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Fresh Raspberry Jello Dessert is an easy, no-bake recipe that has been in my family for decades! It’s a summer favorite made with layers of crushed Nilla Wafer crumbs, creamy filling, a sweet and tart raspberry jello layer with fresh raspberries, and freshly whipped cream on top!
My family’s “Raspberry Dessert”
I grew up enjoying this deliciously refreshing and cool treat every summer of my life. My grandparents had raspberry bushes in their backyard and I would go pick the raspberries fresh off the vines to make this whenever we visited them in Idaho.
When Paul and I got married, he fell in love for this dessert big time. He has even requested it for his birthday dessert multiple times over the years, which is saying a lot since he is a hardcore chocolate dessert person and typically complains when I make things that don’t have any chocolate in them.
In all honesty, I have meant to post this recipe on the blog here for YEARS. Only, I kept hesitating because my family has always made it with a controversial ingredient, which is a raw egg mixed into the creamy layer that goes under the jello but on top of the Nilla wafer crumbs to protect it from getting completely soggy. I have literally eaten this hundreds of times and never had any issues with it, but the way things are these days, I didn’t want to post the recipe in its original form.
Finally, this year I found a suitable replacement and I can hardly tell a difference! Rather than use an egg as a binder, I just use some additional heavy cream instead! It works great and I feel much better sharing the recipe with you this way. Although for what it’s worth, I just might stick with making it the way I always have using our farm fresh eggs from our backyard chickens. You can also get pasteurized eggs at the store which are safe to consume raw, if you want to try out the original version as well.
There’s no mistake or omission in the recipe when it comes to the crumb layer on the bottom of this dessert. It’s really just Nilla wafer crumbs without any butter or other binding agent to make it hold together. The creamy layer on top and the moisture from the jello kind of compacts it down and helps it stick together more or less for a delicate, sandy texture that is the perfect contrast to the jiggly jello and creamy whipped cream.
And the bursts of tart raspberries are absolutely wonderful with the sweetness of the jello and other ingredients. Everything about this dessert just comes together and makes it one of our family favorite recipes that I hope everybody loves as much as we do! If you were to come to my house during the summer, this is probably what I would serve after dinner because we love it so much.
- Nilla wafers: Nothing is quite the same as sweet tender Nilla Wafers crumbs, but graham crackers or even biscoff cookies can be used instead if you prefer. You can crush them by hand with a rolling pin and ziploc bag, or take the easy route by using a food processor or blender instead.
- Raspberries: I have made this with both fresh and frozen raspberries. Fresh is my favorite, when they are available. If using frozen, no need to thaw them first.
- Raspberry jello: You will make the jello according to the package directions and let it set up in the fridge for 30 minutes before adding it to the rest of the dessert elements. This actually helps suspend the fresh fruit better throughout the jello.
- Powdered sugar: This is used to both sweeten the whipped cream that goes on top and make the creamy layer that creates a barrier between the crushed Nilla wafer crumbs and the jello.
- Heavy cream: I highly recommend using freshly whipped cream to top this dessert. Cool Whip just doesn’t compare, although it can be used in a pinch.
- Butter: A little salted butter adds richness and balance to the creamy layer under the jello.
- Vanilla extract: I love using my homemade vanilla extract to flavor my desserts! It adds a depth and complexity that I love to most recipes!
How to Make Raspberry Jello Dessert
- Make the jello: I like to start out by mixing the powdered gelatin into hot water and letting it dissolve. Then stick it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to an hour until it gets syrupy. This serves two purposes: First, it won’t penetrate the Nilla Wafers crumb layer at much, and second, the raspberries will be suspended in the jello better rather than floating to the top.
- Make the crumb layer: While the jello is setting up a bit in the fridge, pulverize the Nilla Wafers in a food process or blender, or by hand using a rolling pin or meat mallet to crush them up. Set aside about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of them for decorating the top of the dessert, then pat the rest of the crumbs into an even layer in the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish.
- Make the creamy filling: In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, melted butter, and 1/4 cup of the heavy cream until creamy and smooth. It should be fairly thick so that it won’t soak into the crumb layer, but thin enough that you can drizzle it. Drizzle this over the crumb layer, trying for fairly even coverage, but don’t worry if some areas of the crumb layer are exposed. It’s actually okay for a little of the jello to seep through because the moisture will help hold the crumb layer together.
- Add the raspberries and syrupy jello: Wash your raspberries and evenly sprinkle them on top of the creamy layer. Once the jello is syrupy, pour it over the top of the raspberries and place the whole thing in the fridge to set completely, about 3 hours.
- Top with freshly whipped cream: When the jello layer is close to being set, add the heavy cream, remaining powdered sugar, and vanilla extract to a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Take care not to overwhip the cream and turn it into butter though. Spread the whipped cream on top of the set jello layer.
