If you’ve never had Pretzel Jello Salad before, you are in for a TREAT. Now, I’m really not the biggest jello fan – but I look forward to this side dish (or dessert) every family holiday. A crunchy, buttery pretzel crust is topped with a smooth and sweet cream cheese topping, which is in turn topped with jello mixed with your choice of fruit. I prefer raspberry jello pretzel salad, but strawberry jello pretzel salad is another popular choice. Crunchy, creamy, salty, sweet – it’s a family favorite for a reason.

If you love a good pretzel dessert recipe, my Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites and Snickerdoodle Pretzels are the perfect sweet and salty snack. For another fun jello salad recipe, try my Pomegranate Jello Salad.

A slice of Raspberry Pretzel Jello Salad on a white plate with a fork cutting into one corner of the jello pretzel salad.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Easy pretzel jello salad. Don’t let the amount of time listed for this recipe scare you away – most of the time is just dedicated to letting the pretzel-salad-dessert chill in the fridge. Whipping up the separate layers is very low-effort. 
  • Super customizable. While the pretzel crust and cream cheese layer are standard, the pretzel salad variations are endless! I’ll list a few of my favorite ideas in the recipe tips below.
  • Perfect for any holiday. This jello pretzel salad is a delicious and pretty addition to any holiday table. Easter jello salad, Christmas jello salad, 4th of July pretzel salad – you get the idea.

Ingredient Notes

  • Pretzels: You can’t have pretzel jello salad without salty pretzels! You can use any pretzel shape you want, it doesn’t matter since they will be crushed. However, make sure you use standard thin pretzels for the best crunch. For a low-carb pretzel jello salad, you can use keto pretzels. You can also make this dessert gluten-free by using gluten-free pretzels.
  • Cream cheese: A tangy cream cheese filling on top of the pretzel crust provides a creamy layer to this dessert salad.
  • Sugar: We add a little bit of granulated sugar to our pretzel and butter crust to create a salty-sweet pretzel crust, and a cup of sugar to the cream cheese layer. Brown sugar would probably be delicious too, but it will affect the color of the sweet cream cheese filling. 
  • Jello: You can use any flavor of jello you like! Like I mentioned earlier, I prefer raspberry jello salad. However, strawberry jello also works great.
  • Fruit: You can use frozen or fresh fruit for this recipe. I typically use raspberries, but strawberries are also a popular choice! If you choose frozen fruit, make sure to let it thaw before adding it to the jello.
Pretzel Jello Salad ingredients on a white marble table: pretzels, jello, boiling water, frozen raspberries (or strawberries), cool whip, sugar, and cream cheese.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Preheat oven. Set your oven to 350℉ to bake the pretzel crust. Get out a 9×13 pan, but don’t worry about greasing it. This would also be a great time to get out 8 oz of cream cheese to soften on the counter.
  2. Make jello. Combine 6 oz of jello with 2 cups of boiling water, mix until dissolved, and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  3. Crush pretzels. Crush enough pretzels to make 2 and ½ cups. Don’t crush the pretzels too fine – this is not like a graham cracker crust where you want a sandy texture. It should be more chunky. Also, measure pretzels AFTER crushing them.
  4. Make pretzel crust. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter (you can use salted or unsalted) in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Next, add the 2½ cups crushed pretzels and 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar to the melted butter. After the pretzels are completely coated in butter and sugar, remove the pan from heat and transfer the pretzels to a 9×13-inch baking dish. Press the pretzel mixture into an even layer at the bottom of the pan. You can use a spatula or your hands to do this. If using your hands, allow the pretzels to cool. Bake the pretzel layer in your preheated oven for 8 minutes, then remove it from the oven and let it cool. You can turn off your oven, too, since you won’t need it again.
Four photos showing the making of Pretzel Jello Salad, top left is red jello mix being poured into boiling water, top right is butter melted in a white saucepan, bottom left is crushed pretzels in saucepan, bottom right is crushed pretzels along the bottom of a baking dish.
  1. Make cream cheese layer. Once the pretzels have cooled completely, use a hand mixer to beat together 8 oz softened cream cheese with 1 cup sugar in a medium bowl. Whip the ingredients together until smooth and fluffy, then use a rubber spatula to fold in 8 oz of Cool Whip. 
  2. Add cream cheese layer and chill. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the cooled pretzel crust. Make sure to smooth it all the way to the edges of the dish to create a seal. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Four images, top left is white cream cheese mixture in glass bowl, top right is cool whip mixed into cream cheese mixture, bottom left is white fluffy mixture on top of crushed pretzel crust, bottom right is white cream cheese Pretzel Jello Salad mixture in a rectangular baking dish.
  1. Add fruit to jello. While the cream cheese layer chills in the refrigerator, mix 10 oz partially thawed berries into your jello. If you’re using fresh berries, you can add more than 10 oz if you like.
  2. Add jello layer. Pour the cooled jello mixture over the top of the cream layer. Refrigerate the entire strawberry or raspberry pretzel salad until the jello is set. 
  3. Slice, serve, and enjoy. Cut yourself a piece of raspberry pretzel jello salad, take a bite, and be transported by the best jello salad you’ve ever had.
Four photos showing how to make the best Pretzel Jello Salad, top right is frozen raspberries in red jello mixture, top right is raspberry jello pretzel salad in a baking dish, bottom left is Pretzel Jello Salad cut into squares, and bottom right is sliced Pretzel Jello Salad.

Recipe Tips

If you’re using fresh strawberries, either slice them thinly or chop them so you don’t have too big chunks.

