I must admit, I kind of pride myself on being a bit of a grandma while I am still in my mid-30s. I’ve had people point out (for most of my adult life) that many of the hobbies I enjoy, the decor I choose, and the dishes I like to make remind them of their grandmothers. Lol.
I think this ambrosia salad is no exception.
To me, this is a side dish (or dessert!) that I’ve seen served at bridal showers, baby showers, and other potluck meals.
If you’ve never had ambrosia salad before, it’s a creamy fruit salad that might sound a bit odd based on the ingredients, but don’t knock it until you try it!
Related: Jello Salad
Why is it called ambrosia salad?
My understanding is ambrosia means “fragrant” or “delicious” and is also associated with fruit from Greek mythology. This is certainly a very delicious fruit salad, so the name fits.
I suspect that ambrosia salad may be kind of a southern (U.S.) thing. But if you’re from another region, I’d love to know if it’s something that you saw or ate growing up. Being from southwest Missouri, we have of a mix of Southern cooking and Midwestern dishes, too.
Ambrosia Salad Ingredients:
- Whipped Topping (Cool Whip, or the off-brand version)
- Vanilla Yogurt
- Sweetened Coconut Flakes
- Mandarin Oranges – canned
- Pineapple – canned tidbits
- Maraschino Cherries
- Sliced Almonds
- Chopped Pecans
- Fruit-Flavored Mini Marshmallows
These are the ingredients I use, which are mostly traditional. The main thing I do a little different with my ambrosia salad recipe is add more nuts than you typically see.
I like some crunch along with the creaminess and sweet fruit flavors of this recipe. It adds a little more dimension.
Substitutions & Variations:
- Whipped cream can be substituted for whipped topping. The dish will not store for as long, but if you think it will be consumed in a day, then this won’t matter
- Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt can be substituted for vanilla yogurt. This will make the ambrosia salad a little less sweet. However, this is meant to be a rather sweet side dish, or even dessert.
- Fresh fruit can be used instead of canned, but the recipe card below lists measurements in canned quantities, so you’ll need to convert those.
- Almonds or pecans can be substituted for another nut option (like pistachios) if needed.
Fruit-flavored marshmallows can be hard to find. When I was grocery shopping for these supplies, they did not have these at two of the three stores I went to. And I suspect it may be kind of a southern thing (let me know in comments), so it may be hard to find in certain areas.
You can substitute these for regular flavored mini marshmallows OR leave them out of the recipe completely. The ambrosia salad will still be very delicious and sweet without them—it’s just a traditional ingredient that adds an interesting texture.
As I mentioned, I see ambrosia salad served most often at big meals like Thanksgiving or a baby shower.
So, if you’re preparing for a meal like that, here are some other side dish recipes you might like:
- 3 Easy Pasta Salad Dressings
- Easy Jalapeño Popper Dip
- Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Whipped Feta
- Classic Potato Salad
- Best Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes
I love this ambrosia salad! Next, I’ll have to get the official family recipe and share my great-aunt Ina’s cranberry jello salad. It’s also one of these sweet salads that just reminds me of big family meals. Enjoy. xo. Emma
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- 8 ounces whipped topping
- 5 ounces vanilla yogurt (about 1 cup)
- ½ cup coconut flakes (sweetened)
- 20 ounces pineapple tidbits (drained)
- 15 ounces mandarin oranges (drained)
- 10 ounces maraschino cherries (drained)
- ½ cup almonds (sliced)
- ½ cup pecans (chopped)
- 1 cup fruit-flavored mini marshmallows (or regular mini marshmallows)
- If the whipped topping is frozen, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator until it can be folded.
- In a small mixing bowl, fold the whipped topping in with the vanilla yogurt.
- In a large mixing bowl, add all the other ingredients.
- Mix the cream mixture into the other ingredients until everything is well coated.
- Serve chilled.
Notice: Nutrition is auto-calculated, using Spoonacular, for your convenience. Where relevant, we recommend using your own nutrition calculations.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh – my mom made this for every summer cookout we had in the 80s and 90s. I always thought it was normal but my friends recently told me that they had never experienced this anywhere else but at my house back then so my mom must have gotten the recipe from a magazine in the 70s/80s maybe? We have no Southern roots that I know of!
We also had strawberry pretzel salad at every summer event but that is DEFINITELY popular in Pittsburgh. We even have local ice cream places that make this as a special ice cream flavor!
Edward Scissorhands chic.
