Layered Cranberry Jello Salad

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Layered Christmas Jello Salad — A festive layered Jello dessert with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!

Layered Cranberry Jello Salad - A festive holiday layered recipe with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!

Layered Cranberry Jello Salad Recipe

This Christmas Jello salad recipe has something for everyone!

It’s creamy from whipped topping and cream cheese, crunchy from the pecans and pretzels, and fruity from pineapple and cranberries. And of course, there’s Jello.

Although it’s called a “salad,” it’s definitely more of a dessert than salad that is for sure. And it’s of the salty-sweet nature, although more sweet than salty.

Layered Cranberry Jello Salad - A festive holiday layered recipe with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!

The red and green layers are eye-catching along with the pretzels that are perched on top. 

It’s an easy, no-bake holiday dessert recipe to assemble, although take your time with the layers and n make sure each is fully set before moving on.

Make sure to budget about 3 hours total of chilling time, with anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes between each layer, that the dessert will need to hang out in the fridge.

Layered Cranberry Jello Salad - A festive holiday layered recipe with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!

Ingredients in Christmas Jello Salad

In order to make Jello salad, you only need some basic and easy-to-find ingredients. I am breaking the recipe ingredients down into its various layers and is as follows:

Cranberry Layer

  • Boiling water
  • Cherry Jello
  • Pineapple juice
  • Pineapple tidbits
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Chopped pecans (or walnuts)

Cream Cheese Layer

  • Cream cheese
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • Whipped topping (Cool Whip)
Layered Cranberry Jello Salad - A festive holiday layered recipe with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!

Lime Layer

  • Boiling water
  • Lime Jello
  • Cream cheese
  • Whipped topping
  • Green food coloring, optional but recommended

Pretzel Layer

  • Melted butter
  • Granulated sugar
  • Crusted pretzels

Topping Layer

  • Whole pretzels
  • Whipped topping (Cool Whip)

Note: Scroll down to the recipe card section of the post for the ingredients with amounts included and for more complete directions.

Layered Cranberry Jello Salad - A festive holiday layered recipe with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!

How to Make Christmas Jello Salad

Don’t be intimidated with the layers that this Jello pretzel salad has. Everything is easy and straightforward to prepare.

Above is a picture of the whole process from start to finish in one shot.

Keep reading for an overview of how the Jello salad is made for Christmas. 

Layered Cranberry Jello Salad - A festive holiday layered recipe with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!

Being by combining boiling water with the cherry Jello and dissolving it. Add pineapple juice and stir to combine it before adding pineapple tidbits, cranberry sauce, pecans, and stir.

Pour this mixture into an extremely well-sprayed 9×9-inch or 10 to 12-cup Bundt pan.

Tip

Make sure to be very generous with the cooking spray and use a trusted pan that you know is not prone to sticking.

Layered Cranberry Jello Salad - A festive holiday layered recipe with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!

Allow this to set up for at least 1 hour in the fridge.

Beat together softened cream cheese with confectioners’ sugar.

Then, gently fold in the Cool Whip. Spread this over the set cherry Jello layer and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Layered Cranberry Jello Salad - A festive holiday layered recipe with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!

Move on by dissolving lime Jello in boiling water.

Separately beat cream cheese with powdered sugar and fold in the Cool Whip. 

Layered Cranberry Jello Salad - A festive holiday layered recipe with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!

Fold this creamy Cool Whip layer into the green Jello. I know it seems a little odd but trust me here.

Add food coloring if you want it to be a deeper and more intense shade of green, which I recommend. Stir until there are no unevenly colored streaks and patches.

Layered Cranberry Jello Salad - A festive holiday layered recipe with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!

Spread this over the cream cheese layer in your baking or Bundt pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer.

Next, you will combined crushed pretzels with sugar, melted butter, stir to combine, and press this over the green Jello layer.

Layered Cranberry Jello Salad - A festive holiday layered recipe with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!

This becomes the crust of your dessert, after it’s inverted for serving.

Allow this to set up for at least 1 hour.

Garnish with additional Cool Whip and whole pretzels before serving.

Layered Cranberry Jello Salad - A festive holiday layered recipe with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!

How to Release Jello Salad From the Pan

In order to release your Christmas cranberry Jello salad, you will place the pan in very hot water, run a paring knife around the edges, invert it with a cake stand or large serving plate below, and your dessert should slip right out.

When it comes to placing the baking pan in hot water in order to release the dessert, make sure not to get any water in the baking pan. Depending on whether you used a 9×9 or a Bundt, will dictate how high you can run your water in your sink. About halfway up the pan is all you need.

Don’t overdo it with keeping the pan in the hot water — 20 to 30 seconds really should be sufficient. In the case of a non-releasing situation, repeat this process. But be careful because you don’t want to melt the Jello!