If you don’t want to use Cool Whip, you can make homemade whipped cream instead.

Make sure the cream cheese layer spreads all the way to the edges of the pan and creates a seal. This helps preserve the crunchy pretzel crust by preventing the jello from seeping down to create a soggy crust.

Now, for the fruit jello salad variations!

Blueberry pretzel salad: Use berry blue Jell-O and fresh or frozen blueberries.

Peach pretzel salad: Use peach Jell-O and fresh, frozen or canned peaches – just make sure to drain canned peaches. Jell-O also makes an apricot flavor – apricot jello salad would be really yummy!

Orange pretzel salad: I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. Use orange Jell-O and fresh or drained canned mandarin oranges.

Pineapple pretzel jello salad: Jell-O does have a pineapple flavor! Use fresh or drained canned pineapple. 

With all the Jell-O flavors out there, the sky is the limit. You can also mix and match flavors – like crushed pineapple with strawberry Jell-O, or pineapple Jello-O with kiwi and banana for a tropical fruit jello salad. You can take this recipe for jello pretzel salad and make it your own.

Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing

Make Ahead: Because of the chill time, you plan time to make this raspberry pretzel jello dessert several hours in advance. You can also make it the day before serving. 

Storing: Store leftovers in the fridge for 5-7 days. If the dish containing your layered dessert does not have a lid, cover it with plastic wrap instead. After three days you may notice the pretzels getting a little soft, but it will still be delicious!

Freezing: I do not recommend freezing this recipe. Dairy tends to separate when frozen, and the jello and fruit will likely separate as well.

Easy Pretzel Jello Salad with a pretzel crust, cream cheese middle layer, and fruit topping, cut into squares in a glass casserole dish.

Recipe FAQs

Can I make jello pretzel salad without Cool Whip?

You can use homemade whipped cream instead of Cool Whip in this recipe. I don’t recommend going without whipped cream or Cool Whip, because the cream cheese layer will not have as light of a texture.

Can I make jello pretzel salad without fruit?

You can absolutely leave the fruit out of this recipe.

Can I make pretzel jello salad without cream cheese?

Cream cheese provides needed stability to this dessert. If you used just whipped cream, the jello would seep through it to the pretzels. If you don’t like the taste of cream cheese, you could sub mascarpone cheese instead.

What’s the origin of pretzel salad?

Jello desserts were all the rage in the ‘60s, which is where this pretzel jello dessert likely originated. As for why it’s called salad, it has to do with appearance. Many gelatin dishes in the ‘60s used vegetables in savory gelatin, and the little chopped vegetables gave the dish the appearance of “salad.” Since then, the name seems to have stuck!

Pretzel Jello Salad recipe made with frozen raspberries, cut into a square and on a white plate, with a fork next to the jello pretzel salad.

More Layered Desserts

If you love the idea of a sweet and salty pretzel crust paired with something creamy and fruity but aren’t too sure about jello – I think this Strawberry Pretzel Pie from Fresh April Flours looks yummy!

Did you make this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Leave a star rating and review or scroll below the recipe card and do so there. 

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Overhead photo of a Pretzel Jello Salad on a white plate.
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5 from 1 vote

Pretzel Jello Salad

Crunchy, salty, and sweet Pretzel Jello Salad can be made with raspberries or strawberries. I'm grateful it has the term "salad" in the title because we can eat it as a side, but technically it's probably more of a dessert 💕
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Chill Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 58 minutes
Servings: 12 servings

Ingredients
 

  • 2 1/2 cups crushed pretzels - not too fine (measure after crushing!)
  • 6 tablespoons butter - salted or unsalted is fine
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 8 oz cream cheese - softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 oz cool whip
  • 6 oz raspberry or strawberry jello
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 10 oz frozen raspberries - thawed (see notes!)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  • Combine the jello with the 2 cups of boiling water, set aside to cool to room temperature. 
  • In a medium saucepan add 6 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Once melted add the sugar and crushed pretzels. Stir to coat. Remove from heat and transfer the pretzels to a 9”x13” baking dish. Press the pretzel mixture into an even layer along the bottom of the pan. Bake at 350°F for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. 
  • Once the pretzels have cooled add the cream cheese and 1 cup of sugar to a medium bowl. Using a hand mixer, beat until fluffy. Fold in the cool whip until combined. Spread this mixture over the cooled pretzels, making sure to go to the edges to create a tight seal! Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Add the partially thawed fruit to the room temperature jello. Pour the jello mixture overtop of the cream cheese mixture and refrigerate until the jello is set, about 2-4 hours.  

Notes

You can use fresh raspberries or strawberries in this recipe. I like to use 10 oz because that’s how it’s sold at our local grocery store. If doing fresh you can always add more than 10 oz of fruit! If you want to use strawberries make sure to hull and slice them, and then stir them into the jello.
Biggest tip for this recipe is to make sure the cream cheese layer goes to all of the edges. It acts as a seal and protects the crust from the jello seeping through.
Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a week – but know that the pretzels will get less crunchy with time. 

Nutrition

Calories: 351kcal (18%)Carbohydrates: 54g (18%)Protein: 5g (10%)Fat: 14g (22%)Saturated Fat: 8g (40%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 37mg (12%)Sodium: 393mg (16%)Potassium: 121mg (3%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 37g (41%)Vitamin A: 470IU (9%)Vitamin C: 7mg (8%)Calcium: 53mg (5%)Iron: 1mg (6%)
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
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