Classic Ambrosia Salad Recipe – Traditional American Dessert

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Classic Ambrosia Salad Recipe , a classic delight, blends creamy textures with sweet, fruity bursts. You’ll want marshmallows, juicy pineapple, and tender oranges, mixed with rich sour cream. Add coconut for a tropical twist. Homemade whipped cream elevates it. This dish, commonly served at gatherings, promises a refreshing taste. It’s great to share; it’s a simple yet exquisite choice. I recommend chilling it before serving for a perfect finish. A timeless, cherished treat!

Are you tired of the same old desserts at every gathering? I found myself in this predicament not too long ago. Enter the Classic Ambrosia Salad Recipe, a game-changer in the world of sweet treats. Growing up, I always looked forward to my grandmother’s version of this delightful dish. 

classic ambrosia salad recipe

It was the highlight of our family reunions, a perfect blend of sweet, creamy, and fruity elements that always left everyone asking for more. 

Trying to recreate that magic, I made my own Classic Ambrosia Salad. The experience was not just about mixing fruits and cream; it was a journey back to those cherished moments

This recipe is straightforward to whip up, requiring simple ingredients – canned fruits, mini marshmallows, coconut, and some whipped cream. 

When these elements come together, they create a heavenly concoction that’s comforting and refreshing. 

Perfect for any occasion, this salad has been my go-to recipe, always earning rave reviews from friends and family.

What Is Classic Ambrosia Salad? 

Classic Ambrosia Salad is a traditional American dessert, known for its delightful mix of sweet and creamy flavors. 

It typically features a combination of canned or fresh fruits like pineapple, oranges, and sometimes cherries or grapes, mixed with miniature marshmallows and coconut flakes. 

The salad is bound together with a creamy element, often sour cream or whipped cream. 

Originating from the Southern United States, this dish has become a staple at holiday gatherings and potlucks. 

Its name, “ambrosia,” signifies the food of the gods in Greek mythology, reflecting its delightful and cherished taste.

What Is The Origin Of Classic Ambrosia Salad Recipe? 

The origin of the Classic Ambrosia Salad Recipe traces back to the late 19th century in the United States, specifically the American South. 

The term “ambrosia” in Greek mythology refers to the food of the gods, signifying something exceptionally delightful and pleasing. 

This dessert gained popularity in American cookbooks during the 1800s, notably evolving when exotic fruits like oranges and pineapples became more accessible through improved transportation. 

Initially, it was a simple mixture of citrus fruits and coconut. As time progressed, additional ingredients like marshmallows, other fruits, and creamy elements like whipped cream or sour cream were incorporated, creating the version we know and love today.

classic ambrosia salad recipe

Ingredients List

Cool Whip8 ounces
Sour Cream1/2 cup
Mandarin Oranges (drained)11 ounces
Crushed Pineapple (drained)20 ounces
Maraschino Cherries (drained)10 ounces
Shredded Coconut1 cup
Rainbow Mini Marshmallows2 cups
Crushed Pecans (optional)3/4 cups
classic ambrosia salad recipe

What Are The Variations Suitable For The Classic Ambrosia Salad Recipe? 

Variations of the Classic Ambrosia Salad Recipe allow for creativity and adaptation to different tastes and dietary needs. 

  • Tropical Twist Infuse the classic ambrosia salad with a taste of the tropics by adding diced pineapple, mango, and shredded coconut. The result is a refreshing burst of exotic flavors.
  • Berry Bliss Elevate the ambrosia experience with a medley of fresh berries like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. The sweet and tart combination adds a delightful twist to the traditional recipe.
  • Citrus Infusion Brighten up your ambrosia salad by incorporating citrus segments such as mandarins or orange slices. The citrusy zing adds a burst of freshness to the creamy ensemble.
  • Nutty Crunch Introduce a satisfying crunch by tossing in chopped nuts like pecans or almonds. This variation adds a nutty depth to the salad, complementing the creamy textures.
  • Greek Yogurt Delight Swap the traditional sour cream for Greek yogurt to enhance the richness with a healthier twist. The yogurt lends a tangy note while maintaining the creamy consistency.
  • Chocolate Indulgence For a sweet-toothed twist, sprinkle mini chocolate chips or shavings over the ambrosia salad. The chocolatey addition creates a dessert-like experience within the fruity mix.

What Are The Tips For The Classic Ambrosia Salad Recipe? 

