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Classic Ambrosia Fruit Salad

Classic Ambrosia Fruit Salad uses 7 easy ingredients and is a family favorite on warm summer days. Starring at several potlucks and holiday parties, it’s a Southern United States cuisine classic.

This easy side dish is a citrus-based fruit salad with some added sweetness that transforms it into an ideal dessert.

Classic Ambrosia Fruit Salad

Origins of Ambrosia Salad

Despite my first guess, the name “ambrosia” doesn’t originate in the Southern United States. The term actually first pops up in Greek mythology!

The gods of Greek mythology would consume ambrosia regularly to maintain their long and immortal lives. They even forbade mere mortals from obtaining any ambrosia for themselves.

Within Southern cuisine, we’re not dealing with this same mythical fruit. But this delicious dessert salad is definitely the namesake of its Greek predecessor! Starting in the late 19th-century ambrosia salad recipes began appearing in cookbooks all over the place as citrus fruits became more accessible.

Today, with so many exciting and different variations, there are several ways to make your version of Ambrosia Salad really special. These recipe distinctions even led to the creation of Watergate Salad, made with pistachio pudding, which is another well-known variation of Ambrosia Salad.

Ambrosia Recipe

There’s no real right way to make Ambrosia Salad. There are so many different ingredients that you can add to spice up the mixture and really make it your own. And that’s okay!

Depending on your preferences, you can adjust the ratios or incorporate different ingredients when you make your salad. But here, we’ll get into this Classic Ambrosia Salad recipe. Cool Whip and Greek Yogurt are the base ingredients, so we’ll start by describing what you’ll do with it!

STEP 1: Create a base of Mini Marshmallows

Mini marshmallows really are the key to adding some more sweetness to this tasty salad. Because of their small size, they’re easy to mix in. So everyone who takes a serving of the salad will be able to have some exciting bites of marshmallows here and there. (Big marshmallows wouldn’t quite have the same effect.) All you need is 6 ounces of mini marshmallows to add some extra decadence into your salad!

STEP 2: Scoop Cool Whip and Greek Yogurt directly into your serving bowl.

In ambrosia salad, Cool Whip stars as a delicious topping (often alongside marshmallows) that gives it its delightful flair. I enjoy giving this classic dish a modern twist with adding the light tang of Greek Yogurt, as well.

To start off with making the recipe, you’ll need 3 ounces of Cool Whip Original Whipped Topping with 6 ounces of Greek Yogurt. As mentioned, it will serve as the base for your salad. All you have to do is scoop it directly into your desired serving bowl.

A medium-sized bowl will probably be fine. But you could add more to the recipe and increase the size of your container if you’re making this for more people.

STEP 3: Pour all your canned fruit on top of your whipped topping.

Canned Pineapple Chunks

Pineapple is a staple in ambrosia salad. And canned pineapple is even more convenient than having to cut up a fresh one yourself. While some recipes may call for fresh, canned pineapple is perfect enough. And it will save you so much time! Drain the juices, then pour 20 ounces of your canned pineapple chunks on top. We’ll fold these in after adding all of the fruits.

Canned Mandarin Orange Slices

The historical centerpiece behind the origin of contemporary ambrosia salad, mandarin oranges are a must. Our recipe calls for 11 ounces of canned mandarin chunks. And you’d add them to the Cool Whip in the same way as the pineapple.

Some people use other types of oranges or even grapefruit as a substitute. And you can totally do that based on your preference! However, canned mandarin chunks have a sweet and delicious flavor that’s hard to beat.

Maraschino Cherries from the Jar

For a fun pop of color and a little extra taste of sweetness, include maraschino cherries from the jar. I like to slice them into halves first.

These cherries are entirely optional. But if you want to include them, all you need is 6 ounces of them. These are the sweet red cherries that come in jars, making them very different in flavor from regular cherries that you’d find in the fruit section of your local grocery store.

Classic Ambrosia Fruit Salad

You can mix them into the body of the salad itself. Alternatively, you can add the cherries as a fancy garnish on the top. Of course, you could also do both!

STEP 4: Add in your sweetened coconut flakes.

Sweetened Coconut Flakes

There’s a bunch of debate on whether coconut is best in flake form, canned form, or entirely absent from the dish. However, sweetened coconut flakes are what we’re advocating for here!

You can mix them into your salad, sprinkle them on top as a garnish, or do both! While you could also go with unsweetened coconut flakes, sweetened ones are definitely dessert-friendly. Half a cup of coconut flakes is perfect for this recipe.

STEP 5: Chill for an hour or more.

Of course, you can always dip a spoon into your ambrosia fruit salad immediately after mixing in all the ingredients to enjoy immediately. However, it really does taste best when chilled and allowed to set for an hour or more in your refrigerator first.

STEP 6: Fold in nuts prior to serving.

Chopped Pecans

Chopped pecans give your Ambrosia Salad a unique texture that everyone will enjoy. All you need is half a cup of chopped nuts to add to your mixture! (And you can save some on the side for a fancy garnish later on.)

Garnish Ideas

Keep a small number of your nuts, coconut, and maraschino cherries on the side. This way, you can garnish the top of the bowl with sprinkled ingredients for a pretty presentation.

Love Sweet Fruit Salads? Check out my Pistachio Pudding Fruit Salad >

Classic Ambrosia Fruit Salad
Classic Ambrosia Fruit Salad

Ambrosia Fruit Salad

Yield: Serves 10
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Classic Ambrosia Fruit Salad uses 7 ingredients and is our family favorite on warm summer days. Starring at several potlucks and holiday parties, is a Southern United States cuisine classic.


  • 5 oz (142g) Mini Marshmallows
  • 3 oz (226g) Cool Whip Original Whipped Topping
  • 6 oz (170g) Greek Yogurt
  • 4 oz (113g) Jarred Maraschino Cherries
  • 20 oz (567g) Canned Pineapple Chunks
  • 11 oz (311g) Canned Mandarin Oranges
  • 7 oz (198g) Sweetened Coconut Flakes
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Pecans


Directly into your serving bowl:

  1. Beginning with mini marshmallows, mix in Cool Whip and Greek Yogurt.
  2. Fold in fruits: Maraschino Cherries, Pineapple, and Mandarin Oranges.
  3. Add coconut flakes.
  4. Chill for an hour or more.
  5. Fold in nuts prior to serving.


Garnish Ideas: Keep a small amount of your nuts, coconut, and maraschino cherries on the side. This way, you can garnish the top of the bowl with sprinkled ingredients for a pretty presentation.

Nutrition Information
Yield 10 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 803Total Fat 23gSaturated Fat 17gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 5gCholesterol 6mgSodium 253mgCarbohydrates 150gFiber 14gSugar 127gProtein 12g

To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in any given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients you use in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate.

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