Sweet and salty, this Mandarin Orange Pretzel Salad recipe is the perfect dish to share for dinner, or dessert! You’ll love the nutty pecans in the crust of this sweet treat!
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Why This Recipe is Best
You may be a big fan of our strawberry pretzel jello recipe. Today has a new twist.
This pretty three layered dessert has a pecan and pretzel crust, a cheesecake filling and an orange gelatin topping studded with mandarin oranges.
The contrast of nutty and crunchy with creamy and smooth with fruity and refreshing is so tasty!
- No baking needed for this dessert so you don’t have to turn on the oven when it’s hot out!
- You just need 20 minutes to prep this dessert then it sets up in the refrigerator!
- This dessert makes 24 bars and is perfect for a summertime dessert to share at BBQ parties or picnics!
- Pecans – Pecans are our favorite for the crust of this recipe. You can buy whole pecans, pecan halves or pecan pieces, since they are being broken down in the food processor. Walnuts can also be subbed if needed.
- Pretzels – Any shape of pretzel is fine because we’re also breaking these down in the food processor to form the crust.
- Cream cheese – Full-fat cream cheese is best for this recipe. Make sure to let it sit out at room temperature for a bit to soften.
- Whipped topping – Make sure your whipped topping, such as Cool Whip, is completely thawed so you can fold it into the cream cheese mixture. Use homemade stabilized whipped cream if you prefer.
- Mandarin oranges – You need 2 cans of canned mandarins for this dessert. Drain the juices very well first.
This recipe may be 3 separate layers, but it is super duper easy to make and comes together quickly!
STEP 1. Make the crust.
- Pulse the pecans, sugar and pretzels in a food processor until slightly broken down.
- Add melted butter, mix and press into the bottom of a deep 9×13 baking pan.
STEP 2. Make the cheesecake filling.
- Beat the cream cheese and sugar for several minutes, until smooth.
- Fold in the whipped topping and spread over pecan crust.
STEP 3. Make the gelatin topping.
- Combine the gelatin with boiling water until dissolved. Add in mandarin oranges and allow mixture to cool to room temperature then spread over the cheesecake filling.
- Cover and chill for at least 8 hours or overnight, then slice and serve!
Fresh whipped cream won’t give you the same results as stabilized whipped cream (such as Cool Whip). The “stabilizers” give the cheesecake filling a light, fluffy consistency while holding its shape. Regular whipped cream loses air as its sets, so the filling will end up runny in the dessert.
I used salted pretzels for the mandarin orange pretzel crust. The saltiness complements the sweetness of the filling and topping for a super satisfying dessert. If you don’t like salty-sweet desserts, you can use unsalted pretzels instead.
Yes, this is a great make-ahead dessert! Assemble the bars and keep them covered in the fridge until ready to serve. Enjoy within 3 days for the best flavor.
More Salad and Sides
Mandarin Orange Pretzel Salad
For the crust:
- ¾ cup pecans
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 ½ cups pretzels
- ¾ cup unsalted butter melted
For the filling:
- 1 packages cream cheese, softened 8 ounce each
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 container whipped topping, thawed 8 ounce
For the topping:
- 2 boxes orange gelatin mix 3 ounces each
- 1 ¾ cup boiling water
- 2 cans mandarin oranges, drained 15 ounces
- In a large food processor, add pecans and sugar. Add pretzels and pulse several times until you have some crumbs and some broken pieces. Add melted butter and mix with a fork.
- Press into the bottom of a deep, 13×9 baking dish. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese with sugar until smooth (several minutes). Fold in whipping topping and spread over pecan crust.
- In a medium bowl, combine gelatin with boiling water until dissolved. Add in oranges and allow mixture to cool to room temperature (about 15 minutes). Pour over cheesecake filling.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night or at least 8 hours. Slice and enjoy!
- Use a deep 13×9 pan. You need room for each layer to stack within the pan. Lasagna pans are best!
- Don’t over pulse the crust. The crust mixture should have some pieces of pecans and pretzels in it; don’t process it until it’s only crumbs.
- Dissolve the gelatin mix completely. If the powder doesn’t dissolve all the way into the hot water, you’ll have specks of color instead of a pretty, uniform color.
- Chill overnight. The dessert may set in as little as 4-6 hours, but I recommend making it in advance so the layers can fully set properly and get chilled, at least 8 hours or even better, overnight.
- See blog post for more recipe tips and tricks.