  • Drain Fruits Thoroughly: Excess liquid from canned fruits like mandarin oranges and pineapple can make the salad too soggy. Drain them well to maintain the right texture.
  • Chill Before Serving: Refrigerating the salad for a few hours helps the flavors meld together and enhances the taste.
  • Fresh Fruit Alternative: While canned fruits are traditional, using fresh fruits can offer a fresher, crisper texture.
  • Gentle Mixing: Mix the ingredients gently to prevent the fruits from getting mushy and to keep the marshmallows intact.
  • Customize to Taste: Feel free to adjust the quantities of ingredients like coconut and marshmallows to suit your taste.
  • Optional Add-Ins: Nuts or cherries can add flavor and texture.
  • Presentation: Serve in a clear bowl to showcase the colorful layers, making it visually appealing.

Are There Any Unusual Or Exotic Ingredients That Work Well With This Salad? 

Ambrosia Salad is traditionally made with classic ingredients, but you can introduce unusual or exotic elements for a unique twist:

  • Dragon Fruit: Adds a visually stunning element with a mild, slightly sweet taste.
  • Lychee: Offers a tropical, sweet, and floral note.
  • Passion Fruit: Provides a tangy, tropical burst of flavor.
  • Pomegranate Seeds: Add vibrant color and a tart crunch.
  • Coconut Milk: Replaces traditional whipped cream for a dairy-free option.
  • Starfruit: Imparts a citrusy, mildly sweet flavor and a star-like shape.
  • Candied Ginger: Offers a sweet and spicy kick with a touch of warmth.
classic ambrosia salad recipe

Recipe Directions 

  1. In a large mixing bowl, gently fold together the Cool Whip and sour cream until they are completely incorporated.
  2. Stir in the drained mandarin oranges and pineapple, ensuring an even distribution throughout the mixture.
  3. Add the shredded coconut and rainbow mini marshmallows, folding them in gently to keep the airy texture of the salad.
  4. If you’re using pecans, gently fold them into the mixture now.
  5. Drain the maraschino cherries and press them between two sheets of paper towel to remove excess moisture. Carefully fold the cherries into the salad to avoid bruising and staining the other ingredients.
  6. Cover the salad and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. This rest time allows the flavors to meld together and intensifies the overall taste of the ambrosia salad.
  7. Serve chilled as a delightful and colorful addition to any meal or gathering.

Enjoy the taste of a classic ambrosia salad – it’s like a healthy dessert.

What Herbs And Spices Work Well In Classic Ambrosia Salad Recipe?

  • Mint: Fresh mint leaves can add a refreshing touch.
  • Cinnamon: A sprinkle of cinnamon can warm up the flavor profile.
  • Vanilla Extract: A dash of vanilla enhances the creamy elements.
  • Lime Zest: For a citrusy, tangy twist.
  • Ginger: A hint of fresh or powdered ginger can introduce a subtle, spicy note.
  • Nutmeg: Just a pinch can add depth to the sweet flavors.
  • Cardamom: Offers a slightly sweet, floral note.
  • Lemon Balm: Its lemony scent complements the fruit components.
classic ambrosia salad recipe

Nutritional Values

The Classic Ambrosia Salad, while delightful in taste, is moderately high in calories and sugars due to its sweet components like marshmallows, canned fruits, and whipped cream or Cool Whip. 

It offers some nutritional benefits from the fruits, like vitamin C from oranges and dietary fiber from pineapple. However, it’s low in protein and can be high in saturated fats, depending on the dairy products used.

What Are The Total Calories In The Salad? 

The total calories in a classic Ambrosia Salad can vary based on the recipe and serving size. On average, a one-cup serving contains around 150-200 calories. 

This dessert salad typically includes canned fruit, marshmallows, coconut, and whipped cream, contributing to its calorie content. 

Health Benefits Of The Classic Ambrosia Salad Recipe

Vitamin C

Mandarin oranges and pineapple are rich in Vitamin C, boosting immune function.

Dietary Fiber

Fruits like pineapple and oranges contribute to dietary fiber, aiding digestion.


Fruits in the salad contain antioxidants, which combat free radicals.

Low Cholesterol

Using low-fat or fat-free sour cream or yogurt can reduce cholesterol.

Healthy Fats

If nuts are added, they provide healthy unsaturated fats.


The high water content in fruits helps in hydration.

