4.80 from 121 votes

Ambrosia Salad Recipe with Cool Whip

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Ambrosia salad recipe with cool whip, fruit and marshmallows is perfect for your upcoming picnic. Kid friendly with just the right amount of sweetness, this is a classic recipe that will remind you of what grandma used to make!

The mandarin oranges, pineapple and sweet maraschino cherries make such a fun and festive and fresh fruit salad!

whipped topping ambrosia salad recipe.

You will love making Cool Whip Ambrosia Salad!

It’s easy to get caught up with side salads during the spring. Salads remind everyone of summer and healthy food and picnics. And it’s true; I do love some cucumber tomato feta salad, Caprese, and even zesty Italian pasta salad, pretty much any day of the week.

But I always remember ambrosia salad for all the holidays as well.

I have eaten this throwback, traditional, and old-fashioned recipe every Thanksgiving and every Christmas for as long as I can remember.

Between that and Watergate salad, it was a real treat for us as kids.

So while the adults started on all the turkey and ham, we ran to the other side of the table for the marshmallows, fluffs, and cool whip combined with fruit!


This classic ambrosia salad recipe with Cool Whip is just the tip of the iceberg, as old Southern favorites go.

Truly a retro dessert, the Ambrosia Salad recipe, the Watergate salad recipe, and the Cranberry Waldorf Salad are as timeless as your childhood.

The cherries, oranges, and pineapples allow the citrus of the fruits to mix in gently with the Cool Whip topping and vanilla yogurt for an expansive, creamy fruit salad.

Here are all the best Ambrosia Salad ingredients you need to gather for this infamous dessert salad recipe.

  • Mandarin Oranges, drained
  • pineapple chunks (also called pineapple tidbits) drained
  • maraschino cherries, drained
  • vanilla Greek yogurt
  • shredded coconut
  • mini marshmallows
  • chopped pecans (Optional)
  • whipped topping
fluff salad in a bowl with fresh fruit.

How to make Ambrosia Fruit Salad with Cool Whip

You may look at this recipe for a family gathering or holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas to balance out all the vegetable side dishes. Still, fluff salads are also amazing and underappreciated for summer salads, potlucks, and picnics.

There really is no such thing as a “traditional fruit salad,” but if any recipe is more well-known than this one, I’d love to hear it.

  1. To get started on Ambrosia Salad, ensure your favorite fruits are all completely drained and prepped.
  2. Mix canned fruit: mandarin oranges, canned pineapple, and maraschino cherries in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add vanilla Greek yogurt, shredded coconut flakes, and miniature marshmallows (you can also use fruit-flavored marshmallows) and mix well.
Classic ambrosia salad with with cool whip, fruit and marshmallows is a perfect dessert side dish for an old fashioned southern dish.
  1. In this ambrosia salad recipe, we used vanilla Greek yogurt, but it is easy to change up the yogurt flavors and make a different version. (For example, try strawberry or lemon yogurt for a bit of sweetened flavor.). Do not feel married to vanilla if you know that you love the flavor of something else. Half the fun in the kitchen is making it your own!
  2. Using a spatula, fold in the whipped topping slowly, covering all the fruit and marshmallows.
  3. Stir Ambrosia Salad Well before serving to ensure equal flavoring and remove any settling.
old fashioned classic ambrosia salad with cool whip and no coconut in a serving bowl.

What is Classic Ambrosia Salad?

Classic ambrosia salad is often up to the maker; from Jell-O and sour cream additives to the original pistachio and Watergate salad feel, it’s an old-fashioned salad rooted in huge potlucks that you would find at your church.

A traditional Southern holiday dish, I love ambrosia mainly because of the creamy Cool Whip. And it’s true that Ambrosia “salad” is more of a dessert than a salad, but I try to convince myself the fruits make it ‘healthy.” (P.S. It’s not meant to be healthy).

Also, in this simple Ambrosia fruit salad recipe, I leave the traditional plain whipped topping in the recipe, but I have also used the Birthday Cake Cool Whip (as shown in the video), and it’s SO GOOD!!

birthday cool whip with ambrosia salad ingredients

So, if you see flavored cool whips out due to the season, feel free to branch out. The birthday cake Cool Whip is slightly pink, too, which is a lot of fun and gives a soft pink hue to the dessert.

