Pretzel Berry Dessert

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A favorite on our holiday table is this Pretzel Berry Dessert. Luscious berries and berry-flavored gelatin top a layer of cream cheese nestled over a pretzel crust.

Pretzel Berry Dessert | Life as Mom

Pretzel Berry Dessert is a traditional holiday treat that you’ve probably seen at potlucks and get-togethers. In some parts it’s called Strawberry Pretzel Salad. It’s called a salad because back in the 50s and 60s, the term salad, covered a wide range of dishes, including abundant gelatin.

I’ll never forget going to my first Midwest funeral and the pastor said there would be salads and sandwiches back at the church. I had no idea there’d be 50 Jello dishes!

While I might disagree on the definition of salad, I love this dish. I thank the women of the Midwest for keeping it alive because it is awesome. It is, in fact, so awesome, that my children have requested a double batch of it this Thanksgiving.

Furthermore, this is FishPapa’s all-time favorite come holiday time. The man who “doesn’t like sweets” claims he could eat the whole pan. I guess we do have a dessert to arm wrestle over.

The original Strawberry Pretzel Salad obviously calls for strawberries and strawberry jello, but we prefer it with raspberries and cranberry or raspberry jello. Strawberries end up looking and feeling like slugs in this dish (just saying!), so we opt for something with more substance. Raspberries or boysenberries are a heartier substitute and are beautiful little jewels in the gelatin.


And yes, you know I want healthy food in my house, but this is my one exception for buying Jell-O and Cool Whip. This year I’m thrilled that Jell-O has made a version with no artificial flavors, dyes, or preservatives.

And yes, I know that I could probably make healthier versions of both Jell-O and Cool Whip, but for a once (or twice) a year indulgence, I’m okay with this.

Usually I prepare this the day before Thanksgiving so that it has plenty of time to firm up before the big feast. This year, I’m going to experiment by making the pretzel crust in advance and freezing it. I think that will free up some of my kitchen time in the days leading up to the holiday.

I’ve found that in preparing this dish, it’s really important to seal the cream cheese layer to the edges of the pan. If you have any cracks around the perimeter, your liquid gelatin will sink to the bottom and make your pretzel crust weird.

Also, I’ve discovered that using frozen berries (no need to thaw!) helps the gelatin thicken more quickly so that I avoid the chilling in a bowl step that some versions of this recipe recommend. It’s all in the technique, folks!

If you’re taking this to someone else’s house, be sure to invest in these Pyrex pans with lids. They are the bomb! I’m sorry, but plastic wrap is just not going to cut it. Glass dish with a lid, people. And not those Easy Grab nightmares. Those are for the birds. No real seal whatsoever.

Pretzel Berry Dessert | Life as Mom

Originally published July 24, 2008. Updated November 13, 2016.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. dancebythelight says

    I love that dessert, only we make it with strawberries!

    My favorite holiday dessert is pumpkin roll filled with cream cheese filling! Mmmmm!

  2. Tracy says

    Our favorite dessert is turtles made with mini pretzels, rolo candies and pecans

  3. mamalibby says

    My mom used to make your dessert with strawberries and I haven’t thought of it in years!

    We are cookies-only at our house at Christmas. Rich Roll butter cookies with colored sugars. Yum!

  4. Rebekah says

    I love all things dessert….except creme brulee. Bleh. I adore all the holiday candies and cookies…..but I’m starting my own tradition of cheesecake. Which kind? Oh, white chocolate raspberry, chocolate truffle, chocolate turtle, marbled pumpkin, I don’t know. They’re all good!

  5. Jill says

    This is my families favorite dessert, also! Whenever we tell someone we are bringing the ‘Jello pretzel dessert” they all look at us with a very perplexed and skeptical stare. But after they try it, almost everyone is a convert!

    Every Christmas we make sugar cookies with my great-grandma’s recipe and cut them out in Christmas-y shapes and frost them. They kids all love to roll and cut their very own cookies. We make these all through the year, but they taste best at Christmas time.


  6. Honey says

    One of my hobbies is dessert (and working out at the gym!) But this is a Christams Fudge Recipe my Mother-in-Law gave me. Its so good.
    Christmas Fudge:
    2 c light brown sugar
    1 c sugar
    1 c evaporated milk
    1/2 c butter
    1 jar marshmallow cream
    16 oz peanut butter morsels
    16 oz milk chocolate morsels
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 c pecans
    Combine 1st 4 ingredients-boil 10 minutes
    Add marshmallow cream and morsels. Blend in nuts and vanilla. Pour into greased 9″ pan. Cool and cut.
    This is basically sugar and butter-what’s not to love?

