Watergate Salad is an easy potluck go-to recipe straight from Grandmas era. Pistachio pudding with folded in whipped toppings and chopped pecan nuts take me right back to being 10 years old again with this traditional fruit salad recipe.
My kids call it “that green stuff” – you’ll call it unforgettable.
When I was a little girl I could always count on my grandma to make the best meals. And while the food was typically the same menu (after all, she didn’t have Pinterest), it was always amazing.
This scandalous watergate salad just reminds me of being free, of stealing miniature marshmallows out of a bowl, of playing in the back yard and it was literally at every family function.
In fact, my grandma STILL makes it for Thanksgiving and its 2019 at the time of this post! I hope you fill find this retro fruit salad recipe as enjoyable as I do and it makes your next picnic super special!
Watergate Salad Recipe
This is a fluffy and flavorful salad that has been on the holiday table for many generations. Pass down this recipe to your kids and keep the tradition going!
Over the years this recipe has been altered a thousand times and some add cherries or cottage cheese to it as well. I recommend making a simple recipe first and then decide what variations you would love.
All measurements are in the printable recipe version at the bottom of the post:
- crushed pineapple
- Instant pistachio pudding mix
- mini marshmallows
- chopped pecans or these homemade candied pecans, divided
- whipped cream topping
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!
Watergate Salad History
Have you ever wondered why it is called Watergate salad?
Fact: Yep, this side dish is thought to have actually been named after Watergate – the infamous hotel and home to the Nixon scandal.
It was originally a Kraft recipe and published under an entirely different name; Pistachio Pineapple Delight. But after a republication in a newspaper and a sassy editor got a hold of it, the name became “Watergate”. This dessert salad has been a part of baby showers, weddings, and grandma’s picnics ever since.
Whatever you call this recipe, mixing yellow crushed pineapple and green instant pistachio pudding is so fun!
How to make Watergate Salad
There are just five very simple steps in making this classic pudding salad recipe.
Place crushed pineapple and pistachio pudding into a mixing bowl and mix well.
Add all your marshmallows and all but 1 tablespoon chopped pecans (which you will save till the end) Mix all your ingredients thoroughly.
Fold in cool whip topping with a spatula so it does not get over mixed.
Put Watergate salad in fridge so the marshmallows can fluff about- about 4 hours.
Where to Serve Watergate Salad
This is the perfect dessert salad to take to parties and cookouts.
I’ve seen this appear at potlucks and other large functions and its a great holiday side dish. If you are going to be taking this to a potluck or cookout, it looks so pretty to display it in your favorite decorative dish and makes a splash in a white or clear bowl.
The green fluff shows off incredibly well!
How long will Watergate salad last in the refrigerator?
Your Watergate Salad Recipe should be chilled for 4 hours or overnight. If you keep it in an airtight container, it should last about a week in the fridge without losing any texture.
I would not freeze it. It will have a really strange texture with the pudding and whipped topping combined.
How to Serve Watergate Salad
Serve it chilled with remaining the pecans and add cherries for a splash of pretty red color! Another idea – if you want to go the extra mile – is to serve this beautifully green salad in individual ramekins at a party.
It is such a bright and cheerful little dish. Kids will love it!
Is Watergate the same thing as Ambrosia salad?
There are a few differences between this green fluff and Ambrosia salad. Yes, they are both fruit salads with whipped topping and marshmallows. But Ambrosia salad has the crunch of coconut in it. It also has only whipped topping, whereas Watergate salad has the pistachio pudding mixed in.
So if you just want fruit mixed in whipped topping, try to make an Ambrosia salad. Both are from the same time periods and both tend to still show up at cookouts.
Watergate Salad Variations
What makes this side dish stand out is the combination of whipped topping, marshmallows, and nuts. It isn’t exactly a salad. Salads tend to be savory or salty.
This is green fluff full of sweet cool whip, tangy pineapples, and that unforgettable pistachio flavor.
That being said, there are many variations.
Here are some of the most popular ones I’ve seen:
- Add mandarin oranges to the salad
- Mix in cottage cheese
- Stir in cream cheese
- Add maraschino cherries on top
- Strawberry Watergate salad
- Use lime jello instead of pistachio pudding mix
I personally love my basic recipe. It reminds me of my childhood. But definitely try different variations and have fun with it! It’s such a simple recipe that it can be changed and created into different things.
Can you make Watergate salad without pineapple?
You need the pineapple in juice to dissolve the pudding. If you aren’t a fan of pineapple, there are plenty of other fruit salad recipes out there.
Need more Side Dish Recipes?
- 1 can, 20 oz, crushed pineapple (do not drain)
- 1 small package, 3.4 oz, pistachio pudding
- 3 cups mini marshmallows
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans, divided
- 1 small tub, 8 oz, whipped topping, thawed
- Place pineapple and pudding into a mixing bowl and mix well.
- Add mini marshmallows and all but 1 tablespoon chopped pecans.
- Mix well.
- Fold in whipped topping.
- Refrigerate Watergate Salad for 4 hours or overnight- the marshmallows really puff up.
- Serve with remaining chopped pecans or candied pecans on top.
You can serve this one immediately but its 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.
Serving Size:1 Servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 255Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 40mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 1gSugar: 30gProtein: 2g
Nutritional information is automatically calculated with ingredients and serving size and may not be accurate. Please always double check with your own nutritional apps as well.