Tomato Barbecue Jell-O Salad (Georgia, 1960s, adapted)

This is one of those recipes that belongs to another time and place, and probably should have stayed there.   Savory Jell-O salads have always fascinated me, but I don’t get around to making them all that often.  There’s usually a weird crunchy ingredient like celery or chopped nuts that prompts the gag reflex just reading the ingredient list, and if I find seafood and gelatin in the same dish I just turn the page.  But for whatever reason I’m not instantly horrified by mixing Jell-O and tomatoes.  It’s odd but not plain crazy.  Plenty of home gardeners will pour cream and sugar over fresh, ripe tomato slices and eat them like ice cream, and one of the best desserts I’ve had in my life was a deconstructed milkshake dotted with uber-sweet cherry tomatoes.  And even in savory tomato dishes like pasta sauces or

So when I came across “Sandy’s Tomato Barbecue Salad” in Brookhaven’s Favorite Recipes I didn’t put it down immediately.  No weird crunchy stuff.   Lemon Jell-O, which adds tartness and sweetness but not a lot of flavor.  This might be the savory Jell-O salad that would win me over.  I mean, if they were so popular for so many years they can’t be that bad, right?  Wrong.  This concoction has no business being served as a salad. So much oomph that salad greens can’t compete.  You’d need an entire head of lettuce to balance the flavors properly.

But it’s not inedible.  It’s just inedible as a salad.  As a condiment it’s not half bad, like if you took a piquant Georgia-style barbecue sauce and thickened it up a little.  (or a lot).  A little scoop of this on a burger, over top a pork chop, or even a char-grilled steak is way better than it ought to be.


Tomato Barbecue Jell-O Salad (Georgia, 1960s, adapted)

  • Preparation: 10 min
  • Ready in: 2 h 10 min
  • For: 6 side dish servings
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  1. Add water and Jell-O powder to a mixing bowl - stir until dissolved. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well-combined. Transfer to a glass dish or mold and chill until gelatin is firm.
  2. Serve on shredded cabbage or crisp lettuce.

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