This light and fluffy Watergate salad recipe is a quick and easy salad that tastes like dessert. It’s a fluffy mixture with pistachio pudding and our favorite add-ins and hard to resist.

It has just the right amount of tart crushed pineapple, and crunchy pecans with a cherry on top. Watergate salad is a colorfully unique addition to any table!

a serving of watergate salad

What is Watergate Salad?

Watergate salad has also been called Pistachio Delight, Shut the Gate Salad, and even Green Goddess Salad. It most likely got its name from the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC where it was offered during weekend brunches.

This fluff salad gets it’s color and delicious 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. Great next to a holiday meal, served as a dessert or with Strawberry Peach Slushies

A Fave Fluff Salad

  • Watergate salad is a classic salad recipe that’s 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 for Watergate Salad

Watergate Salad Ingredients

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

PISTACHIO BASE Pistachio has a clean, nutty flavor and a pale green color that gives this salad its unique appeal. Pineapple juice gives this recipe a citrusy tang that blends all of the other flavors together.

MIX-INS Watergate salad is known for its perfect combination of sweet and crunchy mix-ins. Crushed pineapple and crunchy pecans are folded into a blend of whipped cream and mini-marshmallows.

Crushed pistachios or walnuts can be used in place of the pecans, and for some extra color and texture, a can of drained fruit cocktail, sliced bananas, mandarin orange segments, fresh blueberries, or diced red apples can be added as well.

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

steps for making watergate salad

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 to cool before adding to the recipe. Toasting them intensifies their flavor and makes them extra crunchy!

watergate salad in a bowl

Storing

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! 

a serving of watergate salad
4.71 from 24 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

Ingredients  

  • 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

Optional

  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • maraschino cherries for serving

Instructions 

  • Drain the crushed pineapple juice into a large bowl, reserving the pineapple in the can.
  • Stir the pudding mix into the pineapple juice until fully combined.
  • Stir in the crushed pineapple, marshmallows, pecans, & coconut if using.
  • Once combined, fold in the whipped topping.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 48 hours.
  • Garnish with pecan chips and a cherry when serving.

Video

Notes

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 fold in fresh whipped topping and marshmallows before serving. 
4.71 from 24 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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More fruits favorites: and these Hawaiian Chicken Kabobs.

bowl of Watergate Salad with writing
close up of Watergate Salad with a title
close up of Watergate Salad in a bowl with a title
Watergate Salad in a bowl and plated with a title

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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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Comments

  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