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If you want a salad that tastes just like dessert, Ambrosia Salad is the ticket! Made with fresh pineapple, mandarin oranges, maraschino cherries, coconut, mini marshmallows and stirred together with a whipped cream dressing, you will fall in love with this Ambrosia Recipe!! Delicious served with Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Broccoli Salad.
But First, What is Ambrosia?
Ambrosia (or Ambrosia Salad) is an American fruit salad typically made with a whole bunch of canned fruit tossed together with a creamy ‘dressing‘ commonly made with mayonnaise, whipped cream, cool whip, sour cream, and or other ingredients. There are lots of variations of this recipe floating out on the internet, and I submit that mine is the best.
Growing up, my Mom made her version of Ambrosia Salad and I HATED it. I have no idea what was in it besides the canned fruit cocktail (hard pass). As a grown adult and now recipe developer, I set out to make an Ambrosia I could not only stomach but actually love, and friends, I did it! This is a creamy, sweet, coconutty, and fresh-tasting fruit salad you will love!
Mayonnaise vs Sour Cream
In several recipes online, I found it really interesting that they called for mayonnaise in the dressing. While I can understand how that could be a good savory ingredient in this sweeter salad dressing, I thought it made way more sense to use sour cream. Its flavor profile is lighter, tangier, and pairs better with the fresh pineapple and canned fruit. Plus it’s significantly lower in calories than the mayo.
Can I Use Cool Whip Instead of Whipping Cream?
Yes, you can! Cool Whip is the like the ugly stepsister of heavy whipping cream. It’s made with a lot of fake ingredients but it’s those ingredients that stand up well for days no matter what. So if you’re wanting to make this Ambrosia Salad waaaay in advance, Cool Whip might be a good option. However, the finished product won’t have quite the same mouthfeel that it would when using whipping cream. Again, it comes down to preference. I’d recommend real whipping cream.
If substituting Cool Whip for Whipped Cream in this recipe, use 2 cups of Cool Whip in place of the 1 cup of (un-whipped) heavy cream, vanilla, and sugar. Simply fold it together with the sour cream and pour it onto the fruit.
Can Ambrosia Salad Be Made Without Whipping Cream?
Yes, you can make a lighter version of Ambrosia salad by using Greek yogurt or whipped coconut cream instead of traditional whipped cream. Just bear in mind that Greek yogurt will give your salad a more tangy flavor, and the dish will not be as sweet as when made with classic whipping cream.
Ambrosia Salad Necessities
So, when first approaching this recipe, I did tons of research and, based on my preferences, added and omitted certain ingredients. I hate eating canned fruit that tastes like canned fruit, so my main goal in making Ambrosia salad was to make this recipe taste as fresh as possible while still using a few canned fruits. Of course, the specific increments and directions are in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Fresh Pineapple– you will use almost a whole pineapple for this recipe. Be sure to cut out the tough core and dice up the rest.
- Mandarin Oranges– be sure to use the ones in light syrup, not to be confused with sugar-free syrup.
- Maraschino Cherries– my kids love these so I ended up using a full 16 oz jar, but feel free to reduce this amount as you like.
- Coconut– this is a sweet fruit salad so you can use unsweetened coconut here if you prefer, but the recipe calls for sweetened, desiccated coconut.
- Pecans– another totally optional ingredient! Feel free to swap these out for other nuts OR just omit them completely. You choose!
- Mini Marshmallows– you cannot have Ambrosia without the mini marshmallows!
- Heavy Cream– the basis for the creamy dressing.
- Sugar– this recipe only calls for 1 1/2 tablespoons since everything else is so sweet.
- Vanilla Extract– a really great underlying flavor to have to bring this whole dish together.
- Sour Cream– the natural tanginess of the sour cream creates that ‘fresh’ flavor you want when eating fruit, so it works really well with sweet canned fruit.
How to Make Ambrosia Salad
Hold onto your hats, friends. This is the easiest recipe everrrr! It just involves a little whisking, chopping, and fridge time. For full recipe details, be sure to see the printable recipe card below.
Drain and chop your fruit. Cut the pineapple into bite-sized pieces being sure to remove the core and drain the mandarins and cherries really well. Place them all into a large bowl.
Add Coconut, Pecans + Mini Marshmallows
Measure and add in the coconut, pecans, and mini marshmallows.
Make the Dressing
For the dressing, whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla together until stiff peaks form.
Fold in the sour cream to the whipped cream until well mixed. (A gentle hand and a rubber scraper will ensure you don’t knock out all the air!)
Pour Over Fruit + Combine
Pour the whipped cream over the fruit and stir to coat completely.
Cover and refrigerate for two hours or until ready to serve.
Making Ahead + Storing Leftovers
The beauty of this recipe is it gets better the longer it sits in the fridge! You can make this up to two days before serving. After 48 hours in the fridge, the marshmallows dissolve, the whipped cream loses its air, and things start to turn watery. It’s still fine to eat (the fruit is fine!) but isn’t as good as on days 1 and 2. So I’d recommend two days max in the fridge before eating. Be sure to store it in an airtight container while in the fridge.
Love Fruit? Try These Other Sweet Recipes:
- Fruit Salad Recipe
- Cream Cheese Fruit Dip
- Fruit Pizza
- Lemony Fruit Salad
- Strawberry Shortcake
- Mixed Berry Streusel Pie
- Peach Cobbler
Be sure to bookmark, save, pin or print this Ambrosia Salad recipe! It’s the only ‘salad’ out there that we can all agree on. Ha!
Have a great day, friends!
Ambrosia Salad Recipe FAQS
The name “ambrosia” comes from Greek mythology, where it referred to the food or drink of the gods that was said to provide immortality.
The modern-day ambrosia salad is thought to have originated in the American South during the early 1900s, and it is likely that the name was chosen because the salad was considered to be a heavenly, divine dessert. The use of tropical fruits and coconut in the salad also lends to the idea of it being exotic and otherworldly, much like the mythical ambrosia of ancient Greece.
Yes, Ambrosia salad is often associated with Southern cuisine and is a popular dessert at holiday gatherings and potlucks.
- 4 cups fresh pineapple cut into bite-size chunks (almost a whole fresh pineapple)
- 22 oz mandarin oranges 2-11 oz. cans, well-drained
- 16 oz maraschino cherries 1-16 oz. jar, well-drained
- 1 cup sweetened desiccated coconut
- 1/2 cup pecans chopped (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- Drain and chop your fruit. Cut the pineapple into bite-sized pieces being sure to remove the core and drain the mandarins and cherries really well. Place them all into a large bowl.
- Measure and add in the coconut, pecans and mini marshmallows.
- Fold in the sour cream to the whipped cream until well mixed. Pour the whipped cream over the fruit and stir to coat completely.
- Cover and refrigerate for two hours or until ready to serve. Stores well in an airtight container for up to 48 hours.