Jello Salads

Ahhhhhh 2020, are there no limits to the havoc you will wreak? You’ve got me eating Jell-O! Mixed with Cool-Whip and sour cream, no less!!!

Side bar: on all these recipe blogs, the writer always feels the need to clarify that we aren’t talking about salad, as in lettuce and radishes. Really? Is my Jello-laced childhood really that far in the rear view? Is it that large a portion of recipe-blog-reading cooks today who have never heard of dumping Cool-Whip into Jello and calling it a salad?

Anyway, as fattening and unhealthy as Jello “salad” is, it scratches a certain itch that’s one part nostalgia, one part sweet tooth and one part this-pandemic-induced-return-to-elaborate-home-cooking-is-getting-old-I-want-something-I-can-make-in-5-minutes!

I did come across a recipe that’s not entirely disgusting sounding for a somewhat savory lime Jell-O salad, one with cucumbers, onion and dill. I included it below; but I’m not sure if I’m going to make it!

Fun fact – Jell-O was first introduced in 1908!!! But it wasn’t popularized until the 1950s, when refrigerators became common in American homes.

Here’s an unbelievably kitchy review of Jell-O salads through the decades.

Jell-o Mold

This is your most basic version: just the Jell-o, poured into a shaped mold of some kind. My mom had this sort of hexagonal copper mold that we usually used. Sometimes for whatever reason we just chilled it in the same bowl we mixed it in. Maybe laziness, not wanting to wash a second dish?

You still just call it Jell-o Mold if you slice in a banana, or add a can of drained peaches or other fruit. The only fruit you can’t add is fresh pineapple. Supposedly it won’t set, I guess?

Usually you just scoop the Jell-o onto your plate to eat it, along with your steak and mashed potatoes. But then it tended to melt and you’d get red-stained potatoes, so sometimes we would put out little dessert bowls for it. If we went to all that trouble, my mom would usually top it with a spoonful of cottage cheese. Blech!

Combinations to Try:

Sliced almonds and chopped raw cranberries (I never thought the flavor of Jell-O mattered that much for the combination of fruit & nuts)
Sliced bananas and toasted, salted walnuts
Canned peaches and toasted, salted pecans

You can always fold in either some Cool Whip (technically that becomes a “fluff,” and the recipe is below) or some sour cream for a bit less sweetness. If you do, you should reduce your cold water by a bit – especially if you intend to put it into a mold.

Floating vs. submerged fruit: You’ll notice that your fruit floats to the top of your mold. While there’s nothing wrong with it that way, some prefer their fruit mixed in. This requires setting a timer for about 40 minutes after you put the Jell-o in the fridge, so you can go stir the fruit into the thickening gelatin.

Speed set: use half ice cubes and half cold water, and your Jell-o is edible in 30 minutes.

Tip on dissolving the gelatin powder: If you’re lazy and don’t fully dissolve the gelatin in the hot water before adding the cold, you’ll get a rubbery disk in the bottom of your bowl, where all the undissolved gelatin accumulated.

Patriotic Jell-O Mold

There are an endless number of cute ways to serve Jell-O:

Blue layer: regular blue Jell-O, with some blueberries stirred in after it begins to set slightly.

White layer: Heat 1c cream + 6T sugar til not quite boiling. Stir in 1 envelope unflavored gelatin that has been softened in 1/2c cold water and make sure it’s well dissolved. Whisk in 16oz sour cream + 1t vanilla. Spoon carefully over the blue layer.

Red layer: Make red Jell-O the regular way and stir in some fresh strawberries or raspberries. Hold a spoon over the white layer and pour the red Jello onto the spoon. This prevents damage to the white layer.

Top layer is just whipped cream or Cool Whip.

Berry Terrine

When the fruit is really the point, and the gelatin is just an unusual presentation medium, this is the way to go. I think a lot of 1960s housewives did the same thing with their savory gelatin molds – called aspics. The difference was, those were all just nasty! LOL

2 envelopes (1/4 ounce each) unflavored gelatin
2 c white grape juice
1/2 c sugar
6 c mixed fresh berries & sliced bananas

Soften the gelatin on 1/4c of the grape juice.

Heat another 1/4 cup of grape juice with the sugar; then stir in the softened gelatin. When it’s fully dissolved, add the remaining 1-1/2 cups grape juice.

Put the fruit in a 4×8 loaf pan and cover with the gelatin mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 3 hours.

