Slice-resisting Strawberry Pretzel Icebox Pie straddles both sides of beach vacation

Once again Gourmandistan was lucky enough to experience Dewees Island, a place we have grown to love over many years. Our route to this small South Carolina island always includes an overnight stay in Asheville, North Carolina, possibly the hippest place in the Tarheel State and now home to one of Michelle’s mother’s dear friends who was also Michelle’s favorite high school English teacher. 

Asheville, NC

In Asheville, we enjoyed another dinner at Chai Pani and left with homemade bread and Kilwins caramel corn as we headed south. As it has been a somewhat cold and wet spring, we had yet to experience local Kentucky strawberries. We were happy to have our expectations confirmed that South Carolina still had some, and bought several pints at a farm stand not too far from our coastal enclave. Some of the berries went into bowls of yogurt, oatmeal and cereal, but many went into an icebox pie with an intriguing gelatin-based strawberry topping based on a recipe Michelle found in a back issue of Garden & Gun Magazine.

With its dense crust and cream cheese-thick center, we found this “pie” to be more like a cheesecake with a firmly set layer of strawberry puree. At the beach, we used a large spoon to break up the pretzels, resulting in a very firm crust that tended to shatter when touched by a knife. The various resulting shards of crust, center and topping were delicious, however, and we wondered what it might be like with a less “rustic” bottom layer.

Our return through Asheville meant another visit with our formerly Western Kentucky friend, who gifted us with more delicious bread and some North Carolina strawberries.

Michelle’s mom and her favorite English teacher.

Once home, Michelle decided to use the berries to make another icebox pie, this time pulverizing the pretzels for the crust in our food processor. In her familiar environs Michelle discovered the crust was more comfortable in a springform than it had been in a regular old pie pan from the beach house kitchen, but even the finely-ground pretzel crust did not easily cut, even with a sharp knife.

We think this “pie” might be better served as bite-sized bars, but even though we must eat our wedge-shaped pieces with one hand ready to catch straying crust bits, we are happily making our way through the North Carolina berry version. We hope to return again to Dewees Island, and see our now-Ashevillian friend again. And, should the weather cooperate, we may be able to bring along some Kentucky strawberry pretzel icebox bars.


(adapted from Garden & Gun Magazine)


  • Generous 3 c. pretzels
  • ½ c. lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 3 TB Ovaltine chocolate malt powder (optional)
  • 1-3/4 sticks unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350° F, with a rack in the center.

Crush pretzels into a fine meal in a food processor. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Add brown sugar and malt powder and stir to combine. Then, drizzle in melted butter and mix until fully incorporated. Scoop the mixture into a 10″ springform pan. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the crust mixture firmly into the pan.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly toasted. Cool the pan on wire rack, then freeze until ready to use.


  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 8-oz. package cream cheese
  • ¾ c. confectioners sugar

Combine the cream and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat until soft peaks form. Remove the whipped cream from the mixer bowl and reserve in a another bowl.

Add cream cheese and powdered sugar to the stand mixer bowl. Beat until light and fluffy.  Gently fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture.

Spoon filling into pie crust. Smooth surface with a spatula, and then return pie to the freezer.

Strawberry topping:

  • 1 lb. ripe strawberries, hulled
  • 1 (¼ oz.) envelope unflavored gelatin
  • ¾ c. granulated sugar

Purée strawberries in a blender or food processor. Reserve ½ cup of purée in a small bowl, and combine the rest with sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring sugar and strawberry purée almost to a boil, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, add gelatin to the ½ cup of reserved strawberry purée and mix. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then add to the simmering strawberry/sugar mixture and whisk to dissolve gelatin. Once gelatin is dissolved, remove from heat. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve while it’s still hot. Then let cool to room temperature.

Poor cooled strawberry mixture over pie.  Return to freezer overnight. A few hours before serving, put pie in refrigerator.



  1. Cutest mom ever!
    Hey next time you go to Asheville, LMK. My best friend lives there, he’s an artist, really beautiful stuff and sweetest guy ever. danielnevins.com

  2. Ron

    Now I must admit, strawberry pretzel icebox pie is a new one on me. It sounds divine in a sweet and salty way. Our berries will be at there best in about 2 weeks so I’m adding this to my list of strawberry recipes to make.
    When we lived in Kentucky we never did the island thing in South Carolina but did make an annual trip to Ocracoke in North Carolina. May was always our favorite time to visit. Sounds as if you guys had a wonderful trip.

    • I’ve always wanted to go to the Outer Banks. We did for many years go to the beach in very, very southern NC (Bald Head Island near Wilmington). We do love Dewees.

  3. I got all hung up on the idea that there was a magazine called Garden and Gun!! But the pie looks delightful, even if the magazine seems very odd to me.

    • I know, I know. The South is a weird place. It’s a great magazine, though, with some excellent writers and beautiful photography. It’s about hunting (not my cup of tea either but it’s definitely a thing here), not the NRA. Thank goodness.

  4. Carolyn Melcher

    Love the recipe and the photos. I’m so pleased you could meet up with friends in Asheville, on your trip.

  5. Pat Walters

    Dear Ones,

    Thanks for this blog and the kind words. We loved seeing you all and are already planning next time. Lisa and Dave are gardening like mad, both for us and for the club. The squash have bloomed and the tomato plants are climbing. The knockout roses are thriving, and Lisa’s gorgeous deep red lilies love their new home. They have accompanied L&D on several moves. My husband John adored them. I help with the watering and admire their handiwork. We are hoping to go up on the Blue Ridge this weekend where the rhododendra are bursting forth. Ever been to Mount Pisgah?

    Keep the happy thoughts coming,


    • Oh how wonderful! I’ve made note of your new email address, but I can’t change it in the blog subscription. You’ll just have to sign up again! LOVED seeing you. Can’t wait ’til the next visit. And, no, I’ve never been to Mount Pisgah!

      • P.S. I’ve been gardening like a lunatic myself. Lisa and Dave are so inspiring. The only downside is that the ticks this year are positively horrible. But it’s good therapy.

    • Thanks, Mimi! I can’t say that I had heard of that either. But one of my other favorite beach pies has a crust made with saltines. Sweet and salty is a good combo!

  6. Your portraits of the ladies are beautiful Michelle. UK strawberries are amazing this year – the right timing for rain followed by sunshine.

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