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!
More delicious ways to use jello include our Broken Glass Jello and No-Bake Jello Pie.
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.
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.)
- Combine ingredients for the pretzel layer: In a mixing bowl, combine crushed pretzels, sugar, and melted butter.
- 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.
- 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.
- Make creamy center: Beat the cream cheese and sugar together with a hand mixer until creamy. Using a spatula, fold in the cool whip.
- 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.
Video: How to Make Orange Pretzel Salad
- 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.
More Lush Desserts:
I hope you love this delicious and easy recipe – be sure to give it a review below! Also don’t forget to follow Belly Full on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube!
Mandarin Orange Pretzel Salad
FOR THE PRETZEL CRUST
- 2 1/2 cups finely crushed pretzels
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter , melted
FOR THE JELLO TOPPING
- 6 ounce box orange gelatin
- 10 ounce can DOLE Mandarin Oranges , drained, juice reserved and chilled
FOR THE CREAMY FILLING
- 8 ounces cream cheese , softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 8 ounces cool whip topping , thawed
- Make the crust:Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray.In a medium bowl, mix together the pretzels, sugar, and melted butter. Press evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes, or until mixture is lightly toasted. Set aside to cool completely.
- Make the topping: In a medium bowl, 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 (but not too much longer or it will set too much and you won't be able to pour it.)
- Make the filling: In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar with a handheld mixer. Fold in the whipped topping until thoroughly combined. Spread 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 chilled orange gelatin over the cream cheese layer.
- Refrigerate until completely chilled and set, at least 4 hours (or overnight). Slice and serve!
Reader Questions and Reviews
I’ve prepared this recipe a couple of times, and each time it was very good. It’s the perfect “hot weather” dessert.
This mandarin orange recipe is a nice alternative to the usual strawberry. A little time-consuming, but well-worth it.
I’ve only ever made this with strawberries, but thought I’d try this version and we loved it – maybe even more!
Has anyone tried low-cal cheese or ricotta in place of cream?
I make this, but with strawberries ( strawberry jello, accordingly) and it is always a hit for Thanksgiving.
Well I got all of the ingredient’s except for the pretzel’s when I went to the grocery! What can I use in place of those? I have vanilla wafers & graham cracker crumbs. Would those work?
Graham cracker and nuts would be yummy
I just made this yesterday and it turned out very yummy!
This looks really wonderful.
How many calories, carbs, protein in serving?
Have you thought about using unsalted pretzels?
And unsalted butter ? That would give you the option of adding your personal preference of saltiness given your restrictions of sodium.
I’ve made this recipe 3x now – love it!
I made this over the weekend for a potluck and it was the first to go. Huge hit.
I use powdered ( confectioners) sugar instead of granulated sugar. Much thicker and also let the jello set up some before pouring it on the cream cheese layer.
I made this using peaches instead since it’s fresh peach season. SO GOOD.
I doubled the mandarin orange amount and it’s about perfect!
fantastic to make and better to eat. Thank you Barb for putting it on my facebook. Love it…
Made this for a party I went to – it was a huge hit!
We started inverting ours (jello then cream on top) and then generously sprinkling the cooked and crumbled crust on top.
Love the inverted idea! I’m going to try that next time. Love this dessert!
My daughter is glucose intolerant, so I used gluten free Glutino pretzel sticks. Made a delicious dessert and one she can eat with us.
Thank you for reposting. Got it all down but the very last part and could not keep it open to get all directions.
Loved the idea of using the juice from the can. Came out perfect and delicious.
I have used the juices from the fruit and it is really good
Years ago my home ec teacher told us that she the liquid from the cans of fruit she used and she used instead of water when she made her children kool-aid popsicles.
I used softened vanilla ice cream instead of whipped topping, substituted lemon jello and used 1 cup orange juice for the cold water. Yum.
I’m not a fan of whipped topping so I’m def going to try your substitution!
Heavenly…my grandson loves mandarin oranges and loved this dessert.
This was so delicious!!
This looks so good. Pretzel crust is one of my favorites along with graham cracker crusts. And my husband loves mandarin oranges, so I’ll be giving this a try!
What an unusual dessert with that crunchy pretzel crust. It’s in my queue. This looks like it would be good with any fruit topping and complimentary gelatin.
This looks so easy and good! I am with you on the Mid-West potluck setting, but those are always the best!
Those layers are BEYOND dreamy!! And the texture.. oh my I am swooning over this dessert… sweet salty perfection. Yum!
Nothing like a Midwester luncheon, right? And I think only those of us who live in the Midwest really understand what that means. LOL. But in all seriousness, this is beautiful and I would be happy to take it to an event any time!
Haha – I’ve had that happen before, too. You would think that our husbands would trust us by now, right?? ;) I think this sounds fab – I’ve had the strawberry version, but I’m LOVING the oranges on this!
Admittedly, I would have probably had Paul’s reaction…BUT I am not above eating my words…or a slice (or twelve) of this!
Speaking of Dole ® and pineapple…one of the nearby froyo shops serves the famous Dole Pineapple Whip, formerly only available at the Dole Planatation on O?ahu and at the Enchanted Tiki Rooms at Disney ® parks. Apparently Dole is allowing a limited number of independent and small chain froyo shops to sell it.
Serve this at a Midwestern luncheon? Youbetcha. I actually can’t imagine this with strawberries. The sweet-tart of the madarins with that filling and the savory pretzles would be perfect.
it is very very good with the frozen strawberries i make it for our bingo and the people go crazy for it and i always make a double batch so i can get 24 cuts because we always sell out
I would have a hard time not eating that pretzel crust on its own before adding the other layers! That being said, I’ll bet the mandarin oranges taste great with it.
Okay, this is genius. Jordan would inhale it. Mandarin oranges are her favorite!!
I love mandarin oranges and can imagine that they’d be extra delicious when combined with salty pretzels!
Husbands. . always the critics! :) crushed pretzels in the crust?! love this!!! and we love DOLE Mandarin Oranges!! love this dessert!