Most sources to American that is classic Jell-O will have you believing it’s a dinosaur, once popular and now extinct. A monstrous mishmash of seemingly disjointed ingredients ranging from crushed pineapple to mini marshmallows to chopped pecans to mandarin that is canned to cottage cheese, all spackled in Cool Whip. But Jell-O green salad is actually well—thriving and alive also. And indeed, it may be tasty. Food-flex-make-strawberry-pretzel-salad-retro-nostalgia-essay-article” rel=”noopener”>Fans are still out here, sharing grandma’s vintage “fluff salad” recipe at potlucks and get-togethers. And sometimes even at work, which is how this raspberry Jell-O salad recipe first made the rounds in the BA test kitchen. As it passed from editor to editor, the dish was declared “yummy,” “elegant,” and “shockingly good.” Such is the power of jiggly gelatin.
The recipe is based on one from former senior commerce editor MacKenzie Chung Fegan, who inherited the retro family favorite through marriage. At first dubious, she soon grew to love the gelatin salad that showed up year after year on her in-laws’ holiday table. Crammed with sweet-tart raspberries, a thick layer of whipped cream cheese, and a buttery graham cracker crisp, it’s destined to convert doubters. And the kicker? It’s relatively quick and easy to make.
Dropping whole, still-frozen raspberries into the hot gelatin cools the liquid rapidly and defrosts the berries. (The fruit will stay remarkably well preserved for up to 2 days.) If you’re not a fan of raspberry, feel free to use another flavored gelatin and fruit combination. Go for frozen strawberries suspended in strawberry Jell-O, or mix and match with wild blueberries and cranberry Jell-O or frozen cherries and orange Jell-O.
To avoid a lumpy whipped topping, the cream cheese must be at room temperature. Too cold and it won’t be smooth; too hot and the cream won’t whip. To cut down on prep time, microwave the unwrapped block in 10-second bursts just until softened.
Revelers may never agree on whether this wobbly wonder is a side dish, fruit salad, or full-blown dessert, but one thing’s for sure: Once you add it to your annual holiday meal, there’s no going back.
Looking for more Jell-O salad variations? This strawberry Jell-O salad from Epicurious is basically a no-bake cheesecake with a pretzel crust and fresh strawberries, while this elegant riff on ambrosia salad will get a dose of ointment sherry.