Photo by Lori Rasmussen
Gelatin strawberry salads are a favorite traditional holiday treat, and now they can be prepared with homemade fruit juice and a vegan “gelatin” alternative that will fit any diet. Yield: 12 servings.
For the crust:
- 2 cups (4 ounces) pretzels, mini or sticks
- 1/3 cup vegan butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons sugar
For the cream cheese layer:
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 can (13.5 ounces) full-fat coconut milk, divided
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon agar powder
For the strawberry gel layer:
- 1-3/4 cups water
- 14 ounces (about 3 cups) fresh or frozen strawberries, plus 12 fresh strawberries, stem ends trimmed
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
- 1-1/2 teaspoons agar powder
- Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Clear space in the freezer for a muffin tin.
- Cut sheets of parchment paper into 12 strips approximately 6 inches long by 1/2 inch wide. (These will serve as “handles” to remove the salads from the muffin tin.) Place one strip of parchment in the center of each cup of a standard, nonstick muffin tin.
- For the crust: In a bowl, crush the pretzels into fine pieces. Pour in the melted butter and sugar, and mix well. Scoop about 1-1/2 tablespoons of the pretzel mixture into each muffin cup. Be sure the parchment strips stay centered, and the mixture doesn’t get underneath the parchment. Gently press down on the crust so it completely covers the bottom of the muffin cups.
- Bake for 6 to 7 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, then place the tin in the freezer for 15 minutes while preparing the next layer.
- For the cream cheese layer: In a blender, combine the cashews, lemon juice, and half the can of coconut milk. Blend until completely smooth. Set aside.
- In small saucepan, combine the sugar, agar powder, and remaining coconut milk. Whisking frequently, cook over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Immediately add the cashew mixture, and whisk vigorously to incorporate the two.
- Working quickly, remove the muffin tin from the freezer and evenly divide the coconut milk mixture over the pretzel crusts in the tin. (This will fill each cup about 2/3 full, leaving room for a top strawberry layer.) Freeze for about 15 minutes while you prepare next layer.
- For the strawberry gel layer: Make strawberry juice by combining the water, 14 ounces of strawberries, and 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium pan. Cook over high heat until it comes to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until most of the color has transferred from the berries into the water.
- Place a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl or large jar to capture the juice, and pour the strawberry mixture through the strainer. (Refrigerate the strawberry pieces for another use, or compost.) Rinse strainer, and then pour the juice through it again so it’s as clear as possible.
- Remove the muffin tin from the freezer and place a fresh strawberry in the center of each cup, cut-side down.
- In a small saucepan, whisk the strawberry juice, agar powder, and remaining sugar together until the sugar is dissolved. Continue whisking, and cook the mixture over high heat until it boils. Carefully divide the strawberry mixture among the 12 cups, pouring it directly onto the strawberries so it cascades down and coats them.
- Let the salads sit undisturbed until they’re partially set, about 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer the muffin tin to the freezer for about 10 minutes. Serve immediately after, or store the salads in the refrigerator until it’s time to serve.
Learn more about natural gelatin:
Recipe reprinted with permission from Lori Rasmussen and the Agar Agar Cookbook from Living Jin © 2019.