Orange Jello Pretzel Salad

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Now, I know what you’re thinking — Orange Jello Pretzel Salad?! What’s that? Oh, it’s sort of like a corn salad, only better — and with a Jello twist! You know that orange jello pretzel salad you love? This recipe tastes just like it! We’ve been making this recipe for years and our family still asks for it every holiday.

Mandarin Orange Pretzel Salad

Our delicious dessert salad has a pretzel crust, sweetened cream cheese filling, Mandarin orange Jell-O and whipped cream, Enjoy!

Course: Dessert, Salad

Cuisine: American

Servings: 12

Ingredients

  • CRUST :
  • 2 c. crushed pretzels
  • 1/2 c. butter melted
  • 3 T. granulated sugar
  • FILLING :
  • 1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese room temperature
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 (8 oz.) cont. Cool Whip non-dairy whipped topping
  • TOPPING :
  • 1 (6 oz.) box orange Jell-O
  • 2 c. boiling water
  • 3 (11 oz.) cans mandarin oranges drained
  • Whipped cream for serving

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pretzels in a 1 gallon size re-sealable bag and crush with a rolling pin.
  • CRUST: In a medium bowl, combine crushed pretzels, melted butter and 3 tablespoons sugar. Stir together until well blended. Press the pretzel mixture evenly into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and bake for 7 minutes. Allow crust to cool completely before adding the other layers.
  • FILLING: In a large bowl, beat softened cream cheese and 1 cup sugar together until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip. Dollop filling over the pretzel crust then spread evenly with an off-set spatula (be sure to seal the cream cheese layer against the sides of the dish so that the Jell-O mixture will not be able to leak through when added).
  • TOPPING: In a separate bowl, whisk together orange Jell-O and boiling water until the Jell-O is completely dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly (about 10-15 minutes). Gently stir in mandarin oranges. Pour the Jell-O/Mandarin orange mixture over the cream filling, spread evenly.
  • Place in the refrigerator and allow Jell-O to set up completely. Cut into squares; serve with a dollop of whipped cream!

Mandarin Orange Pretzel Salad

This classic Orange Jello Pretzel Salad dessert features a crunchy pretzel crust, a creamy center, and silky top with mandarin oranges and orange flavored gelatin. A fun and delicious twist on traditional Strawberry Pretzel Salad. Perfect for a summer luncheon or anytime!

overhead piece of orange pretzel jello on fork on white plate
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Jello Pretzel Salad Recipe

Pretzels, jello, and a sweet cream cheese center? To anyone who has never made or eaten this dessert, it probably sounds really strange, but trust me, it works! The crunchy pretzels, sweet jello, and a creamy, tangy center is a fantastic sweet and salty combination, and the layers are so pretty, too.

What is Pretzel Salad?

Well, it’s clearly not a salad at all, but really a light dessert that resembles cheesecake with a mousse like texture. Also very similar to a Lush dessert that everyone loves.

It has a salty crust (made from crushed pretzels, sugar, and butter), a creamy middle, and a silky fruit topping. Because of how rich it is, smaller servings are just fine, making it great for a crowd. Which is why it’s become a staple for so many people at holiday time, but mostly for BBQ potlucks and Sunday brunches all year long.

The recipe is believed to have originated in the 1960s when The Joys of Jell-O cookbook was published. And over the years there have been so many variations and a traditional southern (not midwestern!) dessert. All delicious! The original Pretzel Salad Dessert calls for strawberries, but this version with mandarin oranges is just as good.

Pretzel Salad Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to make this pretzel salad recipe:
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)

  • Pretzels: Small salted pretzels (like sticks or twists), so they’re easy to crush up into crumbs.
  • Sugar: Lends sweetness to the pretzel crust.
  • Melted Butter: This helps bind the pretzel crust together as it bakes. We prefer unsalted butter since the pretzels are salty.
  • Instant orange jello: We use regular jello, but sugar free can be substituted without having a huge impact on the flavor.
  • Canned mandarin oranges: The orange segments and juice are both used. The juice should be chilled. Canned fruit make this dessert even easier because there’s no slicing or chopping needed.
  • Cream cheese: Make sure it’s room temperature, so it will blend easily and become nice and smooth.
  • Sugar: Adds sweetness to the creamy layer.
  • Cool whip: Thaw in refrigerator and fold into cream cheese and sugar mixture.

