Ambrosia Salad

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Ambrosia Fruit Salad is a vintage classic recipe that transforms fruit and coolwhip into a delicious dessert or side dish at any summer BBQ. Whipped topping, mini marshmallows and sour cream are mixed with pineapples, mandarin oranges, shredded coconut, cherries, and pecans for a sweet, tangy, fresh bite that is perfectly served alongside dishes like pulled pork, pasta salad, and potato salad.

Today’s Pantry Essential: Maraschino Cherries

Maraschino Cherries are the perfect topping to classic ice cream sundaes, but they’re also way more versitile! The juice itself can be used in place of grenadine while the cherries can be used in a variety of dishes from sweet fruit salad to a mint cherry glaze to top lamb with!

Great Grandma’s Ambrosia Salad

Light, creamy, and refreshing, this is a perfect dessert to enjoy for a spring or summer gathering. My great-grandmother, and likely yours, have their own recipe. There are hundreds out there, all with slight variations. Some include pistachios, some coconut, some pudding, the list goes on. No matter the take, this fruit salad is fun retro, nostalgic, and is super easy to make. Not to mention this is one of those old-fashioned cheap potluck dishes that likely originated from throwing everything but the kitchen sink into a bowl with some cool whip.

Ingredients Needed

ingredients for ambrosia salad

Exact measurements can be found in the printable recipe card below.

  • Whipped cream: Whether it’s homemade or store-bought, this airy cream gives this ambrosia recipe a sweet flavor. Coolwhip is the traditional choice as it’s made with oil and holds up well to heat.
  • Sour Cream: It has a tangy taste and helps to thicken this treat and offset the sweetness.
  • Mini Marshmallows: These small and puffy pieces of yum add more fluff to this dessert. Use colorful pastel marshmallows for an added pop of color to the dish!
  • Mandarin Oranges: Bring a bright, citrus taste and add dimension to this recipe.
  • Pineapple: Fresh or canned, this ingredient adds a tropical sweetness to this salad.
  • Coconut: Shredded coconut brings a light, subtle tropical taste that blends well with the other ingredients.
  • Pecans: Add a buttery-sweet flavor and a crunchy texture to this ambrosia recipe.
  • Maraschino Cherries: This sweet and preserved fruit acts as a bright burst of color to this salad, as well as a pop of flavor.

Recipe Variations for Ambrosia Salad

  • Shake up this Ambrosia Salad recipe by using other fruits such as apples, grapefruit, grapes, strawberries, oranges, or mango. 
  • If you find canned mandarin oranges to be too sweet, you can swap them out with fresh ones.
  • Walnuts or pistachios are fantastic substitutions for pecans in this Ambrosia Salad recipe! If you don’t like nuts (or are allergic to them), you can leave them out altogether. You can even substitute cooked white rice!
  • Pineapple tidbits or fresh cut pineapple can be used in place of the pineapple chunks.
  • Colorful marshmallows, the addition of fluff, or a flavored whipped cream can transform this recipe from retro to reinvented.
ambrosia salad in a clear bowl, top down view

Tips for making it your own!

Ambrosia Salad lovers tend to like a particular level of saturation of their marshmallows in this fabulous fruit treat. This is because as the marshmallows set in the salad, they soak up the liquids, turning them into puffy, soft marshmallows. If you like to eat firmer marshmallows, add them in to this dessert just before serving instead.


This is an overview of the instructions. For complete directions, scroll down to the bottom.

  1. Create the whipped topping and sour cream mixture in a bowl.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the mandarin oranges, marshmallows, coconut, pineapples, and pecans.
  3. Gently fold the cream mixture into the other Ambrosia Salad ingredients, then add the cherries.
  4. Place your salad in the fridge for at least an hour and serve!

How to store and love your leftovers

  • Refrigerate: Place leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
  • Freeze: Line an airtight container with parchment paper, then place your leftover salad in the freezer for up to 6 months.
  • Thaw: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

You can also snack on it frozen by scooping it out with an ice cream scoop into a bowl!

Food Storage Guide

Print off this food storage guide from the FDA. Laminate or put into a plastic sleeve and tape to the inside of a cupboard or pantry, or in your meal planning binder for easy access.


What can be done to add some more flair to this salad?

You can keep some of the fruit, coconut, and nuts to decorate the top to create a more beautiful presentation.

What else can be done to make this Ambrosia Salad colorful?

 For a more colorful dish, you can use multi-colored marshmallows.

What can I use instead of sour cream in the cream mixture?

If you don’t like the tang sour cream has, plain or vanilla yogurt can be used in place. 

Does this ambrosia salad have to be served as soon as it’s made? 

Not at all! This Ambrosia Salad recipe can be made a day in advance. 

How do you keep the color from the maraschino cherries from turning this dessert pink?

The cherries may tint the cream mix pink. If you want to prevent that, rinse and gently dry them before adding them.

Serve with

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Ambrosia Salad

Ambrosia Salad. This classic recipe is loaded with cherries, pineapple, mandarin oranges and coconut. It's cool in a retro kind of way, super easy to make and it's a versatile side dish that can be served as a dessert or as a snack any time of the day. Ambrosia Salad is creamy, light, refreshing, and perfect for a spring or summer gathering!
Katie Chase
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Recipe Servings 20 people


  • large bowl
  • rubber spatula


  • 1 ½ cups whipped topping thawed
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 15 oz can mandarin oranges drained
  • 20 can pineapple chunks drained
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • ½ cup pecans chopped
  • 1 cup maraschino cherries cut in half


  • Stir together whipped topping and sour cream. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine marshmallows, mandarin oranges, pineapple, coconut, and pecans.
  • Gently stir in the whipped topping and sour cream mix.
  • Gently fold in the cherries.
  • Allow to refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Disclaimer: Please note all serving sizes, pricing, and nutrition is an estimate based on 2023-2024 pricing and nutrition guides. For accuracy please do your own calculations.

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