Ambrosia Salad is an Easter classic! I doubled up the mandarin oranges because there are never enough, right? This dreamy creamy fruit salad is kind of hard to stop eating. Originally published April 5, 2017.

mandarin orange ambrosia salad.
Table of Contents
  1. Why I love this Ambrosia Recipe
  2. What is Ambrosia Salad?
  3. Ambrosia Salad Ingredients
  4. How to make Ambrosia Salad with Cool Whip
  5. Ambrosia Fruit Salad Recipe Variations
  6. What to serve with Ambrosia Salad
  7. Ambrosia Fruit Salad FAQs
  8. More Easter sides you can make this year!
  9. Ambrosia Fruit Salad Recipe

Today Charlotte was taking a survey of everyone in the house. Not to brag or anything, but Charlotte just turned 6 and can read and write with ridiculous proficiency. (Okay so that’s totally bragging, sorrynotsorry.)

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mandarin orange ambrosia salad in a glass serving bowl.

She asked Dieter, a friend who was over playing, (he’s 4) whether he would like to A) Visit 100 years in the past or B) Visit 100 years in the future?

Dieter: Past.

Charlotte: But Dieter. The future hasn’t happened yet!

Dieter: I want past.

Charlotte: But the past already happened. The future is what WILL happen. In the future!

Dieter: So wait, what happened in the future?

I’ve never seen Charlotte be so adorably exasperated. So what would you pick?? Past or future? Eric pointed out that if you went back 100 years ago to 1917 you might catch the Spanish Influenza. No thanks. What if technology moves forward as fast as it did in the last 100 years? FLYING CARS?? I feel like my imagination is being pretty dull here. A CLOTHES-FOLDING MACHINE? Now we’re talkin’.

Why I love this Ambrosia Recipe

In the future I bet they will still have Ambrosia. This recipe will last through the ages if you ask me. Did you grow up eating this salad at Easter? I didn’t, we always had Sea Foam Salad, another grandmother-era classic. But I’m a solid convert. I asked a few of my friends a while back what sides they have at Easter and they mentioned Ambrosia. I decided I needed to see what all the fuss was about. Then I ate half the bowl and skipped dinner that night.

mandarin orange ambrosia salad.

I really never would have thought that mixing together some creamy stuff with fruit, coconut, nuts, and marshmallows (of all things) would get this kind of result, but I’m telling you, this stuff is delicious. It is the perfect quick side dish for Easter!

What is Ambrosia Salad?

What, you’ve never had Ambrosia Salad? Ok, so I actually hadn’t either until a few years ago. Ambrosia salad is not a salad in the lettuce + more healthy stuff sense, but more a “let’s mix fruit, coconut, nuts, mini marshmallows, and pudding mix into some Cool Whip” situation. It first started showing up in cookbooks in the late 1800s and showcases what were then exotic fruits, like coconut, oranges, and pineapple. Whatever, it’s totally delicious and we’re going with it!

Ambrosia Salad Ingredients

Here’s a quick shopping list to help you gather your ingredients. See the recipe card below for the full ingredients and instructions!

  • Cool whip, regular or lite (8 oz tub)
  • Milk
  • Sour cream
  • Instant vanilla pudding mix (3.4-oz box)
  • Sweetened shredded coconut
  • Chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Canned mandarin oranges (2 15 oz. cans)
  • Crushed pineapple (8 oz. can)
  • Maraschino cherries (14 oz. jar)
mandarin orange ambrosia salad in a glass dish.

How to make Ambrosia Salad with Cool Whip

Here’s a quick overview of how to make Ambrosia salad. Scroll down to the recipe card below for complete instructions!

  1. In a large bowl, add cool whip, milk, sour cream, pudding mix, coconut, nuts, and marshmallows. Stir well.
  2. Add the mandarin oranges, crushed pineapple, and cherries. Gently fold in the fruit.
  3. Add some of the reserved pineapple juice if it seems thick. 
  4. Serve immediately, or cover and chill until you are ready to serve. 

