Ambrosia Salad

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Family-FriendlyEasterThanksgivingCoconutMarshmallow

This Classic Ambrosia Salad recipe is a throwback to a simpler time. It’s just fruit, whipped cream, marshmallows, and almonds. Ambrosia salad is a light, airy, sweet treat.

A small glass bowl with classic ambrosia salad inside. Whipped cream topping coats chopped fruit, slivered coconut and mini marshmallows. A cherry is on top of the salad. A second bowl of ambrosia salad is to the right of the first bowl. Behind it is a striped dish towel and a blue mixing bowl sits on top.

The first time I had ambrosia salad as an adult, I was certain that it was a prank of some sort. It’s definitely strange to call this fruit-and-whipped-cream mixture a salad, which I normally would associate with vegetables. But ambrosia salad holds a serious place in the nostalgia of America and sometimes it is the perfect side dish.

It should come as no shock to you that kids find it amazing and hilarious. (Marshmallows in salad?! What!?) But, adults love it too. After some light joke-making at the expense of the ambrosia bowl, they will dig in, and leftovers will be sparse.

WHAT IS AMBROSIA SALAD?

Ambrosia salad can be many things, but it’s essentially a fruit salad with whipped cream as a “dressing” to hold the ingredients together. There are many versions out there, but this version is my personal favorite. It includes some canned fruit, some fresh, and some crunchy elements (slivered almonds) for texture.

A mixing bowl of marshmallow salad is in the center of the horizontal image. Cream coated slivered almonds, mini marshmallows and fruit are in the bowl. A single bright red cherry is on the top of the salad. A striped dish towel is under the bowl and a slotted spoon is to the right.

WHAT’S IN AMBROSIA SALAD?

Ambrosia salad must, in my opinion, have two things:

  • First, canned fruit. Normally this is canned pineapple and mandarin oranges, but you could experiment here.
  • Second, whipped cream, usually cut with some sour cream for tanginess.

Whipped cream is pretty easy to make, but if you want to see a step-by-step guide check out: How to Make Whipped Cream for additional tips and tricks to make perfect whipped cream every time.

Beyond that, it is kind of dealer’s choice. Marshmallows are a fun addition that add some lightness and cheerful colors to the salad. I like to use the pastel mini marshmallows in my version.

I also like to add toasted coconut, almonds, fresh apples, and maraschino cherries, but you could leave any of these out and be in great shape!

DAIRY-FREE AMBROSIA SALAD

Dairy-free? No problem! Skip the sour cream and make Coconut Whipped Cream instead! Just fold it with the fruit when the dairy cream is called for.

A large mixing bowl with Easter fruit salad inside. Creamy mixture with colorful mini marshmallows and slivered almonds visible. A cherry sits on top of the bowl. To the left of the bowl is a slotted spoon with a spoonful of the ambrosia salad on it. A pastel striped linen is under the bowl.

WHAT KINDS OF FRUIT ARE USED IN AMBROSIA SALAD?

Mandarin oranges and pineapple are nice choices for canned fruits, but you could use fruit cocktail if you wanted. I like to add in some fresh fruit to my salad, although I’m not sure if that is traditional. A peeled and chopped apple adds a nice crunch to the salad.

CAN YOU MAKE AMBROSIA SALAD IN ADVANCE?

Ambrosia salad doesn’t have a great shelf life. If you think about it, it’s fruit and whipped cream.

Make it a few hours before you plan to serve it, but I wouldn’t make it the night before, especially if you’re planning to serve it for a special meal (like Easter). Once it spends the night in the fridge, the fruit is lackluster, and the whipped cream starts to break down.

If you end up with leftovers, I like to eat mine within two days or it might be good up to three days if you’re lucky, but two is where I usually leave it. I would not serve it for a party after a day in the fridge, but it’s fine for snacking!

Two small bowls of marshmallow salad with cherries on top are at the front of the image. Two spoons are crossed to the right of the first bowl. A striped dish towel is in the background.

MORE CLASSIC SALAD RECIPES

  • Waldorf Salad
  • Banana Berry Terrine
  • Grandma’s Pineapple Cucumber Lime Jello Salad
  • Grandma’s Sunshine Salad
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Terrine

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Ambrosia Salad Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut, toasted
  • 1 (15 oz) can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 (15 oz) can pineapple chunks, drained
  • 1/2 cup maraschino cherries, halved
  • 3 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped (any kind will do)
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds

For the whipped cream dressing:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Method

1 Toast the coconut: 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, 2 to 3 minutes, it’s done.

This is an optional step, but it gives a flavor boost to the coconut.

2 Mixing the salad: Add the toasted coconut to a bowl with the orange segments, pineapple chunks, cherries, mini marshmallows, apples, and almonds. Stir together well.

A mixing bowl with colorful mini marshmallows, mandarin oranges, shredded coconut and chopped apples for an Easter fruit salad.

3 Make the whipped cream dressing: 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 sour cream and sugar, and continue to whip until the mixture is still silky but holds firm peaks. Do not overwhip.

Close up of the top of a whisk with a stiff peak of whipped cream. A metal bowl with whipped cream is out of focus in the background.

4 Finish the salad: Fold the whipped cream mixture into the fruit and nut mixture.

5 Serve: Serve immediately. Keep the ambrosia salad leftovers in the fridge for up two days.

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Nick Evans

Nick has been writing delicious recipes for the home cook for almost a decade. He lives in Denver, CO and embraces a delicate balance of diaper changing, trail running and beer drinking. His website is Macheesmo and his first book is Love Your Leftovers.

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