If you are looking for a sweet and salty refreshing treat, you are in the right place. This orange pretzel salad is a fun citrusy twist on a summer classic. Make one to see how good it is for yourself.
A perfect mashup of two old school favorites, this mandarin orange pretzel salad will remind you a little bit of those orange dreamsicle popsicles mashed up with another summertime treat, strawberry pretzel salad. The result is a perfect mix of sweet and salty, orange, and vanilla.
Let me start by telling you whoever decided that a layer of pretzel crust followed by sweetened cream cheese and topped with jello a salad was an absolute genius! Mostly because whoever made that decision somehow made what might normally seem like a dessert be an acceptable side dish at gatherings my whole childhood.
Strawberry pretzel salad was a fixture at gatherings during my childhood. It makes an appearance at most family reunions, potlucks, and BBQs in the Midwest.
It was always one of my favorites, and it seemed to make regular appearances during the spring and summer months. I was always disappointed when we went to a gathering and it wasn’t served.
I couldn’t let the summer get away without having some. To be honest, that is still the case even all of these years later.
But you know me, I can’t leave well enough alone. So I went to tinkering.
If you have been hanging around here lately, you know I am going through my creamsicle phase lately. I want everything to have that mix of bright orange citrus and creamy vanilla.
There was the orange cheesecake ice cream, orange creamsicle jello salad, and the orange creamsicle no bake cheesecake. So, of course, I had to put an orange creamsicle twist on that pretzel salad I loved so much growing up.
I did make a few changes besides the basic flavor of the top layer. This recipe makes orange pretzel salad without Cool Whip.
I mimicked my favorite no bake cheesecake filling, which is fluffy and delicious and made of just cream cheese, cream, sugar, and vanilla.
The little mandarin orange slices are always a hit at our house as well, so I loaded it up with them. No smattering of oranges for us.
We wanted orange in every bite! I delivered the finished “salad” to my parents’ house.
Everyone was a fan, and now I don’t know which version is my favorite, the strawberry or orange. I guess we’ll just have to keep making both until we can make up our minds!
Tips and Tricks
This recipe is super simple to make, but it does take a little time between each step. You may be tempted to rush it along, but for the best results, you will want to give each layer the time it deserves.
Your pretzels don’t have to be ground completely into powder, but you do want them pretty well broken up to make serving and eating your salad more enjoyable. You can use plastic bags and a rolling pin to make that happen, but if you have a food processor, it is the perfect tool for the job.
Allow the crust to cool completely before you add the cream cheese filling. Then, make sure the cream cheese filling touches the pan the whole way around.
If your cream cheese filling isn’t making contact with the pan, the jello can leak underneath. Your dish will still be edible, but not nearly as pretty, and the pretzels will be soft.
Allow the cream cheese filling to set in the refrigerator while the jello mixture cools at room temperature a bit. Then gently pour the jello over the cream cheese and put the whole thing back in the refrigerator until the jello is set.
It really is an easy recipe, but taking care between layers is the key to the best finished product!
Storing Pretzel Salad
It is a good idea to make this dish the night before you plan to serve it in order to give it plenty of time to set up. Just put it in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it.
Leftovers should also be stored in the refrigerator. They are edible for up to a week, but the pretzels will start to get soft after a few days.
Luckily, the leftovers never last that long around here. This pretzel salad gets gobbled up in the first day or two every time!
Can I use a 3 oz box of Jello?
Yes. If you don’t want as much jello on top, a 3 oz. box will be enough to coat the orange slices and give a sliceable layer. Just cut the water in half along with the Jello. It is great either way, and less Jello allows the flavor of the cream cheese filling to shine through even more.
Can I use Cool Whip instead of heavy cream?
Yes, if you don’t want to use cream you can beat together the cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Once the cream cheese is smooth, fold in 8 oz. of whipped topping and spread over the pretzel crust.
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Orange Pretzel Salad
- 2 cups crushed pretzels
- 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¾ cup butter
Cream Cheese Filling
- 16 ounces cream cheese softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Orange Jello Topping
- 6 oz box orange gelatin
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1½ cups ice water
- 20 oz mandarin oranges (2 cans)
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Place crushed pretzels and 3 Tablespoons of sugar in the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Melt the butter and pour over the pretzels and sugar. Mix and spread over the bottom of the pan, pressing slightly. Bake for 15 minutes and then remove to cool.
- In a stand mixer, or a mixing bowl with a hand mixer, beat cream cheese until super smooth. Add 1 cup of sugar and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Slowly drizzle in the cream while the mixer is running and whip until the mixture is light and fluffy. Spread over the cooled pretzel crust. Be sure to spread it all the way to the edges to create a seal that will keep the Jello from seeping into the crust.
- Drain the oranges and arrange slices over the cream cheese. Place in the refrigerator to set.
- Stir the gelatin powder into the hot water until it is dissolved. Add the ice water and stir until cooled. Allow the Jello to sit until it reaches room temperature.
- Slowly pour cooled Jello over orange slices and cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate until set, at least a couple of hours.