4.79 from 28 votes

Watergate Salad

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The allure of the past often revolves around timeless classics. Be it fashion, cars, or, in our case, food. And when we talk about timeless family favorites, the Watergate Salad recipe stands tall amidst them all.

Dubbed a ‘Pistachio Salad Recipe,’ this green goop, reminiscent of a retro dessert from Grandma’s era, evokes memories of family gatherings and delicious sweet salad traditions.

watergate salad on a plate.

Why You’ll Love Grandma’s Watergate Salad!

  1. Simplicity: This dessert can be whipped up quickly with just a handful of ingredients.
  2. Nostalgia: Its classic taste transports many back to cherished childhood memories.
  3. Versatility: The variations are endless, from adding fruits of your choice to experimenting with toppings.
  4. Crowd-Pleaser: Its unique taste and creamy texture make it a favorite across all age groups.

What is Watergate Salad?

There’s no denying that mouthwatering Watergate Salad is a go-to potluck recipe.

As a fruity delight made from pistachio pudding, whipped toppings, and crunchy pecan nuts, the classic recipe leaves guests drooling for seconds!

This dish is often called Pistachio Delight, Green Goddess, Shut The Gate Salad, Green Fluff, and Scandalous Watergate Salad.

Simple Ingredients

This fluffy and flavorful salad has been on the holiday table for many generations. Pass down this recipe to your kids and keep the tradition going!

  • 20 oz. Crushed pineapple (do not drain)
  • 3.4 oz. Instant pistachio pudding mix (gives it its green color)
  • 3 cups mini marshmallows,
  • chopped pecans, or homemade candied pecans divided
  • 8 oz. Cool Whip thawed

All measurements and instructions are in the printable recipe version at the bottom of the post.

How To Make The Best Watergate Salad Recipe

Recipe Note: When I purchased my last round of pudding for this video recipe, I saw my exact recipe on the side, so Grandma got it right!! This IS the ORIGINAL recipe!

  1. Mix crushed pineapple with juice and package instant pudding mix in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add miniature marshmallows to the mix.
  3. Add all but 1 tbsp. of chopped pecans (for the end).
  4. Gently fold in the Cool Whip topping with a spatula to prevent overmixing.
watergate salad being created with all ingredients.
  1. Chill the mixture in the fridge for about 4 hours, allowing the marshmallows to fluff up.
  2. When ready to serve, sprinkle the reserved pecans or cherries atop the salad for added pizzazz.
mixing all marshmallows and cool whip for watergate salad recipe.

RECIPE TIP: Instead of pecans, try making it with pistachio nuts for more pistachio flavor in this excellent dessert.

Why is it called Watergate Salad?

Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t directly related to the Nixon Presidential Scandal.

Initially labeled ‘Pistachio Pineapple Delight‘ by Kraft, the recipe underwent a name change when a newspaper editor rebranded it as ‘Watergate’ post-publication.

Since then, the green fluff has graced various family gatherings, from baby showers to weddings.

watergate salad variations

How To Serve Pistachio Salad.

Once you’re ready to serve, sprinkle the last 1 tbsp. of chopped pecans (or some like maraschino cherries) on top.

Watergate salad makes a tasty dessert treat for parties and cookouts. If you want to go the extra mile to impress your guests at your party, serve this beautiful, simple salad in individual ramekins.

I’ve often seen this appear as a church potluck recipe and Thanksgiving food because the green fluff pop of color shows off well in a white or clear bowl!

Watergate Salad Recipe Variations

What’s nice about any creamy fruit salad is the ability to customize the ingredients to your taste buds. This involves substitutes for mixing different whipped topping flavors, marshmallows, and nuts.

Popular Watergate salad recipe variations:

  • Any fruit of your choice, like adding mandarin oranges or strawberries.
  • For cheese lovers, mix in cottage cheese or cream cheese.
  • Topping off your Watergate salad with maraschino cherries.
  • Substituting lime Jell-O instead of pistachio pudding mix.
  • Like a recipe for Ambrosia Salad, shredded coconut is a great change.
green goop pistachio salad fluff on a plate with nuts.

