Ambrosia Salad

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Ambrosia Salad has been a staple on our Holiday dinner table for as long as I can remember. Traditionally ambrosia salad  (also known as 5-Cup salad) contains coconut, pineapple and oranges but we add other goodies from time to time including maraschino cherries, walnuts, fruit cocktail and/or pecans!

Similar to Watergate Salad or Millionaire Cranberry Salad this dish is more dessert like than an actual “salad” as we would know it.

ambrosia salad with orange slices

Ambrosia Salad

Church affairs, potlucks, or work functions, the ubiquitous ambrosia dessert always has a place on the table! At least everyone can agree that any classic ambrosia salad recipe will always have marshmallows. And who doesn’t love marshmallows? Even kids will want seconds of this delicious fruity ambrosia.

Ambrosia Salad is a great dish to whip up if you are short on time!  Be sure to make this salad ahead of time so it has a chance to sit, this helps blend the flavors and makes the marshmallows soften.

What is Ambrosia?

So, what exactly is that strange fruit salad with marshmallows?  Is it a marshmallow salad or a fruit ambrosia?  The jury on Ambrosia salad is definitely depending on where you live in the country and it is definitely different almost everywhere you go!

Ambrosia literally means ‘food of the gods’ but technically, it also means a dessert made with oranges and shredded pineapple.  Some regions claim it is strictly a fruit salad blended together with mini marshmallows and coconut. But, other legions of fans claim it’s not legit without tropical fruits and nuts. Mandarin oranges, pineapple tidbits, bananas, grapes, maraschino cherries and with or without nuts, ambrosia fruit salad has been a staple at nearly every social gathering you might attend.

Ambrosia is a perfect complement to a hot summer day barbeque and traditionally served at holiday gatherings because it looks so colorful and festive.

unmixed ambrosia salad

How to Make Ambrosia

But, don’t feel restricted by the ingredients in this recipe, however. Feel free to add or swap out for maraschino cherries, bananas, grapes, or toasted walnuts or pecans!

Toasting the coconut before adding to the salad really brings out the flavor of the coconut and adds a little crunch to this dessert! It is important to make sure the pineapple, mandarin oranges or maraschino cherries are thoroughly drained to make sure your ambrosia dessert keeps its light and fluffy appearance!

The best part of this beautifully delicious dessert is that there are no real ‘step-by-step’ instructions.

  • Drain all fruit ingredients well
  • To make Ambrosia salad, carefully fold all the ingredients together
  • Mix all of the ingredients together except the canned mandarin oranges. Once combined I gently fold the oranges in as they can be fragile and break apart.
  • Sour cream can be substituted with Greek yogurt or plain yogurt
  • Chill, preferably overnight which allows for the mallows to soak up any extra liquid.

ambrosia salad in bowl

More Side Salads You’ll Love

This ambrosia salad recipe is so versatile, you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry. Keep on hand some canned pineapple, mandarin oranges, and a couple bags of mini marshmallows and coconut so you can whip up this elegant little dessert in no time at all! Who says you’re not ready for a last minute invitation?


ambrosia salad with orange slices
4.93 from 27 votes
Review Recipe

Ambrosia Salad

Prep Time 5 minutes
Resting time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 5 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Author Holly Nilsson
Course Dessert, Side Dish
Cuisine American
This is the best ambrosia salad recipe!  It’s pretty simple, not overly sweet and is something that can always be found at our holiday dinners!


  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows white or fruit flavored
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup canned pineapple tidbits well drained
  • 1 cup canned mandarin orange segments drained

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  • Fold together all ingredients in a large bowl. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Serve cold.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 150, Carbohydrates: 23g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 10mg, Sodium: 29mg, Potassium: 225mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 17g, Vitamin A: 296IU, Vitamin C: 14mg, Calcium: 62mg, Iron: 1mg

(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)

Keyword Ambrosia Salad

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Ambrosia Salad with writting

bowl of ambrosia salad with marshmallows and oranges

ambrosia salad ingredients and finished salad with text

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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!

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Recipe Rating


  1. Sour cream? No use vanilla yogurt and cool whip. Also, please remind people it takes 24 hours to fully prepare so my family calls it 24 hour salad. Also you do NOT drain the pineapple! Please don’t post incorrect recipe information.

    1. This is correct recipe information and exactly how my family has made it for the past 40 years. We always drain the pineapple.

    2. Dude, there are SO MANY different recipes for every dish. There is no need to be rude and condescending. Their recipe worked just fine for me.

      1. Totally agree with you Sam B! I don’t understand people who criticize recipes because they differ from what they’re used to. My M-I-L makes it exactly as the Spend with Pennies version. Sheesh, people need to remember courtesy and politeness when interacting online! Love to all!

  2. Delicious. I added the maraschino cherries. Then used it at Christmas. What a hit ! Now on vacation and again in a couple of months I’ll make it at Christmas.5 stars

    1. We make the recipe with sour cream. Using cool whip would work, but the taste will be completely different. I’m sure it would be delicious though!

    1. Both will work in this recipe Milka. I usually use sweetened because that’s what I have on hand most often, but have made with both and it’s delicious!