  7. Madame Deals says

    I just made this recipe for our Christmas dessert! It looks so yummy I can't wait to try it! I used a mixed berry medley and it looks very pretty.
    Thank you so much!

  8. Jessica Wolf says

    I make this all the time with Strawberry Jell-O and frozen strawberries. I’m going to try it with boysenberries and a mixture of raspberry and strawberry Jell-O… that sounds amazing!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Yes, and I increase the ratio of cream cheese to Cool Whip.

      • AllieZirkle says

        Now that I’ve made this, I understand your comment and will be doing that next time! My berries are going to float away on the cool whip cloud lol

        • Jessica Fisher says

          The traditional way is the one I posted, but I like it cheesier.

  9. Kristen says

    mmm…I have this in the fridge right now. It’s my contribution to the Thanksgiving Feast tomorrow. We eat this as a salad around our house. We also use a can of crushed pineapple in the cream cheese layer and raspberries on top.

  10. AllieZirkle says

    I planned to make this today for Thursday. I couldn’t find cranberry jello So I’m trying the blackberry fusion jello! 1) is this an ok make-ahead recipe? And 2) is there a dairy free option to the cream cheese? I’ve got a dairy free kiddo coming and can’t think of a legit substitute for cream cheese. Thanks!!


    • Jessica Fisher says

      Blackberry fusion is awesome! I’ve done that before. I’m going to make it today, so yes, make ahead.

      As for cream cheese, I have never heard of a substitute that is dairy free. Is there soy cream cheese? (Blech.) Sorry!

      • AllieZirkle says

        Ok perfect! I’m going to check for a coconut replacement. If I can’t find a coconut replacement, I’ll just stick with cream cheese. The alternatives sound awful lol Thanks!

  11. shelly says

    I am someone who needs a complete recipe directions. Right now I am preparing the crust. Was I suppose to use 3t or 1 cup? And how much is a “large cool whip?” So sorry I will never use this website agian

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Hi Shelly, I apologize for the confusion. The ingredients are listed in the order of use. I copied it exactly as my gramma wrote it. 😉 The 3t sugar go in the crust. The 1 cup sugar goes in the cream cheese/cool whip filling. The cool whip is the standard (12 oz) size. When gramma was alive, they packaged it differently. I hope you and your family have a lovely holiday.

  12. Sandi says

    I don’t know where this has been my whole life, but I am not aware of having experienced this. It sounds good, except I am not a cool whip fan. would it work with old fashioned, self-whipped actual cream, or is there something in the gummy composition of the cool whip that is necessary?

  13. Helen says

    yes, I bought some of the jello and pudding for “sick food” 😉 Happy when national brands finally get on board. Aldi doesn’t have colors in theirs anymore, but of course only comes in orange or strawberry 😉

  14. JULIE Plocher says

    That sounds good I made something similar. I want to try.if jello.will set up.

  15. Karen says

    My go-to Thanksgiving Jello calls for Dream Whip and it only comes in boxes with 2 and maybe 4 envelopes. I buy the one with 2 in it, but only need one, so every other year I use the second envelope up, as it’s powder and lasts that long.?Yep, I know, not good, but its only once a year and it’s my favorite jello salad. Next year I’m going to try substituting cream.(i need to use up the last pkg from last year, this year). I know, I know, I should have tried cream before and should this year since I’m not losing much money, but I can’t…can’t waste food even when it’s fake or small amount…a quirk of mine.

    • I tell myself the same thing every year with this. I should try it with whipped cream. I’m just afraid that it will fall or weep and then I’ve wasted all that food.

      • Helen says

        Yeah I’m pretty sure this is one of those recipes you can’t use fresh whipped cream in. I found a tub of some sort of “better” whipped topping that wasn’t a crazy price 😉 making it tomorrow!

  16. Leah says

    Oops! I just bought fresh raspberries. Is there a way to make this work yet?

    • Absolutely. You’ll just need to chill the jello and raspberry mixture for a little while so that it starts to thicken just a bit before you pour it over the cream cheese layer. Chill it too much and it will be lumpy, so keep an eye on it.

  17. Nia says

    Hi Jessica, after years of looking at this dessert on your site, and reading about it, I finally made it yesterday. My family enjoyed it and I thank you for sharing the recipe and raving about it. We used strawberry and cherry jello mixed and chose frozen mixed berries. I’ve been asked to make it again in the near future. So glad I finally gave the recipe a go.

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