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.

This post contains affiliate links. Read the disclosure policy.

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!

With its delightful mix of sweet and tangy flavors, this gorgeous pink and red salad is a beloved dish for any occasion, from a sunlit summer picnic to a cozy winter dinner.

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.”

Originally, ambrosia was 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, especially in the South, for the holiday season – served as a side dish or a dessert.

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

What’s in ambrosia salad?

To whip up a beautiful bowl of this classic retro salad, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Chopped Pecans: Pecans provide a delightful crunch to the salad, contrasting the soft textures of the other ingredients. Their nutty flavor complements the sweetness of the fruits.
  • Crushed Pineapple: This tropical fruit adds a tangy sweetness and juicy texture. Its crushed form ensures even distribution throughout the salad.
  • Mandarin Oranges: These small, sweet citrus segments bring a burst of vibrant color and a refreshing taste, balancing the creamy elements.
  • Maraschino Cherries: These cherries, often bright red, add a pop of color and a sweet, slightly tart flavor. They’re a classic ingredient in many fruit salads.
  • Sweetened Shredded Coconut: The coconut lends a tropical flair and a unique texture. Its sweetness harmonizes with the other fruity components.
  • Vanilla Extract: A touch of vanilla enhances the overall flavor profile, adding depth and a hint of warmth to the creamy elements.
  • Mini Marshmallows: Whether plain or fruit-flavored, these soft, pillowy additions contribute a playful texture and a sugary sweetness.
  • Cool Whip: This whipped topping is the creamy base that binds all the ingredients together. It’s light, fluffy, and has a subtle sweetness.
  • Greek Yogurt, Sour Cream, or Whipped Cream Cheese: These options offer a tangy counterpoint to the sweetness of the fruits and marshmallows. They also enhance the creamy consistency of the salad.

Do you have to use Cool Whip?

In theory, no – there’s nothing special about Cool Whip that would make this salad better (or worse) if you were to use an alternative ingredient, such as homemade whipped cream. While Cool Whip offers a distinct sweetness and flavor, most whipped creams are similarly sweetened. If not, they can easily be adjusted to match the sweetness level of Cool Whip.

Please note that I have not tested this recipe with whipped cream; I’ve only used Cool Whip.

Can you make it in advance?

Yes, you totally can!

In fact, this recipe is designed to be chilled for at least one hour before serving (so the pudding mix can set), so if you need to make it in advance, just store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready. The extra chilling time will help make the salad all the more creamy and fluffy.

For the best presentation, I recommend storing it for no more than 24 hours before serving.

How long is it 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?

Considering freezing your fluff salad? It’s possible, but it’s truly at its best when fresh. If you decide to freeze it, be aware of potential texture changes, like marshmallows turning chewier or the pineapple making the mix a bit more watery.

If you freeze this salad, I recommend keeping it frozen and eating 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 what the consistency might become once it’s been frozen and thawed.

Ambrosia salad can be frozen for up to one or two months.

If you do want to thaw it, allow the salad to thaw in the refrigerator for several hours (or ideally overnight.)

Close up of ingredients in ambrosia salad.

How Long Can You Leave Out A Salad?

Whenever you leave out a “serve yourself” dish, keep track of how long it sits 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. In most cases, you’ll be serving ambrosia salad straight from the refrigerator, so this extra chilliness should give you another 30 minutes beyond the two-hour window, depending on the room’s temperature.

As the party goes on, you can return the salad to the refrigerator once you get near the two-hour mark. If there’s still more ambrosia salad to enjoy, let it chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before bringing it back out again.

What can you serve with it?

This tropical fluff salad is delicious on its own or can make an excellent pairing for a variety of dishes, such as:

  • Grilled Chicken: The lightness of grilled chicken complements ambrosia salad’s fruity and creamy flavors.
  • Ham: Whether it’s a honey-glazed ham for a holiday meal or simple baked ham, its savory notes contrast nicely with the sweetness of the salad.
  • Roast Turkey: Especially during festive occasions, turkey and ambrosia salad can be a classic pairing.
  • Seafood: Light seafood dishes, such as grilled shrimp or citrus-marinated fish, can be enhanced by the tropical flavors in the salad.
  • Rolls or Biscuits: Soft, warm rolls or biscuits can be a comforting accompaniment.
  • Roasted Vegetables: Veggies like asparagus, Brussels sprouts, or green beans, roasted with a touch of olive oil and seasoning, offer a savory counterpoint.

Notes & tips For ambrosia salad

  • 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. Either of these methods should tint the cream to the desired hue.
  • Gently fold in the Cool Whip to prevent deflation rather than stirring vigorously. This will keep the fluffiness of the Cool Whip from deflating.
  • Use an ice cream scoop for serving to give the salad a consistent and appealing shape.
  • If you do not like pecans, you can substitute them for walnuts or almonds.

Other delicious salad recipes

More recipes with cherries

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 the following ingredients to a large 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 minutes prep + 10 minutes cook + 4 hours 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.



  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Optional Step: 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.
    1 cup chopped pecans
  • Pour crushed pineapple, mandarin oranges, and maraschino cherries into a mesh strainer over tsink. Let fruit sit in strainer for 15-20 minutes, tossing contents periodically. Fruit is ready once it's been thoroughly drained of all excess juice.
    20 ounces crushed pineapple, 15 ounces mandarin oranges, 12 ounces maraschino cherries
  • In a large bowl, add 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.
    1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 3 cup mini marshmallows, 8 ounces Cool Whip, 1/2 cup greek yogurt
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 4 hours.
  • Serve immediately.


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