Did you grow up eating some version of strawberry jello salad? The one with the pretzel crust, jiggly strawberry jello, and cool whip? From what I can piece together, this dish was the belle of many pot luck balls, and a frequent flyer at most southern holiday buffet lines.
I did not grow up eating strawberry jello salad, but for some reason, this past spring, I got a hankering to make one for our Easter lunch. I couldn’t get the flavors out of my head…salty pretzels, fresh strawberries, tangy cream. Since I know that a good recipe from a trusted source is the ticket to success in the kitchen, I did my research and chose Cook’s Country’s updated version to make for Easter lunch.
Our Easter brunch was delicious, but the menu was overshadowed by the incredible strawberry salad, which in my book is more of a dessert than a side dish. The combination of flavors did not disappoint, and I decided to develop a version that is unabashedly a dessert, and yet has its origin story in the “salad” of another era.
Real ingredients make a real difference, so in my recipe, you will find not a single tub of cool whip nor a hint of neon pink jello. We are going to make each layer from scratch, and the end result is going to take you back and hopefully remind you why this flavor combination is always a winner.
Assemble these parfaits in small ramekins or bowls. You could also assemble this as one large dessert in a pretty bowl or shallow serving dish. But whatever you do, don’t call this a salad.
Strawberry Pretzel Parfaits
for the pretzel crumble…
- 1 cup 4 oz finely ground pretzel crumbs
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 8 tablespoons 1/2 cup, 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
for the cream…
- 8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
for the strawberry jam…
- 1 pound strawberries hulled and halved
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
To make the pretzel crumble…
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the pretzel crumbs, granulated sugar, and melted butter. Stir until combined.
- Spread into a single layer on a clean baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until just beginning to turn golden brown. Allow the crumble to cool a bit before using a metal spatula to chip away and lift the crumbs off the sheet tray. Don’t worry about making this perfect. The crumblier the better!
To make the strawberry jam…
- Place the strawberries, granulated sugar, and lemon juice in a skillet. Bring to a steady simmer over medium-high heat. You want the mixture to be bubbling, but not burning. Simmer for 15 to twenty minutes, or until the juices thicken. Remove from the heat and allow to fully cool before using.
To make the cream mixture…
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the cream cheese and sugar over low speed until combine. Add the heavy cream and mix on high speed until thickened. This mixture can be made ahead and stored in the fridge until ready to assemble.
- To assemble the parfaits, repeat layers of the crumble, the jam, and the cream in individual ramekins or cups. The finished parfaits will hold in the refrigerator for several hours.