Mood Enhancement

The sweetness and creamy texture can be mood-lifting.

Customizable For Dietary Needs

Can be adapted for vegan or low-sugar diets.

Nutrition Table

classic ambrosia salad recipe

What Dressings Are Best Served With Ambrosia Salad?

Ambrosia Salad is typically dressed with a light, sweet dressing to complement its fruity elements. Here are some suitable dressing options:

  • Whipped Cream: The traditional choice, providing creaminess and sweetness.
  • Vanilla Yogurt: Adds a tangy twist while maintaining creaminess.
  • Marshmallow Fluff: Imparts a fluffy, sweet texture and flavor.
  • Honey Lime Dressing: Balances the sweetness with zesty brightness.
  • Coconut Cream: Enhances the tropical vibes with creamy richness.
  • Citrus Syrup: Adds a sweet and tangy kick with citrus flavors.
Classic Ambrosia Salad Recipe

The classic ambrosia salad recipe combines good-for-you ingredients with yummy flavors.

Are There Any Unique Toppings That Can Elevate The Crunch Factor?  

  • Crispy Chickpeas: Oven-roasted for a nutty, crunchy bite.
  • Toasted Quinoa: Adds a delightful pop and nuttiness.
  • Fried Shallots: Offer a sweet, savory crunch.
  • Wasabi Peas: Spice up dishes with a zesty crunch.
  • Seed Mix: A combination of sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seeds.
  • Panko Breadcrumbs: Lightly toasted for extra crispiness.
  • Candied Nuts: Sweet and crunchy, ideal for salads or desserts.
  • Tortilla Strips: Thinly sliced and fried for a crisp texture.
  • Popcorn: Unconventional but adds a fun, airy crunch.
  • Bacon Bits: For a salty, smoky crunch (or vegan alternatives).
classic ambrosia salad recipe

What Is The Difference Between Homemade And Store-Bought Ambrosia Salad? 

  • Freshness: Homemade salads often use fresher ingredients than store-bought versions, which might contain preservatives.
  • Customization: Unlike the fixed recipes of store-bought options, you can tailor homemade salads to personal taste and dietary needs.
  • Nutrition: Homemade salads typically have fewer additives and can be healthier.
  • Flavor: Freshly made salads often taste better due to using fresh ingredients and the absence of preservatives.
  • Cost: Making salads at home can be more cost-effective than buying pre-made ones.
  • Portion Control: You have more control over portion sizes when preparing salads at home.
  • Packaging: Homemade salads reduce the need for plastic or packaged goods, making them more environmentally friendly.
  • Variety: There’s a wider range of ingredient choices when you make salads yourself.

How Can You Store Or Preserve The Classic Ambrosia Salad Recipe Leftovers? 

  • Airtight Container: Use a container with a tight lid to prevent air exposure.
  • Refrigeration: Always keep the salad refrigerated.
  • Consume Quickly: Best eaten within 1-2 days as the fruits and marshmallows can become soggy over time.
  • Avoid Freezing: Freezing is not recommended as it can drastically alter the texture.
  • Stir Before Serving: If the ingredients have separated, gently stir before serving again.
  • Check Consistency: The salad might be past its prime if it appears watery.
classic ambrosia salad recipe

Special Tools & Equipment List 

  • Food Processor: Ideal for chopping, blending, and making dough.
  • Stand Mixer: Essential for baking, whipping cream, and kneading dough.
  • Immersion Blender: Perfect for pureeing soups and sauces directly in the pot.
  • Mandoline Slicer: For uniformly thin slicing of fruits and vegetables.
  • Digital Kitchen Scale: Ensures precise ingredient measurements.
  • Slow Cooker: Great for stewing and slow-cooking meals.
  • Pressure Cooker: Reduces cooking time for beans, meats, and tough grains.
  • Sous Vide Machine: For precise cooking of meats and vegetables.
  • Pasta Maker: For homemade pasta.
  • Air Fryer: Offers a healthier alternative for frying foods.
  • Silicone Baking Mats: Reusable and non-stick, ideal for baking.
  • Cast Iron Skillet: Versatile for stovetop and oven cooking.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can I Use Fresh Fruits Instead Of Canned Ones?

Yes, fresh fruits can be used instead of canned ones in Ambrosia Salad. Fresh fruits provide a crisper texture and a more natural sweetness. However, remember that the moisture content in fresh fruits can vary, so you might need to adjust the amount of creamy ingredients to maintain the desired consistency. Using fresh fruits also allows for more variety and customization based on seasonal availability.