Ambrosia Fruit Salad Recipe Variations

I’ve added my favorite Ambrosia salad mix-ins to this recipe, but you can make it according to your family’s tastes. Here are some ideas to get you started!

  • Swap out the plain mini marshmallows for mini fruit flavored marshmallows. Even more color and fruity flavor!
  • Instead of instant vanilla pudding mix, use instant pistachio pudding mix. 
  • If you want something a little lighter, you can use vanilla yogurt in place of sour cream.
  • Feel free to omit the nuts if someone is allergic or doesn’t care for them.
  • Substitute cashews for the walnuts or pecans.
  • Add a cup of green grapes (sliced in half) for even more color in your salad.
  • If you don’t have Cool Whip, you can substitute fresh sweetened whipped cream (not from a can–homemade). 

What to serve with Ambrosia Salad

Ambrosia salad is a MUST on my Easter table. It’s so light, fruity, and fun! You can also serve it as a dessert anytime at all (or bring it to a potluck or BBQ). Here are some of my favorite dishes to have on the table with this salad.

BBQ Smoked Pulled Pork << done on your gas grill. Grab the buns!

The Best Hot Dog You Will Ever Eat << this is a J. Dawgs copycat. The sauce is SO GOOD.

Easy BLT Pasta Salad << is it summertime already??

Nana’s Fall-off-the-Bone Ribs << a family tradition we absolutely love.

The BEST Macaroni Salad Recipe << a perfectly sweet and tangy dressing with lots of lots of hard boiled eggs (my favorite part!).

Homemade Peach Cobbler << in case the Ambrosia salad isn’t double counting as dessert :-)

Ambrosia Fruit Salad FAQs

Can this Ambrosia Recipe be made ahead of time?

Yes, you can make Ambrosia salad up to a day in advance. Depending on your texture preferences, you may want to add the mini marshmallows right before serving. 

Can Ambrosia Salad be frozen?

Ok, yes, you can, but there is a big catch. You have to serve it frozen. It won’t be smooth and creamy like ice cream, obviously,  but the texture will be much better than if you tried to defrost it. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but if you have leftovers and want to try it, you can. 

How long can Ambrosia Fruit Salad be stored for?

Ambrosia salad can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days (that is, if you don’t eat it all first like I most definitely would).

mandarin orange ambrosia salad in a pink glass dish.

If you would like some more Easter ideas, check out all my Easter-ish recipes here on the blog. I also have an Easter Pinterest board you could take a look at!

More Easter sides you can make this year!

Sea Foam Salad (Creamy Pear Jello) << classic!

Creamy Strawberry Banana Jello << so fruity and fresh for springtime!

Coca-Cola Jello Salad with Cherries << don’t knock it ’til you try it!

Cream Cheese Jello Salad from Cincy Shopper

Red, White, and Blue Jello Salad from Spicy Southern Kitchen

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Ambrosia Fruit Salad

5 from 5 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 5 minutes
Servings: 8
Ambrosia Salad is an Easter classic! I doubled up the mandarin oranges because there are never enough, right? This dreamy creamy fruit salad is kind of hard to stop eating. 


  • 1 (8-oz) tub cool whip, regular or lite (thawed)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 (3.4-oz) box instant vanilla pudding mix*, (goes in the salad as dry powder)
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped nuts, I used walnuts. Pecans are good too.
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 2 (15-oz) cans mandarin oranges, drained well
  • 1 (8-oz) can crushed pineapple, slightly drained (reserve juice)
  • 1 (14-oz) jar maraschino cherries, drained well


  • In a large bowl, add cool whip, milk, sour cream, and pudding mix.
  • Add the coconut, nuts, and marshmallows. Stir well.
  • Add the mandarin oranges, crushed pineapple, and cherries. Gently fold in the fruit.
  • Add some of the reserved pineapple juice if it seems thick. (This is just personal preference)
  • Serve immediately. Or cover and chill until you are ready to serve. You can make it up to 24 hours in advance.


