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An easy icebox pie made with fresh strawberry compote, tart and smooth cream cheese flavored with creamy vanilla paste, all atop a sweet and salty pretzel crust.
If I said the phrase “strawberry pretzel salad,” do you know what I’m talking about? Have you ever stopped to think about how odd that combination of words is, and maybe if you were hearing it for the first time, you’d picture a bowl of pretzels, strawberries, and perhaps some sort of leafy green?
Actually, now that I type that out, it doesn’t sound totally awful (sweet? salty? texture city?), but in reality, what the world has deemed strawberry pretzel salad is actually a layered dessert of strawberry gelatin, some sort of creamy cream cheese/whipped topping filling, and a pretzel crust.
It’s an iconic summer potluck dish, and it is one of those dishes that just has “summer” written all over it.
Now that I’ve got you thinking about that tasty dessert, I’m going to flip it all around and ask you to kind of forget about it, because this easy strawberry pretzel pie is similar to it, but we’re turning the flavor combo into a triangularly sliced treat that is filling June’s Pie of The Month slot and I think you’re going to love it.
SO… IS THIS LIKE STRAWBERRY PRETZEL SALAD?
I didn’t bring up that iconic treat for nothing– this pretzel berry dessert is modeled right after that delicious dish. But instead of using gelatin, instead of making it layered, and instead of keeping it jiggly, we’re morphing it into a chilled pie that you can slice, serve, and add to your list of “non-traditional pies” for any time of the year.
The ingredient list for this strawberry pretzel pie recipe is simple despite there being 3 different components to it. And the best part is that while this recipe lends well to summer and fresh strawberry season, you can get the job done just fine in “off” months by utilizing frozen.
Strawberry dessert year round for the win!
While many strawberry pretzel salad desserts feature a layer or component of strawberry gelatin, this pie features a from scratch, multi-use strawberry compote that you’ll definitely want to consider doubling so you have more to munch on.
And all you need for it is strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Oh, and water. But that’s hardly an ingredient.
Or rather… Easy as pie. Definitely.
VANILLA BEAN CREAM CHEESE FILLING
While the strawberry compote goes directly into the filling of this pie, we’ll make the base of it with smooth and creamy cream cheese, heavy cream, and powdered sugar.
The filling is flavored by strawberries mostly, but we’re amping up the creaminess and vanilla complement by adding in one of my very favorite ingredients: vanilla paste.
WHY ARE WE USING VANILLA PASTE?
Over my years of baking, I have fallen in love with vanilla paste. It is the most economical way to get vanilla bean flecks into your baked goods without purchasing individual vanilla beans, which can be quite expensive.
It resembles more of a liquid than what I would categorize as a “paste,” but it is a bit more viscous than vanilla extract.
My favorite brand of vanilla paste (and a lot of other baking ingredients) is Rodelle, as they embody exactly what it means to be “fair trade,” working directly with vanilla famers in Madagascar to source their vanilla beans for their baking products. I have been working with them since 2016 and they are my go-to for Dutch processed cocoa, almond extract, and anything vanilla.
Moreover, I like to use vanilla paste in desserts where the flavor can directly complement the flavor of the dessert. Take my vanilla bean sugar cookies for instance. They are straight up in your face vanilla flavor. And they have the little vanilla flecks to boot!
I chose vanilla paste for this no bake strawberry pretzel pie because vanilla paste has a bit of a creamy flavor (as opposed to vanilla extract which has a much more subtle flavor can sometimes hang out in the background of whatever it’s in).
While we are using cream cheese and heavy cream in the filling for this pie, I really wanted to emphasize the creamy strawberry component that stems from that iconic strawberry pretzel salad I built this pie to resemble.
Don’t have vanilla paste? No problem!
You can use a 1 for 1 sub with vanilla extract. Just know the flavor will be a little less creamy of a vanilla flavor and you’ll miss out on the vanilla bean flecks. But still delish, I promise!
HOW TO MAKE STRAWBERRY PRETZEL PIE
The method for this pie is very straightforward, and while I personally made it all in one shot, you can absolutely streamline the process by making a bit of it ahead of time.
But the good news? The most time consuming part is preparing the strawberries, which you’ll need an entire pound of, but once that’s done, it’s just full speed ahead until the end!
MAKE THE STRAWBERRY COMPOTE
This strawberry compote sounds fancy, but it’s really not. This is just a macerated strawberry sauce, differing from strawberry jam or jelly in that the pieces of strawberry are meant to stay pretty big so that when we take bites of our strawberry pretzel pie, we’re really getting big strawberry energy. Not just essence of strawberry.
You’ll add the strawberries, water, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch to a small saucepan, heat it to boiling, and then simmer it until the sauce is thick and the strawberries are starting to fall apart.
Allow this to cool while you prepare the rest of the pie. You don’t want it to be hot when it goes into the filling, but it’s totally fine if it’s a little bit warm.
As I mentioned, making this part ahead of time will save you some time on pie day, and doubling it will give you some extra for other goodies.
You’ll need all of the strawberry sauce you make in this recipe for the pie, which means, yes, there is an entire pound of strawberries in this whole pie. If that doesn’t send you running to make it right now, I don’t know what else will!
MAKE THE PRETZEL CRUST
While the strawberry sauce cools, you can prepare your pretzel crust.
Pulse any kind of pretzel you prefer in a food processor until it is in very small pieces. You’ll sweeten it some brown sugar and bind it all together with some melted butter.
This pretzel strawberry pie as a whole is no bake, but you will need to bake the pretzel crust for 15 minutes. Baking it allows the sugar crystals to bind the pretzel pieces together, and the butter helps coat the pretzels to keep them from getting soggy with the strawberry filling on top.