- Decorate: Sprinkle the reserved Nilla Wafer crumbs evenly over the whipped cream, then decorate the top with some fresh raspberries, if desired. Slice into squares and serve using a spatula. The dessert will keep for 2 days in the fridge and is just as good on Day 2 as it is the day it is made, possibly even better.
Recipe Tips & Tricks
- Variations: Although my family only ever does raspberry with this dessert, I’m sure it would be delicious using fresh strawberries with strawberry jello. Or even peaches with peach (if you can find it) or orange jello. Or even blueberries in grape jello. It all depends on what fruit flavor you love! But please do try raspberry at least once because it’s the best!
- Don’t rush the jello layer: If you are pressed on time, I know it can be tempting to rush that middle layer by sticking the jello in the freezer, but unless you watch it like a hawk the edges will freeze before you know it while the middle is still runny. This dessert can be made 2 days in advance so you have plenty of time to let it set in the fridge.
- Use real whipped cream: I recently tried Cool Whip again after probably a 5 year hiatus and was reminded why I gave it up in the first place. Nothing can compare to freshly whipped cream on top of desserts!
- Save some raspberries for a garnish: My family never decorates the top of their raspberry dessert like you see in these pictures. That was my own little touch to make it a little prettier and my husband loved it so much that he always asks me to decorate the top with extra berries whenever I make this recipe.
- Serving: The trickiest part about this raspberry jello dessert is plating it. Like most jello desserts, it’s wobbly and doesn’t want to corporate to give you pretty, clean slices. Just do the best you can and go with it. I like to use two smaller spatulas to lift a slice and slide it off onto a plate. It’s totally okay if the bottom layer of crumbs spills to the sides a bit. We’re talking family reunion-type jello here, not some fancy dessert that requires sophisticated presentation.
Sort of, but not in a bad way. The edges will usually absorb some of the jello unless you are fastidious about sealing the bottom layer with a barrier of the creamy layer. But the jello will set up anyway and be syrupy when added, so it really isn’t an off-putting texture at all. In fact, that’s kind of my favorite part.
Yes you can use frozen raspberries, but there is no need to thaw them. Instead, just go ahead and add them to your jello after making it. The raspberries will thaw in the hot liquid and actually help it cool down more quickly. The main downside of using frozen raspberries is they don’t hold their shape like fresh raspberries do, but it’s hardly noticeable. I would only use fresh raspberries to decorate the top though.
Yes, you can make the full recipe up to 2 days in advance. After that the whipped cream starts to break down a bit in the fridge. I don’t recommend freezing this dessert.
More Raspberry Recipes
- The BEST White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake
- Raspberry Macarons
- Easy Streusel-Topped Raspberry Muffins
- Raspberry Pretzel Salad
- Raspberry Chocolate Tart
- White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Ice Cream
- 6 ounces raspberry jello mix or two 3-ounce packages
- 4 cups cold water divided
- 1 box finely crushed Nilla Wafers about 2 1/2 cups, divided
- 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar divided
- 1 Tablespoon salted butter melted
- 1 3/4 cups heavy cream divided
- 18 ounces fresh raspberries divided
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Prepare the jello by heating 2 cups of water in the microwave for 4-5 minutes until boiling. Stir in the powdered gelatin until dissolved, then add the remaining 2 cups of cold water and stir. Place in the fridge for 30-60 minutes until thickened and syrupy.
- Crush the Nilla Wafers into fine crumbs using a food processor, blender, or by hand with a rolling pin and heavy duty ziploc bag. Set aside 1/2 cup of the crumbs and pat the remaining crumbs into the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan.
- Whisk 1 and 1/2 cups of the powdered sugar, melted butter, and 1/4 cup of the cream in a medium bowl until thick but drizzly. If the mixture is too thick to drizzle add a little additional cream, one tablespoon at a time. Drizzle this over the Nilla Wafer crumbs. It’s okay for some of the crumbs to peek through and there is no need to spread the creamy layer to the edges.
- Sprinkle the raspberries evenly over the creamy layer, reserving your best looking raspberries for decorating the top of the dessert when it’s done.
- Pour the syrupy, cooled jello over the raspberries, then place in the fridge for 2-3 hours until completely set.
- Make the whipped cream by combining the remaining 1 and 1/2 cups of heavy cream with the remaining 1/4 cup of powdered sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Use a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or a hand mixer to beat the cream until stiff peaks form, taking care not to overbeat it. Spread in an even layer on top of the set jello.
- Sprinkle the reserved Nilla Wafer crumbs over the whipped cream, then decorate with the reserved raspberries. Slice into squares and serve.
- Original version: In our original family recipe, we use 1 egg in place of the 1/4 cup of heavy cream. I still make it that way often, although the cream is a safer version that works almost just as well for anyone who doesn’t have access to pasteurized or farm fresh eggs.
- Halving the recipe: This recipe can easily be halved and made in a smaller 8×8-inch dish. But it’s always so popular and we love it so much that we have taken to making the larger 9×13-inch version most regularly.
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