Strawberry Pretzel Salad – sugar free, gluten free, without CoolWhip!

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Ever since I saw the recipe for Strawberry Pretzel Salad at MyBakingAddiction, I’ve wanted to create a sugar-free, lower-carb version. It took a couple tries to get the proportions right, but here it is!

Why is it called Strawberry Pretzel Salad instead of Strawberry Pretzel Dessert, or Strawberry Pretzel Pie? It seems that back in the days when Jello was a new-fangled thing, anything that combined jello with fruit was labeled “salad.” And this is an old-timey recipe. The fact that it’s survived tells you it’s good! (Unlike one of my mom’s favorite jello salads, which featured grated carrots in orange jello, topped with cream cheese and grated cheddar cheese. Bleck!)

To imitate the crunchy, salty crust without using actual pretzels, I went with a combination of chopped nuts. Specifically, pecans and salted pepitas. Pepitas are pumpkin seeds that have been dehulled and roasted. All of the pepitas and some of the pecans get a coarse chop, while the rest of the pecans get finely ground. The large nut pieces provide the kind of crunch you’d get from the larger chunks of pretzel, while the finely ground pecans serve as the butter that helps everything stick together. The pepitas have a more delicate crunch, while the pecans provide a sort of buttery flavor like the crust of pretzels. You could make this with just pecans, but if you want that salty kick, you’d need to add extra salt to the recipe.

You can use either 4-oz. Mazon jars — or any other 4-oz. dish — or 7-oz. ramekins; your serving number will vary accordingly. The neat thing about using Mason jars is that if a guest is too full for dessert, you can pop a lid on their jar and send it home with them! Lidding all the jars would also be handy if you’re transporting your dessert somewhere and need to stack them. Perfect for a picnic or potluck!

Update: Thanks to questions by readers, I’ve now included the nutrition count at the end of this post. This dessert is certainly not NO-carb, and it does have far more carbs than protein, but it’s still a lower carb recipe than the traditional strawberry pretzel salad. And sugar-free and grain-free!

Strawberry Pretzel Salad/Dessert

Fills 21 4-oz Mason jars, or 10-12 ramekins.

2/3 c. salted pepitas, chopped coarsely
2/3 c. pecan pieces, chopped coarsely
1 c. pecan pieces, ground fine
1/4 t. kosher salt
30 pkts. Splenda (or 1.25 c. granular Splenda) (OR LESS)
2  8-oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 c. whipping cream
1  0.6-oz. package sugar-free strawberry flavored gelatin
2 cups boiling water
1  16-oz. package frozen sliced strawberries – no sugar added

Chop the pepitas and the smaller portion of pecans until they are mostly pea-sized and smaller. Grind the larger portion of pecans until they are beginning to stick together. (For method, see my recipe for lime cheesecake shooters.)
The pepitas, before and after:
And the pecans, finely ground and coarsely chopped:
Combine the nuts and salt, and stir until well mixed.
Place 2 T. into each 4 oz. mason jar (or 1/4 c. into each 7 oz. ramekin). Tamp down lightly using a clean bottle or jar that’s smaller than the opening of your serving dishes.
In a medium bowl, beat the Splenda, cream cheese and vanilla until smooth.
Whip the cream till soft peaks form. Using the lowest setting on your mixer, gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture, just until even in color. (Overbeating will turn the cream to butter.)
Spoon this filling into a gallon-sized baggie and snip off the tip of the bag. You may want to do this in two batches to make it easier to handle.
A side note… The first time I made these, I thought I’d skip the hassle of using a baggie and just carefully spoon the filling into the jars. Here’s the result: on the left is the jar I spooned filling into; on the right is the jar where I piped the filling in. Much neater!
Evenly divide the filling between each jar. Place the jars into the refrigerator for about 1 hour. Placing all the jars in a large cake pan will make transporting them to and from the fridge easier.
After the cream filling is chilled, make the jello. In a medium bowl, stir together the gelatin mix and boiling water. Stir in frozen strawberries. Place the bowl into the refrigerator for three or four minutes. This will allow the gelatin to firm up a bit.
Evenly spoon the gelatin between each the jars. A small gravy ladle works well for this.
Also, having the jars in a cake pan while you fill them will save your counter tops from jello stains if, like me, you spill a little.
 
 
Place jars back into the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Serve chilled.
Here’s the nutrition count, based on 21 servings, erythritol for the sweetener, (via myfitnesspal.com):
Amount Per Serving; % Daily Value *
Calories 205
Total Fat 19g 29%
Saturated Fat 1g 7%
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 29mg 10%
Sodium 111mg 5%
Potassium 124mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Sugars 3g
Protein 5g 11%
Vitamin A 8%
Vitamin C 31%
Calcium 5%
Iron 8%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet,

 

Want more recipes like this? or looking for Paleo recipes? Check out my cookbook…

 sugar-free dessert cookbook now available
———————————————–
Jana

16 comments

  1. I wanna try this sometime when I'm not making it for dairy-free people as well. (I'm making it tomorrow with yogurt cheese and no whipped cream :/ ) That's a great recipe, and would be really nice to have around when we want something more interesting than plain fruit. 🙂 Thanks for going to all the work to develop it!

  2. Thanks for the question about carb count. When I originally created this recipe, I wasn’t actually counting carbs, just cutting out sugar and flour. So I just now went to myfitnesspal and did the nutrition count — and found out that these have more carbs than protein! Aack!

    I hate it when companies call something “a good source of protein” when the carb counts outweighs the protein. So sorry for misleading anyone. This recipe DOES cut down on refined sugar and eliminates gluten of the pretzels and the hydrogenated oil and other weird chemicals in the CoolWhip, so it is still a healthier choice than the original recipe. Best enjoyed as a once-in-a-while treat — like most sweets!

    1. Several hours for sure. Maybe overnight. My only concern is that the nuts might lose a bit of their crispiness. Everything else should be fine.

  3. I made these for Easter. My guest’s thought they tasted amazing. I made individual cups using disposable wine cups. Not sure I will do that again. It was a long process. I would recommend using a pastry bag instead of a plastic bag. The plastic kept breaking open. I also don’t recommend putting frozen strawberries into the jello mix and then into the fridge. Mine set in 3 minutes. I had to make a new batch of jello to por in on top of the mixture that I had to soon in. I would defrost them a bit. They made a nice presentation in the wine cups. I was able to get 12 cups from one recipe. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  4. I would like to use gluten free pretzels for the crust. Do you know how I would make that recipe? My Mom made this all the time and was a family favorite. Some tomes she also used raspberries.
    Thank you,

    Julie

    1. Sorry; I’ve never tried that. You may be able to find gluten-free pretzels in a store or online, though.

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