This easy ambrosia salad recipe is sure to become an essential dish to have at your next party! It’s a delicious no-bake alternative to heavier desserts.

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Side view of a long bowl filled with ambrosia salad, garnished with more cherries.

About Ambrosia Salad

Barbecues. Holidays. Potlucks. Parties. Movie nights.

What do all of these things have in common?

They’re all perfect opportunities for enjoying delicious ambrosia salad!

This post will teach you how to make your own ambrosia salad, step by step, so you can wow your friends and family with this tasty dish at your next gathering!

What is ambrosia salad?

First appearing in cookbooks in the late 1800s from the southern United States, ambrosia salad is characterized as a mix of fruit (typically oranges, pineapple, and cherries), shredded coconut, and sweetened cream. At the time of the salad’s creation, its popularity was fueled by the exotic novelty of the ingredients, as the availability of oranges and coconuts was just beginning to become more widespread. This newness also influenced the choice to call the salad “ambrosia.”

Ambrosia started as a layered dessert of oranges, coconut, and sugar. Over time, more fruit has been added, marshmallows and Cool Whip provide some creaminess, and pecans help give texture and crunch.

It’s a popular salad all year long, and especially in the south for the holiday season – served as either a side dish or a dessert.

Top down view of a bowl of ambrosia salad, digging a wooden spoon in for serving.

Can you make ambrosia salad in advance?

Yes, you totally can!

In fact, this recipe is designed to be chilled for at least four hours before serving, so if you need to make it in advance, just store it in the refrigerator up to 24 hours beforehand. The extra chilling time will help make the salad all the more creamy and flavorful.

How long is ambrosia salad good for?

Once prepared, ambrosia salad can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to three to five days.

Can you freeze ambrosia salad?

Yes, you can freeze ambrosia salad – but with a catch.

Once this salad is frozen, it should stay frozen and not be thawed. Thawing will make the fruit release juice and moisture, ruining the consistency of the salad. The thawed salad would still be edible, of course, and the taste should be the same, but the texture change may be too offputting to some.

So once the ambrosia salad is frozen, what do you do it with?

You serve it like ice cream!

This will still represent a texture change, since a loose salad is clearly different than firm, creamy ice cream, but the frozen texture should be far more enjoyable and familiar than if the consistency had broken down from thawing.

Close up of ingredients in ambrosia salad.

How long can you leave out ambrosia salad?

If you’re serving a fruit-based salad at a potluck or buffet-style, you should keep track of how long it sits out at room temperature.

For most foods, the general rule of thumb is that a perishable item should not be in the “danger zone” for more than two hours. And by “danger zone”, this is usually at or just above room temperature. I recommend serving this salad chilled, so this should give you more time (about one hour) before it reaches room temperature.

As your event carries on, you can move the salad back to the refrigerator once it gets past the two-hour mark. If your guests still want more salad, let it chill for at least 30 minutes before bringing it back out again.

Notes & tips for ambrosia salad

  • When making this recipe, you’ll need a big mixing bowl so you have enough room to maneuver and stir. I own a 13 quart mixing bowl for this very reason.
  • Some prefer for ambrosia salads to be pink in color. You can do this by mixing in a few drops of red or pink food coloring OR reserving and stirring in some of the juice from the maraschino cherries.

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How to make ambrosia salad

This next part is only a photo tutorial of the recipe steps. If you’re looking for the full recipe measurements and instructions, scroll down to Recipe Details.

Step 1 – Start off by spreading out the chopped pecans on a baking sheet then toast the pecans in the oven for 10 minutes. Allow the pecans to cool completely.

Step 2 – If you haven’t already, thoroughly drain all of the fruit (crushed pineapple, mandarin oranges, and maraschino cherries) of all the canned juices.

Step 3 – Add all of the following ingredients to a 13-quart mixing bowl: toasted pecans, drained fruits, sweetened shredded coconut, vanilla extract, mini marshmallows, and Cool Whip. Use a spatula to gently mix everything together until smooth and creamy.

Step 4 – Cover the bowl and refrigerate the prepared ambrosia salad for four hours.

Step 5 – Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Details

Side view of a long bowl filled with ambrosia salad, garnished with more cherries.
5 from 1 vote

Ambrosia Salad

40 mins prep + 10 mins cook + 4 hrs Chilling Time
262 kcal
Yields: 12 servings
This easy ambrosia salad recipe is sure to become an essential dish to have at your next party! It's a delicious no-bake alternative to heavier desserts.

Ingredients 

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Spread chopped pecans out on a baking sheet, then bake for 10 minutes or until pecans are lightly toasted. Allow pecans to cool completely before mixing with other ingredients, about 15-30 minutes.
  • Empty crushed pineapple, mandarin oranges, and maraschino cherries into a strainer over the sink. Let the fruit sit in the strainer for 15-20 minutes, tossing the contents periodically. Fruit is ready once it's been thoroughly drained of all excess juice.
  • In a 13 quart mixing bowl, add the drained fruit, coconut, vanilla, cooled pecans, marshmallows, cool whip, and yogurt. Use a spatula to gently toss and fold ingredients together until combined and creamy.
  • Cover bowl and chill prepared ambrosia salad in the refrigerator for 4 hours.
  • Serve immediately.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 262kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 49mg | Potassium: 216mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 36g | Vitamin A: 316IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 73mg | Iron: 1mg

I do my best to provide nutrition information, but please keep in mind that I’m not a certified nutritionist. Any nutritional information discussed or disclosed in this post should only be seen as my best amateur estimates of the correct values.

Author: Chrisy