Unmold by submerging in hot water for 5 seconds and running a knife around the mold.

Holiday Ribbon Jell-O salad

6 oz lime Jell-O
3 oz lemon Jell-O
6 oz red Jell-O
1/2 c miniature marshmallows
8 oz cream cheese
1c mayonnaise
8oz crushed pineapple, undrained

Make green Jell-O according to package directions and pour into the bottom of your mold to refrigerate. (After having read a bunch of other recipes tonight – and also looking at the photo above that looks a little bit more jiggly than you want – I’m thinking this would work better if you reduced the total amount of water in both the red and green layers)

Dissolve lemon Jell-O in 1 c boiling water, then stir in the marshmallows to melt. Cool for 20 minutes. Beat cream cheese and mayonnaise til smooth, then stir into lemon gelatin. Add the pineapple. Carefully spoon the mixture over your mostly-set green layer.

Make red Jell-O according to package directions and carefully spoon it over the white layer. (Hold a spoon over the white layer, and pour the red Jell-O onto the spoon, not the white layer).

Rainbow Jell-O Cubes

Lynda has an aunt who always brings this to holiday dinners – and I’ll confess, I really like it! Other than being time consuming to wait for each layer to set up, it’s super easy.

4, 3-oz boxes of Jell-O in your chosen flavors/ colors (these cubes actually have 6 colored layers)
14 oz sweetened condensed milk (you can also use evaporated)
6 envelopes unflavored gelatin (you’ll have half an envelope leftover)

Mix your first box of Jell-O with 1t of unflavored gelatin (1/2 an envelope) and 1c of boiling water. Pour into a 9×13 inch pan and transfer to the fridge. Make sure it’s completely flat, and wait for it to set up – about 30 minutes.

Make the white layer right away, so it has time to cool while the first colored layer sets up. Dissolve 2 t (1 envelope) unflavored gelatin in 1c of boiling water. Add 1/2 can sweetened condensed milk and stir well.

Once the milk is cool and the colored layer is set, pour half the milk mixture (about 3/4 cup) over the first colored layer. Return your pan to the fridge and start making colored layer #2 right away – again, so it has time to cool, before you pour it onto the milk layer.

Repeat colored and milk as many times as you want. If your milk starts to set up on the counter while you wait for a colored layer to set, you can set your milk over a pan of hot water to liquify again.

When it’s time to cut into cubes, make sure you use a paring knife. If you use a serrated knife, it will make unattractive little lines down the sides of your cubes.

Strawberry Fluff

And now we get into the Cool Whip portion of the blog post:

This first one is basically just a Jell-O mold with fruit, that you’ve folded some Cool Whip into. It’s always tasty!

These are the portions for a small box of Jell-o, which makes 4 servings – so that’s 6 or even 8 servings, once you add the Cool-Whip.

3 oz box Jell-o (any flavor – but then you have to call it Orange Fluff 😉
4 oz Cool-Whip, thawed
1c fresh or frozen fruit, sliced (berries, peaches, pears, mandarin oranges… whatever you think will taste good with whatever flavor Jell-o you’re using)

Mix the Jell-o according to package directions. After it’s set, chop it up with a fork and stir in the Cool-Whip and the fruit.

I like the toothiness of berries amongst all that fluffiness; but really the only fruit you can’t use is fresh pineapple. It has too much acid, the Jell-o won’t set. It might also curdle the Cool-Whip? But canned is ok for some reason.

Tropical Orange Jell-O Salad

These next two don’t involve the actual gelatin part of Jell-O; rather, you’re using it as sugar powder to sweeten your fruit and dairy confection.

I made the raspberry version and it was disgusting! It was basically just soupy pink cottage cheese, with some fruit in it. Granted, I only added a couple spoonfuls of Cool-Whip, not the whole 8 oz called for but still. That would have just made it super-sweet soupy pink cottage cheese. LOL

10 oz crushed pineapple, drained
3 oz orange Jell-O
12 oz small curd cottage cheese
8oz cool whip
3/4 c coconut flakes

Mix everything; chill.

