Ambrosia Salad Recipe

History and Origin

Ambrosia Salad, with its ethereal name, traces its lineage back to the nectar of the gods in Greek mythology, symbolizing a dish of divine taste and aroma. This connection to immortality and divine satisfaction speaks volumes about the salad’s esteemed place on the dining table. Transitioning from mythology to the culinary world, Ambrosia Salad found its roots in the Southern United States during the 1800s. Initially, it was a simple mixture of coconut and citrus fruits, reflecting the availability and culinary trends of the time.

As the years progressed, particularly through the 1950s and 60s, Ambrosia Salad evolved into a more complex and richer dish, incorporating marshmallows, nuts, and creamy dressings, coinciding with the booming popularity of canned fruits and marshmallows. This era marked the transformation of Ambrosia Salad from a simple fruit salad into a staple of holiday feasting and family gatherings, embodying comfort, nostalgia, and the joy of shared meals.

What Makes Ambrosia Salad Special?

The charm of Ambrosia Salad lies in its delightful blend of textures and flavors. Combining sweet and juicy fruits with the crunch of nuts and the softness of marshmallows, all enveloped in a sweet and tangy cream dressing, it strikes a perfect balance between richness and refreshment. This salad stands out as a nostalgic holiday favorite, reminiscent of gatherings, laughter, and the warmth of family traditions. Its versatility and ease of preparation have cemented its status as a beloved dish across generations, making it a timeless classic in the realm of festive cuisine.

The Best Ambrosia Salad Ingredients

Creating the perfect Ambrosia Salad is an art that begins with selecting the right ingredients. The debate between canned and fresh fruits leans on convenience versus flavor. While canned fruits offer ease and a nod to tradition, fresh fruits bring vibrancy and a burst of natural sweetness that can elevate the dish.

The choice of cream is pivotal in achieving the luxurious texture that defines Ambrosia Salad. Heavy whipping cream, when whipped to soft peaks, introduces airiness and lightness, while sour cream adds a subtle tanginess that balances the sweetness of the fruits and marshmallows. This combination creates a dressing that is both rich and refreshing, clinging to each fruit piece and marshmallow for a harmonious bite.

Marshmallows, coconut, and nuts are more than add-ins; they are essential elements that contribute to the salad’s complex texture and depth of flavor. Marshmallows add a soft, sweet chewiness, coconut provides a tropical aroma and crunch, and nuts offer a nutty bite that complements the fruits’ sweetness. Together, these ingredients create a symphony of flavors that make Ambrosia Salad uniquely irresistible.


How to Make Ambrosia Salad

Step-by-Step Preparation

  1. Drain the Fruits: Begin by thoroughly draining canned fruits or chopping fresh fruits into bite-sized pieces. This ensures the salad remains creamy without becoming watery.
  2. Whip the Cream: In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream with sugar and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form. This creates the fluffy base of your dressing.
  3. Fold in Sour Cream: Gently fold in the sour cream to the whipped cream, maintaining the mixture’s lightness while adding a tangy flavor.
  4. Combine Ingredients: Add the marshmallows, coconut, and nuts to the cream mixture, followed by the drained or chopped fruits. Stir gently to combine, ensuring each ingredient is evenly coated with the cream dressing.

Tips for the Perfect Texture and Flavor

  • Chill Before Serving: Refrigerating the salad for at least an hour before serving allows the flavors to meld and the dressing to set, enhancing the overall taste and texture.
  • Balance Sweetness: Adjust the amount of sugar based on the sweetness of the fruits and marshmallows, ensuring the salad is not overly sweet.

Variations to the Traditional Recipe

  • Fruit Varieties: Experiment with different combinations of fruits, such as adding berries, cherries, or tropical fruits like mango and pineapple, to introduce new flavors.
  • Nut Choices: Swap traditional pecans or walnuts with almonds or pistachios for a different crunch and flavor profile.
  • Dressing Variations: For a lighter version, substitute part of the heavy cream with Greek yogurt, or add a splash of citrus juice for a refreshing twist.

Ambrosia Salad’s enduring appeal lies in its simplicity, versatility, and the joy it brings to those who share it. Whether sticking to tradition or exploring new variations, this salad remains a testament to the pleasures of communal dining and the enduring legacy of family recipes.

