Looking for an easy and delicious side dish that tastes like dessert?

This Watergate salad recipe is made with pistachio pudding, crushed pineapple, and pecans. Every bite is sweet, tangy, and crunchy, and it takes just minutes to prepare

Watergate salad is a fun, flavorful side or even dessert.

plated Watergate Salad with marshmallows

What is Watergate Salad?

Watergate salad, also known as Pistachio Delight or Shut the Gate Salad, is a fluffy and flavorful dish that’s perfect for any occasion. Legend has it that the salad was named after the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC, where it was served during weekend brunches.

This green fluffy salad gets its color and flavor from a box of instant pistachio pudding mix. The addition of nuts (and coconut if you like) add texture, while marshmallows and whipped topping make it fluffy and sweet. Great next to a holiday meal this recipe is pretty and nostalgic, like Kool-Aid pie or ambrosia salad.

  • Watergate salad is easy to make and perfect for any holiday table!
  • It’s easy to make in one bowl and without having to heat up the oven! Just mix and chill!
  • This dish is best made ahead of time, making it potluck perfect!
ingredients assembled to make watergate salad, including marshmallows, pistachio pudding, whipped topping, pecans, crushed pineapple, and maraschino cherries

Watergate Salad Ingredients

Some versions of Watergate salad use cottage cheese or cream cheese, but this recipe is simple and sweet.

PISTACHIO BASE Pistachio pudding mix adds a sweet, nutty flavor and a pretty green color to Watergate salad while whipped topping makes it sweet and fluffy.

MIX-INS Sweet and crunchy, I add chopped pecans, although you can also add coconut if you’d like. Crushed pineapple adds a citrusy tang.

VARIATIONS Swap the pecans for crushed pistachios or walnuts. Stir in fruit cocktail for extra color.

PRO TIP: Be sure any added fruit is thoroughly drained so it doesn’t water the salad down.

How to Make Watergate Salad

This salad is so easy to make for some old-fashioned fluffy fun!

  1. Whisk pineapple juice and pistachio pudding mix (per the recipe below).
  2. Stir in the mix-ins. Gently fold in whipped topping, cover, & refrigerate.
  3. Garnish with chopped pecans & a maraschino cherry for each serving.

PRO TIP: Toast pecans in a small pan and allow them to cool before adding them to the recipe. Toasting them intensifies their flavor and makes them extra crunchy!

Watergate Salad with whipped cream and a cherry on top

Storing Watergate Salad

Keep Watergate salad covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Refresh it by folding in some extra whipped cream topping.

Watergate salad can be frozen for up to 3 months, but it won’t be as fluffy once it’s thawed. Leave some space in the container for it to expand as it freezes. Once it’s thawed, give it a stir and fold in some fresh whipped topping and marshmallows before serving.

Side Dish or Dessert?!

Did you make this Watergate Salad? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below! 

Watergate Salad with whipped cream and a cherry on top
4.80 from 34 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
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Watergate Salad

This Watergate Salad is a delicious retro recipe that can be whipped up in just 5 minutes. It’s loaded with classic flavors like pecans, pineapple, and pistachio!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Chill Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 20 minutes
Servings 10 servings
Author Rebecca



  • 20 ounces crushed pineapple in juice NOT SYRUP
  • 3.4 ounces instant pistachio pudding mix 1 box
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup pecans chopped
  • 8 ounces whipped topping


  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • maraschino cherries for serving


  • Drain the juices from the crushed pineapple into a large mixing bowl. Reserving the pineapple in the can. Whisk the pudding mix into the pineapple juice until well combined.
  • Fold in the crushed pineapple, marshmallows, pecans, & coconut if using. Fold in the whipped topping.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 48 hours.
  • Garnish with additional whipped topping and a cherry for serving.



Coconut is optional but we love to stir it in.  This dish is best made ahead of time so the marshmallows soften and the flavors blend.
Leftover Watergate Salad can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days. Mix well before serving again. 
Freeze for up to 3 months in an airtight container; thaw, stir, and enjoy.
4.80 from 34 votes

Nutrition Information

Calories: 242 | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 173mg | Potassium: 153mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 29g | Vitamin A: 50IU | Vitamin C: 5.4mg | Calcium: 34mg | Iron: 0.5mg

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

Course Dessert, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American

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About the author

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. My aunt gave me this recipe over 40 years ago. We use walnuts instead of pecans. I have used it many times over the years. I can still recall standing in her kitchen and she gave me a copy of the recipe after I had eaten some for the first time.5 stars

  2. I have made Watergate Salad a lot. We don’t make it with coconut (this is the only recipe I’ve come across that includes it), but that sounds interesting. We usually omit the nuts because they can get a little un-crunchy mixed in with the other ingredients. I love the idea of adding them on top, though! Thanks for the ideas!

    Also want to note that this salad freezes really well. We always make it for Thanksgiving and I freeze it days ahead of time. You just have to remember to take it out and put it in the fridge ahead of time. We like ours really cold, so if it’s still a little frosty in the middle, that’s okay!4 stars

    1. I’ve always used coconut in mine but I have noticed that a lot of people don’t.
      It may be that coconut is one of those things that many people don’t care for so eliminating it lets more people enjoy it.

    1. I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t love this as much as we do Lina. Thank you for trying it.

  3. True Watergate has NO coconut – 5 ingredients, nuts, whipped topping, a 4-serving instant pistachio pudding mix, pineapple & marshmallows BUT I do not like marshmallows & I do not like waiting SO, I’ve always made mine w/8 oz cream cheese & walnuts for the nuts. I use my stick blender & blend the cream cheese & pineapple juice first. Then add pineapple chunks cuz they taste better than crushed pineapple & using the stick blender makes it all the right consistency. Then stir in the dry pudding mix & nuts. & last, fold in the whipped topping. Then EAT, no waiting necessary! & I’ve been making this dessert for almost 40 years & there are annual family functions that I don’t show up to unless I’ve made a triple batch!!!

  4. My mother n law debra crews number 1 makes this salad every year for thanksgiving for me because i love it so much this year im making it myself for our thanksgiving dinner at her house. It is inexspensive and easy to make. A great desert for any occasion thank you for the recipe. I will try the others too. Hv a great thanksgiving.

  5. My mom used to make this for holidays like easter and the 4th (with marshmallow colors corresponding to the holiday of course). It’s a cool summer dessert. Ive made it myself and love it. But, Id suggest two changes…if adding coconut (which we never did, but love the idea)…id toast it first to add that nice toasted coconut flavor. And I like the idea of chopped walnuts better than pecans, they arent quite as salty and have a more satisfying crunch whereas I find pecans too brittle. Love the maraschino cherry idea, too. This recipe looks and sounds like a winner!5 stars

  6. My mom used to make this all the time, for whatever picnic we went to. I m going to make this probably within the week, just because. Yum yum memories5 stars

  7. How fun! I’m not a big fan of pistachios either, but anything with marshmallows is tasty treat as far as I’m concerned.

  8. It is amazing how sometimes food can be utterly alien to some, I have genuinely no idea what pistachio pudding is ;) Fab story behind the name though.

  9. Here I was thinking this was going to be a boring savory salad recipe… but then I realised it was a delicious sweet salad with pistachio, marshmallow and cream… yes please!!!

  10. Pistachio pudding! :) This IS retro, but in the best possible way. I am so buying that pudding and making this the next time I’m at the store!5 stars