Grandma’s Ambrosia Salad

Don’t you sometimes wish that crystal balls were real? How nice it would be to see into the future, know what’s on the horizon, and act accordingly. I’m usually one of those people that never wants to know the future. I don’t want to know if I’m going to get a speeding ticket next week, much less know about significantly more important life events before they happen. However, I often wish I could have known when I was going to lose my dad and my grandma.

My dad was sick from leukemia complications for awhile, but up until the end he had a good prognosis. My grandma, although she was 91, was in good health, so it was a shock when she passed in her sleep on a random Sunday night. In retrospect (hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it?), I would have peppered them both with questions and spent every possible moment with them. My dad passed away when I was 19, and there were so many times afterwards that I had the urge to pick up the phone and ask him a question. It even happened once about four years later, when I was at work. A thought crossed my mind and before I could catch myself, I actually picked up the telephone to call him. Ever since my grandma passed away last October, I have many times found myself in similar situations, wishing I could quickly ask her a question. Sometimes it’s something family-related that comes up, but more often than not, it’s a recipe question. The most recent clarification I needed involved her ambrosia recipe, one of our family’s favorite desserts.

I can’t ever remember a time before ambrosia salad. We’ve been eating it in my family since I was old enough to chew, and most likely, for years or decades before I was even a blip on the radar. It seemed that my grandma could make ambrosia appear out of thin air, and with the frequency at which we ate it, it seemed to multiply like rabbits. We never ran out. How is that possible?!

Actually, it’s possible when you’re talking about an Italian lady who felt that the best way to show people you love them is to feed them. Then feed them some more. Then, even when they’re so full they can barely speak, you urge them to eat more, claiming that you hardly saw anything on their plate. That’s love. That, also, is how it comes to be that there is endless supply of whatever you’re serving. God forbid someone might still be hungry and there not be anything left. THAT is the definition of an Italian tragedy.

Ambrosia was served up routinely for Christmas and Easter, and pretty much non-stop during the summer. Compared to things like cake and pie, ambrosia salad is a wonderfully fresh and light dessert, which makes it perfect for sweltering July days. When I went to make it recently and asked my mom for my grandma’s recipe, a debate ensued.

My mom said my grandma used mandarin oranges and crushed pineapple. My sister said my grandma used fruit cocktail. Back and forth they went. As it turns out, they were both right.

My grandma’s original recipe is the one you find below, and included mandarin oranges and pineapple, as well as coconut and miniature marshmallows. However, my mom did say that when my grandma was in a pinch and didn’t have the oranges and pineapple, she’d just use a can of fruit cocktail, which is the memory that stuck with my sister. Which leads me to a quick aside – did anyone else’s grandma have can after can of fruit cocktail in the pantry? My grandma always had it, in large quantities, and I remember eating it a lot when I was a kid. I tend to think of fruit cocktail with a grandma-type of thing, since my mom never bought it.

The lesson here? Ambrosia is tremendously adaptable. Use what you have on hand. Use your family’s favorite fruits. Make it your own. Sometimes the simplest of recipes become the most special.

Also, we don’t have crystal balls. Ask lots of questions. Spend lots of time. Cherish moments.

Three years ago: GO PENS! with All-Occasion Sugar Cookies

Grandma's Ambrosia Salad

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes


1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 (8-ounce) tub COOL WHIP Whipped Topping


Using a rubber spatula, gently fold together all ingredients in a large serving bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Disclaimer: As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received coupons for free COOL WHIP Whipped Topping and a stipend. Sponsored posts are purely editorial content that we are pleased to have presented by a participating sponsor. Advertisers do not produce the content.

“What you add makes it. #coolwhipmoms


97 Responses to “Grandma’s Ambrosia Salad”

  1. Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious on May 30, 2012 at 1:05 am

    What a lovely post. And thank you for sharing your grandma’s recipe! I actually never had ambrosia salad before but it looks like something I will most definitely like.


  2. ala-kat on May 30, 2012 at 1:52 am

    It is a natural reflex to reach out to those that are gone. I do the same thing. They may physically be gone, but they are always in our heart.