*I’ve heard pistachio pudding mix is delicious too!


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 467kcal | Carbohydrates: 76g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 13mg | Sodium: 156mg | Potassium: 388mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 62g | Vitamin A: 915IU | Vitamin C: 31mg | Calcium: 143mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Calories: 467
Keyword: ambrosia, mandarin orange, Salad
Did you make this? I’d love to see it!Mention @thefoodcharlatan or tag #thefoodcharlatan!

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  1. 5 stars
    I made this for a Christmas party 2 years ago & it was a HIT ! I actually got voted best dessert of the party ! I plan to make it again this year ! Thank you for the delicious recipe !! 

    1. That is awesome Jade! Best dessert indeed! Thanks so much for coming back to leave a comment, that is super helpful for me!

  2. Yum. Just like when I was little. My stepmom would make this for us kids every time we would visit. Will be making this all summer long with my kids now. 👍👍Great and yummy.

    1. It’s such a nostalgic recipe, right? Your kids will love you for it. Enjoy! Thanks for commenting Emily!

    1. Nicolas, I seriously can’t tell if this is a spam bot or a real person, but either way I’m publishing your comment because it made me laugh so hard. You winnie.

  3. i am making this for our Christmas work potluck tomorrow! I have so many mandarin oranges (my new husband seemed to have lots!). Looking forward to hearing the comments. A bit different for Christmas!!

      1. Made a DOUBLE batch and it was a great success!! My husband insisted I leave some at home too! Will absolutely be making this one again!! thanks!

  4. I LOVE Ambrosia Karen, but I don’t think I’ve ever made it with pudding mix. I will have to give this a try. I think the times I’ve made it I’ve used whipped cream and the the fruit, marshmallows and coconut. I think this recipe may be making an appearance on my Easter Table, along with some of your delicious balsamic asparagus and a spinach-strawberry salad! Looking forward to this!

  5. I love preparing this dish and yes it is a Easter favorite, I worked for a assistant living community and the seniors loved it,my rule of thumb when following recipes is most seeing the ingredients so you can see the balance of them , you can always adjust them as to your preference, like the cool whip you can always make your own just by using your mixer and fresh heavy cream, add your powdered sugar, vanilla , and whip away careful not to go to far or you’ll have butter . I love your recipe, can I post your image on my site and link it back to this page that allows visitors to get the recipe from your site, it would dress up my side bars and I get more content and you get traffic,I’ll wait for your OK ,Permission
    Thank You

    1. Hey Ernest, thanks for your thoughtful comment! Good idea whipping your own cream, I might try it next time. And sure, you’re welcome to post the image if there is a link back! Thanks!

        1. Hi Jane! If you’d like, you can substitute plain or vanilla non-fat yogurt for the sour cream–it won’t be quite as tangy, but it will be lower in cholesterol. Thanks for commenting, and enjoy!

  6. yes! i remember eating this as a kid at my gramma’s for various holidays. then this past year, at thanksgiving one of my friends who was staying down in florida with her dad, posted a picture of ambrosia on instagram. she was like, “what the heck is this? a southern thing? marshmallow salad? it came with our thanksgiving dinner, i’m throwing it out.” i was like “noooooo! it’s a classic! i’ll eat it!” i guess greeks from boston don’t do ambrosia, lol. more for me. (although admittedly i haven’t had it in ages. time to change that.)

  7. I have a 100 year old grandma. I will totally have to ask her if she grew up with this kind of salad. It looks delicious!
    It also makes me torn on the past or future thing. Grandma has lived through quite a few incredible things that would be cool to see but there is also the potential greatness of the future…. good question.

    1. 100 years!!! Wow Kayci that’s awesome! Let me know if she’s had the salad :) And I know, past or future is a tough one.

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