Sweet Fruit Salad Recipe FAQs

What I love about this recipe is minutes—I mean minutes until it’s done! I think it can be so stressful to have to prep meals in a holiday setting, and this ambrosia salad is basically a dump-and-mix scenario.

Make sure you have enough time to let this dessert fluff salad sit in the fridge and get good and cold. The flavors need a chance to blend and solidify, and it just tastes better this way.

I like the consistency and flavor of vanilla yogurts, but it’s OK to experiment and try flavors like strawberry and cherry yogurts!

Try to make Ambrosia Salad at least an hour ahead of time but up to four hours for the best flavor and fluff.

I am also showing a picture of the Birthday Cake Cool Whip, so you know what to look for in the store if you choose that.

cherry oranges and cool whip make up the best fluff ambrosia salad recipe.

Expert Fluff Salad Tips

Can Ambrosia Salad be served instantly? It is OK to serve Ambrosia Salad immediately or refrigerate thead with the bowl covered for at least 4 hours or overnight if you can to really solidify the flavors and allow the full fluff.

Can this salad be left on a table outside during a potluck? Because this salad has dairy, putting and leaving it in the heat outside for long periods is not recommended because it will melt down. We recommend placing it inside an air-tight container in a cold cooler.

Is Ambrosia Salad actually Southern? It is!

Is there a way to prevent fruit from turning brown (like adding bananas)? – the only way to prevent sliced fruit from changing colors is typically acid-like lemon juice, which can alter the flavor.

It’s best to add fruits (like bits of apples and bananas) that brown just before serving. There are also brands of spray that are supposed to be flavorless and colorless to prevent fruit from altering colors, but I haven’t found one to test yet.

classic and old fashioned side dish recipe in a spoon ready for serving this holiday season.

Fruit Salad Variations 

While there is an often-used recipe for this type of salad, there really is no wrong way to enjoy the fruit.

Here are some changes to Ambrosia Salad to really make it your own or bring back specific memories with this vintage fruit salad dessert.

  • Peeled and sliced green Grapes
  • Fresh Sliced Bananas (add right before serving so they don’t turn brown)
  • Chopped-up fresh Strawberries
  • Orange slices
  • shredded coconut (about a 1/2 a cup)
  • any drained canned fruits
  • Crunchy toppings like pecans, pistachios, or walnuts – in this ambrosia salad recipe, I left them out as I didn’t have them in my pantry then. Still, they are super common to use, and I prefer them when I make this classic dish recipe for holiday gatherings. 

Southern Dessert Salad Recipes

Need more recipes that are perfect for holiday tables?

4.80 from 121 votes

Ambrosia Salad Recipe with Cool Whip

Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 5 minutes
Classic ambrosia salad with with cool whip, fruit and marshmallows is perfect for your upcoming picnic. Kid friendly with just the right amount of sweet, this is the best ambrosia salad recipe that will remind you of what grandma used to make!


  • 15 oz. Mandarin Oranges drained well
  • 20 oz. pineapple chunks drained well
  • 12 oz. jar of maraschino cherries drained well
  • 3/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt 6 oz container
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 8 oz. tub Cool Whip whipped topping thawed
  • crunchy pecans chopped / optional


  • Preparation of Fruits: Start by draining your Mandarin oranges, pineapple chunks, and maraschino cherries. It is important to get as much juice out of them as possible so the ambrosia salad isn't watery. Watch the cherries for unwanted stems; they sometimes show up in the jars.
  • Mixing the Ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, combine the drained Mandarin oranges, pineapple chunks, and maraschino cherries.
  • Add Vanilla Greek yogurt, shredded coconut, and mini marshmallows to the bowl. Mix these ingredients thoroughly until they're well combined.
  • Incorporating the Whipped Topping: Gently fold in the whipped topping using a spatula. This ensures a light and airy texture in your ambrosia salad. No need to overmix.
  • Optional Tip: During the fall, various flavored whipped toppings are available. Try using a flavored Cool Whip, such as the Birthday Cake flavor, for a unique twist!
  • Chilling the Salad: Transfer the ambrosia salad into an airtight container. Refrigerate the salad until ready to serve. We suggest a minimum of 1 hour; however, it can be served instantly. As a side note, this dessert salad can be prepared ahead of time for convenience and parties.
  • Serving the Ambrosia Salad: Before serving, give ambrosia a good stir. This prevents any fruit, juice from the fruit, or whipped topping from settling at the bottom.
  • If preferred, top with chopped pecans for a bit of crunch (We recommend – but do not do this before serving, or the nuts will soften in the fridge).



