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Watergate Salad

Watergate Salad is loaded with pistachio pudding, crushed pineapple, miniature marshmallows, and pecans. It’s perfect for a Spring get-together or mid-week dessert.

Three small serving dishes filled with watergate salad set on a white platter

Growing up, salads that weren’t really salads were a staple at my Nana’s house. From Ambrosia Salad to Strawberry Pretzel Salad – these were the salads that I looked forward to at family gatherings, and Watergate Salad was no exception.

Nana and her friends always had their go-to recipes that they were famous for and could whip them up in no time flat for a church function, ailing friend, or family get-together. 

Nana was known for her cheesecake – usually cherry cheesecake, but switched up with other pie fillings depending on the season. Strawberries during spring, and lemon during the summer months.

Nana’s friend, Anita, always made an amazingly fluffy pistachio “salad” known as Watergate Salad. We come from a family that loves anything with pistachio pudding, from pudding pie to Pistachio Pudding Parfaits, so naturally, I was obsessed with the stuff as a kid. 

Watergate salad ingredients arranged on a marble counter

WHAT IS WATERGATE SALAD?

If you’re from the Midwest, you might have grown up eating Watergate Salad. Your family might have called it Pistachio Delight, Green Fluff, or even Green Goop.

Hand pouring pistachio pudding mix into a bowl of crushed pineapple

This salad, which can be served as a side dish or a dessert, is made up of a few simple ingredients:

  • Pistachio pudding
  • Canned pineapple
  • Whipped topping
  • Marshmallows
  • Pecans 

There are some variations of the dish that use jello, mandarin oranges, or even cottage cheese, but Nana’s friend Anita always made the most classic version and it’s the one I’ve come to love.

WHY IS IT CALLED “WATERGATE SALAD”?

If you’re curious about the name of this recipe…well, so is the rest of the internet, it seems.

I did some research and it seems like no one really knows where the name “Watergate Salad” came from.

Whipped topping being added to a glass mixing bowl with pineapple and pistachio pudding mix

One story says that the recipe was invented by a chef at the Watergate Hotel. Others say that it came out around the same time as Watergate Cake, and both became popular during the Watergate scandal. 

Maybe that’s why this salad goes by so many different names! No matter what name you call it, I call it delicious.

Spatula folding together whipped topping with pineapple and pistachio pudding mix

HOW TO MAKE THIS SWEET SALAD

You know how much I love a recipe that comes together in a matter of minutes and just gets better with time.

In a large bowl, mix together the undrained pineapple with the pistachio pudding mix. You need the juice of the pineapple to make this recipe come together, so make sure you don’t drain it!

Use a spatula to fold in the whipped topping until no streaks remain, then fold in the marshmallows and the pecans.

Pecans and mini marshmallows being added to a bowl of watergate salad

CAN THIS RECIPE BE MADE A DAY AHEAD OF TIME?

Make sure to let this salad chill for at least a few hours before serving it. 

If you want, you can definitely make your Watergate Salad the day before. It really only gets better with a little bit of time and will last in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Watergate salad in a glass mixing bowl, ready to chill in the refrigerator

I recommend topping the salad with a few extra chopped pecans right before serving for a bit of extra crunch. You can even add a fresh dollop of whipped topping if you like! 

If you’ve never tried Watergate Salad, you’ve got to make it immediately. And if you have tried it before, it’s time to revisit an old favorite.

Close up of watergate salad in a small serving bowl, topped with whipped topping and chopped pecans, next to a spoon
Watergate salad in four small serving dishes, topped with whipped cream and chopped pecans

Watergate Salad

Yield: 16 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Watergate Salad is loaded with pistachio pudding, crushed pineapple, miniature marshmallows, and pecans. It’s perfect for a Spring get-together or mid-week dessert.

Ingredients

  • 1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 2 3.4-ounces packages instant pistachio pudding mix
  • 16 ounces frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 3/4 cup pecans

Instructions

In a large bowl, stir together the pineapple and pistachio pudding mixes until combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the whipped topping until no streaks remain. Fold in marshmallows and pecans. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

Notes

Refrigerate leftover Watergate Salad for up to 2 days.

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Nutrition Information
Yield 16
Amount Per Serving Calories 165Total Fat 11gSaturated Fat 7gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 0mgSodium 26mgCarbohydrates 17gFiber 1gSugar 14gProtein 1g

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Lyndi

Wednesday 5th of May 2021

I love this salad, as well as anything pistachio! I remember how popular it was back in the 70's. I was married in '78 and I recall Watergate cake being served at my wedding shower. Thank you for sharing this recipe, brings back fond memories.

Hilda

Tuesday 4th of May 2021

I had to laugh when I saw this recipe online today. My husband and I grew up in the South and had this delicious salad then. He mentioned it a few weeks ago and I made it. Now he has requested it again. It's a nice trip down Memory Lane.

Amy Ellestad

Tuesday 18th of December 2018

Ok this sounds crazy but I omit the marshmallows and add cottage cheese . It’s been a family favorite for years. Thank you! 

Tammy

Thursday 6th of May 2021

@Amy Ellestad, this is what my family always did as well -- but I was not sure how much cottage cheese

Julie Hauer

Friday 26th of October 2018

Can u freeze Watergate salad?

Jamie

Friday 26th of October 2018

Hello! I have never tried freezing it, so I am not sure how it will turn out. Let me know if you give it a go. :) -Jamie

Kathy

Thursday 7th of June 2018

My Son asked me to make this- bought the stuff n noticed its a 15 1/4 oz can of pineapple- can i make it with just that much or do i need to get more?

Jamie

Saturday 23rd of June 2018

Kathy- You should be fine with that amount! Thanks for stopping by! -Jamie

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