Common Questions & Tips:

  • Why is Watergate Salad green? The vibrant hue comes from the Instant Pistachio Pudding mix. Incorporate a few drops of green food coloring for a more intense color.
  • How do I store Pistachio Fluff? Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2–3 days. Before serving, ensure it’s chilled for the best taste.
  • Can I freeze Watergate Salad? It’s best enjoyed fresh. However, if you freeze it, ensure it’s stored in a tight, airtight container. When you’re ready to eat, thaw in the refrigerator.

  • Can Watergate Salad be made a day ahead? Absolutely! Preparing it a day early allows the flavors to meld beautifully. Ensure it’s covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator.
  • Do you have any ideas for Green Stuff leftovers? Why not make a Watergate Salad Pie using a Graham Cracker crust? Follow the original recipe, pour the pudding mixture into the crust, chill, and enjoy the pistachio dessert!
  • Can I make Pistachio Fluff Salad without marshmallows? If you’re looking for an even Lighter-Weight Watergate Salad Recipe, skipping the marshmallows is a viable option. You would follow the same old-school recipe step by step but skip adding the marshmallows. And if you’re finding the structure doesn’t hold well, add more cool Whip and 1 cup of shredded coconut to your liking.

Can I use fresh pineapple in a Watergate Salad Recipe?

Absolutely! While canned pineapple offers convenience, a fresh one can impart a fresher taste. Remember to retain the juices when you blend the pineapple, as it’s crucial for the desired consistency.

Steps on how to use a whole fresh pineapple:

Cut both ends of the pineapple. Trim the sides from top to bottom.

Remove the pineapple “eyes.” Cut the pineapple in half and remove the inedible center of the fruit.

Cut your pineapple into chunks and blend the chunks in a food processor. Continue to pulse until broken down.

Add crushed pineapple per the directions of the recipe.

easy fluff salad recipe.

Explore More Fluff-tastic Fruit Salads!

If you’ve fallen in love with Watergate Salad, we’ve got more to tickle your taste buds!

  • Blueberry Lemon Fluff: A refreshing blend of tangy lemon curd and sweet blueberry filling. It’s summer in a bowl, and every bite is like a burst of sunshine!
  • Pumpkin Fluff: Perfect for autumn or any time you’re craving the rich flavors of pumpkin. It’s a creamy dream that pairs wonderfully with gingersnaps or graham crackers.
  • Marshmallow Fluff Dip: Not a salad, but a fluff dip! Perfect for the holidays, this Christmas-friendly recipe also goes great with fruit.
  • Apple Pie Fluff Salad: Embrace the comforting flavors of apple pie in a light, airy form. With hints of cinnamon and vanilla, this fluff is a true homage to the beloved dessert.
4.79 from 28 votes

Watergate Salad (Pistachio Fluff)


Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 5 minutes
Watergate Salad is a cherished old-fashioned retro recipe that we are sure your Grandma used to serve (like ours!). Featuring green pistachio pudding, Cool Whip, and the crunch of nuts, every bite transports me back to the simple joys of being 10 years old. This classic is not just a treat for the tastebuds but a journey down memory lane, making it a favorite at potlucks and family gatherings.

Ingredients
 

  • 20 oz. crushed pineapple (do not drain)
  • 3.4 oz. Instant pistachio pudding
  • 3 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans pull out 1 tablespoon for garnish
  • 8 oz. Cool Whip thawed

Instructions

  • Prepare Ingredients: Before starting, ensure all ingredients are ready and within reach. This will make the process smoother and more enjoyable.
  • Combine Pineapple and Pudding Mix: In a large mixing bowl, add the entire contents of the crushed pineapple (do not drain the juice) and the instant pistachio pudding mix. Using a whisk or a spatula, stir the two ingredients together until they're fully combined and the mixture begins to thicken slightly.
  • Incorporate the Minature Marshmallows and Pecans: Add the mini marshmallows to the mixing bowl. Followed by the chopped pecans, but remember to reserve about 1 tablespoon for garnish later. Stir well.
  • Gently Fold in the Whipped Topping: Add the thawed whipped Cool Whip topping to the bowl. Using a spatula, gently fold the whipped topping into the mixture, ensuring it's combined well but without overmixing. This will keep the salad light and fluffy.
  • Refrigerate Fluff Salad: Once everything is combined, cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap or transfer the salad to an airtight container. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight. The extended refrigeration will allow the marshmallows to absorb moisture and puff up, giving the salad its characteristic fluffy dessert texture.