  3. Brandon on May 30, 2012 at 2:59 am

    Did you ever have the “green” version of this with pistachio pudding mix added and no mandarins? I used to have it every year at Christmas, but haven’t had it for years.


    • Lauren on May 30th, 2012 at 8:56 am

      This is called Watergate Salad. My grandma made is every year at Christmas. It is my favorite!


      • Brandon on May 30th, 2012 at 10:38 am

        Yes, it is called that, but when I was a kid I just called it “green stuff.” I would often eat more of this than just about everything else on my Thanksgiving and Christmas plates. Except maybe mashed potato.


    • Michelle on May 30th, 2012 at 10:35 am

      I have not, but it sounds interesting!


  4. Sherry on May 30, 2012 at 5:02 am

    The first time I’d even heard of Ambrosia was on Top Chef Masters and I think I was as befuddled as the guy who got it since it didn’t look all too appetizing.

    I don’t suppose this recipe could be modified to make it less processed? Like fresh orange wedges, fresh pineapple, and maybe homemade whipped cream? Oh, and homemade marshmallows! I try not to eat canned foods all too often, and I never saw a need for Cool Whip when whipping your own whipped cream is so incredibly easy. Or would all that change it too much from the original flavor?


    • Michelle on May 30th, 2012 at 10:42 am

      Hi Sherry, Absolutely! My boyfriend’s mom will sometimes make it with just leftover fruit that she wants to use up. You could definitely use fresh oranges, pineapple, marshmallows, etc. I think the fresh whipped cream would be okay if you’re definitely going to eat it the same day. Whipped cream can get a little weepy and runny once refrigerated for a longer period of time.


    • Linds on December 4th, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      My Mum always makes this at Christmas time as a side. It is amazing how well this goes with turkey! She uses tinned mandarins, tinned pineapple chunks, Pascalls marshmallows (australian brand of soft fluffy marshmallows) cut in half, desiccated coconut and sour cream instead of cool whip (we don’t have cool whip in Australia). I think it would be entirely too sweet for me if I used cool whip! You could definitely use real fruit, although I have never tried it. The tinned fruit seems to have more ‘juice’ which soaks into the marshmallows.


  5. Sue Ames on May 30, 2012 at 6:22 am

    Now that you mention it, my grandmother did have cans of fruit cocktail in the pantry, my mom did too but I never really did. I can remember my grandparents eating it after lunch. Thank you for helping with that memory.


  6. kris pare on May 30, 2012 at 6:23 am

    I do believe we must have relatives that share recipes! This was so much a staple with us too. Mom or NeeNee would throw in some bananas sometimes. Ours mainly used whatever was in the house too. Great way to get kids to eat fruit!


  7. Tanya on May 30, 2012 at 6:46 am

    My mom and dad are Greek, and there isn’t a meal where my mom doesn’t make a TON of food and expect everyone to get third or fourth helpings! Mom doesn’t use cook books, everything is in her head. I need to makes sure to write down all her recipes and make them myself before something should happen to her. It’s important to pass on these family recipes. I can’t believe I’ve never had ambrosia salad! It sounds so delicious!


  8. bells-bakery on May 30, 2012 at 6:53 am

    I love this post,your remembering your grandmother through this ambrosia salad and some day you’ll make it for your grandkids and they’ll make it calling it your ambrosia salad. I lost my grandmother a few years back but everytime my mom cooks something of hers,it brings me back to being small in my grandmothers house.

    Shirley x


  9. Jeri Barry on May 30, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Wonderful post Michelle! Mandarin oranges, fruit cocktail….things my mom always had on hand. She used to make a “salad” every Christmas with lime jello, cottage cheese, cool whip and canned crushed pineapple. Sounds like nothing a foodie would whip up but it went great with ham. I always tear up when I read about the loss of your grandmother and father. The advice you give about cherishing the moments you have is something we should all remember with regard to all of our loved ones. I don’t know why it is that I continually need to be reminded of that. My hat is off to you!


