This delicious Ambrosia salad is a classic recipe made with simple ingredients like pineapple, mandarin oranges, coconut, and mini marshmallows mixed with a creamy dressing, making it a refreshing and delicious choice for your holiday dessert table or weekend dessert.
Growing up, this was one of my favorite desserts; my grandma would make it for us for Sunday dinner. It wasn’t always a family favorite, so I always got to have as much of it as I liked. I don’t have it quite as often as an adult, but I love when I find it at a potluck or on a dessert table at Easter or Christmas. Personally, I feel you can have this dessert anytime.
Table of Contents
Why you’ll love this recipe
- This is a classic recipe that has stood the test of time; my grandparents made it, and it’s still being made today.
- Perfect for holiday dinners or summer picnics
- So many variations to lighten up the calories
- Perfect dish for potlucks
What is Ambrosia Salad?
Ambrosia salad is many things, but despite its name, which means “food of the gods,” I think of it more as a dessert than a salad. There are many versions of this dessert; it can include a canned fruit cocktail or fresh fruit (oranges, pineapple, apples, peaches, bananas, blueberries, grapes), slivered almonds, walnuts, or pecans for some additional crunch. Coated in a creamy dressing that can be made with whipped cream, vanilla yogurt, or vanilla pudding and is usually topped off with maraschino cherries.
Ingredients in Ambrosia Salad
- Canned drained pineapple Fresh pineapple works here, cut into small bite-sized pieces; for this recipe, I use canned tidbits; you can also use crushed pineapple; just make sure that when you use canned, you drain it really well.
- Canned mandarin oranges drain the oranges well before combining.
- Shredded Coconut I like to toast the coconut slightly helps to bring out the natural flavors, plus will give you some added crunch which will compliment the rest of the dessert that is soft.
- Mini Marshmallows You can use white or colored marshmallows.
- Maraschino cherries the cherries are optional but I think are a great addition even if there are just a few as garnish
- Chopped nuts add nuts like walnuts, slivered almonds, or pecans for additional crunch in this dessert
- Whipped Cream there are a few options with whipping cream you can make it from scratch or use a thawed-out cool whip or whipped topping.
- Yogurt for some added creaminess I liked to add vanilla yogurt or sour cream, I prefer vanilla yogurt for a little added sweetness.
Tips for ambrosia salad
- Drain your mandarin oranges and pineapple if you’re using canned. I like to place them in a colander and let them drain all the juice off of them. Try and drain as much as possible so that you can ensure you have a nice, fluffy salad.
- Whipped Cream As a shortcut, you can use a cool whip and sour cream or vanilla yogurt for a creamy dressing. I like to use heavy whipping cream, but these are great alternatives.
- Gently mix The fruit is quite fragile, especially the oranges, and you want to keep everything in the same shape. Once the fruit starts to break down, it’s not as pretty.
- Make ahead You want to make this dessert ahead so that it will have a chance for the flavors to blend together and, most importantly, soften the marshmallows.
- In the recipe, I use heavy cream and powdered sugar until it holds peaks, but in place of the whipped cream, an alternative is Cool Whip, which is also a pretty good shortcut.
- Add vanilla pudding for some extra vanilla flavor.
- To lower the calories and the fat add low-fat cream cheese, low-fat sour cream, and sugar-free cool whip.
- Instead of using separate cans of fruit, you can use a cocktail, which is just as good.
- Using a variety of fruit, if there is a fruit you prefer over another, go ahead and switch it in there, like a banana, strawberries, blueberries, or grapes.
- Using fresh pineapple or fresh tangerines is a nice way to eliminate using canned fruit.
How to make ambrosia salad
This recipe comes together in less than 15 minutes and is perfect when you need a truth-worthy dessert.
- Toast Place the coconut in a skillet on medium heat until the coconut starts to brown and becomes fragrant.
- Mix together coconut, orange segments, pineapple chunks, cherries, chopped nuts, and marshmallows.
- Dressing If you’re mixing your whipped cream from scratch, whisk together heavy whipping cream on high for 2-3 minutes until it starts to stiffen, then add sour cream and powdered sugar until the mixture is silky but holds firm peaks.
- Combine add the whipping cream with the fruit and other ingredients gently fold it all together careful not to break up the fruit too much.
- Refrigerate You want to try and give the fruit ample time to blend together if you can allow it to sit for 2 hours up to overnight. This will allow all the marshmallows to soak up any excess liquid.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I store ambrosia salad?
This classic salad can be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
Can I add other fruit to this ambrosia fruit salad recipe?
What I love best about this fruit salad is how flexible it is; you can easily add other fruits, such as red or green grapes, blueberries, blackberries, or apples.
Can I skip the coconut?
You can definitely omit the coconut, but it does add a lot of flavour and texture. But I know some people just don’t like coconut.
Is Ambrosia Salad Dessert or a Side Dish?
Growing up, this was often served at potlucks as a side dish, but if we are being completely honest, it really is a dessert. I honestly feel that this can be eaten anytime—for breakfast, dessert, as a side dish, or even as a midday snack.
The Best Ambrosia Salad
- 1 Stand Up Mixer or hand beater
- 1 cup shredded coconut sweetened or un-sweetened
- 1 (15 oz) can mandarin oranges drained
- 1 (15 oz) can Pineapple tidbits or chunks drained
- ½ cup maraschino cherries halved
- 3 cups marshmallows, mini white or colored
- ¼ cup pecans chopped
- 1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup Greek yogurt, vanilla or sour cream
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- This step is optional but will add additional flavor. Add coconut to a dry medium skillet set over medium-low heat. Toast until fragrant, stirring regularly. Watch it closely, as it can burn quickly. When the coconut starts to turn a light brown color, after 2 to 3 minutes, it’s done.
- Add the toasted coconut to a bowl with the orange segments, pineapple chunks, cherries, mini marshmallows, and chopped nuts. Stir together well.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat heavy whipping cream on high for 2 to 3 minutes until it starts to stiffen.Then, add the vanilla greek yogurt and powdered sugar, and continue to whip until the mixture is still silky but holds firm peaks. Do not overwhip.
- Fold the whipped cream mixture into the fruit and nut mixture. Be careful not to break up the orange segments. Then cover and refrigerate for 2 hours up to overnight for all the flavors to meld together and soften the marshmallows.