What Exactly Is Pretzel Salad, And Is It Even A Salad

When you think of a salad, you may think of a plate of leafy greens and other vegetables doused in oil and dressing. However, there are a bunch of salad dishes that don't have a single vegetable in them at all. Fruit salads are famously an assortment of various fruits. And Jell-O salads were a 1950s dessert phenomenon consisting of gelatin cakes filled with a medley of fruits, vegetables, and meats.

One salad that may not be on the radar for most people is pretzel salad. It sounds like it would be a melange of pretzels, but it's not quite that simple. Pretzel salad is not really a salad but rather a layered dessert of pretzels, gelatin, cream cheese, and whipped cream. Best of all, it can entirely be a no-bake dessert.

A typical pretzel salad consists of a bottom layer of crushed pretzels mixed with melted butter and sugar. It is followed by a fluffy layer of cream cheese, sugar, and whipped cream. The top layer is strawberries in strawberry-flavored gelatin.

Pretzel salads date back to the 1960s

Although pretzel salads may sound bizarre to many Americans, it's a quintessentially American food that is part of the gelatin dessert family. Jell-O as a dessert has evolved to incorporate ingredients such as cranberries, apples, and even various flavors of liquor to make Jell-O shots.

Just like Jell-O salads, the pretzel salad was born in the mid-20th century. In fact, it was part of the congealed salad fascination, The Washington Post reported. According to Farmers' Almanac, the dessert is likely to have first appeared in a 1960s cookbook called "The Joy of Jell-O" and has withstood the salad fad, becoming a Southern and Midwestern staple. Jell-O also happens to be the official state snack of Utah. The dessert is so beloved in cspecificregions that there are baking competitions amongst local bakeries, such as the Strawberry Pretzel Jell-O Salad Standoff in Pittsburgh.

It has withstood the test of time

The dessert was usually saved for special occasions, but pretzel salad has become more mainstream thanks to social media. People are sharing their enthusiasm and recipes for pretzel salads on TikTok, which is a category that has over 6 million views. One particular TikTok video demonstrating how to make the dessert has garnered more than 1 million views. While the TikTok user used fresh strawberries for the top layer, frozen strawberries are also fine to use.


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♬ Flowers – Miley Cyrus

Other people shared their own riff on pretzel salads, swapping out strawberries for other fruits. One person shared a recipe for orange pretzel salad using orange-flavored gelatin and mandarin oranges. If you're not fond of strawberries or oranges, try pineapples.

In 2021, the ice cream brand Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams collaborated with country singer Dolly Parton for a pretzel salad ice cream flavor. Called Strawberry Pretzel Pie, it's a cream cheese-flavored ice cream mixed with pretzel streusel and strawberry sauce, reminiscent of the components of pretzel salads. The flavor was so popular it made a return last year.