Mouthwatering Watergate Salad is a go-to potluck recipe straight from Grandma’s era. As a traditional and easy fruit salad recipe, it’s made from pistachio pudding with folded-in whipped toppings and chopped pecan nuts.
You’ll be sure to be leaving your guests drooling for seconds!
Green Goddess Watergate Salad Recipe
Watergate salad is one-of-a-kind and sentimental to me for reasons growing up as a young girl. As I think about this scandalous and scrumptious fruity salad, it brings back memories of it being at every family gathering.
In fact, I could always count on my grandma to make the best succulent salads. From Black-Eyed Pea Salad, Frog Eye Salad, to Carrot and Pineapple Salad – there was always one salad of hers that beat the rest.
My absolute childhood favorite: Watergate Salad.
To this day, my grandma still makes it for the holidays. It goes to show how timeless this retro fruit salad recipe is.
And I hope it makes your next family cookout memorable just as it did with my childhood memories.
What is Watergate Salad?
This yummy fruit salad has several names. My kids call it “the green stuff,”
Others call it:
- Pistachio Delight
- Green Goddess
- Shut The Gate Salad
- Green Fluff
- Scandalous Watergate Salad
This to-die-for fruit salad has its proclaimed names for a reason. Because it’s just that satisfying.
Why is it called Watergate Salad? And What’s the History of Watergate Salad?
It’s named after Watergate, the infamous hotel. Alongside the American Nixon scandal in the 1970s. Since then, it’s uncommon to not see it at social gatherings.
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!
The Best Watergate Salad Recipe Ingredients
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!
Is making Watergate salad easy? You bet it is.
In fact, it only takes 5 simple ingredients.
- 1 can, 20 oz. crushed pineapple (do not drain)
- 1 small package, 3.4 oz. Instant pistachio pudding mix
- 3 cups mini marshmallows
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans or homemade candied pecans, divided
- 1 small tub, 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!
How to make the best Watergate salad recipe doesn’t involve much effort.
Mix crushed pineapple and pistachio pudding in a mixing bowl.
Add marshmallows to the mix.
Add all but 1 tbsp. of chopped pecans (for the end).
Fold in Cool Whip topping with a spatula to prevent overmixing.
Place your Watergate salad in the fridge for 4 hours for marshmallows to fluff.
Where And How To Serve Watergate Salad Recipe
Once you’re ready to serve, sprinkle the last 1 tbsp. of chopped pecans (or some like 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 green salad in individual ramekins.
I’ve often seen this dish appear at potlucks and other large functions because the green fluff shows off well in a white or clear bowl!
Is Watergate Salad The Same Thing As Ambrosia Salad?
You’re likely asking yourself, “What is the difference between Watergate salad and ambrosia salad?”
These two creamy delights are both fruit salad recipes that call for similar ingredients. In fact, both use whipped topping and marshmallows and both fruit salads commonly show up at gatherings and cookouts.
The main difference is that coconut flakes are in ambrosia salad and pistachio pudding is the base in Watergate salad.
What Are Watergate Salad Variations?
What’s nice about any type of fruit salad is the ability to customize your ingredients to your taste buds. This involves substitutes for mixing different flavors of whipped topping, marshmallows, and nuts.
Popular Watergate salad recipes I’ve seen:
- Any fruit of your choice like adding mandarin oranges or strawberries
- For cheese lovers by mixing in cottage cheese or cream cheese
- Topping off your Watergate salad with maraschino cherries
- Substituting lime Jell-O instead of pistachio pudding mix
How To Make Watergate Salad Recipe Without Pineapple
If you aren’t a fan of the taste of the sweet tropical fruit, it is possible how to make Watergate salad without pineapple.
Keep in mind without pineapple, this will alter the taste of the Watergate salad recipe.
