Traditional Ambrosia Salad Recipe

A traditional ambrosia salad isn't like other salads — it's a really cool salad, and we mean that in every sense of the word. Believe it or not, not all salads feature leafy greens and vegetables — some are composed of a symphony of fruit instead. The now-classic ambrosia salad is a staple in the South, and people serve it most often for Christmas or at potlucks. While there are several variations, the traditional salad recipe features shaved coconut, orange slices, crushed pineapple, and maraschino cherries mixed into a creamy, sweet dressing that makes it more of a dessert than a salad. We should also mention the fact that there are marshmallows involved. 

Recipe developer Stephanie Rapone knows a thing or two about sweet treats, and she knocked this traditional ambrosia salad recipe out of the ballpark. "I love how easy ambrosia salad is to make. It's also one of those fun 'Is it a side? Is it a dessert?' dishes that are really common in the Midwest, so it reminds me of family events growing up," Rapone shares. "We always enjoy this at big gatherings — it's so easy to whip up that it's the perfect addition to any potluck or buffet." 

Gather the ingredients for ambrosia salad

Once you are ready to begin, you will need to gather the necessary ingredients. This dish calls for frozen whipped topping, plain yogurt, mandarin oranges, crushed pineapple, mini marshmallows, shredded coconut, and maraschino cherries.

With those items ready, you can make this traditional ambrosia salad.

Drain the fruits

It's time to get to work. Start by grabbing your pineapple and a strainer. Load the pineapple into the strainer and use a spoon or spatula to gently push the fruit around to get out as much juice as possible. Then, place the pineapple in a large bowl. Repeat this method to drain the mandarin oranges, and add them to the same bowl as the pineapple.

Add mini marshmallows and coconut

Take out the mini marshmallows and the shredded coconut, and add them to the bowl of fruit. Be sure to hold a little of each ingredient back to use as a garnish at the end of the recipe.

Combine the whipped topping and yogurt

For this step, you will need a separate medium-sized bowl. Toss in the whipped topping and yogurt and stir to combine well. "I prefer to use plain yogurt to cut the sweetness of all the other ingredients, so the whipped topping-yogurt mix ends up being like a slightly sweetened and airy yogurt," Rapone says of the flavor. 

Then, add half the whipped topping and yogurt mixture to the fruit and stir until evenly distributed. Next, add the remainder of the mixture, stirring until it's all folded in and combined well with the fruit.

Add toppings and serve

If you can believe it, we're already at the last step. Pour the ambrosia salad into a dish and garnish with the reserved marshmallows, coconut, and, finally, the maraschino cherries. Voila, you have a salad for dessert! "This salad is great on a buffet with anything from ham to turkey or your favorite BBQ," Rapone suggests. 

If you have some leftovers, be sure to wrap them up. "Stored in an airtight container in the fridge, the leftovers should be good for a week," Rapone shares.

Traditional Ambrosia Salad Recipe
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A salad for dessert? This quick and simple ambrosia salad recipe is a Southern classic, and it's perfect for Christmas, potlucks, or any gathering.
Prep Time
Cook Time
traditional ambrosia salad in bowl
Total time: 10 minutes
  • 2 (20-ounce) cans crushed pineapple
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans mandarin oranges
  • 1 ½ cups mini marshmallows
  • ¾ cup shredded coconut
  • 8 ounces frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
Optional Ingredients
  • maraschino cherries, for garnish
  1. Drain the pineapple completely, gently pushing into the strainer with a spoon or spatula to get as much juice out as possible, and place it in a large bowl. Drain the mandarin oranges and add to the pineapple.
  2. Add the mini marshmallows and coconut to the fruit, holding back a little for the garnish.
  3. Combine the whipped topping and yogurt in a medium bowl.
  4. Add half the whipped topping and yogurt mixture to the fruit and fold until it is all mixed evenly, then add the remainder and fold in.
  5. Pour into a serving dish and garnish with the remaining marshmallows and coconut, adding maraschino cherries on top.
Calories per Serving 341
Total Fat 12.9 g
Saturated Fat 9.2 g
Trans Fat 0.0
Cholesterol 25.5 mg
Total Carbohydrates 57.3 g
Dietary Fiber 4.4 g
Total Sugars 44.9 g
Sodium 30.3 mg
Protein 4.0 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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