Vegan Strawberry Pretzel Salad is a dairy-free, gelatin-free take on the iconic Jell-O recipe. This version uses agar agar and real strawberries to make vegan “jell-o.” Underneath is a layer of sweet and fluffy cream cheese, followed by a crunchy pretzel crust. No potluck or holiday meal is complete without it!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, and clear space in both the freezer and refrigerator for a 9x13 dish.
Pulse the pretzels in a food processor until crumbled. Add melted butter and sugar, and pulse again to combine. Press into a 9x13-inch casserole dish, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden. Set aside to cool.
Using a handheld or stand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and coconut cream until smooth. Add sifted sugar, and beat until fully incorporated. Spread cream cheese mixture onto the cooled pretzel crust. Make sure to spread the cream cheese ALL the way to the edges, completely sealing off the pretzel layer.
Place dish in the freezer for 1.5 to 2 hours or until the cream cheese is firm to the touch.
After about an hour, begin making the strawberry layer. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 pound frozen (or fresh) strawberries with 2 ¾ cups water and ¼ cup sugar. Bring to a simmer, and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until the strawberries have lost most of their color.
Pour the strawberry water through a fine mesh sieve, capturing the liquid in a clean bowl. Rinse the sieve and strain the strawberry water one more time to ensure it's clear and free from particles. (The pale strawberries can be eaten or discarded.) You should have about 2 ¾ cups (22 ounces) of strawberry water (aka strawberry "juice").
Slice the remaining pound of strawberries, and arrange them on top of the cold cream cheese layer. Return dish to freezer.
Rinse the saucepan. Combine ½ cup water and agar in the pan. Whisk to dissolve the agar. Whisk in ⅔ cup sugar, and bring mixture to a boil. Whisking frequently, simmer for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then remove from heat. Immediately whisk the strawberry water/juice into the agar mixture. This will cool it down slightly. Continue whisking occasionally, allow the agar to cool until warm but not hot, about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on it! If the agar begins to set, pour it onto the strawberries immediately.
When the agar feels lukewarm, remove dish from freezer and carefully pour the strawberry "jell-o" over the strawberries. It will begin to set almost instantly upon contact with the cold berries and cream cheese. Keep in mind, where you pour the agar is where it will stay, so move around the dish as you pour to keep the layer somewhat even.
Even though the agar will appear set, refrigerate your strawberry masterpiece until completely chilled, about 2 hours. Serve with vegan whipped cream, if desired.
Tips and Storage Notes:On day 2 the pretzel crust won't be quite as crunchy. So it's best to make pretzel salad the day you plan to serve. Be sure to allow at least 5 hours total for prep and chilling.Though I haven't tested this, you can probably substitute Simply Delish strawberry jel for the agar layer. You need 3.5 to 4 cups of jell-o (when liquid), or about 3 boxes.If you like a thicker pretzel crust, increase the crust ingredients by 50%.Don't be tempted to reduce the amount of butter in the crust. It holds the crust together and keeps the pretzels crisp!Keep strawberry pretzel salad refrigerated until ready to serve.