Baked Sunday Mornings: Strawberry Jell-O Salad

Alright, here it is. Strawberry Jell-O Salad. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this day. This odd little concoction consists of three layers of the following (from the bottom):

1. Crushed pretzel crust, with butter and brown sugar

2. Creamy filling, with cream cheese, sugar and whipped cream

3. Strawberry Jell-O, with sliced strawberries

Of course you’re just thinking, say whaaaat??? You might have a mental block about this dish, especially when I explain (or let Rebecca explain) to you that it’s not even dessert. It’s a dessert salad, defined as follows:

“…this is technically a salad, a dessert salad, which is any sweet dish made with gelatin and whipped topping that’s meant to be served as a side rather than a dessert.”

And I have two points to make to emphasize why I was on board with this right away, and also why I could not stop eating this thing.

First of all, let me quickly address my brother Chris’ lifelong obsession with Strawberry Pie. I’ve touched on this briefly in the past. Growing up, my Mom (hi Mom!) would frequently make Strawberry Pie. No judgement, but this consisted of a Tenderflake frozen pie, with a filling of Cool Whip mixed with Strawberry Jell-O and perhaps some sliced strawberries folded in. Even today, every time I show up for a family event and say – guess what I made for a treat! – my brother wistfully answers Strawberry Pie? – and I don’t think he’s joking. All this is just to explain that Strawberry Jell-O Salad is basically just a deconstructed Strawberry Pie (h/t my other brother Joel for pointing that out) with a salty pretzel crust, instead of a pie crust. So I did not think Strawberry Jell-O Salad was weird at all.

Secondly, if we use Rebecca’s definition of a dessert salad above, there is another one I’ve been eating my whole life. 5-Cup Salad made a frequent appearance on our dinner table growing up, especially in the summer, and usually when we had company over. And just like Rebecca explains, it’s not dessert. You eat this alongside your barbecue chicken, potato salad and other summertime goodness. Five cups of what you ask?

  1. Pineapple tidbits
  2. Mandarin orange segments
  3. Shredded coconut
  4. Mini Marshmallows (the fruity coloured ones)
  5. Sour Cream

Are you horrified? I just love it, and it reminds me of my childhood. This also goes by the name Ambrosia Salad, but we always just called it 5-Cup Salad. I’ll eat it with anything, case in point (this was our Christmas Eve-post-church-snack):

Anyway, back to the dish at hand. I actually made the Strawberry Pretzel Salad last weekend and brought it to my niece’s 4th birthday party. No one wanted to eat it alongside their burgers/hot dogs/corn/salad, but I tried to get everyone to try some after lunch. Not surprisingly, the biggest endorsements came from Mom and Chris, while my other family members kind of just tried it because I told them to. My sister-in-law was too scared! She wouldn’t even take a taste! (I’ve also tried to peer pressure her into trying 5-Cup Salad in the past, but she will not be swayed).

So obviously, I just loved this, and just like 5-Cup Salad, it was kind of scary how easily I could put it away! I feel like if you invite me to a barbecue this summer, I’m automatically showing up with this thing. Consider yourself warned.

The only thing I would do differently next time is pour over the Jell-O first and then place the strawberry slices in neat rows overtop. I just poured the whole Jell-O/strawberry mixture together and it kind of looked a little messy. Otherwise, this is summertime perfection.

You can find the recipe here (Do it! Be brave! Confuse/amaze your family & friends!)

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

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12 Responses to Baked Sunday Mornings: Strawberry Jell-O Salad

  1. i kind of ate this for breakfast this morning, but as a side to meatballs or a burger… i don’t know :) yours looks like it set up nicely! great job!

  2. Chris says:

    10/10 would eat again

  3. Mike says:

    Looks wonderful! Was on the fence with this one but slowly grew on me! Lovely photo of the bars!

  4. Susan says:

    Great family memories. I didn’t grow up eating anything like this, but my family loved it.

  5. Natalie says:

    Slice looks great! I just have to say I grew up eating your 5 cup salad, we call it ambrosia in our family and we eat it for dessert, now I’m going to convince everyone we can have it for dinner as well. And don’t be alarmed at how much you can scoff down, it easily disappears!!

  6. Sheri says:

    Yours looks great! It’s funny to hear all of the stories about people growing up with Jell-O salads. I remember eating ambrosia salad too!

  7. erinvsfat says:

    Alright so let’s make plans for a BBQ then because I’d like some of that strawberry delishness with a turkey burg!! YES!

  8. Krissy says:

    Enjoyed your memories and these are the kinds of salads my mom likes to make…so I make sure I don’t! But for this special baking occasion, I did break down and make Jello, and I admit we liked it.

  9. crazy coincidence, but on tv right now is an old episode of top chef masters, and one of them is (begrudgingly) making ambrosia salad! and i’ve definitely made the strawberry jello pretzel thing before for one of my strawberry bake-offs of olde. my fave part was the pretzel crust haha.

  10. I also grew up eating a lot of ambrosia salad, but I had never even heard of Jell-O salad! I totally agree with you on pouring the Jell-O first, and then arranging the strawberries — after I poured them on together, I was trying to push around the strawberries to get them evenly spaced and it didn’t really work out. I’m so glad you loved it too!

  11. Kathleen says:

    5 cup salad is a Smith family favorite. Until my sister and I married into other cultures (Chinese and italian) we totally thought eating marshmallows salad with the main course was normal. My brother in law nearly had a fit at the idea of said salad served at Christmas and I am pretty sure he has told every Italian family member and friend about this crazy phenomenon!

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