This easy ambrosia salad with cool whip or sour cream is light and fluffy and just the right level of sweetness. Using a mix of canned fruit and fresh fruit, with the crunch of walnuts, it’s a perfect blend of flavors and textures. My mom always made it for special occasions and family gatherings and was her go-to potluck dish. You won’t believe how easy and delicious this recipe is!
Ambrosia salad is an old school classic recipe that is said to have originated in Vermont. The word ambrosia derives from ancient Greek mythology and means food of the gods. It is used to describe something with an especially delicious flavor or scent that is pleasing to the senses. An apt description for this dish that is so delicious. Let me show you how quick and easy this yummy classic ambrosia salad is!
1 bag of mini marshmallows
1 can of fruit cocktail in juices not syrup, well drained
1 can of pineapple tidbits in juices not syrup, well drained
1 small can of mandarin oranges in juices not syrup, well drained,
shredded coconut flakes, preferably unsweetened
crunchy pecans or walnuts or other favorite nut
about 12 ounces of creamy cool whip or sour cream
banana slices for the garnish, and optional maraschino cherries (my mom always included them but I omit them)
Begin by draining your canned fruit. This is a crucial step and should not be rushed. Take a strainer and dump the fruit into it and allow it to drain for several minutes. Then take the strainer and shift and shake it around to get even more juice out.
In a large bowl, dump in your miniature marshmallows, then stir in the fruit.
Add in the walnuts and shredded coconut and then gently stir in the cool whip or sour cream. My mom actually used to do half and half. I personally prefer it with just sour cream, but my family likes it best with the cool whip. Feel free to use one or the other, or a combo of the two!
After mixing well, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours so flavors blend and salad becomes chilled. Just before serving, garnish with sliced bananas and then add in the maraschino cherries if you wish. This ambrosia recipe serves as a unique side dish, think of it as a creamy fruit salad. Or it also makes for a great light dessert.
Expert recipe tips
- The great thing about this classic ambrosia fruit salad recipe is that you can customize it to your liking. While the original recipe calls for canned fruit out of convenience (this salad was created long before year round availability of fresh produce), feel free to sub in fresh fruit instead. The classic canned fruit cocktail is hard to recreate, but I often add in fresh pineapple chunks and sweet mandarin oranges. Either way, it’s a family favorite.
- You can also add in a variety of fruits including grapes and apples, giving it an almost Waldorf salad vibe.
- Using sour cream will give this a creamier texture, whereas Cool Whip will give it a lighter but sweeter taste. Feel free to substitute either for plain yogurt or vanilla Greek yogurt to lower calories a bit.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Much longer and it may get a bit watery from the sugars in the fruit breaking down.
This simple ambrosia fruit salad recipe is a real treat and perfect for your next summer barbecue. Make it alongside these grilled boneless chicken thighs and refreshing fruit tea recipe. I hope your friends and family love this throwback recipe as much as my family does! Please let me know if you give it a try.
Ambrosia Salad with Cool Whip (or Sour Cream)
- 1 bag mini marshmallows
- 15 ounce canned fruit cocktail in juice not syrup, very well drained
- 15 ounce canned pineapple chunks in juice not syrup, very well drained
- 11 ounce canned mandarin oranges in juice not syrup, very well drained
- ¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- ¾ cup walnut pieces may sub pecan
- 12 ounces Cool Whip or sour cream or Greek yogurt
- ½ banana sliced, for garnish
- Empty canned fruit into a strainer and allow juices to drain out well, for at least 10 minutes. Shake strainer to allow as much juice to strain out as possible. This is important so the fruit salad does not get watery or soggy.
- Add marshmallows to a large bowl, and stir in well drained fruit. Gently stir in coconut and walnuts, then mix in Cool Whip or sour cream until well blended.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Just before serving, garnish with sliced bananas and other fresh fruit and walnuts if desired.