Strawberry Pretzel Dessert Bars, an easy homemade summer dessert with a sweet pretzel crust, no-bake cheesecake layer, and fresh strawberry and gelatin layer. These tasty old-fashioned layered squares are a great make-ahead dessert for summer parties, potlucks, and BBQs.
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This recipe for Strawberry Pretzel Dessert Bars is an oldie but goodie! I was cleaning up an old stack of recipes last week and ran across this one that I meant to post 6 years ago. Oops! I even took photos at that time and was ready to go. Time flies I guess! This homemade strawberry dessert is always perfect for summer potlucks and parties. It feeds a lot of people and is a great make-ahead dessert. Definitely long overdue to share this one.
You might remember my Strawberry Pretzel Whiptini cocktail recipe that is actually based on this classic dessert. Not sure why I posted the cocktail and not the dessert, but I’m making up for it now.
I love all strawberry desserts! This one is a nice change from strawberry shortcake (which is another personal favorite like these Mini Strawberry Shortcake Poppers and Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake). Although I do love strawberry shortcake, it’s nice to mix it up every now and then.
I’ve been making these Strawberry Pretzel Dessert Bars for YEARS! Lots of variations of this recipe out there. I’m sure you’ve seen it before but thought I’d share the one I’ve been making as well as some tips to mix it up a little like using other fruit, Italian cheese, and citrus zest. I love serving it with a chocolate dessert like this Texas Sheet Cake so people have the option of fruit or chocolate.
What is Strawberry Pretzel Dessert
If you’re not familiar with Strawberry Pretzel Desserts, they generally have pretzels, cream cheese, gelatin (Jello), and strawberries. There are many variations including a “salad” that is mixed up in a bowl (although I have seen the bars like this referred to as a salad as well…). There’s also a pie version made in a pie pan and even a dip version. Lots of other variations as well.
All delicious! Today I thought I’d share the bar version that I like to make for potlucks and summer parties.
(Full printable recipe card is at bottom of post.)
Strawberry Pretzel Dessert Bars Ingredients
There are 3 layers in this dessert…
- Pretzel crumbs – I’d get lightly salted pretzels, but any will do. Just make sure they are plain and not flavored pretzels.
- Butter – If your pretzels are salted, use unsalted butter. If your pretzels are unsalted, you might want to use salted butter or add a little salt.
- Granulated sugar
No-Bake Cheesecake Layer:
- Cream cheese – Make sure it’s softened to room temperature. It should be soft to the touch to prevent lumps in the layer. You could try strained ricotta or mascarpone but I haven’t tried, so can’t say for sure. If you do try, be sure those cheeses are drained overnight WELL so they are THICK.
- Granulated sugar
- Vanilla extract – You could also use your favorite extract or flavoring. Almond extract would be delicious.
- Whipped topping – Frozen whipped topping like Cool Whip. Make sure it’s defrosted. You could also try homemade sweetened whipped cream but not sure how well it will hold up in the middle layer for a long time.
- Strawberry gelatin (Jello) – You could try any flavor you’d like really. Other fruit flavors would be a fun alternative.
- Boiling water – Make sure the water is hot and boiling so that the gelatin will dissolve.
- Orange zest – This is optional but will give a little freshness to your dessert. Or use your favorite citrus zest like lime or lemon.
- Strawberry slices – You can use fresh OR unsweetened thawed frozen drained strawberries. Could also substitute other types of fruit such as blueberries.
How to Make Strawberry Pretzel Dessert
- PREHEAT. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- MAKE PRETZEL CRUST. In a large bowl mix together the pretzels, melted butter, and 3 tablespoons granulated sugar. Press firmly into bottom of an ungreased 13×9-inch baking dish into an even layer all the way to edges.
- BAKE CRUST. Bake the pretzel crust at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool crust completely.
- MAKE CHEESECAKE LAYER. In a large mixing bowl beat together cream cheese, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and vanilla extract with electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Fold in defrosted whipped topping with a rubber spatula. Spread mixture evenly over cooled pretzel crust to edges. Put in refrigerator for about an hour or until chilled.
- MAKE STRAWBERRY LAYER. Place strawberry gelatin in large mixing bowl. Pour boiling water over gelatin and whisk until gelatin is dissolved. Stir in orange zest if desired. Cool slightly then mix in sliced strawberries. Pour over cream cheese layer and spread for even layer. Refrigerate at least 4-5 hours or until gelatin is set.