Perfecting Your Ambrosia Salad
Toppings for Texture: If you’re a fan of crunch, sprinkle chopped pecans or walnuts on top of the salad just before serving. 
Play with Yogurt Flavors: While vanilla yogurt provides the perfect taste and texture, don’t be afraid to experiment! Strawberry or cherry yogurts are also great for fruit salads like this.
Preparation and Timing: For the best taste, prepare the Ambrosia Salad at least an hour beforehand. However, letting it sit in the refrigerator for up to four hours can enhance fluffiness.
Fruit Variations: Feel free to include fresh fruits or even additional of the canned fruits that we listed. Fresh halved grapes, bananas, or kiwi all work. Just remember that certain fresh fruits change colors when oxidized (like bananas), so it’s best to add fresh fruits right before serving. 
Presentation: Serve Ambrosia Salad in individual dessert glasses or bowls with some extra (non-mixed in) cherries on top.


Serving: 1Servings | Calories: 254kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 42mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 39g

Nutritional Disclaimer: The nutritional data provided here is auto-calculated and intended for your convenience only. As it’s generated via automation, its accuracy may be compromised. For precise nutritional insight, please compute the values utilizing the actual ingredients in your recipe through your chosen nutrition calculator or application.

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4.80 from 121 votes
4.80 from 121 votes (119 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  1. This was one of my FAVORITE side dishes that my Nana would make on the holidays! Now I am craving some!

    1. Can you use walnuts chopped instead of pecans?

    2. Hi ramona!
      You could absolutely substitute walnuts over pecans in ambrosia salad!

    3. I’ve always only used sliced almonds.

  2. Very easy and delicious

  3. What can I substitute for coconut?

    1. Coconut is a really specific type of texture and taste, so there isn’t a substitute I am aware of. You could probably just leave it out of the recipe but I would likely add some extra marshmallows to absorb some of the moisture.

  4. This was delicious! What is the serving size you’re referring to for your nutritional info? 1 cup?

    1. The recipe is broken into 10 servings, so 1 serving of that. It automatically calculates in the card so I suggest you use carbmanager to track recipes so you know exactly.

  5. This recipe is easy and very popular with everyone I serve it to. Love, love, love! Thanks for bringing Grandma’s best to our table.

  6. M J Mariani says:

    What can I substitute for yogurt?

    1. Hi MJ, are you trying to not use yogurt or any dairy at all?

  7. Is there much of a different taste between using yogurt vs sour cream because we used sour cream growing up?

    1. The texture should be the same but I find that Greek Yogurt is a bit sweeter than sour cream. In theory, the taste would work either way but I prefer the yogurt.

  8. Do you use presweetened coconut or plain or what ?

    1. I use sweetened coconut.

  9. So easy to make and great tasting. I used sour cream instead of yogurt and it worked just fine for my family. I love your recipes Trisha

    1. Thank you debbie, that means a lot. I am so glad that your ambrosia salad was delicious!

  10. Christine @ myblissfulmess says:

    I love this salad! It’s easy to make and easy to substitute your favorite fruit. The only thing I substituted were the cherries. I’m not a fan of maraschino cherries so I subbed for some sliced strawberries instead. To make it healthier, I used non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt, and light whipped topping. Wonderful fruit salad!

  11. I love this recipe! I use sour cream instead of yogurt. I also added fruit cocktail and banana and diced Apple… We love it! Thanks for sharing! Reminds me of home!

  12. Linda Hoover says:

    Could it be made the night before and stored in refrig?

    1. Trisha Haas says:

      It can but remember that fruit has natural juice and it could not be as fluffy. Depends on how much you get drained off.

  13. Kammy Rogers says:

    I love this very much.Thank you for sharing

  14. Ambrosia is a dish that is made to the preparers taste. I make mine with mostly fresh fruit, coconut, marshmallows and dream whip. When ever there is a family gathering i am asked to bring it.

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