Pretzel Salad- it’s a thing. It’s a very Southern and Texan thing, but I grew up enjoying this overly sweet treat at most holiday functions. My great-grandma would whip up a huge Pyrex dish of pretzel salad and I’d usually eat some as a side dish and then again as dessert. How this sweet treat was somehow named “salad” is beyond me, but I am thrilled to say I’ve come up with a lighter, better-for-you miniature version that is not only adorably delicious, but also gluten-free and dairy-free! I mean- look at them. Aren’t they the cutest?! They’re also perfect for a baby shower and mine happens to be this weekend ;).
Accommodating food restrictions can be a tough task and often overwhelming for those who don’t personally have any allergies or intolerances. It can be even more difficult when planning a party menu or factoring in desserts- because let’s face it, eliminating gluten and/or dairy from a recipe can leave a little something to be desired. NOT with these Mini Pretzel Salad Parfaits though! There are layers of crunchy, sweet and salty mixed with fresh strawberry goodness followed by a creamy layer that comes together for a complex and truly delicious dessert you wouldn’t even know was allergy-friendly!
Traditionally the base layer is a mix of pretzels and butter. I used gluten-free pretzels (there are several varieties out there, but I found the Snyder’s pretzel sticks to have the best crunch) with vegan butter. For an extra Springy twist, I added some fresh lemon zest. I’m pretty sure my great-grandma would have loved this fresh citrus addition!
The “fruit” layer is traditionally a frozen syrupy strawberry and strawberry Jello concoction, but I did some major modification by only using fresh strawberries, some lemon juice and a smidge of sugar. Syrups, gelatins and food coloring are not needed or wanted this go around. California Giant Berry Farm’s strawberries are especially perfect because of their naturally large size and impressive sweetness. I made a simple strawberry compote on the stove, let it cool and I feel much better about serving this to my family than all the fake stuff. Speaking of fake stuff, y’all should know that California Giant Berry Farms doesn’t spray their berries with pesticides AND the large size of their berries is because of the natural climate, soil and location- nothing wonky or fake added to these naturally large berries!
The creamy layer is usually a blend of cream cheese and whipped topping and I wanted to maintain a very similar consistency! Fortunately, dairy-free cream cheeses and whipped toppings are available, and taste pretty amazing. I also added in some dairy-free vanilla yogurt for a little added creaminess and hint of protein ;).
I didn’t feel like the fresh strawberry compote was enough; these cute little treats needed some extra fresh chopped strawberries on top to seal the deal.
And because we’re in full baby shower planning mode around here, I had these cute little baby girl duckies available for the photo shoot! We all know baby showers are the perfect time for miniature menu items and these layered parfaits are sure to impress and delight all baby shower guests! My own baby shower will have a parfait station, plenty of berries, mini quiches and other fun brunch inspired recipes! I’ll also be showing some of these fun ideas in a Facebook live this Wednesday, the 21st at 1pm CST on the California Giant Berry Farms Facebook page and would love if y’all tuned in or caught the replay!
Although this is an allergy-friendly recipe (gluten/dairy-free), you can substitute the ingredients if those modifications aren’t needed. Using regular pretzels, and dairy-containing cream cheese, whipped topping and yogurt will still provide the same delicious results, although I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised how perfect the allergy-friendly version is!
I also love that this recipe makes 12 mini parfaits! It’s just enough to hit the spot without being too rich and you could easily double the recipe with minimal effort, if feeding a large crowd! These are also great for Easter, Mother’s Day or with the addition of fresh blueberries on top they’d be perfect for Memorial or Independence Day!
Thanks for letting me share this special family recipe and wishing y’all a very Happy Spring! <3 Shannon
KISS Miniature Strawberry Pretzel Salad Parfaits (GF, DF)
Time: 3 hours (needs to be refrigerated for 2 hours)
12 small 4 oz, mason jars
1 1/2 cups crushed gluten-free pretzels
1/3 cup melted vegan butter
1 Tbsp lemon zest
4 tsp brown sugar
2 1/2 pounds California Giant Berry Farms strawberries, diced (about 5 cups), 1 cup reserved
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp water
1/4 cup powdered sugar
8 ounces dairy free cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup non-dairy vanilla yogurt
2 cups dairy-free whipped cream, thawed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1.) Preheat oven to 350° and place empty mason jars without lids onto a baking sheet.
2.) Using a food processor, chop pretzels into small pieces. Add melted butter, lemon zest and brown sugar and process until all ingredients are mixed well.
3.) Spoon ~2 tablespoons of pretzel crust into each mason jar. Use a pastry tart shaper or bottom of spoon to press the crust firmly into the bottom of the jars.
4.) Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely, about 30 minutes.
5.) While pretzel crusts are cooking and cooling, heat 4 cups chopped strawberries with the lemon juice and water on medium heat in a sauce pan until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until thickened. Taste and add up to 1/4 cup powdered sugar, if you prefer it to be a little sweeter. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
6.) Mix cream cheese, yogurt, whipped cream and vanilla with a mixer until smooth and creamy. If mixing by hand, just make sure all clumps are gone and the texture is smooth.
7.) Spoon about 2 tablespoons strawberry compote on top of pretzel crust followed by 2 tablespoons of creamy filling on top of the compote. Smooth top layer as evenly as possible then top with remaining fresh diced strawberries. Add additional pretzel sticks, if desired. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until ready to serve.