  3. My momma used to make this I loved it so much and could find a recipe for a while thank you so much5 stars

  4. Added a bit of the pineapple juice to sweeten it a little bit for my kiddos and it was very enjoyable- also added some apple pieces. Loved the recipe will make again!5 stars

  5. SO I can’t get my head around using sour cream in the Ambrosia Salad. Doesn’t it have a sour taste then? Or even the plain yogurt? what about using coconut greek yogurt? Or would that be too over powering sweet?

    1. I know Jackie, it seems so strange! But it is not at all sour. The sour cream becomes sweeter but you can substitute yogurt or Greek yogurt if you prefer.

  6. I know there’s recipes out there where use a pkg. Of dry orange Jello. Do you think I could do that here ?5 stars

    1. Hi Denise, we have only made this recipe as listed. If you try adding the dry orange jello let us know how it turns out.

  7. I remember my mother making this for all the family get togethers. Maybe it’s a Canadian thing, but she would make it with freshly whipped cream and cottage cheese. Never had to add any sugar to the cream since it all came from the fruit and marshmallows. Finding out that it’s most commonly made with sour cream was a surprise to me! lol

    1. Hi Cathy, for the full recipe and ingredients list you can scroll to the bottom of the post or select the jump to recipe button at the top. Enjoy!

  8. I don’t see the printed recipe. I wanted to take it to the store to buy the ingredients. Maybe I am just missing it? I have to find another now to print out.

    1. Hi Debbie, you can scroll to the bottom of the page or select the jump to recipe button at the top and select print recipe! Enjoy!

  9. Grew up in Alabama-always had ambrosia at Thanksgiving & Christmas… Your recipe is great! Reminds me of Grandma’s… THANK YOU FOR A FANTASTIC RECIPE!
    Please respond as soon as possible
    Also, can pears peaches (canned or fresh) be added?
    THANK YOU!5 stars

    1. We always had this for holidays too Kathy! You can absolutely add canned peaches or pears (drain well first).

      Although I haven’t tried freezing it, dairy doesn’t always hold up well in the freezer. I would not recommend freezing it. Enjoy!

  10. It is fascinating that in different parts of the United States Ambrosia is different things. Here in the South it can be this you’ve made, always with whipped, sweetened cream/sour cream and canned fruits, or it is a winter holiday treat like the one our mom made: sweetened whipped cream filled with intense flavors of chopped nuts, dried fruits, especially dates and raisins, flaked coconut, and combined with fresh fruits that would be available in the winter and “special” back in the Depression: oranges, apples, bananas, clementines, grapes. It wasn’t Thanksgiving or Christmas without it! She’s gone now, and I can’t have all the sugar and heavy cream. But we really miss it.

    1. So nice to hear the story of your mom’s special dish. Thank you for sharing BonJon. It’s very true that ambrosia is easily changed up, and always delicious!

  11. Ambrosia is MUCH better made with fresh navel oranges instead of canned. Simply peel and section them before adding to the salad.

    1. I’ve had ambrosia my whole life and have never heard of using fresh oranges, I bet it is amazing!! Thank you for sharing Sandy!

      1. That’s how my mom made it. With Fresh oranges. It was s good. Sprinkled coconut on top. Added a couple red cherries

  12. My husband loves this, however he doesn’t like sour cream. Does the cream hide or can I substitute it with something else?

    1. We make ours by mixing equal parts of sour cream and cool whip – it hides the sour cream, but keeps the creamy texture

    1. If you make it more than a day ahead, it may separate a little, so give it a stir before serving. Enjoy, Tracy!

  13. we had something similar here just different tinned fruits/fresh fruits, the original was 2 cans (790ml each )fruit cocktail drained( we used the very cherry), 1 can pineapple tidbits ( 8oz) drained, 1 can mandarin orange segments ( 4oz), 1 cup sour cream, 1cup coconut and 1-2cups mini marshmallows. lately I have been adding fresh fruits ( strawberries, grapes or other seasonal fruit, just tried it with cantaloupe )

  14. I’m with Carol, Cool Whip is so unhealthy yet I had such a hard time finding a ambrosia type recipe without it, so discouraging! I was on the verge of adding it anyway but I’m glad I didn’t. I made this and it was delish! Ok, I used half sour cream, half cottage cheese- slight modification but still no Cool Whip and still yum! Thank you for sharing your recipe. Cool Whip be gone!5 stars

    1. I can fruit cocktail, well drained, sour cream to taste (whip cream too sweet) & mini marshmallows. My mother made this since I was a child 80 years ago.5 stars

  15. I love this version made with sour cream instead of cool whip. (Cool whip is so nasty when you look at the ingredients) Plus cool whip makes it so sweet with all the sugar from the fruit, coconut and marshmallows it is more like a dessert. I have substituted in 1/2 cream cheese with sour cream, in a pinch when I dont have quite enough sour cream. I have also made fresh whipped cream with my mixer and heavy whipping cream if I dont have sour cream, and dont feel like going to the store. Sometimes I like 1/2 sour cream and 1/2 whipped cream, it makes it so decadent.

  16. Mom’s favorite at all gatherings. Now that she’s gone, I make it all the time but double the recipe. We love it!!