Serving and Pairing Ambrosia Salad

Best Occasions for Ambrosia Salad

Ambrosia Salad shines across a variety of occasions, its versatility making it a beloved choice for many.

  • Holiday Gatherings: Its festive appearance and sweet flavor make it a perfect side dish for holiday meals, adding a touch of nostalgia and comfort to Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts.
  • Summer Picnics: Ambrosia Salad’s refreshing qualities are ideal for outdoor summer picnics, offering a cool, creamy complement to grilled dishes.
  • Potluck Events: Easy to prepare in large quantities and always a crowd-pleaser, it’s a go-to option for potlucks, where its unique taste and texture can stand out among other dishes.

What to Serve with Ambrosia Salad

Main Dishes That Pair Well:

  • Grilled meats, such as chicken or pork, balance the sweetness of Ambrosia Salad with savory flavors.
  • Seafood dishes, especially lighter fare like grilled shrimp or a cold seafood salad, complement the fruitiness and creaminess of Ambrosia Salad.

Other Complementary Side Dishes:

  • A crisp green salad with a vinaigrette dressing offers a refreshing contrast to the creamy and sweet Ambrosia Salad.
  • Roasted vegetables or a savory potato dish can ground the meal, providing a savory counterpoint to the salad’s sweetness.


  • Why is it called Ambrosia Salad? The name “Ambrosia” references the food of the gods in Greek mythology, symbolizing a dish that’s fit for divine beings due to its exquisite taste. The term “salad” reflects its mixture of ingredients, though it’s far sweeter than traditional salads.
  • Can Ambrosia Salad be made in advance? Yes, Ambrosia Salad can and often should be made in advance. Preparing it a day before allows the flavors to meld together and the salad to chill thoroughly, enhancing its overall taste.
  • How to store and how long does it last? Ambrosia Salad should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When stored properly, it can last for 2 to 3 days. However, it’s best enjoyed within the first 24 hours, as the fruits will begin to release more water over time, which can slightly alter the texture of the salad. Remember to stir it gently before serving if it has been sitting for a while to redistribute the cream and flavors evenly.

Ambrosia Salad Recipe

This Ambrosia Salad recipe brings a classic, creamy delight to your table, perfect for holidays, picnics, and potluck gatherings. A blend of sweet fruits, fluffy marshmallows, and crunchy nuts, all enveloped in a light, tangy cream dressing, makes this dish a timeless favorite. Easy to prepare and irresistibly delicious, Ambrosia Salad is a must-try for anyone looking to add a touch of nostalgia and sweetness to their meal.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Chill Time: 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, Southern
Servings 8 servings
Calories 375 kcal


  • Large mixing bowl
  • Electric mixer or whisk
  • Rubber spatula
  • Strainer
  • Airtight container (for storage)


  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup light sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 20-ounce can pineapple tidbits, drained
  • 1 15-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 cup maraschino cherries drained and halved
  • 1 cup green grapes halved


  • In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to whip the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form.
  • Gently fold in the light sour cream to the whipped cream mixture.
  • Add the mini marshmallows, shredded coconut, and chopped nuts to the cream mixture, stirring gently to combine.
  • Carefully fold in the drained pineapple tidbits, mandarin oranges, maraschino cherries, and halved grapes, ensuring even distribution.
  • Cover and refrigerate the salad for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld and the salad to chill thoroughly.
  • Before serving, give the salad a gentle stir to redistribute the cream and fruits evenly.


  • Fresh vs. Canned Fruit: While this recipe uses canned fruits for convenience and a nod to tradition, feel free to use fresh fruits for a brighter flavor. Adjust the sugar according to the sweetness of the fruits used.
  • Make Ahead: Ambrosia Salad can be made a day in advance, making it perfect for gatherings. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  • Variations: Feel free to experiment with different fruits, nuts, and even the addition of yogurt or citrus zest to the cream mixture for a unique twist on this classic recipe.
Keyword Ambrosia Salad, Fruit Salad, Holiday Side Dish, Picnic Salad, Potluck Favorite