How to eat like a Midwesterner: Jello Salad

Gelatin is a tasteless, odorless protein, which is made by extracting collagen from boiled animal bones. Tasty, right? The after-dinner delicacy of a gelatin dessert was reserved for the wealthy and dates back to the 15th century. Gelatin is the main ingredient in Jell-O and the brand name has been a staple in American kitchens for over a century. Jell-O is fast, economical and a tidy dish to prepare in the kitchen, making it favorable for busy housewives for decades to follow.

The jello salad is a congealed “salad” made with flavored gelatin, fruit, vegetables and sometimes other ingredients like marshmallows, nuts or cottage cheese. Often solidified in a mold for enhanced presentation, the dish may also be made in a baking pan or mixing bowl. Once a common dessert at the table of many American homes, now jello salad is often limited to church basement kitchens and family holidays.  However, jello salad is still commonly spotted on just about every restaurant salad bar and grocery store deli in the Midwest. In fact, I bet if you ask someone from the Midwest to check their pantry for a package of jello, they will have a box, or four. If nothing else, to make jello shots for an upcoming celebration.

So, for our fifth installment of “How To Eat Like a Midwesterner” I bring you the JELLO SALAD. It is important to remember that each family has a different variation of the jello salad for their home. In my home, we strictly used fruit in our jello. No veggie, no dairy products, no nuts. My mother typically made orange jello with mandarin oranges or strawberry jello with sliced bananas. Cue childhood memories. However, in my adult years, I have found an appreciation for the green pistachio jello salad made with whipped cream and nuts, and found at most neighborhood potlucks.

We wanted to share a jello salad recipe with you that includes the use of fruit, dairy, a vegetable and nuts. The celery is not over powering and adds a nice crunch to the jello salad.  Even with an office full of Midwestern palates, we still had some skeptics who tried the in regards to be Luckily, this was a winner for the books!

What you will need:

  • Mixing Bowl
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Whisk
  • Spatula
  • Electric Mixer


  • 2 packages (3 ounces each) cranberry gelatin
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup cranberry juice
  • 2 packages (3 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 carton (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries


In a large bowl, dissolve the gelatin in boiling water; stir in cranberry juice. Refrigerate until slightly thickened. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add the whipped topping until blended. Fold into the gelatin mixture. Fold in walnuts, celery and cranberries.

Pour into a 3-qt. ring mold coated with cooking spray. Refrigerate until set. Unmold onto a serving plate.