Growing up in the Midwest, a creamy jello salad would grace every buffet table.
Whether it was a summer family get together or holiday feast… it made no difference.
However, it's not the healthiest option on the table! When you switch to a real food diet that means you need a healthy jello salad to relive those childhood memories, right?
What’s In A Gelatin Salad?
Maybe you didn’t experience the jiggly joy of Aunt Martha’s holiday gelatin salad at your Thanksgiving feasts. So you may not be sure exactly what’s in one of these creamy, fruity, congealed creations.
Typically most gelatin salads are made with some combination of the following:
- Fruit-flavored jello, often lemon, lime, orange, strawberry, or cherry
- Cool Whip
- Cream cheese
- Sour cream
- Cottage cheese
- Mini marshmallows
- Various fruits such as crushed pineapple, mandarin oranges, cherries, canned fruit cocktail, or berries
- Chopped nuts such as pecans or walnuts
If you’re older than 40, you’re surely familiar with the “classic” jello salad recipe. This consists of jello, sweetened condensed milk, cottage cheese, mayonnaise, and crushed pineapple.
There’s only one problem. It’s about as far from a healthy jello salad as you can get!
Food dyes, hydrogenated oils, gelatin made from conventionally-farmed animals, way too much refined sugar — all of these “tasty” ingredients are not nourishing to our bodies.
Don't despair! It's really easy to make your own sugar-free, healthy jello salad from scratch! Let's start with the easiest ingredient: whipped cream.
How Do Cool Whip And Whipped Cream Differ? Are They The Same?
If you’ve had real, rich, whipped cream from raw cream you know there is simply no comparison to the “whipped topping” found in the grocery store.
Cool Whip is made from hydrogenated vegetable oil (which contains trans fats), guar gum, high fructose corn syrup, water, light cream, beta-carotene, skim milk, sodium caseinate (a milk derivative), Polysorbate 60 (a preservative), natural and artificial flavors.
Whipped cream is just that — whipped heavy cream. It’s delightful on its own and delicious with a hint of vanilla and a bit of maple syrup.
Many people think real whipped cream is difficult to make. It’s no wonder they turn to Cool Whip as it’s a ready-made product typically stored in the freezer.
While it does thaw fairly quickly, in the time you wait for your whipped topping to thaw you can easily whip up some healthy, rich, real whipped cream without all those unhealthy ingredients.
Using the whisk attachment on an immersion blender will take maybe 2 to 3 minutes. With a hand mixer, it takes a bit longer. I don’t own a stand mixer so I can’t comment on how fast it makes whipped cream. But it does free your hands to work on other tasks (just don’t forget to check on the whipped cream or you might end up with butter).
Butter is also amazing and healthy. Can’t make that with Cool Whip!
Try Yogurt Instead For A Probiotic-Rich Gelatin Salad
In the recipe below, I made this healthy real food jello salad with a yogurt “dressing”. Simply sweeten yogurt, add a splash of vanilla, and you’re good to go.
If you’re a Trim Healthy Mama, make sure to check the notes in the recipe card. I’ve got tips for you to make an on-plan jello salad! It’s a great side dish to take to a potluck because everyone will love it.
What Are Some Non-Dairy Dessert Options?
If you can’t have dairy, you've still got options! Coconut yogurt will work in place of dairy-based yogurt.
Coconut cream can also be made into whipped cream for a dairy-free version. I have not tried this myself, and it may be best made and eaten right away.
You can also just make a non-creamy version of this jello salad recipe. Add fruits to the gelatin before putting it in the fridge to set up. Then just cut or stir the gelatin and fruit around until it’s in small pieces, similar to a fruit salad.
Best Fruit For A Jello Salad
Most fruits work well in a gelatin salad. One fruit, however, needs to be cooked or the jello won’t set up. That fruit is pineapple!
Raw pineapple contains an enzyme, bromelain, which inhibits the congealing of the gelatin. Actually, the protease enzyme within bromelain is the real culprit.
So, in addition to pineapple, any food containing the protease enzyme would also keep the gelatin from setting up. These include papaya, mango, guava, pawpaw, kiwi, figs, and ginger root.
However, simply cooking these foods first will neutralize the enzyme. Cooking to a temperature of over 158 degrees will neutralize bromelain.
How To Make A Healthy Jello Salad The Real Food, Sugar-Free Way
You likely have all you need already in your real food kitchen! It’s simply a matter of putting it all together.
First, make some real food jello. I love these Herbal Detoxifying Gelatin Squares made with herbal teas and blueberries. You can modify the ingredients to suit your tastes or your food stores. If you want a less firm result with the gelatin simply reduce the amount of gelatin by up to a tablespoon.
If you have a favorite fruity gelatin recipe, feel free to use it!
This takes a couple of hours to make and get the gelatin set up so plan ahead. You can also make the gelatin the night before. The next day it will take less than 15 minutes to throw this creamy, jiggly dessert together.
Next, sweeten and flavor your yogurt. If you’re wanting a low-glycemic dessert use pure stevia extract or another non-glycemic sweetener such as erythritol.
If you’re using whipped cream instead of yogurt wait until just before you want to put everything together to make the whipped cream. Simply sweeten and add vanilla to your cream and whip until thick and creamy.
Then, slice or chop any fruits or nuts you’re adding.
Finally, mix it all together and sprinkle with chopped nuts. If you really like nuts in your jello salad add some when you mix the fruit, gelatin, and yogurt or whipped cream together.
The result is a creamy, sweet, jiggly jello salad packed with nourishment!
See how easy it is to make a healthy, nourishing jello salad? You have so many options, too. It's a great side dish for a potluck, BBQ, or even your holiday table because almost everyone will enjoy it.
Trim Healthy Mama Jello Salad (creamy, easy & sugar-free!)
I grew up eating jello salad at every family get together & holiday. Whether Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas... it didn't matter! You could count on the jello salad. Sadly, it's about as unhealthy as you get! So in the spirit of nostalgia & yummy recipes, may I present actually healthy jello salad that's creamy, easy, and 100% free of Cool Whip! It's Trim Healthy Mama-friendly, Low Carb, and sugar-free so almost anyone can dig in!
- 1 cup yogurt or raw whipped cream
- 1/4 teaspoon liquid stevia extract (for THM version) or 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 recipe Herbal Detoxifying Gelatin Squares cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 cups fresh berries such as blueberries and sliced strawberries
- pecans or other nuts for garnish, chopped (optional)
In a small bowl, mix together yogurt, stevia, and vanilla. Alternatively, whip raw cream with stevia and vanilla to create whipped cream.
In a mixing bowl, combine gelatin pieces, berries, and yogurt sauce (or whipped cream).
Stir gently until the yogurt sauce coats the berries and gelatin evenly.
Sprinkle nuts over the top and serve or refrigerate until ready to eat.
If it doesn’t seem as creamy after refrigerating overnight, just mix in a bit more sweetened yogurt or whipped cream if desired.
For Trim Healthy Mamas: Use non-fat or skimmed yogurt for a Fuel Pull. Using full-fat yogurt or whipped cream will make this an S. Be mindful of the fruits you add to keep within plan guidelines for the fuel type you want.
Have you ever tried jello salad? Will you make this nourishing, healthy jello salad recipe?
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