This recipe for Cool Whip Ambrosia Salad is not only delicious but super simple to make. This fruit salad is filled with maraschino cherries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, coconut and whipped topping. Serve this classic for dessert or a side dish that your friends and family are sure to love.
Fruit salad is always a sign of summer and also holiday gatherings. They are usually super simple to make like this Waldorf salad and always great for a picnic, BBQ or a special holiday occasion. But don’t wait to make this old fashioned recipe for a special occasion, it’s so easy, it can be whipped up anytime.
What is ambrosia salad?
First, it’s not really a “salad” with vegetables like this cucumber salad and pea salad. This Southern classic is made with fruit, marshmallows, coconut and of course Cool Whip.
The earliest reference to this salad is believed to have been from an 1867 cookbook and through the years grew in popularity eventually becoming a popular dish to serve at Christmas.
Cool Whip – Why Cool Whip? It adds a nice layer of sweetness and creaminess to this ambrosia. You can use original or lite.
Sour Cream – You don’t taste the sour cream in this at all. It really helps cut some of the sweetness of the fruit and whipped topping. If you just don’t like sour cream, feel free to replace it with yogurt or Greek yogurt.
Maraschino cherries – Drain off all of the juice. If they are large, cut them in half.
Pineapple tidbits – I like using the tidbits because they are smaller but you can substitute with pineapple chunks. Just make sure to drain of the juice.
Mini marshmallows – Mini marshmallows work really well in the ambrosia salad. To add more color and fun, try using the multi-colored mini marshmallows. If you only have larger marshmallows, you can cut them in half or even quarters.
Shredded coconut – Sweetened shredded coconut is used for this recipe. If you really don’t like coconut, feel free to leave it out.
Nuts – This is optional. You can use chopped pecans, walnuts or even pistachios.
How to make Cool Whip Ambrosia Salad
This recipe can be made in under 10 minutes which makes it perfect for a quick dessert or side. All it takes is
- Stir together Cool Whip and sour cream until combined.
- If you have large cherries, I recommend cutting them in half. It makes it easier to eat. Make sure all of the fruit is drained. Stir in cherries, pineapple, oranges, and nuts if you are using them.
- Stir in shredded coconut and mini marshmallows.
- You can serve immediately but I really recommend covering the bowl and letting it chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour, even better if it can sit overnight.
Recipe variations for fruit salad with marshmallows
This recipe is a classic but it’s easy to change it up by adding different ingredients.
- Add in your favorite chopped nuts. You can even toast them a little to add extra flavor.
- Green or red grapes. Cut them in half before mixing in the salad.
- Sliced bananas. Be sure to add them just before serving so they don’t turn brown.
- Diced apples. Cut them into small cubes and add them just before serving.
How to store
This salad needs to be covered and stored in the refrigerator. It will last about 3 days before it starts to break down.
Does ambrosia salad have to be refrigerated before eating? It can be served right after making but it’s so much better if it has time to let the flavors come together. Try to allow at least an hour for it to sit in the refrigerator.
How long can it be left out at room temperature? This salad has dairy so it shouldn’t sit outside in the heat for long. Try to keep it in a cooler. At inside gathering it can be left out for about an hour.
More salad recipes
Be sure to let me know if you made this recipe in the comments below. Is this the classic recipe you remember or does your family add anything extra?
Cool Whip Ambrosia Salad
- 1 8 oz Cool Whip (frozen whipped topping), thawed
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 8 oz can pineapple tidbits, drained
- 1 cup maraschino cherries, drained
- 1 11 oz can mandarin oranges, drained
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup mini marshmallows
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts optional
- Combine Cool Whip and sour cream in a large bowl.
- Fold in oranges, pineapple, cherries, coconut, and marshmallows.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Loved it so much that I had to make it again. This dish taste like what I had as a child, fun memories.
I made this for a party with a bunch of girlfriends this evening, it was it a hit! I followed directions and added some red & green grapes, it’s really warm here in FL now, so it was a perfect dish.