Ambrosia Salad

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This heavenly Ambrosia Salad is the perfect dessert for any get-together. A delightful combination of fruit, marshmallows, and pecans, this is a classic dish that no one will be able to resist!

close up overhead shot of Ambrosia Salad served in a white dish and topped with three maraschino cherries and mint leaves.

Heavenly Ambrosia Salad

Ambrosia Salad is as beautiful and dreamy as the name implies! Btw, isn’t the word ambrosia beautiful? Just me!?

Named after the food of the Gods in mythology, it lives up to its name: ambrosia salad is light, refreshing, sweet, and creamy, all at once. Plus, those pecans give it an addictive crunch! There’s a reason this simple recipe continues to be super-popular, especially at holidays, baby showers, wedding showers, and for potlucks.

However, Ambrosia Salad is too good to save for the occasional event! This is a recipe that’s wonderful to serve up at Sunday lunch, for a festive weeknight dessert, or even as a “something-different” afternoon snack. And when you see how easy it is to pull together, you’ll want to do just that.

close up side shot of Ambrosia Salad served in a white dish and topped with three maraschino cherries and mint leaves.

What Country Does Ambrosia Salad Come From?

In spite of the nod to mythology culture in its name, ambrosia salad is actually a fairly recent recipe, and it comes from the United States. 🇺🇸 Like other sweet and creamy fruit salads (looking at you, Orange Fluff!), ambrosia salad is very popular especially in the South – but it’s delicious in all 50 states, I promise. I can vouch for Indiana; there’s not a bridal shower or baby shower that this salad doesn’t appear at.

The List of Ingredients

So just what goes into this divine fruit salad? All you need are a handful of easy ingredients to make this easy and wonderfully creamy fruit salad combination.

  • Cool Whip: It’s important to thaw out the cool whip before you use it in this recipe, so that you get a smooth mixture.
  • Sour Cream: You can also use plain yogurt, but sour cream tastes better in this recipe and it’s more authentic.
  • Vanilla: Pure vanilla extract gives the best flavor, but you could also leave this out if you prefer.
  • Fruit: You’ll need canned mandarin oranges, canned pineapple tidbits, and maraschino cherries (yum). Make sure to drain all of the fruit very well so your ambrosia doesn’t turn out watery. I drain them for about 30 minutes and then lightly pat dry the fruits with paper towels.
  • Coconut: Shredded, sweetened coconut makes this dish “chef’s kiss” perfect.
  • Marshmallows: Mini marshmallows are so fun! You can use the plain white ones, or the pastel-tinted ones.
  • Pecans: Chopped pecans are optional, but highly recommended for that nice textural contrast.

Let’s Make Ambrosia Salad!

Now to make the ambrosia. The process is very simple – you just mix everything together. Honestly, it’s so easy that you basically don’t need instructions! 

  1. Make the Salad. First, gently mix together the cool whip, sour cream, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. This will be the creamy fluffy dressing. Next, use a rubber spatula, and fold in the remaining ingredients.
  2. Chill. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid, and refrigerate the salad for 4 hours, or for best results, chill it overnight. If you don’t have that much time, chill it for at least an hour before serving.
  3. Garnish and Serve. Garnish the ambrosia with chopped pecans and stemmed maraschino cherries. Enjoy!
overhead shot of Ambrosia Salad served in a white dish and topped with three maraschino cherries and mint leaves. A bowl of chopped pecans are set above the salad, with two spoons next to it, and a mandarin orange.

Handy Tips

Here are a few helpful tips that can help you to achieve success with your ambrosia salad! And remember, ambrosia is a flexible recipe – you can adapt it to suit your own dietary needs and preferences. 

  • Mixing Instructions: When you’re mixing your salad, do it gently and be careful not to overdo it. Stirring too hard or too long can make the salad mushy.
  • Sauce Consistency: If you want a thicker dressing, try switching the sour cream for softened cream cheese. This is a super-rich option.
  • Add the Pecans Last: For a perfect crunch, try to reserve the pecans until you are ready to serve. This will keep them from softening up while the salad is chilling.
close up overhead shot of Ambrosia Salad served in a white dish and topped with three maraschino cherries and mint leaves.

Easy Variations

Ambrosia salad is a classic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t tweak it! Make it with one or more of these easy variation ideas, or invent your own new twist. Bon appetit!

  • Fruit Options: Try using grapes, strawberries, and other fruits for a different take on classic ambrosia salad.
  • Garnishes: Instead of pecans and cherries as a garnish, you could use whipped cream and/or coconut shavings.
  • Dairy-Free: A dairy-free version is totally possible! Try whipped coconut cream instead of whipped topping, and dairy-free cream cheese instead of sour cream – or use your other favorite dairy-free substitutions.
close up overhead shot of Ambrosia Salad served in a white dish and topped with three maraschino cherries and mint leaves.

How to Store Leftovers

  • Leftover ambrosia can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container, for up to 3 days.

Can I Freeze A Creamy Fruit Salad?

  • You sure can! The only thing is, you should not thaw it. Instead, serve it as a frozen dessert. Thawed ambrosia salad will be watery and grainy.

ENJOY!

5 from 7 votes
close up overhead shot of Ambrosia Salad served in a white dish and topped with three maraschino cherries and mint leaves.
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Ambrosia Salad

Prep Time5 mins
Chill Time8 hrs
Total Time8 hrs
This heavenly Ambrosia Salad is the perfect dessert for any get-together. A delightful combination of fruit, marshmallows, and pecans in a sweet creamy dressing.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American/Southern
Servings: 12
Calories: 188

Ingredients

Instructions 

  • Combine cool whip, sour cream, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl; whisk until completely incorporated.
  • Using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining ingredients.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid.
  • Refrigerate overnight.
  • Garnish with chopped pecans and stemmed maraschino cherries.
  • Serve.

Notes

NOTES:
  • Make sure to drain all of the fruit very well so the Ambrosia Salad doesn’t turn out watery. I recommend to drain the fruits in a colander for about 30 minutes, and then lightly pat dry the fruits with paper towels.
  • Refrigerate the salad for 4 hours, or for best results, chill it overnight. If you don’t have that much time, chill it for at least one hour before serving.
  • You can use dairy-free and sugar-free substitutes for the whipped topping and the sour cream.
Nutrition Facts
Ambrosia Salad
Amount Per Serving
Calories 188 Calories from Fat 99
% Daily Value*
Fat 11g17%
Saturated Fat 6g30%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 9mg3%
Sodium 24mg1%
Potassium 123mg4%
Carbohydrates 22g7%
Fiber 3g12%
Sugar 17g19%
Protein 2g4%
Vitamin A 130IU3%
Vitamin C 2mg2%
Calcium 49mg5%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.

Keywords: fruit salad, fruit salad with cool whip, southern recipes

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12 Responses
  1. Kara

    I loved this as a kid, but I don’t think my mom ever added pecans. I tried it, and loved it even more! I didn’t have quite enough marshmallows, but it was still plenty sweet.

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Katerina of Diethood
Hey There!
I'm Katerina, a cookie-maker & picture-taker! For me, eating is a moment to share, an enjoyment, a passion. I hope you enjoy my recipes!

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