Jello Fruit Salad – A classic sweet side dish that has been a tradition around holiday dinner tables since the ’70s. Cranberries, apples, pineapple, and mandarin oranges all held together with raspberry Jello. Part salad, part side dish, part dessert all wrapped into holiday tradition!
Kids both young and old rejoice! Jello is served for dinner!
Jello Fruit Salad is a recipe often considered a side dish of the 70’s when Jello molds were all the rage. There are a million different ways to make this classic recipe. From this version which is a fruit salad held together with berry gelatin to versions that add anything from cream cheese, cottage cheese, marshmallows, and whipped cream.
Then there are the shapes. Set in a dish, in a nice bowl, or in Jello molds of all sorts of shapes. There isn’t a dish at the Thanksgiving child that lets the chef unleash their imaginations a much as a Jello Fruit Salad recipe.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Jello – This recipe uses raspberry gelatin but you can also swap out for strawberry if you prefer.
- Sugar – Granulated sugar should be used. I have never had success in reducing the amount of sugar or substituting sweeteners.
- Orange juice – Jello is usually made with just water but you can also substitute the water for fruit juice. I have added a little orange juice to this recipe to add some additional flavour. The alternative is to use some of the juice from the canned crushed pineapple. You can see I left this out of the pic (by accident) but it is totally optional. If not using orange juice just swap out for a 1/2 cup of cold water.
- Cranberries – I use whole frozen cranberries that have been mostly thawed. Cranberries when frozen and thawed tend to have a little more moisture in them than fresh cranberries making them a little softer giving them a better softer texture for this salad.
- Apple – One large apple peeled and chopped will do. You can leave the peel on if you wish.
- Pineapple – Crushed canned pineapple. Fresh pineapple and does not work well in Jello because the high acidity in the pineapple stops the Jello from setting properly. So, in this case, fresh is not best.
- Mandarin oranges – Again you can go and peel an orange then spend the time to remove the outer skin from each orange wedge but who has time or patience for that. I recommend using canned or jarred mandarin oranges that have already been peeled.
- Walnuts – I like the texture and crunch adding a few walnuts has in this salad but you can leave them out or substitute for pecans or hazelnuts.
Alternatively, you can go really old school and replace the apples, oranges, and pineapple with a jar of fruit salad that has been drained. You know that salad with the bright red cherries and that weird but delicious whitish fruit that I think may have been pears but I am still unclear on. I used to get these fruit cups all the time for a snack in my school lunch. Or perhaps I am aging myself.
How to make jello fruit salad
Roughly chop the partially thawed cranberries with a sharp chopping knife. And Peel and chop the apples.
How to keep apples from browning
To keep the apples bright and cheery looking and stop them from turning a sad bruised looking brown there are two methods you can use.
The first is to toss them in the juice of one lemon but I find this gives them a slightly bitter taste. Or you can place the peeled apples in a bowl of cold water that has been mixed with a tsp of salt. Place the apples in this saltwater solution for about 5 minutes. Drain the apples and rinse them with cold water before using them. I find the saltwater washes away when rinsed and leaves no aftertaste.
Add 6 oz of raspberry Jello granules to a large bowl. Heat two cups of water and bring to a boil. Stir the boiling water into the Jello crystals and stir until dissolved. Then add one cup of granulated sugar and stir until dissolved.
Add 1 1/2 cups of cold water and a 1/2 cup of pulp-free orange juice (not fresh squeezed). Stir to combine and set aside.
Add the cranberries, apples, pineapple, and mandarin oranges to the Jello mixture and stir until combined. The fruit will likely float to the top.
Then in carefully pour the Jello Fruit Salad into a 9″ X 13″ glass dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let set in the fridge for a minimum of 5 hours. I like to make it the day before so I know it has all night to set. Jello and I have a love-hate relationship and mine always takes longer to set. Could be my fridge so don’t rush the magic!
You can serve it right out of the glass dish it set in but since most times this is eaten at a Holiday dinner like Thanksgiving or Christmas I recommend serving it in a pretty bowl or small trifle dish.
Top your Thanksgiving Jello Salad with some apple and mandarin orange slices, sugared cranberries, or whipped cream and serve.
Jello Making Tips
- Be sure to completely dissolve the gelatin crystals in boiling water before adding sugar.
- Be sure the sugar is fully dissolved before adding the very cold water and mix well.
- Don’t over stir after adding gelatin. This can break the interchains that form as gelatin sets and hence hinder the setting process.
- Some fruits like berries, apples, and bananas can be added to Jello perfectly fine when fresh but fruits with a higher acid content like pineapple, citrus, and kiwi will prevent you Jello from setting. Canned or jarred varieties are better because the acidy has had time to mellow out.
- The time to set will differ between fridges and containers used. Jello molds with thicker walls will take longer for the Jello to set. Allow lots of time and err on the side of caution and give extra time for setting to be 100%. I highly recommend all Jello dishes sit overnight to set to be sure.
I found this article from Serious Eats super helfpul and filled with other Jello must knows!
Other Holiday dinner favourites to try!
- Oven Roasted Turkey
- Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole
- Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- Tuscan Kale & Fennel Bread Stuffing
- Glazed Carrots with Honey & Balsamic
- Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
Jello Fruit Salad Recipe
- Tea pot or small pot
- Large Bowl
- Measuring Cups
- Chopping Knife
- Pearing knife
- 9" X 13" glass dish
- 6 oz raspberry Jello crystals 2 small boxes
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 1/2 cups cold water
- 1/2 cup orange juice prepared not freshly squeezed
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 lb whole cranberries partially thawed from frozen, rough chopped
- 1 medium apple peeled, cored and chopped
- 1 cup canned crushed pineapple drained from juice
- 1/2 cup canned or jarred mandarin oranges slices halved
- 1/4 cup walnuts chopped
- Add the Jello crystals to a large bowl. Stir in boiling water until crystals are completely dissolved. Add in sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Add in cold water and orange juice and stir.
- Add the cranberries, apples, mandarin oranges, pineapple and walnuts. Stir until mixed. Fruit will float to the top likely but that is fine.
- Pour the Jello and fruit mixture into the 9" X 13" glass dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let set in the fridge for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight. Check that Jello is set and then serve in the same dish or a pretty bowl. Top with more fruit, nuts, marshmallows, sugared cranberries or whipped cream.