Pretzel Salad Recipe Variations

  • Try a different fruit. The original pretzel jello salad is made with strawberry jello and fresh sliced strawberries. Crushed pineapple is also delicious.
  • Use whipped cream. If you’re not a fan of cool whip, you can swap it out for homemade whipped cream. You’ll need 1 cup heaving whipping cream beaten to stiff peaks. I would also highly recommend you add in some sugar (at least a 1/2 cup to the cream cheese) to replace some of the sweetness that will be missing.
layers of orange pretzel salad dessert exposed in casserole pan
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How To Make Orange Pretzel Salad

There’s a lot of thumb twiddling in between steps to make this pretzel jello salad, BUT it’s super easy and totally worth the wait. Here’s a summary:
(Scroll down to the printable recipe card for details and measurements and don’t miss the video below.)

  1. Combine ingredients for the pretzel layer: In a mixing bowl, combine crushed pretzels, sugar, and melted butter.
  2. Cook pretzel crust: Press evenly into a lightly greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes and remove from oven. Let cool completely.
  3. Make the jello: Whisk together the orange gelatin powder with 2 cups boiling water. Stir until completely dissolved. Then whisk in the reserved cold mandarin orange juice. Chill in the fridge for about 1 hour to partially solidify.
  4. Make creamy center: Beat the cream cheese and sugar together with a hand mixer until creamy. Using a spatula, fold in the cool whip.
  5. Build finished layers: Spread the creamy mixture evenly over the cooled pretzel layer, making sure it goes completely to the edges so the jello layer doesn’t leak through. Evenly place the mandarin orange segments on top. Chill for 30 minutes. Then pour the chilled orange gelatin over the cream cheese layer. Then, pour the jello over the cream cheese layer and refrigerate until completely chilled and set, at least 4 hours (or overnight). Slice and serve!

Tips for Success

  • Ignore the directions on the box of jello. Ensure the Jell-o is the larger 6 oz size box and do not follow the instructions on the package. Follow the written recipe.
  • Spread the cream cheese layer to the edges. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the top of the pretzel crust completely to the edges so the gelatin won’t leak through.
  • Chill the can of mandarin oranges. Don’t skip chilling the mandarin orange juice or the jello might now set properly.
  • Allow each layer to cool/chill completely before adding the next layer. If you proceed with the next layer before the previous once has time to chill, the layers can melt.
square portion of orange pretzel dessert on white plate
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Proper Storage

  • Make ahead. Orange pretzel salad is best when made at least half a day in advance. It needs at least 4 hours to set up, or preferably longer.
  • Storing leftovers. It will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. If you are making it ahead, be sure to use cool whip instead of whipped topping because it doesn’t soften the pretzels overnight

ORANGE GELATIN PRETZEL SALAD

yield: 18 servings

prep time: 20 minutes

cook time: 10 minutes

additional time: 6 hours

total time: 6 hours 30 minutes

Orange Gelatin Pretzel Salad has a pretzel crust, cream cheese filling, and fruity gelatin topping. It’s a side dish that easily doubles as dessert

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE PRETZEL CRUST:

  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups finely crushed pretzels

FOR THE FRUIT LAYER:

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 packages (3 ounces each) orange gelatin
  • 2 cans (8 ounces each) crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 can (11 ounces) mandarin oranges, drained

FOR THE CHEESE LAYER:

  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups whipped topping

OPTIONAL:

  • Additional whipped topping and mandarin oranges

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. In a medium bowl, mix melted butter and 1 tablespoon sugar; stir in pretzels. Press mixture onto the bottom of an ungreased 13×9-inch baking dish. Bake 10 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  3. In a large bowl, add boiling water to gelatin; stir 2 minutes or until completely dissolved. Stir in fruit. Refrigerate until partially set, about 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a separate large bowl, beat cream cheese and remaining sugar until smooth. Fold in whipped topping. Spread over crust.
  5. Gently spoon gelatin mixture over top. Refrigerate, covered, until firm, 4-6 hours. 
  6. To serve, cut into squares. Top with additional whipped topping and oranges, if desired.

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