Classic Ambrosia Salad with Cool Whip is a staple for holiday meals, summer BBQ’s, potlucks and Sunday dinners with the family. And everyone loves a retro fruit salad that features a variety of fruits coated with a creamy dressing and topped with chopped pecans.
This might be the one way to get your picky eaters to eat a salad. Just kidding! Kinda. I think we all know that fruit salad is super delicious but it’s hardly a swap for green salads.
One reason I love this old fashioned Ambrosia Salad recipe is that it’s super simple to make. Which makes it a natural choice for potluck meals.
Anytime I take it to a special occasion meal everyone rants and raves over it. And I come home with an empty bowl. Every.single.time.
Classic salads like this are one of my weaknesses because they’re somewhat nostalgic. I bet many of us have fond memories of that family member (in my case, Cousin Betty) who showed up with some type of fruit or gelatin salad like Strawberry Fluff Salad.
Oh, and I can’t forget when my Mom would make her famous New York Fruit Salad.
Ambrosia Salad Ingredients
whipped topping – also known as Cool Whip
vanilla pudding – save time by using ready-to-eat pudding from the refrigerator section or make it at home with a boxed mix
fruit cocktail – the canned kind, and be sure to drain
Mandarin oranges – drained
crushed pineapple – drain well
mini marshmallows – regular or fruit flavored
How to Make Ambrosia Salad with Cool Whip
Add the Cool Whip and pudding into a large bowl and mix together. If using a boxed pudding mix, you’ll want to prepare it according to the instructions on the package before adding it to the whipped topping.
Pour in the drained fruit, marshmallows, and pecans, then stir to combine.
Cover with plastic wrap and let the salad chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.
Variations and Substitutions
This salad has gained many add-ins and adjustments over the years. Below are some popular substitutes and add-ins.
Substitutes for the pudding:
- Homemade pudding
- Sour cream
- Miracle Whip
- Premade Snack Pack pudding cups – 2 pudding cups should do it
Swaps for the whipped topping:
- Sour cream
- Homemade whipped cream
- Maraschino cherries
- Pineapple tidbits (instead of crushed pineapple)
- Shredded coconut
- Sliced grapes
- Diced apples
- Chopped walnuts or almond slivers
- Strawberries, raspberries or blueberries
- Sliced bananas
MORE FAMILY Favorite
Retro Fruit Salad Recipes
How Long Will Ambrosia Keep In The Fridge?
Ambrosia is best eaten the first 1-2 days. But as long as you cover/seal the top of the salad well it should keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
After about 3 days, you may notice a bit of juice/water has accumulated in the bottom of the bowl. I just drain it off before serving – it doesn’t affect the taste of the salad.
Expert Tips & FAQs
- This recipe is very forgiving. If your quantities are a bit off from what is listed in the ingredients, don’t worry about it. The salad will still turn out fine if you have a little extra of one ingredient or a little less of something else.
- If you prefer your old fashioned Ambrosia Salad a little less sweet, swap half (or all) of the whipped topping for sour cream or plain Greek yogurt to balance it out.
- Make sure you drain the cans of fruit well. Leaving extra liquid can lead to a soggy fruit salad. Using a colander makes this really easy.
- For a party effect, you can add food coloring to the Cool Whip and pudding mixture to change the color (like pastels for Springtime or Easter).
- Want a fancier serving option? Dish the salad out in small parfait glasses for individual servings.
Can this salad be left out during parties and potlucks?
Because Ambrosia contains dairy, it’s best to keep it refrigerated, especially during the warmer months. But if you are indoors and it’s cooler you can leave it out on the counter for about an hour.
Making Ambrosia Ahead of Time
This is a great idea because it saves you time before serving and it also helps the flavors to marry together. But you don’t want to make it too far in advance because the fruits will release juices and the salad may become watery. You could prep the ingredients but hold off on combining the dressing and fruits until a couple hours before serving.
You’ll also want to be cautious about using fruits such as bananas and apples because they have a tendency to turn brown after cutting. One option is to add those fruits in just before serving.
Why is it called Ambrosia Salad?
Originally this cold salad was considered a luxury due to the ingredients being so hard to come by. It was a real treat and mainly served only on special occasions. The term “ambrosia” refers to the food of the gods in Greek and Roman mythology. Fitting for a dish that tastes divine.
Is Ambrosia Salad a Dessert or Side Dish?
This question is guaranteed to bring on a debate! Personally, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer. We typically serve these classic fruit salad recipes as side dishes but you can certainly use them as a dessert option if preferred.
Holiday Treat Recipes
Easy Ambrosia Salad with Cool Whip
- 8 ounces whipped topping
- 6 ounces prepared vanilla pudding, (¾ cup)
- 15 ounce can Mandarin oranges, drained
- 14.5 ounce can fruit cocktail, drained
- 15.25 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
- 2 cups mini marshmallows, regular or fruit flavored
- ⅓ cup pecans, chopped
- Combine the whipped topping and pudding in a large bowl and mix well.
- Add the remaining ingredients and gently mix until fully combined.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
- This fruit salad is best eaten the first 1-2 days but can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The fruits will give off some juice around day 3 – just drain it off before serving.
- Pudding substitutions: sour cream, Miracle Whip, homemade pudding, yogurt, custard.
- Whipped topping substitutions: sour cream, pudding, custard, homemade whipped cream.
- Add-in options: grapes, strawberries, raspberries, apples, bananas, pineapple tidbits, maraschino cherries, shredded coconut, chopped walnuts.
Nutritional information is provided as a reference, using an online calculator. We recommend verifying the information independently for accuracy.