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Ambrosia Salad

Ambrosia Salad is a creamy fruit salad loaded with pineapple, mandarin oranges, coconut and miniature fruit-flavored marshmallows. 

Overhead view of ambrosia salad in a serving dish

You guys, December is seriously flying by. My to-do list is a mile long and just seems to keep increasing.

But for some reason, I’m really not that stressed out about the holidays.

Maybe because 30 people won’t be crammed in our house and there aren’t any games to plan or menus to coordinate. While I have all the feelings about Christmas 2020, it’s sort of refreshing not to feel the stress creeping in.

But that’s pretty much how I’m feeling in the moment. Ask me again in a few days and I’ll probably be all kinds of sad eating Oreos dipped in peanut butter, or hopped on cold brew wrapping gifts at midnight. Who really knows?

One thing I do know is that this simple Ambrosia Salad is one of my fave dishes during the holidays and it’s still happening even if our typical Christmas dinner is not.

Also, don’t @ me about this not being a salad. I get it. There’s no lettuce, but there’s a bunch of stuff tossed together in a bowl and that’s salad enough for me.

Close up of ambrosia salad in a small white bowl

WHAT IS AMBROSIA SALAD?

Today’s recipe for Ambrosia Salad is a bit of a throwback.

I fondly remember my Nana making Ambrosia for pretty much every church function.

There are lots of different variations of Ambrosia and it seems like every grandmother had her own version. I’ve seen versions of this recipe that use cottage cheese, some that use sour cream or vanilla pudding, some leave out the nuts.

Ingredients for ambrosia arranged on a countertop

But all of the versions seem to include citrus fruit, coconut, and a creamy and tangy base.

Some could argue that this “salad” is really more of a dessert. But like my Cranberry Fluff, I am happy to eat this alongside some savory side dishes any day!

Spatula stirring together the base for ambrosia salad in a white mixing bowl

WHAT’S IN MY VERSION OF THIS CLASSIC RECIPE?

Even though we have my Nana’s recipes for Pumpkin Roll and Pumpkin Crunch Cake, my family has long since lost her exact Ambrosia Salad recipe.

Naturally, I had to get to the bottom of this. So I decided to start tossing ingredients into a bowl until the salad tasted similar to Nana’s.

Spatula folding in fruit, marshmallows, coconut, and nuts into a white mixing bowl

And with a little tweaking, I most definitely succeeded!

My version includes:

  • Frozen whipped topping
  • Vanilla yogurt
  • Shredded sweetened coconut
  • Canned mandarin oranges
  • Pineapple tidbits or crushed pineapple
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Chopped pecans
  • Mini fruit-flavored marshmallows
Ambrosia salad topped with a maraschino cherry in a small white bowl, surrounded by mandarin oranges and mini marshmallows

While you could totally use mini white marshmallows, I really like the added color and flavor that the fruit-flavored marshmallows add to the recipe.

You could also try making this with homemade Cool Whip, but I don’t know for sure how well it would work. If you try it, I’d love to hear about it!

Two small white bowls of ambrosia salad, topped with maraschino cherries

HOW TO MAKE MY EASY AMBROSIA

This is one of those recipes that’s so easy, anyone could make it! 

Start by stirring together the thawed whipped topping and the vanilla yogurt.

Using a spatula, carefully fold all of the remaining ingredients into the yogurt mixture. Do this gently so that you don’t break up the fruit or smash the marshmallows too much.

Close up of ambrosia salad in a small white bowl

Let the salad chill in the refrigerator for several hours before serving and you’re done! 

Since this needs to chill before serving, it’s a great recipe to make ahead. I would say you could make it as early as the night before you plan to serve it. 

If you’re feeling fancy, garnish the bowl with some additional maraschino cherries. Or just dig in with a spoon. I won’t blame you either way!

Ambrosia topped with three maraschino cherries in a white serving bowl
Overhead view of ambrosia salad in a serving dish

Ambrosia Salad

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Ambrosia Salad is a creamy fruit salad loaded with pineapple, mandarin oranges, coconut and miniature fruit-flavored marshmallows.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 8-ounce can pineapple tidbits or crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 cup maraschino cherries, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional
  • 1 1/2 cups mini fruit-flavored marshmallows

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the whipped topping and yogurt.
  2. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold remaining ingredients into whipped topping.
  3. Chill before serving.

Notes

  • If you are not a fan of mainstream frozen whipped topping, you can find all-natural alternatives at Whole Foods or try a homemade version.
Nutrition Information
Yield 8
Amount Per Serving Calories 405Total Fat 16gSaturated Fat 10gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 5gCholesterol 1mgSodium 53mgCarbohydrates 69gFiber 7gSugar 55gProtein 4g

Did you make this recipe?

Tag me on social! I want to see what you made! @jamiemba

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John Downen

Tuesday 2nd of March 2021

I make my grandmother's recipe . She always made a custard then folded in heavy whipped cream , she also put green grapes cut in quarters , back then 50s and 60s she had to remove the seeds . The custard was folded in to the pineapple, green grapes red cherrys , coconut , mandarin oranges. This one of my favorite desserts .

K Robinson

Friday 18th of December 2020

I grew up in the 50’s with my mom always having this for dessert at Christmas served in fancy glass cordial stems. I remember helping her make it and because we had a very diabetic family, she used fresh sectioned oranges, cut apples, coconut and some kind of filler...probably sour cream...plus mini marshmallows. As much as I like the taste of maraschino cherries, I have always been a purist and don’t use any kind dyed or preserved food. I will try to find some dye-free or dried cherries and I get my marshmallows from Whole Foods. I have my mom’s recipe somewhere and found this great thread bringing all the memories and now want to reproduce it for my four young grandchildren. I must say the carb count listed here is ridiculously high, and since I am a Type 1 diabetic, I will use all fresh fruit with the marshmallows having the only added sugar and unsweetened coconut. The mandarins sound fun too.

Jamie

Saturday 19th of December 2020

So happy to hear that this recipe brought back sweet memories for you. Definitely let me know how it turns out with your tweaks. Happy Holidays to you and yours! -Jamie

Kiera

Monday 14th of December 2020

OMG! This has always been my favorite since I was ...well, since I can remember. My grandmother ALWAYS prepared it for Christmas and Thanksgiving day. I literally thought about it all year and cpuld not wait for the holidays! It was my fav as a kid and still is. My grandma passed away some years ago but we honor her by always making this recipe. Her version had no nuts and no yogurt/sour cream. Instead she used cream cheese and Cool Whip m. Some of her versions were just Cream Cheese (leave some of the fruit juices in for incredible flavor!) We used white marshmallows for Thanksgiving and colored foe Xmas (tree lights. .lol. That's what she'd say). Anyway, thanks so much for sharing. Memories are wonderful!! Especially now that I have grandkids and they love this, too!!

Cheryl Brantis

Sunday 13th of December 2020

I make mine a little different, you can see as follows: Mandarin oranges, crushed pineapple, cherries Cool whip coconut chopped walnuts chocolate chips, mini marshmallows I cook the juices down with 1/2 stick of butter and 1/4 cup of flour to make paste, then I add juices and an egg cook until thickens like jelly. I preside to cook pasta (very little pasta like mini stars) until tender, don’t over cook. Drain pasta and let cool after juice mixture is cool you can add to pasta with the fruits. Refrigerate overnight then add coconut walnuts, choc chips and marshmallow

Kim

Wednesday 9th of December 2020

My mom always moved miracle whip with the cool whip. But it sounds great with the yogurt, too!

Jamie

Wednesday 9th of December 2020

That is super interesting! I love Miracle Whip in tuna and egg salad. :)

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