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Classic Ambrosia Salad – perfect for parties and potlucks!
Ambrosia is a simple and delicious dessert salad that goes great with just about anything!
Back in the day this classic Ambrosia salad made an appearance at almost every family BBQ and summer picnic. Ambrosia is the perfect last minute, easy to make side dish!
While growing up our family spent almost every summer weekend at the lake swimming, grilling, relaxing and playing. Mom always packed a terrific layout of amazing dishes, which we all devoured. Grilled hamburgers with all the trimmings, and an amazing array side dishes including cole slaw, macaroni salad, potato salad and baked beans, were all frequently served at these events.
And sometimes we were lucky enough to have a big bowl of this unique and delicious Ambrosia Salad on the buffet. I recently dug out Mom’s old recipe, which she called Mandarin Orange Salad, and am sharing it with you today. This is truly one of the easiest crowd-pleasing bowls of deliciousness anybody can make, with no kitchen skills required!
What is Ambrosia Salad?
Ambrosia is an American invention made with a variety of fresh or canned fruits, coconut and marshmallows. Our recipe calls for drained, canned fruit and chopped nuts for a nice contrast. Grapes, bananas and fresh berries are also popular add-ins.
The fruit is mixed into a base of sour cream, mayonnaise, whipped cream, Cool Whip, pudding, yogurt or cottage cheese. As you can see, Ambrosia can be dramatically different from recipe to recipe. However, one thing is certain, if you’ve never tried Ambrosia before, let’s fix that right now!
Another great salad made with fresh fruit and berries is this Alton Brown classic with vanilla dressing. Fruit salads are always welcome at picnics, potlucks and BBQs!
How to make Ambrosia Salad:
To make our easy salad you’ll need these ingredients:
- Sour Cream – as mentioned above, some recipes use mayonnaise, yogurt or whipped cream as the base. We prefer sour cream which is tangy enough to balance the sweetness of the other ingredients. You can substitute half the sour cream with a good quality full-fat plain Greek yogurt, with great results.
- Canned crushed pineapple – you’ll need one large can of crushed pineapple in juice, not syrup.
- Miniature Marshmallows – use fun colorful marshmallows, if desired.
- Shredded sweetened flake coconut – use unsweetened coconut if desired. However, I think you’ll find this salad is not too sweet, as is.
- Chopped nuts – we prefer walnuts for this salad but pecans work well too! Toast the nuts to add another dimension of flavor to the salad.
- Jarred Maraschino cherries – with stems removed, drained and sliced in half if desired.
- Canned mandarin oranges – you’ll need a large can of oranges, well drained. We use Mandarin oranges canned in syrup.
To make this simple salad:
- In a large mixing bowl combine the sour cream with the drained, crushed pineapple. Don’t over drain the pineapple making it dry. A little juice is good.
- Add the marshmallows, coconut, walnut and cherries.
- Finally, gently fold in the oranges. Mandarin oranges are a little fragile so don’t overmix or they may break apart. That’s why we add them last.
- Garnish with extra nuts and coconut, and serve!
Can you make Ambrosia Salad the night before serving?
While this salad only takes minutes to make, you can make it ahead and chill until needed. This Ambrosia salad doesn’t get soupy, wet or break down in any way. In fact, those cute little marshmallows soak up some of the liquid turning them into softer, pillowy bites that are pretty fantastic.
Even after sitting overnight, the marshmallows don’t fall apart, they just become a little soft. If making the night before store the salad in an airtight container. When ready to serve, give it a quick, gentle turn with a spatula and pour into a serving bowl. Garnish with extra nuts and coconut and serve!
How long does Ambrosia last?
You might think I’m crazy, but this salad will almost last a week. Unless of course you have someone like my husband in your household. He can eat this salad for any meal of the day and will until it’s gone. I always make sure we have enough so he can have leftovers.
It keeps well and tastes fresh for 5 to 7 days. However, Ambrosia is best served the day it’s made. Our fruit salad recipe is easily cut in half, if desired. But don’t forget leftovers are pretty terrific, so be sure and make a big bowl!
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Ambrosia Salad Recipe
- 2 cups sour cream (16oz)
- 1 (20oz) can crushed pineapple (drained but not dry)
- 1 (16oz) package mini-marshmallows
- ¾ cup sweetened, shredded (flake) coconut, plus extra for garnish
- ¾ cup chopped walnuts, plus extra for garnish
- 1 cup Maraschino cherries, drained with stems removed
- 1 (15oz) can mandarin oranges (drained)
- In a large mixing bowl fold together the sour cream and drained, crushed pineapple. Add the marshmallows, coconut, walnuts and cherries. Gently fold in the oranges taking care not to smash or break apart.
- Chill the Ambrosia salad until served. Garnish with additional coconut, chopped nuts or cherries and enjoy.
- Substitute half full-fat Greek Yogurt for the sour cream, if desired.
- Cut the cherries in half if desired.
- Substitute pecan for walnuts, if preferred
- Use crushed pineapple in juice, not syrup