Ambrosia salad is a marshmallow fruit salad made with Cool Whip, coconut, and canned fruit. It’s a staple at holiday dinners and potlucks!
Classic Ambrosia Salad
Is it a dessert? A side dish? A salad?!
Ambrosia fruit salad is a traditional holiday recipe made with Cool Whip, canned fruit, coconut, and marshmallows. It’s sweet, creamy, light, and fluffy…and always a family favorite!
My husband pokes fun at me, but I just love those classic fruit “salads” that my Granny use to serve with holiday dinners. You know the ones that everyone pretends they don’t like, but somehow they always get eaten? They are a staple at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter…you name it!
This ambrosia salad recipe is inspired by the dishes my Granny used to make at our family dinners. Granny works magic with even the most ordinary ingredients!
As a kid, ambrosia salad was one of my favorites. Ambrosia salad is a type of fruit salad with add-ins to make it creamy (traditionally sour cream and/or whipped topping). It’s one of those dishes that makes you wonder how anybody could just throw those ingredients together and still have it taste so good. But it IS that good!!
Fruit-wise, it usually contains pineapple tidbits and mandarin oranges, though you might also see bananas, strawberries, and maraschino cherries in some variations (I’m partial to cherries!) Shredded coconut is also a must.
Why Is It Called Ambrosia Salad?
The word “ambrosia” is a Greek word that refers to something delicious or fragrant. It’s also the name of a pretty groovy 70s rock band.
I think it’s a pretty fitting name — Ambrosia salad is absolutely heavenly! It is a mixture of flavors and textures that is a delight to all the senses. Plus it’s easy to make with almost no prep time!
Related: This layered Jello Ribbon Salad is also a classic recipe that’s perfect for picnics and holidays!
- 8oz Whipped Topping (such as Cool Whip)
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 11 ounces mandarin oranges
- 20 ounces crushed pineapple
- 10 ounces maraschino cherries
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 2 cups fruity rainbow mini marshmallows
- 3/4 cup crushed pecans, optional
A free printable copy of this recipe is available at the bottom of the post.
Helpful Kitchen Tools
I’ve provided this quick list of shop-able ingredients for your convenience; disclosure policy here.
To Prep: Drain all of the canned fruits and separate into their own bowls.
- Mix cool whip and sour cream in a large bowl until completely incorporated.
- Stir the drained mandarins and pineapple into the whipped-cream mixture, followed by the coconut and rainbow marshmallows.
- Fold in the chopped pecans.
- Press your drained maraschino cherries between two paper towels to remove all remaining liquid, then gently stir into your Ambrosia salad. Take care with this step to prevent bruising or smashing the cherries.
- If you have the time, I recommend that you refrigerate the completed salad for at least 2 hours before serving. I think it tastes best when it’s chilled.
- Feel free to swap out the pecans for another type of nut that you prefer. Pistachios or chopped walnuts would also be tasty! You can also omit nuts altogether.
- When serving, you can make this look fancy by adding a dollop of whipped cream to each individual bowl, almost like a sundae.
- Greek yogurt may be substituted for the sour cream.
- You can also substitute (or add) some of your favorite fruits. Canned peaches, fresh blueberries, and fresh grapes work well too.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Far In Advance Can You Make Ambrosia Salad?
Ambrosia salad can be kept in the fridge for up to 2-3 days. However, I would recommend making it the day you plan to serve it, or the night before. That’s because the longer it sits in the fridge, the fruits will start to release moisture and may change the texture of the salad.
If making ahead of time, be sure to thoroughly drain all fruit to prevent the salad from becoming too liquid-y. Keep covered or in an airtight container in the fridge, until ready to serve.
Can Ambrosia Salad Be Frozen?
Yes, you can freeze ambrosia salad – BUT – once it has been frozen, it must be served frozen (almost like ice cream). You can let it soften just a tad and serve using an ice cream scoop.
However, you don’t want to let it thaw out completely because it will not be the right consistency anymore.
Related: Try this Frozen Fruit Salad recipe too! It’s been a favorite in our family for generations and it’s meant to be served frozen.
Does Ambrosia Salad Have Jello In It?
Old-Fashioned Ambrosia Salad Recipe (Printable Recipe Card)
If you like this recipe, please rate it! We would also love to hear what you think in the comments below.
Old Fashioned Ambrosia Salad Recipe
- Large Mixing Bowl
- 8 ounces Cool Whip
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 11 ounces mandarin oranges drained
- 20 ounces crushed pineapple drained
- 10 ounces maraschino cherries drained
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 2 cups rainbow mini marshmallows
- 3/4 cups crushed pecans optional
- Fold together cool whip and sour cream in a large mixing bowl until completely incorporated.
- Stir in the drained mandarins and pineapple, followed by the coconut and rainbow marshmallows.
- Add in the pecans, if using.
- Drain and press the cherries between two sheets of paper towel, then carefully stir into the ambrosia salad to prevent bruising.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
Pin this Ambrosia Fruit Salad recipe on Pinterest:
More of our favorite summer salad recipes: