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.

A bowl of Ambrosia salad to serve with turkey dinner

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.

Ambrosia Salad Ingredients in bowl ready to make

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.

Bowls of Ambrosia salad with marshmallows, oranges and pineapple

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

Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 8
Author Holly
Course Dessert, Salad, 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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  1. Fold together all ingredients in a large bowl. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

  2. Serve cold.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 166, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 14mg, Sodium: 31mg, Potassium: 204mg, Carbohydrates: 21g, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 17g, Protein: 1g, Vitamin A: 7.6%, Vitamin C: 16.7%, Calcium: 5.3%, Iron: 2.9%

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

Keyword Ambrosia Salad

REPIN this Easy Salad

Top view of Ambrosia Salad served in a bowl

Bowl of Fruit Salad with Marshmallows (Ambrosia)

Ambrosia Salad is a turkey dinner staple showing up on Thanksgiving dinner tables and at our Christmas dinner spread. Also known as 5-Cup salad, it contains coconut, pineapple and oranges but we add other goodies from time to time including maraschino cherries, walnuts, fruit cocktail and/or pecans!  #spendwithpennies #ambrosia #ambrosiasalad #5cupsalad #sidedishrecipe #fluffrecipe #fluffsalad #turkeydinner

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About the author


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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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  1. 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. 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!

  2. 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 )

  3. 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!

    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.

  4. 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.