Layered Cranberry Jello Salad - A festive holiday layered recipe with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!

Recipe FAQs

Do I Have to Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce?

No, you don’t and can use store bought cranberry sauce in this Jello Christmas salad. However, if you have leftover homemade cranberry sauce on hand, this is a great way to use it up.

Is Jello Necessary for Jello Salad?

I know this may seem pretty obvious, but you would be surprised about the amount of questions I receive on things like this. Yes, you do need to use Jello for layered Jello salad.

If you live in an area of the world where Jello doesn’t exist, I don’t know what to suggest as an alternative. In that case, I recommend selecting another recipe. For those who are concerned about the artificial and fake nature of Jello, this would also be a case where the recipe probably isn’t for you.Layered Cranberry Jello Salad - A festive holiday layered recipe with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!

Can I Use Sugar-Free Jello?

I’ve never made layered Jello salad with sugar-free Jello, but you probably could. For anyone who tries it, let me know how it works for you.

Can I Use Homemade Whipped Cream? 

One of the great things about using a whipped topping like Cool Whip is that it’s more resistant to deflating than homemade whipped cream. Therefore, for my Christmas Jello salad recipe, I recommend using whipped topping, such as Cool Whip. I haven’t ever tried with the reduced or fat free versions of Cool Whip, but you probably could.

Layered Cranberry Jello Salad - A festive holiday layered recipe with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!

Make-Ahead Instructions

This is the type of recipe that while you probably can make it up to 24 to 36 hours in advance, I wouldn’t stretch it past that due to the pretzels getting soggy and the whipped topping deflating.

In terms of storing this family favorite holiday recipe, I recommend storing it airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Layered Cranberry Jello Salad - A festive holiday layered recipe with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!

How to Store Jello Salad for Christmas

If you have a 9×9-inch pan with a cover or a cake stand with a cover, that would be best. Note that the pretzels will become soggier and lose their crunch as time passes.

There is nothing you can do to prevent that but it’s understood that with leftovers, it’s not as perfect as when it was first made. And that is the case with layered cranberry Jello Salad, too.

Tips for the Best Jello Salad

When beginning, it is important to spray your pan very generously with cooking spray so that when you’re done, it releases effortlessly. Nothing worse than after all the layers, to have it sticking in your pan.

Of course it will taste great but you won’t be able to get the ooh-and-ahh factor from having it plated up nicely on a serving platter that really shows off the layers and color contrasts.

Allow the Jello layers to totally set up before adding another layer to prevent the layers from mixing. I prepared this in a Bundt cake pan and also in a 9×9-inch pan, then inverted onto a cake stand for serving.

For a twist on the recipe, you can also start with the pretzel layer, then lime, cream cheese, and end with the cranberry layer if you wish to serve in the pan and not bother with inverting it. 

In this case, you’re basically working in reverse order with the layers.

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5 from 6 votes

Layered Christmas Jello Salad

By Averie Sunshine
A festive holiday layered recipe with cranberries, pineapple, cream cheese, pecans, and pretzels! A little bit creamy, crunchy, sweet, and a little salty. A nostalgic family favorite with an impressive presentation to wow your holiday guests!
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Chill Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 12
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Ingredients  

Cranberry Layer

  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 3- ounce package cherry Jello
  • ½ cup reserved pineapple juice
  • 1 cup pineapple tidbits, juice reserved (for above)
  • 1 cup whole cranberry sauce
  • ½ cup chopped pecans, or walnuts

Cream Cheese Layer

  • 8- ounce package cream cheese, softened (brick-style, not in a tub)
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted if lumpy
  • 8 ounces whipped topping, thawed

Lime Layer:

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3- ounce package lime Jello
  • 8- ounce package cream cheese, softened (brick-style, not in a tub)
  • 8 ounces whipped topping, thawed
  • 10 to 15 drops green food coloring, optional but recommended for a deeper more intense green color

Pretzel Layer

  • cup butter, melted (unsalted or salted* See Notes)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup crushed pretzels

Topping Layer

  • Whole pretzels, for garnishing
  • Whipped topping, for garnishing

Instructions 

Cranberry Layer:

  • Spray a 9×9-inch or 10 to 12-cup Bundt pan** (See Notes) extremely well with cooking srpay; don’t be skimpy because you don’t want this to stick. TipUse a pan that you know well, and know that it’s not prone to sticking.
  • Add the boiling water to a medium sized mixing bowl, add the cherry Jello, and stir until dissolved.
  • Add the pineapple juice and stir to combine.
  • Add the pineapple tidbits, cranberry sauce, and the nuts.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and place in the refrigerator until completely set, at least 1 hour or more.