If you want to avoid pineapple across the board, try other alternative fruit salad recipes:
- Maple Lime Fruit Salad
- Fruit Salad Fluff
- Hawaiian Cheesecake Salad
- Hawaiian Coleslaw
- Snicker Apple Salad
Why is the Watergate salad recipe green?
The green color of Watergate salad comes from the Instant Pistachio Pudding mix! Within the shell of the pistachio comes a green nut that gives its sharp chartreuse color. Some instant pistachio pudding mixes vary by the shade of green. So, if you are going for a darker shade, you can always add extra green food coloring drops to your desired look.
I don’t like Cool Whip. Can I use an alternative to cool whip like whipped cream?
Personally, I find using Cool Whip for the Watergate salad recipe hassle-free! Keep in mind that cool whip holds together very well when it comes to the structure.
Whipped cream will be lighter and softer (its only made of heavy whipped cream) and not intended for holding your fruits and ingredients together as well (yes, whipped cream and Cool Whip are different!). As time passes, whipped cream becomes more delicate through deflation of air within whipped cream and doesnt have the same thickness as Cool Whip.
So if you’re hosting a party that will last for hours, guests may not be delighted to come to a stew of dry green mush that doesn’t look appetizing.
Can I make the Watergate salad recipe 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 recipe step by step but skip adding the marshmallows.
And if you’re finding the structure doesn’t hold as well, just add more cool whip to your desired liking.
Can I use fresh pineapple for a Watergate salad recipe?
While this recipe calls for 1 can of crushed pineapple for convenience and time, you absolutely can use a fresh pineapple that your taste buds savor over.
To pick a perfect pineapple from the store:
- The pineapple crown should be bright green and robust in feel.
- The pineapple rind should feel firm where you can still apply force with your fingers.
- You should be apple to smell the scent of fresh pineapple.
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 directions of the recipe.
How do you store Watergate salad?
Watergate salad is a refreshing dessert recipe perfect for any hot day and should be served Chilled. To keep your salad cool, it needs to be stored in the refrigerator with a tight lid to retain freshness.
This sweet fluffy green dish should be chilled for up to 2-3 days.
I made too much salad. What else can I do with the leftovers?
Get creative by turning a traditional fruit salad recipe into a modern-day delight! If you’re really obsessed with this green fluff, why not serve it in the form of a Pie? Because you can never go wrong with pies. Graham Cracker pie crust meets fluffy Watergate salad!
Step by step instructions on how to make Watergate Salad Pie:
- First, make your Watergate salad by combining all the ingredients found at the bottom of this recipe into a mixing bowl.
- Stir into one even and consistent mixture.
- Add all additional toppings like pecans or nuts of your choice. Mix in.
- Prepare your pie crust.
- With a spatula, serve up your Watergate salad mixture into the prepared pie crust.
- Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours or longer before serving.
- Add a cherry to top it off!
5 BONUS tips on how to make the best Watergate salad recipe
- If you’re using a whole fresh pineapple for your Watergate salad recipe to serve larger parties, feel free to sprinkle Sugar on top to keep your fruit fresh. No need to add much, but it helps preserve your fruit longer and sweeter!
- You can squeeze a hint of Fresh Citrus as a sweet sugar alternative to preserve your crushed pineapple. You’ll find it also adds a punch of zest for a little twist of flavor.
- Don’t forget to preserve the remaining Pineapple Juice! This is a key ingredient that gives your Watergate salad the pudding-like consistency it’s known for. If you accidentally discard your pineapple juice, you can add water and more cool whip to achieve the pudding-like consistency.
- Want to add more color to dazzle your guests with a colorful delight? Experiment by adding Rainbow Marshmallows to color things up! Choose any color that suits your celebration.
- Don’t be afraid to add whatever toppings you want to your Watergate salad. You’re not limited to leave the room out for different flavors. Try adding bananas, mandarin oranges, kiwis, or whatever fruit floats your boat! Importantly, have fun and enjoy with different tastes!
- 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. Cool Whip, 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.