  10. Jessica @ Portuguese Girl Cooks on May 30, 2012 at 7:57 am

    What a nice post Michelle. I’m in tears because this reminds me so much of myself, and how I wish I could pick up the phone and call my Grandpa to ask him baking related questions.
    Although I have never had ambrosia, thank you for sharing this recipe as I know how important family recipes are.


  11. Emmy Lou on May 30, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Michele…being from Pittsburgh originally, I was drawn to your blog…and stayed because of your heart and talent. For those who are blessed to have their parents and grandparents around, please take the time to video tape them. My daughter told my parents it was a school project and now we have video of grandma cooking with a pinch of this and handful of that and grandpa describing growing up in a one room house in Ireland. Generations will hear their voices.


    • Michelle on May 30th, 2012 at 10:43 am

      Hi Emmy, What a wonderful idea to videotape. I so wish we would have done this!


  12. Barbara Masino on May 30, 2012 at 8:41 am

    I remember making this recipe as a young bride back in the 60’s! It was always a hit. Now, being a more health conscious grandma, my spin on this classic is to use organic vanilla yougurt…it is just as delicious! Your recipes have that special ingredient…loving family memories. Thank you for sharing your family with us. BTW, my Italian born mom always had at least 6 huge cans of fruit cocktail in the pantry!


  13. Nikki Rappaport on May 30, 2012 at 8:46 am

    A lovely story. I just remembered that my grandma also used to make Ambrosia Salad. In first grade we had to bring in a snack to share with our class, and I brought individual paper cups filled with it for everyone. Any my class hated it! I was so embarrassed that they didn’t like my dessert. I haven’t had it in a really long time but it definitely reminds me of my grandma too.


  14. Kellie on May 30, 2012 at 9:00 am

    my family makes something similar, but instead of cool whip( it seems so slimey and oily to me) we would use sour cream…and mix it all together and it adds a perfectly fresh sweetness. My mom dislikes sour cream but this would be the one time she would buy and eat it. ๐Ÿ™‚ That would be one way to get around the cool whip. It would be amazing with fresh whipped creamtoo though!!


    • Mary Jane on May 30th, 2012 at 4:56 pm

      I also use the sour cream and do try using the light version or fat free. My mil used to do a cooked version of this with cream and egg, almost like a custard. She always used the fruit flavoured (coloured) marshmallows and they gave the “salad” a more festive look. I remember her serving this as a part of the main course at meals and my kids loading their plates with it. I would tell them, “Not too much” and she would always retort “It’s salad; it’s good for them.” All that cream and marshmallow and not so much fruit. Wonderful memories.


    • Terrie on September 1st, 2012 at 8:36 am

      Thanks Kellie that is my missing ingredient I was missing I just remember 7 things and got everything except the sour cream


  15. Nancy on May 30, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Michelle, Another Pittsburgh version, My Mom called it Five Cup Salad. I cup chunk pineapple tid bits 1 cup oranges, 1 cup marshmallows, 1 cup coconut, 1 cup sour cream. It could always be doubled depending on how many servings.


    • Michelle on May 30th, 2012 at 10:44 am

      Oh, I like this, Nancy! So easy to remember!


      • Robyn on May 30th, 2012 at 11:00 am

        this is what my mom calls it too, with all the same ingredients. except she uses those fruity/coloured mini-marshmallows. maybe this is the canadian twist?! i’ve also successfully swapped the sour cream with plain yogurt. yummm.


  16. Barbara @ Barbara Bakes on May 30, 2012 at 9:06 am

    I could definitely relate to this post. My mom was 82 when she died and her health wasn’t good, but it was still shocking to me when see died. How nice that you remember your grandma making this salad for you. I bet it makes it taste even more special.


  17. Catalina @ Cake with Love on May 30, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Grandmas have the best recipes!! This salad looks so delicious and the presentation is very nice!


  18. Genny on May 30, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Love this post! And yes, my Grandma always had fruit cocktail in her pantry too! In fact, my Grandma seemed to whip something up out of nowhere with whatever she had in her pantry. Our Grandmas were incredible women! What pleasant memories you have! Thanks for sharing!