- Cut the dessert into squares (or any shape) while cold and carefully lift out with a small spatula.
- Serve this strawberry dessert cold out of the fridge.
- You can top with additional whipped topping (or sweetened whipped cream) and additional pretzel crumbs for garnish.
Quick Tips for Best Results
- Make sure the dessert layers are cool and set before moving onto the next layer for best results.
- Your cream cheese should be completely softened to prevent lumps in your cheesecake layer.
- Also, be sure the water for the strawberry layer is boiling or VERY hot so that the gelatin dissolves.
- I strongly recommend using fresh or UNSWEETENED strawberries. The gelatin is very sweet by itself.
Strawberry Pretzel Dessert FAQ
How should I store this Strawberry Pretzel Dessert?
Store covered in the refrigerator.
Can I freeze the bars?
No, I would not recommend freezing this dessert.
How long will this dessert last?
It should last at least a few days if not longer in the fridge.
You can use any type of Jello (gelatin) you’d like. Could also use any type of fruit (blueberries, cherries, or peaches with a different flavored Jello would be great). Almond extract instead of vanilla would be delicious too. The orange zest is optional, but could also use your favorite citrus zest such as lemon or lime.
Can I use low-fat ingredients?
You could use low-fat whipped topping and cream cheese.
What else can I add to this recipe?
Add some of your favorite fruit instead of the strawberries if you’d like. Mini chocolate chips in the cream cheese layer would be delicious too.
Didn’t turn out, what went wrong?
I’d guess you didn’t let the layers chill and set enough before moving onto the next layer. Also, some low fat and/or low sugar substitutions can make a difference.
Can I make this vegan/vegetarian/low carb/gluten-free?
Here are some suggestions, but I can’t guarantee results. Be sure as always to check particular brands and ingredients if you’re following a specific diet or have diet restrictions or allergies.
Vegan – This would be a tough one to make without making a lot of substitutions.
Vegetarian – It’s vegetarian. Be sure to check individual brands/products just to be sure though.
Low-Carb – You can try a sugar substitute and a low carb pretzel. Or use chopped nuts instead of the pretzels. A lower sugar whipped topping should also help.
Gluten-Free – If you can find a gluten-free pretzel, that should work. Or try nuts instead of the pretzels or even gluten-free cookie crumbs. And as always check other ingredients/brands to be safe.
Other Strawberry Dessert Recipes You May Enjoy
- Strawberry Mint Lemonade (Snappy Gourmet) – A refreshing summer drink that could also be made into a cocktail.
- Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries (Snappy Gourmet) – A great no-bake snack or dessert that is also great this time of year with fresh summer berries.
- Strawberry Pancakes (Food Network) – Great way to start the day! Delicious for breakfast, brunch, or even a fun dessert.
- Strawberry Shortcake Cookies Cookies (Delish) – A great combo of flavors in a cookie.
Hope you enjoy these easy tasty Strawberry Pretzel Dessert Bars. Tell me in the comments if you added any other fruit or ingredients!
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Strawberry Pretzel Dessert Bars
No-Bake Cheesecake Layer:
- 1 6 ounce package strawberry gelatin (Jello) (or 2 - 3 ounce packages)
- 2 cups boiling water
- 2 teaspoons fresh orange zest (optional)
- 6 cups sliced fresh strawberries (or 2 - 14 ounce packages frozen unsweetened strawberry slices, defrosted and drained)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl mix together the pretzels, melted butter, and 3 tablespoons granulated sugar. Press firmly into bottom of an ungreased 13x9-inch baking dish into an even layer all the way to edges.
- Bake the pretzel crust at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool crust completely.
- In a large mixing bowl beat together cream cheese, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and vanilla extract with electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Fold in defrosted whipped topping with a rubber spatula. Spread mixture evenly over cooled pretzel crust to edges. Put in refrigerator for about an hour or until chilled.
- Place strawberry gelatin in large mixing bowl. Pour boiling water over gelatin and whisk until gelatin is dissolved. Stir in orange zest if desired. Cool slightly then mix in sliced strawberries. Pour over cream cheese layer and spread for even layer. Refrigerate at least 4-5 hours or until gelatin is set.