Cream Cheese Layer:

  • To a medium bowl, add the cream cheese and beat with a handheld electric mixer on high speed until soft and fluffy, about 3 minutes. TipMake sure your cream cheese is well-softened or this will be harder than it needs to be for you.
  • Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the confectioners’ sugar, and beat to incorporate.
  • By hand, fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture until well combined. Tip – Look up a video what it means to fold if you don’t know what this is; it’s not the same as simply stirring in.
  • Spread this mixture gently and evenly over the cranberry layer.
  • Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or more.

Lime Layer:

  • Add the boiling water to a medium sized mixing bowl, add the lime Jello, and stir until dissolved.
  • To a separate medium bowl, add the cream cheese and beat with a handheld electric mixer on high speed until soft and fluffy, about 3 minutes. TipMake sure your cream cheese is well-softened or this will be harder than it needs to be for you.
  • Fold in the whipped topping.
  • Optionally if desired, add 10 to 15 drops of green food coloring to the cream cheese mixture and stir till there are no streaks or unevenly colored patches.
  • Stir this cream cheese and whipped topping mixture into the green Jello by hand until well combined.
  • Pour this mixture over the cream cheese layer in your baking pan.
  • Place the pan in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or longer. The Jello needs to be very well set before adding the pretzel layer so don’t rush it.

Pretzel Layer:

  • To a medium bowl, add the crushed pretzels, sugar, melted butter, and stir by hand until well combined.
  • Spoon this over the green Jello layer and evenly spread it.
  • Using your fingers, press it fairly firmly over the Jello so it can adhere as it cools. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or longer.

Releasing/Inverting:

  • In order to release the dessert from the baking or Bundt pan, you will need to fill your kitchen sink with an inch to two inches of very hot water.
  • Place the pan carefully in the hot water, making sure the water doesn’t go over the sides and into the pan.
  • Hold the pan in the hot water for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Run a paring knife around the sides of the dessert.
  • Place a cake stand or large serving plate upside down over the baking or Bundt pan, and then quickly flip it over and allow the dessert to slide out, give it a minute.
  • If it doesn’t come out, flip back over and hold in the hot water for an additional 10 to 20 seconds. Take caution though, you don’t want to hold it in the hot water too long so you don’t melt the Jello.

Serving:

  • Once the dessert is on the cake stand or serving plate, add a dollop of whipped cream to various places and add a whole pretzel on top. Tip I try to do this approximately where I think each serving size will get its own bit of whipped topping and whole pretzels.

Notes

*Butter: I use salted butter to play up the salty-sweet aspect but you can use unsalted if that’s what you prefer.
**Pan size: Regarding a 9×9-inch versus a 10 to 12-cup Bundt pan. If you use a 9×9-inch pan you won’t have to deal with the nooks and crannies a Bundt pan has when you are running your knife around the dessert to release it in the finale of the recipe. However, at times a square pan is more prone to creating a vacuum-like seal making the release a little more tedious. Bottom line, both style of pans have their pros and their cons. You can see from the photos, I used a square pan.
Storage: Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. If you are making this up to 24-36 hours in advance, don’t add the final whipped topping and whole pretzels until serving. And if this is your plan, cover with foil, lid, or cake stand topper to make it as airtight as possible.
Extra will keep for up to 5 days airtight in the fridge, noting that the pretzels will become soggier as time passes, the whipped topping will deflate somewhat, and the colors could bleed; visually it won’t look as good but the taste will be fine.

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 466kcal, Carbohydrates: 45g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 31g, Saturated Fat: 20g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g, Cholesterol: 52mg, Sodium: 277mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 35g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Please note: I have only made the recipe as written, and cannot give advice or predict what will happen if you change something. If you have a question regarding changing, altering, or making substitutions to the recipe, please check out the FAQ page for more info.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I love making jello salads, I have a similar recipe. I noticed you commented about not knowing of any substitutes for jello. Knox gelatin to the rescue! The equivalent to 2 cups jello is 1 envelope knox gelatin made with 2 cups fruit juice. Soften gelatin in 1/2 cup fruit juice stirring to break up any lumps then add 1 1/2 cups boiling juice and stir until completely dissolved. Cherry juice, cranberry juice or apple dyed with red food coloring would work well for red layer and apple juice or lime for green. Hope this tip helps someone out there who is missing out on a great salad.

  2. 5 stars
    I love making jello salads, I have a similar recipe. I noticed you commented about not knowing of any substitutes for jello. Knox gelatin to the rescue! The equivalent to 2 cups jello is 1 envelope knox gelatin made with 2 cups fruit juice. Soften gelatin in 1/2 cup fruit juice stirring to break up any lumps then add 1 1/2 cups boiling juice and stir until completely dissolved. Cherry juice, cranberry juice or apple dyed with red food coloring would work well for red layer and apple juice or lime for green. Hope this tip helps someone out there who is missing out on a great salad.