  19. Jennifer on May 30, 2012 at 9:34 am

    I’m so glad you have your grandmother’s recipe. Then you can think of her every time you make it. My mother passed away from leukemia when I was 9, and when I dug through a hope chest when I was older, I found lots of her handwritten recipes. I cherish them. I made copies and sent them to my brothers so they could have them, too, even if they never made them. Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚


  20. Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Pepper on May 30, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Ahhh, what a wonderful recipe from your grandma and a wonderful post!


  21. Susan on May 30, 2012 at 10:00 am

    I remember this recipe well and could eat it right now. Thanks for sharing. And I agree…what’s with the fruit cocktail. It was always in the cupboard. Did it actually taste good? I don’t have a positive memory.


    • Michelle on May 30th, 2012 at 10:46 am

      I hated the big green grapes in fruit cocktail! I only liked the cherries, peaches and pears!


      • Lois on March 16th, 2016 at 11:22 pm

        I also disliked the grapes. They were so soft and squishy. I, too, rooted around for the cherries and it seemed to me that you may have had one whole cherry per can.


  22. Monna on May 30, 2012 at 10:01 am

    I really related to this post for two reasons. One, my family always ate ambrosia salad at every special occasion when I was a kid. My grandma started it and my mom continued it. Also, I lost both my parents and my oldest brother to cancer about 6 years ago now when I was about 30. I can’t tell you the number of times I wish I had asked particular questions about life, my parents, and yes – my mom’s recipes while I had the chance. We have a lot of good memories connected to the kitchen. Thanks for the post. ๐Ÿ™‚


  23. Megan on May 30, 2012 at 10:02 am

    We make this salad, but use sour cream instead of cool whip. So delicious!


  24. Sharon Peek on May 30, 2012 at 10:34 am

    My family too uses sour cream, but they also add halved maraschino cherries. My grandmother also made a variation that included pecans, coconut, mandarin oranges and sour cream plus a can of fruit cocktail. Though I am in my 60’s, I still remember those times together with fondness. Memories are the basis of all loving thoughts.


  25. michele@onecountrychick on May 30, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Thanks for a neat post. My Gram passed away this past winter at the age of 90, and it is odd how your mind, at times, forgets that. I, too, have found myself thinking, we’ll have to ask Gram (although her hearing was pretty bad, so asking was difficult ๐Ÿ™‚ Same with looking at pictures – can’t ask anymore who those people were from back in 1940…


  26. Stephanie on May 30, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Thanks so much for sharing this with us. I’m sure you’ll be the one to pass this recipe down to the future generations and *you’ll* be just like your grandmother.


  27. Heather @ Bake, Run, Live on May 30, 2012 at 11:03 am

    I don’t care for pineapple, so whenever I make ambrosia salad, I add canned pears!
    My grandparents have been gone for quite a few years now, however, that doesn’t stop me from asking questions or seeking their guidance. I just have to listen for the answers.


    • Michelle on May 30th, 2012 at 11:33 am

      I love the way you put this, so true, and beautiful.


  28. Ali B on May 30, 2012 at 11:15 am

    This is a really sweet post. I lost all of my grandparents by the time I was 12, but I’m glad to have a few memories of them still. One thing that I find especially comforting is to think of the things you do in your life that reflect your grandparents. For example, my mother’s mother made “Nana cookies” the way yours made ambrosia, so I feel as if I am channeling her whenever I duplicate that recipe. My love for swings comes from my mother’s father (who would push me on the swings for hours when I was a baby), my passion for science comes from my father’s father, and my love for gardening and crafting comes from my father’s mother. There is certainly a piece of your grandmother in you, and you emulate her every time you recreate one of her recipes ๐Ÿ™‚


  29. Jen of My Tiny Oven on May 30, 2012 at 11:21 am

    I lost my Grandma 15 years ago but she used to make a salad like this, but she called it Hawaiian Salad and instead of the cool whip, she used sour cream! It added a nice tangy flavour but you would never guess it was sour cream!
    I love old family recipes!


