The Nutty Dessert Salad Named After A Scandal

History tells us that political scandals are nothing new. However, it isn't often that impropriety is memorialized in the form of a dessert dish. There's no Teapot Dome Trifle or Iran-Contra ice cream.

Watergate is perhaps the most infamous scandal in American history. In the early 1970s, a group of men were caught bugging the DNC offices at the Watergate complex (per Vox). This crime was eventually tied back to then-President Richard Nixon, and he ultimately resigned under threat of impeachment. Ever since then, Watergate has been the inspiration for countless jokes and pop cultural references (via The Washington Post). The scandal was even referenced in the Watergate Hotel's luxurious update.

Though Watergate permanently damaged the trust held between government officials and the citizenry, you can at least draw some solace from the fact that the scandal inspired a dessert dish. According to NPR, you can taste history in the form of a chartreuse sweet treat known as the Watergate salad.

What is a Watergate salad?

Per NPR, two of the primary ingredients in a Watergate salad are pistachio pudding mix and whipped cream. The pistachio is what gives it its characteristic green color.

Additionally, the YouTube channel, Sheldo's Kitchen, explains that pudding mix, when thoroughly integrated with whipped cream, can act as a stabilizing agent, transforming the airy dairy product into a dense, firm base for your salad.

It's practically illegal to have a salad without fixings. Despite being named after an act of unlawful espionage, the Watergate salad follows this rule. Mental Floss tells us that the pistachio and whipped cream mixture is given heft by canned crushed pineapple, marshmallows, and chopped nuts. TikTok user @bdylanhollis, whose channel is dedicated to trying out older recipes, uses walnuts and mini marshmallows to make a Watergate salad. The video details the use of regular cream, too, allowing it to whip up and stabilize while their salad is in the stand mixer.

The mysterious history of Watergate salad

It's difficult to pin down the precise origins of the Watergate salad. In 1913, a Kansas newspaper put out a recipe for a comparable whipped cream and pineapple dish, per NPR. But this was obviously many years before the Watergate scandal.

According to Mental Floss, the first Watergate salad recipes started to pop up in newspapers around 1974 This was shortly after Royal Desserts' initial release of their pistachio pudding mix, and of course, right around the time period in which the Watergate scandal was reaching its climactic conclusion. The name could be a reference to the fact that Watergate salad, like the White House at the time, is full of nuts.

However, the Kraft Heinz subsidiary site My Food and Family claims that the history of Watergate salad is inextricably linked to their Jell-O product. They explain that in around 1985, Jell-O Pistachio Flavor Pudding boxes had a recipe for Pineapple Pistachio Delight printed on them. Pineapple Pistachio Delight used essentially the same ingredients as modern-day Watergate salad, but the recipe excluded marshmallows. Jell-O officially named the dish Watergate salad in 1993, the same time that they added marshmallows to the recipe.