Side dish

Cherry lime Dr Pepper salad

Cherry lime Dr Pepper salad DSC5246

If you flip through most Texas cookbooks published in the last century, you’ll find recipes for congealed salads. Simply put, this is a salad is made with fruit, nuts, and gelatin. This longtime favorite was once a standard at most potlucks, church suppers, holiday dinners, and backyard barbecues. Whether the salads were pink, red, or green (or perhaps some combination of all three), these salads always took a place of pride on the table.

My family usually has at least one at every gathering, but this seems to be the exception and not the norm. Unfortunately, the congealed salad no longer occupies its esteemed place on the Texan table, and you just don’t see them nearly as often as you did back in the day.

Sure, I can understand some people’s aversion to making a salad with flavored boxed gelatin that is chock full of sugar, artificial colors, and other dreadful ingredients. But it’s simple to make a congealed salad with unflavored gelatin and any combination of liquid. And quite frankly, these salads not only taste better but are also healthier, too.

Cherry lime Dr Pepper salad | Homesick Texan

One stalwart of the congealed salad tradition is the Dr Pepper salad (or Coke salad if your people were more inclined that way). As the name implies, the salad is made with said soda, and usually some combination of cherries, nuts, and cream cheese. A topping of whipped cream would not be unheard of if you were feeling especially fancy.

When I was telling my grandma that I would be making a Dr Pepper salad for the Fourth of July and discussed with her the traditional ingredients, she laughed and said, “Is this a salad or a dessert?” Indeed, that is a good question. Especially when you consider most Dr Pepper salads are made with cherry pie filling, sweetened red gelatin, along with Dr Pepper. That’s an awful lot of sugar for a side dish, and so I was curious if it would be possible to make a Dr Pepper salad with more natural ingredients instead.

Using plain gelatin, I whipped up a combination of tart cherry juice, lime juice, and Dr Pepper for my liquid base. (Now, you may argue at this point that Dr Pepper isn’t exactly a health food, but I did use cane sugar Dr Pepper, which is slightly more virtuous. And in any case, you certainly can’t have a Dr Pepper salad without the namesake ingredient!)

Because cherries are in season, I stirred in some ripe cherries, though one could also add sliced plums, blueberries, and/or strawberries, too. And finally, I threw in some pecans for crunch and lime zest for brightness. After a few hours, my concoction had turned into a slightly wobbly fruit salad with juicy bursts of cherries in each bite. It was definitely fun, and could easily be served at the end of the meal, but because it was made with fresh juices and fruits, you didn’t feel decadent eating it as a side dish instead.

When it comes to congealed salads, I always love a fancy one that’s been molded into a pretty shape. But because my plan is to transport my Dr Pepper salad, I put them into little half-pint Mason jars, which makes the salad both ready for traveling and serving. Though this recipe can be set up any way that you choose.

Cherry lime Dr Pepper salad | Homesick Texan

Once when I was making Dr Pepper pulled brisket, my grandmother suggested that a soda salad would make a fine accompaniment. And indeed it does. Cherry lime Dr Pepper salad is a refreshing addition to any backyard gathering, and will make young and old smile as the enjoy each cool and luscious bite.

Cherry lime Dr Pepper salad DSC5246
5 from 1 vote

Cherry lime Dr Pepper salad

Servings 8
Author Lisa Fain


  • 2 1/2 cups cherry juice
  • 1 1/4 cups Dr Pepper, preferably sweetened with cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (juice from about 2-3 limes)
  • 1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar, optional
  • 4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1 pound sweet cherries
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest


  1. Stir together the cherry juice, Dr Pepper, and lime juice. Taste and if it’s not sweet enough for you, add the optional sugar.

  2. Pour all but 1 cup of the liquid into a pot and bring to a boil. As the liquid in the pot is heating, add the gelatin to a large mixing bowl and pour over it the remaining 1 cup of liquid. Whisk together the gelatin and liquid until it’s well combined and let it thicken and get slightly bubbly.

  3. When the liquid in the pot comes to a boil, pour it into the mixing bowl with the gelatin, whisking again until well combined. Cover the bowl and place the bowl in the refrigerator for 1 hour, to allow the gelatin to thicken a bit.

