It’s hard to find the perfect dish when entertaining a group of people.
Everyone has different diets and dietary restrictions. Desserts are especially difficult because so many of them contain dairy, gluten, nuts, and animal products, but I think I’ve finally found a crowd-pleaser.
Surprisingly, it’s a throwback to the convenience dishes of the 1950s, but I’ve adapted and updated an oldie but goodie to make it accessible to everyone, and even more delicious than the original.
My family, and many others, always served “fluff salads” on special occasions. They were usually full of Jell-O, whipped topping, canned fruit, and marshmallows, and resembled nothing close to an actual salad, except that they were cold. I wanted to create a better version, something everyone could enjoy.
My friend Elizabeth, who is from Texas and a fantastic cook, always made the best cranberry fluff salad, and old family recipe, and hers was actually frozen, which added a nice festive touch.
I took her recipe, made a few changes, and came up with a fantastic, decadent dish that pretty much everyone can enjoy because it’s gluten-free and vegan.
It’s perfect for the holidays or any time of year.
Vegan Cranberry Semi-Freddo
½ bag of fresh or frozen whole cranberries. Do not use dried or canned. They won’t work.
Sugar or sweetener to taste. I use about a quarter cup.
½ cup fresh, finely diced pineapple. In a pinch, you can use a small can of crushed pineapple, drained.
½ cup chopped toasted pecans (for nut allergies substitute ¼ cup sunflower seeds or skip)
½ cup diced apple
½ cup shredded coconut
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1.2 cup vegan mini marshmallows
Thaw the whipped topping. Wash and pick over the cranberries. Then add them to a food processor along with the sugar and pulse until the cranberries are coarsely chopped. You do not want a puree here.
Taste the cranberries and add sweetener until you like the taste. Fresh cranberries are very tart and bitter without sweetener.
In a mixing bowl, fold the chopped cranberries into the whipped topping along with the pineapple and any other add-ins you are using. Stir until everything is evenly distributed.
The mixture will turn a pretty shade of pink.
The fluff salad can be eaten at this point, but I prefer it frozen. I pour it back into the whipped topping tub, but if you included a lot of add-ins, it won’t fit and you’ll need a separate, freezer-safe container with a lid.
Freeze for a few hours and store in the freezer. The mixture can then be scooped and served like ice cream. The texture and flavor are similar to a fancy Italian dessert called a semi-freddo which contains a lot of dairy and eggs, but this a vegan version.
Although it’s meant to be a dessert, I think it makes a pretty good snack, or even breakfast, too!