MAKE THE FILLING
While your crust is baking, you can go ahead and start on the filling. You’ll start by whipping some heavy cream to medium-stiff peaks. This is just like making homemade whipped cream, and this will keep the filling nice and light.
Set aside your whipped cream and whip up the cream cheese, which you’ll sweeten with powdered sugar (again, keeping things light) and flavor with two teaspoons of vanilla paste (or vanilla extract, if that’s what you’re using).
You’ll fold in the prepared whipped cream which will give you this amazingly light and fluffy cream cheesy filling that you’re going to totally take over the top with all of those deliciously sweetened and softened strawberry chunks.
Fold the strawberries in, too, then pour it all into the pretzel crust.
CHILL THE PIE
Now comes the easy part– let the refrigerator or freezer do the rest! I tested this recipe in both the refrigerator and the freezer and depending on what kind of end result you’re looking for, you can choose which best fits with your chilling option.
If you chill this pretzel strawberry dessert in the fridge, know that it will still be fairly soft when you slice it. This can make for messier slices, but if you are putting it right into a bowl or don’t mind eating it with a spoon, go for it!
If you’d prefer more of a sturdy, definitively sliceable pie, go the freezer route.
Just know that if you’re taking it from freezer to serving, you’ll want it to sit out for at least 15-20 minutes to insure you can get a knife and then a fork (or spoon!) through it to enjoy it.
The pie doesn’t get as hard as ice cream, but it still freezes up pretty firmly, so you be the judge of where to chill it.
The good news is, if it’s too hard to slice or enjoy, you can just let it sit for a little bit longer. Of course, this delays your enjoyment of it, but I promise that the wait will be worth it!
TOP WITH HOMEMADE WHIPPED CREAM
I am always a fan of topping pie with fresh, homemade whipped cream, which you’ll already have the ingredients for from making this recipe for strawberry pretzel pie. Heavy cream, powdered or granulated sugar, and vanilla paste or extract will get the job done.
You could also top it with more strawberry sauce (if you doubled the recipe), simply sliced strawberries, or just leave it as is.
Each bite of this pie is sweet and creamy with big chunks of fresh strawberry. Pair that with the sweet and salty pretzel crust and you’ll be loving this pie as much as you love strawberry pretzel salad with a bit of a different presentation and delivery.
Strawberry Pretzel Pie
- 1 pound (454g) fresh or frozen strawberries1 hulled and sliced into halves or quarters; about 2 and ½ cups once sliced
- ½ cup (120mL) water
- 3 Tablespoons (38g) granulated sugar
- 1 and ½ Tablespoons lemon juice2
- 1 and ½ Tablespoons (15g) cornstarch
- 2 cups crushed pretzels about 5 cups of whole mini pretzels
- ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter melted
- ¼ cup (50g) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup (240mL) heavy cream
- 8 ounces (227g) full-fat block cream cheese softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (120g) powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons Rodelle vanilla paste3
- Combine the strawberries, water, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch in a small saucepan.
- Heat over medium heat, bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes4 until liquid thickens. Set aside to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF (177ºC). Spray a 9" springform pan (this is my preference) or traditional pie plate with non-stick spray. Set aside.
- Place the crushed pretzels in a medium size bowl, drizzle the melted butter evenly over the pretzels, add the brown sugar, then stir to mix completely.
- Press the pretzel evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan, then bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before you add the prepared filling.
- In a medium size bowl with a hand mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the whipping cream until medium-stiff peaks form (about 3-4 minutes; see this tutorial for step-by-step instructions for homemade whipped cream). Place bowl in the refrigerator (or transfer to smaller bowl if using a stand mixer) until ready to use.
- In a large bowl with a hand mixer or the same bowl of the stand mixer (no need to clean) now fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the sugar, increase the mixer speed to medium-high, and beat again until smooth. Add the vanilla paste and continue beating until smooth. Scrape down the sides as necessary.
- Turn off the mixer and fold in the cold whipped cream with a large spatula until mostly incorporated. Add the cooled strawberry compote and fold again with the spatula until white swirls disappear and filling is evenly pink.
- Pour the filling onto the baked pretzel crust and spread evenly with the spatula. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator or freezer5 at least 4 hours before serving. Store leftovers covered tightly in the refrigerator up to 5 days or the freezer up to 2 weeks.
- Fresh or frozen strawberries: I like to use fresh the best, but out of season, frozen work just fine. Do not thaw. You may need to simmer the compote a bit longer to account for the added water from thawing.
- Lemon juice: it is best to use freshly squeezed lemon juice in compote, but you can use bottled if it’s all you have available to you.
- Vanilla paste: my preferred brand of vanilla paste is Rodelle. If you don’t have vanilla paste, you can substitute 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. You will not have flecks of vanilla in your cookies unless you use homemade vanilla extract. You can also scrape out the seeds from 2 vanilla bean pods instead of using vanilla paste or vanilla extract.
- Simmer time: this recipe both halves and doubles beautifully. You may need to reduce or increase simmer time depending on how large your batch is. You want the juice to hold a thick coating on the back of a spoon when it’s sufficiently reduced.
- Fridge or freezer: I tested this recipe in both the refrigerator and the freezer and depending on what kind of end result you’re looking for, you can choose which best fits with your chilling option. If you chill this pie in the fridge, know that it will still be fairly soft when you slice it. This can make for messier slices, but is fine if you are putting it right into a bowl or don’t mind eating it with a spoon. If you’d prefer more of a sturdy, definitively sliceable pie, go the freezer route. Allow the pie to sit out for at least 15-20 minutes to insure you can get through it.
- Nutritional information: all nutritional values are approximate.