Making this for the next baby shower I host 😉
I also grew up eating a variation of this. Ours had chopped dried dates for instance. And we called it fruit fluff, which kind of makes me crack up now, reading that everyone else called it ambrosia. Oh, and I’m from Michigan. 🙂
I’m so excited to have an ambrosia salad recipe! I grew up outside of Chicago and we always had ambrosia salad at gatherings growing up. I definitely think of it as midwestern. Yum!
I’m in southern Ontario, Canada and we call it Ambrosia too! I’ve never had it with nuts, and we use sour cream and plain marshmallows ( although we do have fruity marshmallows here!) . Definitely a 50s or 60s thing 🙂 I love it!
My husband’s stepmom (from southern GA) makes this with mayonnaise. It’s very sweet though. They put mayonnaise in everything, which, if you think about it, it’s just a shortcut emulsion of eggs and oil. You can see where maybe possibly this salad started out as something far more labor intensive.
She is the queen of these “salads.” It counts as a salad bc it has multiple ingredients and it’s served cold.
Most of these salads include things like lime jello powder, vanilla pudding mix, cool whip, and mayonnaise (obviously.) Crunchy ingredients are things like crushed potato chips, pretzels, or ritz crackers.
And yes, these always count as a vegetable at her house! She serves them with dinner. She absolutely does not consider these to be dessert. She says these are healthy bc they include things like canned pears (in heavy syrup) and maraschino cherries.
I’ve had something similar before and this one was quite good too. I used regular marshmallows as i really found the options for fruit ones to be stale/lacking on the shelves.
I live in NY, and had this “salad” once every summer when I was a kid. Someone who had a cabana near ours at the beach would make this for the block parties. It always had regular mini-marshmallows — I’ve never seen fruit ones! I’ve also never had nuts in it – lots of whipped topping, canned fruit salad, marshmallow, and coconut.
I live in Canada, and definitely had this salad at family gatherings and church functions. My aunt also always made “seven-up salad” for every single Thanksgiving, Christmas etc. It was definitely a highlight!
I live in Kentucky and its very common for people to add shredded cheese to this salad as well. I have NO IDEA why people do this, but they do. Lol. My personal recommendation is to skip the cheese, but to each their own I suppose!
love this article.. will be trying this for sure
My mid Missouri grandma made this too! I can relate to having a grandma style. Glad you are doing you!
I’m from New Zealand and we eat something similar to this as a really decadent dessert and it always includes chopped chocolate or chocolate chips. We call it ambrosia and it’s a favourite summer dessert to have after a BBQ!. We would never call it a salad (!!) here salad is only some kind of cold vegetable dish – usually lettuce, tomato’s etc 🙂
Oh how fun to read! If you want some more around the world info: It sounds a lot like a thing that in Sweden where I live is called mimosa salad (nothing like the drink!). It’s a traditional Christmas salad here. There’s also a cake called ambrosia cake, that’s nothing like your ambrosia salad. It’s more like a bundt cake with pickled orange peels on it, it has a very strong grandma vibe. 🙂
We live in northern Illinois. My mother-in-law made this salad quite frequently and she lived in the same town her entire life….so, not a southern dish.
Haha, Emma I feel like since you become a mom you’ve really embraced your roots and it’s been reflected in the recipes you’ve shared lately! I love it!
Hi! I’m from NE NJ and my Nana always made this for parties. Maybe it was a 60’s thing more than a regional thing like maybe from a Betty Crocker cookbook like someone said above.
Definitely a 60’s thing! My western NY grandma would always make this for parties too, along with scalloped potatoes, canned vegetables served with extra butter, and other delightful midcentury foods. I miss those dinners!
My understanding is ambrosia is what the Greek gods ate, and we actually (this is a little embarrassing) called our dish Food for the Gods. This was in southern Illinois. We used grapes rather than cherries and plain, large marshmallows cut in half. No sour cream. We ate this for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I grew up in Southwestern Quebec, Canada and my grandmother made a salad very similar to this. Only it was called 5 Cup Salad and had 1 cup each of crushed pineapple, mandarin oranges, coconut, fruit flavoured mini marshmallows and sour cream. She served it as a side at family gatherings. I loved it so much that we even had it at our wedding! Thanks for sharing your version!
I’m from Ohio and my grandmother always made this for special occasions! So nostalgic.
When I think of Ambrosia salad I think of Edward Scissorhands!!
Yes! I’m in Ireland and Edward scissorhands was the only time I heard it mentioned before till now!
I love this so much!! i am from central South Dakota (the middest of midwest) and we have had this salad at church potlucks a lot! I recently scored a betty crocker party book published in 1960 and it makes me want to dress up like Holly Golightly and throw cocktail parties.. this salad would be perfect for that!