Raspberry Jell-O Salad

16 oz small curd cottage cheese
3 oz raspberry Jell-O
1-1/2 c fresh raspberries
8 oz Cool Whip

Combine Cottage cheese and dry Jell-O powder. Add raspberries and Cool-Whip and carefully fold together, just enough to combine everything. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Raspberry Fluff

I’m very curious how this one would turn out – you’re basically making your pudding a little bit gelatinous …

3 oz package instant vanilla pudding
3 oz page instant tapioca pudding
3 oz package raspberry jell-O
8 oz Cool Whip, thawed
pint of fresh raspberries

Boil 3 cups of water and add both puddings and the Jell-O. Dissolve completely, then put into a container to cool completely in the refrigerator, overnight.

Gently fold in the Cool Whip and raspberries. Top with additional raspberries and mint leaves.

Snowy Raspberry Gelatin Mold

Now we’re getting into the ones where the presentation is really the whole point.

The amount of cream layer really does seem excessive to me though, based on this picture. So I’ve doubled the amount of raspberry gelatin and cut the creamy part in half.

And while it’s not technically Cool Whip, it’s sweetened heavy cream, so – same diff.

1/2 an envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 c cold water
1/2 c half and half
1/4 c sugar
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 t vanilla extract
6 oz raspberry Jell-O
2 c boiling water
20 oz sweetened raspberries (2 packages)
fresh raspberries and mint leaves, for garnish

Spray the inside of your mold with cooking spray.

Soften the unflavored gelatin on the cold water for a minute while you heat the half and half and sugar. Stir the gelatin into the cream, making sure it’s all dissolved.

Beat the cream cheese with vanilla until smooth, then fold in the gelatin-cream mixture. Pour into your mold and set until quite firm.

Dissolve the raspberry Jell-O in the hot water, then stir in the thawed raspberries. Very carefully spoon it over your cream layer (see how even in this picture, there are small streaks of red down the side of the cream layer??)

Refrigerate at least 4 hours; unmold and garnish.

Lime Jell-o Salad

There’s another whole category of Jell-O salads that aren’t with Cool Whip, but rather are with sour cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese or even – wait for it – mayonnaise. ?!? They’re definitely still sweet; but they can pass for a side dish, rather than just straight-up dessert like their Cool Whip cousins.

This one pictured has marshmallows, which aren’t included in the recipe below. It’s also nowhere near as pretty or impressive as some of the older ones, further down. Maybe just because it’s a short mold?? But it was pretty tasty!

Makes 6 – 8 servings.

3 oz box of lime Jell-O
7 oz can of sliced pears, drained & chopped
7 oz can of crushed pineapple, not drained
1/2 c toasted chopped pecans
8 oz tub of sour cream

Dissolve the Jell-O in HALF a cup of hot water (normally you use a full cup; but not for this version). Stir in everything else (you’re using the pineapple juice in place of your cold water) and chill until firm.

Under the Sea

This one comes from Utah – the Jell-O capital of the world, literally.

It’s essentially made by pouring half your Jell-O into the bottom of a loaf pan until mostly set; then blending the rest of your Jell-O into cream cheese (6 oz cream cheese for 3 oz of Jell-O) and adding some canned pears. However, instead of cold water to set your Jell-O, you use the pear juice + a little lemon juice.

Here’s the recipe, from the LA Times.

Cranberry Delight

This one illustrates really well how the real point of Jell-O salads was the mold. Without the fancy shape and pretty garnish, this would just be a pile of sweet pink fluff.

8oz crushed pineapple, drained with juice reserved
1/2 c boiling water
3 oz strawberry Jell-O
7 oz (half a can) cranberry sauce
3T lemon juice
1t grated lemon zest
1/2 t grated nutmeg
1 c sour cream
1/4c chopped pecans
fresh strawberries & lemon slices, for garnish

Combine boiling water and pineapple juice, stir in the gelatin. Add the cranberry sauce, lemon juice & zest and the grated nutmet. Chill until it thickens slightly, then stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour into your mold and chill til firm, several hours.

Retro Jell-O Salad

I’m calling this retro because this list of ingredients is seriously nothing that anyone would have come up with after 1965!! Although according to one author, it’s the official food of Mormonism, with a few modifications – especially the inclusion of chopped walnuts – as indicated in this recipe here.

While it doesn’t taste bad, it looks and tastes like a bowl of sweet, lemony cottage cheese. With fruit. And while it looks so pretty in the photo below, that’s really just the zest punching above its weight!

Since I’m not a huge cottage cheese lover, If I were to make it again I would cut back on that ingredient. Then I would eliminate the mayonnaise altogether. Blech! It’s just so gross knowing how much of it is in this stuff, and I can’t believe it adds anything wonderful to the dish. I’m also not sure what sweetened condensed milk brings to the party that can’t be accomplished with Cool-Whip?

3 oz lemon Jell-O
3 oz lime Jell-O
.25 oz unflavored gelatin
2 c hot water
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
16 oz cottage cheese
1c mayonnaise
1c crushed pineapple, partially drained
lemon & lime zest for topping

Dissolve all the Jell-O & gelatin in the hot water. Beat the milk, cottage cheese and mayonnaise in a bowl so there aren’t chunks of cottage cheese anymore. Stir the mixture, together with the pineapple, into the gelatin until thoroughly combined. Chill for at least 2 hours in a 13×9-inch glass casserole dish. Sprinkle with zest for serving, if desired.

Molded Cranberry Nut Salad

Finally, we move on to the “savory” Jell-O salads. This one is basically just cranberry sauce – it makes me wonder how it would compare side by side with the stuff from the can. Of course this recipe does call for walnuts and celery …

As we can see, the mold is what really makes it special. I’m curious to see what the “dressing” of mayonnaise mixed with sour cream would taste like????

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
4 c fresh cranberries
1-1/2 c sugar
1-1/2 c dry red wine (or cranberry juice)
6 oz lemon Jell-O
3/4 c chopped walnuts
The original recipe called for 1-1/2 c of celery too – but I think that would be gross

For Topping:
1c sour cream
3/4 c mayonnaise

So you basically start by making cranberry sauce, by boiling the cranberries in the sugar and wine. Then you add the lemon Jell-O to this, along with the unflavored gelatin (that you previously softened in 1/2c of cold water for a minute). Stir to dissolve completely, then add 1c of cold water and chill until partially set. Stir in the walnuts and allow to set completely.

Combine sour cream and mayonnaise as a dressing on top. ???

Variation:

Mix 6oz lemon Jell-O with 1 c of sugar and 1c of hot water, chill til partially set. Stir in chopped raw cranberries, chopped apples, chopped oranges and chopped pecans.

Orange-Carrot Jell-O Mold

This one is in the tradition of 1960s housewives, who saw instant gelatin as an economical and tidy way of serving vegetables. (yes, apparently in that era they wanted their food to be neat and restrained – like their sex drives! LOL)

This one has a high vegetable-to-Jello ratio; and while I personally wouldn’t like quite that much veggie in my Jell-O, I do find salads like this to be quite tasty.

3oz orange or lemon Jell-O
1/4c diced celery (personally I would skip this, as I generally dislike celery)
1/2c shredded carrots
1c crushed pineapple
1/4c chopped toasted nuts

Note: Don’t use pre-shredded carrots that come in a bag at the grocery store – they’re too thick and feel like branches in your mouth, alongside the consistency of the Jell-O. Rather, shred the carrots yourself on your grater.

Make the Jell-O as directed, using the pineapple liquid as part of the cold water. Stir in everything else when it’s partially set. Pour into a mold if desired.

Cucumber-Lime Jell-O Mold

And finally, a Jell-O salad that calls for — onions!!! And also cucumbers; but by the time you’ve got onions in your Jell-O you’ve crossed some kind of a line. It is pretty though, isn’t it?

Makes 10 servings.

6 oz lime Jell-O
1/4 t salt
1T lemon juice
1/2 c mayonnaise
1/2 c sour cream
1-1/2 c peeled, seeded & chopped cucumbers
2 T minced onion (seriously???)
1t fresh dill, minced
One version of this I found called for some chopped pecans too

Combine gelatin and salt. Dissolve in 1-1/2 c hot water. Add 1-1/2 c cold water plus the lemon juice. (I found another version of this that calls for just half a cup of hot water and no cold water; but QUADRUPLE both the mayo and sour cream. It’s the one pictured above). Refrigerate until slightly thickened, about an hour.

Combine the mayo and sour cream, then stir into the gelatin. Let set for another 15 minutes or so before stirring in the vegetables and dill. (Seriously! We’re going to put onion in a Jell-O mold?!)

Pour the mixture into your mold and refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours.


I’m going to close this out with a link to this curation of more Jell-O salad recipes than I would have thought humanly possible. Some with pudding, some with cream cheese, some with crusts … the varieties are endless!

https://www.yummly.com/recipes/jello-salad-with-cool-whip

What’s your favorite?

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