This easy ambrosia salad recipe is cool, creamy, sweet, and refreshing! It's a classic American fruit salad that's made all in one bowl in just 15 minutes.
Why you'll love it
Is Ambrosia salad a dessert or salad? Who can really say. Some would argue it's pretty far removed from fruit salad, but it is what it is. There's fruit, it's mixed in a bowl, therefore it's salad. 😉 However you categorize it, there's no denying that citrus fruit, coconut, marshmallows, and a creamy dressing is a pretty heavenly combo.
This ambrosia fruit salad is beloved at potlucks, family celebrations, and holiday gatherings. It's both a Midwest and southern classic with an unusual combination of ingredients that happens to taste really, really good together! It's also affordable, simple to throw together, and travels well, making it the ideal dish to bring along that no one will be able to resist.
What does ambrosia mean?
- It literally translates from Greek to "food of the gods", and you'd apparently become immortal from eating such foods. Yup, that's a lofty name for this salad to live up to! This traditional American salad might not give you longevity, but historically it was considered very special since the ingredients were exotic at the time, so the name fits.
What you'll need
- Sour cream - it gives the dressing balance with a hint of tanginess
- Whipped topping - for the fluffy, creamy, signature quality of the dressing. I like Cool Whip best.
- Vanilla extract - my little twist to add even more distinct vanilla flavor! It's the ingredient this salad needs to pull it all together. The aroma is irresistible.
- Mandarin oranges and pineapple tidbits - these canned citrus fruits are easily available and inexpensive
- Marshmallows - they're pillowy and add a great texture contrast. I used white marshmallows, but the colorful ones would work great too.
- Shredded coconut - it adds a little tropical flavor
- Maraschino cherries - for a pop of color
- You can make this a few hours ahead, up to overnight. Just cover and keep it in the fridge. Letting it chill for a while will help the flavors blend together better, so it's a great make ahead recipe.
- I recommend ensuring the canned fruit and maraschino cherries are dry before adding them to the salad. Drain them thoroughly, and you could even pat them dry with a paper towel.
How to make ambrosia salad
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
Add in the remaining ingredients and combine with the dressing, taking care to not overwork it and keep it fluffy. Cover, chill in the fridge, and enjoy!
Substitutions and variations
- You could sub the sour cream for vanilla flavored yogurt. In that case, then you may want to skip the extra vanilla extract.
- Add in some chopped nuts like pecans, walnuts, or cashews for some more texture and crunch.
- You could try using crushed pineapple instead of the tidbits.
- Some versions of this recipe don't use the coconut. I think it adds a nice flavor and texture, but you can omit it if you prefer.
What to serve with ambrosia salad
- Making it as a holiday side dish? You won't want to miss my other Thanksgiving and Christmas classics like this Easy Roast Turkey, my Green Bean Casserole, and Sausage Stuffing for a memorable feast.
- Take it along with other favorites for your next potluck like these Deviled Eggs.
- I don't limit this sweet salad to just the holidays! It makes a great contrast to many everyday savory main courses like my Chicken Patties, and the kids will devour it too.
Leftovers and storage
- Fluff salads like this one generally keep pretty well. Store any leftovers for 3-4 days in the fridge in an airtight container.
- If it's been sitting out for any length of time, though, you may want to discard the rest of it.
- I don't recommend freezing leftovers of this one. The texture won't stay the same.
If you have any questions about this homemade ambrosia salad or want to leave a review, reach out in the comments below! You can also find me on Instagram so I can see your creations.
Classic Ambrosia Salad
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 8 ounces whipped topping (I used Cool Whip) thawed until it's easily spreadable
- 1 (11 ounce) can mandarin oranges drained
- 1 (8 ounce) can pineapple tidbits drained
- 1 cup mini marshmallows
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup maraschino cherries drained
- Add the sour cream and vanilla extract to a large bowl and combine until smooth. Gently stir in the Cool Whip.
- Fold in the remaining ingredients (I used a spatula). You can eat it right away, but I recommend covering the bowl and chilling it for a few hours first to help the flavors meld.
- Container sizes of the canned fruit and cherries can vary, so you don't have to be exact. Feel free to add more/less of any ingredient than suggested.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.