special to me. The flavors give bit of a surprise – lots of these things sound like they wouldn’t taste very good together. But the final result is a perfect blend of sweet, fruity, salty, and buttery.
- 2 cups crushed pretzels
- 3/4 cup butter
- 1 c. + 4 T sugar
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 1 8-oz package Cool Whip
- 1 large package strawberry Jell-O
- 1 10-oz package frozen strawberries, thawed
A note on the pretzels: use the regular salted kind, unless you want to lower salt for health reasons – the salt definitely adds spunk to the dish. I use stick pretzels, and crush them inside a ziplock freezer bag with my meat hammer.
Layer 1 – Salty and Buttery
Mix together pretzels, melted 3/4 cup butter, and 4 T sugar in a small bowl. Pat into a 9×12 baking dish, and bake at 400 degrees for 6 minutes.
Layer 2 – Light and Fluffy
Cream together softened cream cheese and 1 cup sugar. Fold in entire package of Cool Whip. Spread over cooled pretzel layer.
Layer 3 – Oh-So Strawberry!
Prepare Jell-O with 2 cups boiling water, stirring until completely dissolved. Add strawberries. Chill in the refrigerator until the Jell-O is just starting to gel, then pour over cream cheese layer. (If you pour too soon, the liquid Jell-O seems past the edges and ruins the pretzel layer.)
To finish, cover with Saran Wrap and refrigerate for an hour. If you let the Saran Wrap touch the Jell-O, it will help prevent that yucky skin from developing – but it can also pull the Jell-O layer away from the cream cheese layer. It’s up to you.
Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream or a fresh strawberry.
And remember, it’s a salad so you can still have a “real” dessert!