Is It Possible To Make A Vegan Version Of This Salad?

Absolutely! To make a vegan Ambrosia Salad, substitute dairy-based ingredients like Cool Whip and sour cream with vegan alternatives such as coconut whipped cream or vegan yogurt. Instead of traditional marshmallows, which often contain gelatin, look for vegan marshmallows. This way, you can enjoy a similar texture and taste while adhering to a vegan diet.

How Long Can Ambrosia Salad Be Stored In The Refrigerator?

Ambrosia Salad can be stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Over time, the fruits may release more moisture, affecting the salad’s texture. It’s best consumed fresh to enjoy its creamy texture and vibrant flavors. Always store it in an airtight container to maintain its freshness and prevent it from absorbing other flavors from the fridge.

Can This Salad Be Frozen For Later Use?

Freezing Ambrosia Salad is not recommended. The creamy components and fruits in the salad may separate and change texture upon thawing, resulting in a less appealing consistency. It’s best enjoyed fresh or stored in the refrigerator if needed for short-term use.

How Can I Add More Protein To This Salad?

To increase the protein content in Ambrosia Salad, consider adding ingredients like Greek yogurt in place of sour cream or include nuts such as almonds or walnuts. These additions boost the protein content and add a nice textural contrast. Be mindful of the overall flavor balance when making these additions.

Classic Ambrosia Salad Recipe - Traditional American Dessert

Classic Ambrosia Salad Recipe – Traditional American Dessert

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Recipe by Lana Rivera Course: Salads


Prep time





The Classic Ambrosia Salad Recipe is a delightful blend of sweet and creamy textures, featuring a colorful mix of fruits like mandarin oranges, pineapple, and maraschino cherries, combined with fluffy marshmallows and rich sour cream or Cool Whip. This no-cook, easy-to-assemble dish is a staple at gatherings, beloved for its nostalgic charm and refreshing taste.


  • 8 Ounces 8 Cool Whip

  • 1/2 Cup 1/2 Sour Cream

  • 11 Ounces 11 Mandarin Oranges (Drained)

  • 20 Ounces 20 Crushed Pineapple (Drained)

  • 10 Ounces 10 Maraschino Cherries (Drained)

  • 1 Cup 1 Shredded Coconut

  • 2 Cups 2 Rainbow Mini Marshmallows

  • 3/4 Cups 3/4 Crushed Pecans (Optional)

Step-By-Step Directions 

  • Combine Cool Whip And Sour Cream: In a large mixing bowl, gently fold the Cool Whip and sour cream until completely blended. Be careful not to overmix to maintain a light and fluffy texture.
  • Add Fruits: Drain the mandarin oranges and pineapple thoroughly to remove excess liquid. Gently stir these fruits into the Cool Whip and sour cream mixture.
  • Incorporate Coconut And Marshmallows: Add the shredded coconut and rainbow mini marshmallows to the bowl. Fold them gently to evenly distribute throughout the salad.
  • Optional Pecans: If you use pecans, fold them at this stage. This adds a nice crunch to the texture of the salad.
  • Prepare The Cherries: Drain the maraschino cherries well. Then, press them between two sheets of paper towel to absorb extra moisture. This step is crucial to prevent the cherries from bleeding into the salad and altering its appearance.
  • Add Cherries To The Salad: Carefully fold the cherries into the salad, being cautious not to bruise them. This keeps the cherries intact and preserves the overall look of the dish.
  • Chill The Salad: Cover the mixing bowl with a lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate the salad for at least 2 hours. This chilling time allows the flavors to meld together and improves the overall taste of the ambrosia.
  • Serve Chilled: After resting, give the salad a gentle stir and serve it chilled. It’s a perfect addition to any meal or gathering, offering a sweet and refreshing flavor.


  • Customization: Feel free to adjust the fruit ratios or substitute with fresh fruits for a different texture.
  • Dietary Adaptations: Use Greek yogurt or a vegan whipped topping for a lighter version.
  • Presentation: Serve in a glass bowl to showcase its vibrant layers.
  • Pairing: This salad pairs well with barbecue or as a sweet end to a hearty meal.
  • Chill Time: For the best flavor, chill the salad for a couple of hours before serving.

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