I know that most people have jumped into September with both feet– they’ve got 25 pumpkin spice recipes already in the queue, they’re throwing freshly-picked apples into absolutely everything, and they’re using words like “warming” and “toasty” and “roasted.” But a huge part of my heart is still hung up on summer recipes– the ones that are grilled, or use seasonal produce, or are served straight from the fridge so they’re nice and refreshing on a hot, sunny day. You know, even if it’s not all that hot or sunny out there lately.
I’m not entirely sure what happened to June, July, and August, but they were gone before I knew it and I’m working to catch up to the calendar in my mind. And I promise that I will, soon enough. But until then, I’m going to happily chill out over here with my Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Dessert, OK?
I was first inspired to make this recipe years ago, after I met the most adorable older woman at a potluck. She showed up balancing two baking dishes full of her retro strawberry pretzel salad, and after setting them down, she walked around to each person, asking that they try some of her “specialty”. A lot of us were slightly hesitant because of the layer of jello on top– it’s a universal truth that elderly ladies are overly eager to use jello in some strange recipes, right?– but we weren’t about to break this sweet lady’s heart so we all took a tiny square.
Cut up so you could see the layers, it actually looked pretty good, and even more surprisingly, it tasted good. It had that whole sweet and salty thing going on, with the contrast of fruity jello, whipped topping, and buttery pretzel crust; and since I have a weak spot of anything pretzel-related, I actually went back for seconds.
A lot of people did.
That’s when I started thinking to myself, “Everyone’s really enjoying this. But it’d be even better if it was pudding instead of jello.”
I came up with the idea of layering a pretzel crust with chocolate pudding, peanut butter, and whipped topping as I ate. And then I proceeded to forget about it for 3 or so years.
I’m not sure why I suddenly remembered that idea out of the blue a few weeks ago, but once I did I was dead-set on making it immediately. Chocolate, peanut butter, and pretzels? I knew I was on to something good.
But I didn’t know how good it would be until I actually made it for the first time. Oh man.
Just like with the strawberry pretzel salad, I serve the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Dessert chilled, and it has the same sweet and salty appeal going on thanks to the pretzel crust and topping. But then there’s this rich yet airy layer of sweet peanut butter cream cheese, and a thick and velvety chocolate pudding layer on top of that, and man, it’s just something else entirely. This dessert is so easy, so cool, so creamy, and most importantly, so damn good that I won’t just eat it while it’s still summer– I’ll make it for year-round.
But for now, I’ll use the end of summer as an excuse to make another batch. Go ahead and join me.
- 2 cups crushed pretzels, plus more whole pretzels, for topping
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted.
- 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 cup peanut butter, plus 3 tablespoons more, melted, for drizzling
- 1 carton (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided
- 3 cups cold milk
- 2 (4 ounce) packages instant chocolate pudding mix
- 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, to top
- 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, to top
- In a large bowl, combine the pretzels, granulated sugar, and butter. Evenly press the mixture into an ungreased 13×9″ baking dish. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes, then let cool for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a separate large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and peanut butter until smooth. Fold in half of the whipped topping until well-combined, and gently spread it over the pretzel crust.
- In a large bowl, combine the cold milk and pudding mixes, and whisk until no large clumps remain, about 3 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes to thicken. Gently spread the pudding over the peanut butter layer. Top the pudding layer with the remaining whipped topping.
- Press whole pretzels into the top of the whipped topping. Microwave a few tablespoons of additional peanut butter and drizzle over top. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and peanuts, then cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.