Ambrosia Salad is a staple side dish that’s been around for years! This recipe is super simple to make, and always a crowd-pleaser!
With its silky sweet, whipped-cream-based “dressing”, plenty of soft mini marshmallows, and an abundance of juicy, colorful fruit, Ambrosia Salad may be a bit different than some of the other salads you’re used to seeing around potlucks and parties, like this Frog Eye Salad, but I promise you that it’s every bit as good… if not better! This classic salad has been a staple for decades (maybe your grandmother has made it for you?) and the version that I’m sharing today is made with a simple from-scratch dressing and takes only 10 minutes to assemble!
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Ambrosia Salad never appealed to me growing up. It was always too… colorful, for me to take it seriously as a dessert, my grandmother often served it on Thanksgiving and while I piled my plate high with plenty of her Angel Food Cake or Apple Pie, I always steered away from the Ambrosia Salad.
What is ambrosia
- Ambrosia, or Ambrosia Salad, is a variation on a traditional fruit salad that’s become a classic Southern recipe that’s usually served at Thanksgiving or Christmas.
As an adult with a new-found love for ambrosia fruit salad, I wish I’d caught on to this heavenly salad (aptly named “ambrosia”, meaning “food of the gods”) sooner. I had no idea what I was missing out on, and if you’ve never tried Ambrosia Salad yourself, you’re in for a real treat.
While there are many recipes for Ambrosia with Cool Whip to form their base “dressing”, I prefer to make mine completely from scratch. If for some reason you do have a strong desire to use pre-made Cool Whip instead of homemade whipped cream (you’re really missing out, seriously!) you can and you would substitute 3 cups of Cool Whip for the whipped cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract that is called for (no need to beat the Cool Whip either, just stir in your sour cream and you’re ready to go!).
Making it yourself is so simple (and is part of the technique that I use to make my popular No-Bake Cheesecake) and will take less time than thawing a container of Cool Whip, so I really hope you’ll try it out.
What is ambrosia made of
- Other than the whipped cream that we’ve already covered, ambrosia salad is made with mini marshmallows and a number of fruits. For my version, I stuck with the classics: pineapple, maraschino cherries, coconut, and mandarin oranges.
For the marshmallows, you can use either standard mini marshmallows or the mini, fruit-flavored, pastel ones. Either will work perfectly in this salad, but if I had to choose a favorite I’d reach for the fruity marshmallows every time.
All of the fruits that I used came from cans or jars where they were stored in their own fruit juices (which I recommend, because even though you’ll drain the fruit the residual juice really adds to the flavor of the salad!), but fresh diced pineapple could be substituted instead.
Many people also like to add nuts (usually pecans or walnuts) to their ambrosia salad, and while you certainly can (I would add up to 1 cup of your preferred chopped nuts) I left them out of mine. Or you could go completely nutty and make Watergate Salad. It’s like an ambrosia recipe that uses pistachio pudding. Yum!
Can you make ambrosia salad a day ahead
- You sure can! It’s best to let this salad sit for at least a couple of hours before serving, but you could make it in the morning or even the day before serving.
How long can you keep ambrosia salad in the fridge
- Ambrosia can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days in an air-tight container. That is if there are any leftovers.
Want more easy fruit salad recipes?
- Berry Cheesecake Fruit Salad
- Grape Salad
- The Best Fruit Salad Recipe
- Boozy Tropical Fruit Salad
- More side dish recipes…
Tools used to make this Ambrosia Salad recipe
Hand Mixer: While I love my stand mixer, this handheld mixer is perfect for smaller recipes and when I need just a quick mix.
Mixing Bowl: These mixing bowls get used just about every day at my house. The grip handle makes them easy to hold and the pour spout makes them perfect for batters!
Rubber Spatula: Rubber spatulas are one of those kitchen tools you don’t realize how much you use until they’re all dirty. This set of three spatulas in various sizes and shapes will make cooking everything from dinner to dessert a breeze.
Serving Bowl: This large glass serving bowl is one of my favorite dishes. It’s perfect for everything from salads to pastas. Simple, classic, and a must have!
Ambrosia salad is a staple side dish that's been around for years! This recipe is super simple to make, and always a crowd-pleaser!
- ¾ cup heavy cream chilled
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup sour cream
- 4 cups mini marshmallows either regular or fruit-flavored ones (rainbow colors)
- 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut
- 11 ounces mandarin oranges (1 can) well drained
- ¾ cup maraschino cherries stems removed
- 1 cup pineapple tidbits well-drained
In a clean, medium-sized bowl, combine the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract.
Use an electric mixer to beat on high speed until stiff peaks have formed (mixture should reach a Cool Whip consistency).
Add sour cream and stir until well-combined.
In a separate, large bowl, combine mini marshmallows, coconut, oranges, maraschino cherries, and pineapple. Stir to combine.
Pour whipped cream/sour cream mixture over ingredients and stir until everything is evenly combined and all ingredients are covered in the cream mixture.
Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.
Be sure to drain the fruit really well if you're making this salad more than on hour ahead of time. You can put all the fruit in a colander and let it sit to drain and dry for about an hour (if you want to wait that long). This will keep the salad from getting soupy while it sits.
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