Serve and Enjoy:

  • Before serving, give the salad a gentle stir to refresh. Transfer the salad to your serving dish, and garnish with the tablespoon of reserved chopped pecans.
    For an extra touch of elegance and flavor, you can also sprinkle some candied pecans on top. Serve chilled.

Video

Notes

You can serve this one immediately but it’s better if you wait a few hours to get really fluffy! This makes a pretty large bowl, I would say serving 8, but that is generous servings considering this is a rich dessert salad.

5 Expert Tips to Elevate Pistachio Salad.

If you’re using a whole fresh pineapple for this dessert salad to serve larger parties, sprinkle Sugar on top to keep the fruit fresh. Adding much is unnecessary, but it helps preserve the fruit longer and make it sweeter!
You can squeeze a hint of Fresh Citrus as a sweet sugar alternative to preserve your crushed pineapple. It also adds a punch of zest for a little flavor twist.
Remember to preserve the remaining Pineapple Juice for pistachio pudding salad! If you accidentally discard your pineapple juice, you can add water and more Cool Whip to achieve a pudding-like consistency.
Want to add more color to this sweet side dish? Experiment by adding Rainbow Marshmallows or a little green food coloring.
Feel free to add whatever toppings you want to your Watergate salad. You’re not limited to the original recipe. Try adding bananas or mandarin oranges, or change up the nuts to pistachios or walnuts.

Nutrition

Serving: 1Servings | Calories: 255kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 40mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 30g

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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4.79 from 28 votes

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13 Comments

  1. My mom makes this every Thanksgiving and Easter. We also call it, “The Green Stuff”. She used walnuts in it, probably because they are more affordable, or maybe she prefers them better. I couldn’t find my copy of this recipe and did a quick Pinterest search. I loved reading your post on it, I felt like someone else gets our little family tradition. haha. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Katie! Its heart warming to know other people think of this recipe as a tradition. My grandmother still makes it every year at the holidays. I guess at some point I will be the one to take it over. Walnuts is a GREAT idea because yes, pecans are ridiculously expensive.

  2. Olivia Conrad says:

    I’m making this for a youth thanksgiving gathering. Yummy!!!

    1. Watergate is def a kid friendly and youth friendly salad! I hope they LOVE it!! (also I volunteer at my youth group too!!)

  3. I also add a can of drained mandarin oranges. It’s great.

    1. Ooh, I bet that tastes great in a watergate salad – fantastic suggestion! Trisha

  4. Thanks for the information where the name came from. Always had questions about it. First had it in the mid 70s as a kid. As a kid couldn’t figure out what Nixon had to do with a salad. But then I really didn’t understand what Watergate was about either. Just knew it was bad since the President left. Neighborhood lady made it first. We never had marshmallows in it we used cottage cheese. People who aren’t a big fan of pineapple might like it using the smaller can of pineapple. That is what our receipe called for. When I make now I usually use about 3/4s of the larger can. Thanks for the memories.

    1. thanks Sarah, so glad you loved the Watergate and great addition with the cottage cheese variation!

    2. Roxanne Brinker says:

      Hi Sarah
      Could you tell me how much cottage cheese you use? I have had it with both but have never made it myself and would like to give it a try with cottage cheese. Thanks

  5. Barbara P Tate says:

    Made before I just left to see what you had made.

  6. I love this salad!! My mom used to make this in the summer and at Christmas. I thought I would never have this salad again, thank you for posting the recipe.

    1. Trisha Haas says:

      Wonderful! Watergate salad is an iconic salad for me too <3

  7. A classic! Delicious.

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