  4. While the gelatin thickens, remove the pits and stems from the cherries and then cut each cherry into quarters. After an hour, the gelatin should be slightly thickened. Stir the cherries, pecans, and lime zest into the gelatin until well combined, and then pour the gelatin into an 8-cup mold, or if using Mason jars, you can now evenly divide the mixture between 4 pint jars, 8 half-pint jars, or 16 quarter-pint jars, filling the jars about 2/3 full.

  5. Cover and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours. Serve chilled.

  1. Love congealed salads…this is a winner! Thanks for making and sharing. Pinned for later.

  2. Lisa Fain

    Mimi–Aren't they fun? Hope you enjoy it!

  3. nativetexangirl

    I remember making these salads and also Spoonburgers (kind of sloppy Joes with Dr. Pepper). Thank you for a fun nostalgic recipe that is healthier.

  4. Lisa Fain

    nativetexangirl–Oh! I've never heard of spoonburgers but will have to do some research. They sound terrific!

  5. Jennifer Joseph

    I just made this, it's ready for the fridge, and it smells SO good! If someone had said to me yesterday 'you will make a congealed salad tomorrow' I would have thought them nuts. I love your recipes; I too am a misplaced Texan! 🙂

  6. Lisa Fain

    Jennifer–You have made my day! Hope y'all enjoy it and have a wonderful Fourth of July!

  7. Can't figure out why – when I hit the "print recipe" button at the end of your recipe – it never changes the page and so I just have to figure out which page of the blog the recipe is on and print that. What am I doing wrong?

  8. Lisa Fain

    Sher–I'm so sorry you're having problems printing. It's working fine on my end so unfortunately, I'm not sure what's going on with your computer! What browser and operating system are you using?

  9. Jim Eikner

    The 'gealed salad I looked forward to as a kid was made by an aunt in Georgia. It was lime jello with cream cheese, pineapple chunks and pecans. This sounds yummy as well…

  10. Lisa Fain

    Jim–Lime congeal is a favorite of mine, too. In Texas, some people add horseradish to it for an added pop!

  11. Joanne S

    I loved Friday lunch my first two years in college–cherry jello salad, tuna salad and a pecan sweet roll. I lived in the dorm closest to where the men's hockey team lived and ate their meals. Second two years we moved to a newly built dorm with regular cafeteria food.

    I should make cherry jello.

  12. Lisa Fain

    Joanne–Jello salads were always classic cafeteria food. And if it's been a while since you had one, you should definitely make one!

  13. Anonymous

    I so love cherry Jello salads. Never had one with Dr Pepper but it's high time. Thanks for a recipe made from scratch.

  14. Lisa Fain

    Anon–Yes! It's definitely high time to try one with Dr Pepper.

  15. Anonymous

    You can get cherry juice in the stores? I have never noticed it. Any particular brand? I may give this a try for a party in a few weeks, without the nuts. Always thought the nuts in the congealed salads got mushy. I love nuts alone, just not cooked in things. Thanks as always for the food memories and the recipes.

  16. Lisa Fain

    Linda–Yes, you can get cherry juice in stores, at least in NYC! It's with all the other juices. If for some reason you can't find it, cranberry juice or pomegranate juice would be a good substitute.

  17. I've made one every Thanksgiving and Christmas with raspberry and lemon Jello, chopped fresh cranberries, crushed pineapple, chopped grapes, and chopped pecans. Lately I add mini marshmallows. We miss it the rest of the year, so I chop and dehydrate fresh cranberries in season, and can reconstitute them months later to enjoy this old favorite. I cook for a diabetic and have to substitute Splenda for the sugar and use sugar free Jello, but it is still excellent. I make exactly the same way you made yours!

  18. The lime Jello salad I learned to make here in Texas (with pineapple, fruit cocktail and cottage cheese) was a favorite with my children growing up. They named it "nuclear Jello" and swore that it glowed in the dark. I am going to try the cherry variety.

  19. Midwesterners love their jello salad too! My grandma always made one with orange sherbet mixed in. That taste and texture will forever be linked in my mind with holiday dinners.

  20. Taste of Beirut

    Reminds me of my first years in Texas at the Newcomer's Club meetings!

  21. If one were to add cream cheese to this salad, would you just chop it up into chunks, or stir it in to make it creamy? I’m intrigued by this recipe and I’m planning to make it for my Texas-born mom when she comes to visit us in AZ next month. She keeps a close watch on her sugars (type 2 diabetes) but I think she might taste the salad if it wasn’t just all sweet.

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