  30. Char James-Tanny on May 30, 2012 at 11:54 am

    I make something really similar every summer (about once a week, sometimes more). I include maraschino cherries and use sour cream, not Cool Whip (like several others have said), and I use chunk pineapple, not crushed. And I only use about half as much coconut and mini-marshmallows. And I like how it changes it up when I add a can of fruit cocktail.

    When I’m feeling quirky, I add some cinnamon and nutmeg.


  31. Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes on May 30, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Awww this post was so sweet. And I totally can relate to Italian Grandmas – You eat a huge plate of food that can feed an entire family and she says “You didn’t eat nothin’!”. Oh, and I love the cherry on top ๐Ÿ™‚


  32. Rachel on May 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    I love this recipe! Thank you for sharing it and your story. Being a Pittsburgh girl myself, we actually referred to this as ‘funeral salad.’ I never thought twice about it until I was older and asked my grandmother in front of family friends if she was going to make it. “What does she want?” Asked the family friend.

    Have you ever heard it referred to as funeral salad?!


    • Michelle on May 30th, 2012 at 5:17 pm

      Hi Rachel, I have never heard of “funeral salad”!


  33. Katie on May 30, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    I love ambrosia, so much! Thanks for the recipe ๐Ÿ™‚ My grandmother always has cans of fruit cocktail in the pantry, it’s like a Grandma Requirement I think! Food never runs out at her house, either.


  34. Justine on May 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    I think my mom used sour cream, too, and mayonnaise? All I know is that it was SO bad for you. But SO good. Thanks for a memory. ๐Ÿ™‚


  35. elisa on May 30, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    I love your personal touches to your entries.

    I love ambrosia. it’s so delcious and refreshing. I love it mostly though because I finally found a dessert that I could make for my Sister in-law who has Celiac Disease and can’t have any wheat products. So no cupcakes, cake, etc. The Ambrosia makes her so happy!! and me too. ๐Ÿ™‚


    • J on November 27th, 2013 at 8:13 am

      Elisa, why don’t you just make her pumpkin pie without the crust? We do this all the time for dessert. Just mix up the filling for a pie and bake it in a buttered casserole dish. Still tastes great with a blob of whipped cream!


  36. Georgina Cole on May 30, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    My mom has also been making Ambrosia since before I can remember (I was a kid in the 70s). She still makes it every Christmas using a combination of Cool Whip, fruit cocktail, coconut, maraschino cherries and fresh fruite (apples, bananas, etc.). My sister and I still love it but our husbands think it’s disgusting! I guess it’s all about what you grew up with ๐Ÿ™‚


  37. Kepanie on May 30, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Mahalo for posting this recipe. My Auntie J used to make this for me time to time as she knew I loved it. She’s gone now as we lost her too soon but I pinned this so I can make it one day and think of all the great memories of her.


  38. Meghan @ After the Ivy League on May 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    That is so unbelievably heartbreaking about your father. I’m personally, very close to my dad and I can’t imagine ever losing him. Thanks for the beautiful reminder that we all need to make the most of our time with family.

    And the ambrosia salad looks delicious!


  39. Ana on May 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Have you ever made the dessert salad similar to this, with the pistachio pudding? that’s what we always called Ambrosia Salad. I think sometimes it’s called Watergate salad. There’s a good frozen fruit salad recipe on Pinterest from an Atlanta department store’s tea room from a long time ago. I’d like to try it, and I’d like to try yours, too. I see why it kept popping up. ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Michelle on May 30th, 2012 at 5:18 pm

      Hi Ana, I have never had this, but saw it mentioned above as well. I’m going to have to try it!


  40. Karin on May 30, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    My mother-in-law made this all the time except she also added cottage cheese and a small box of orange jello powder. She said it was a “complete” lunch that way!


  41. Kate on May 30, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Ambrosia was always at our family dinners too. It was very popular. My mom made it just about the same but she added nuts on occasion.


  42. Tiffany on May 30, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Interesting that you would mention this story with this salad. My grandma always made a salad very similar to this every Thanksgiving. She is still alive, but a year ago she fell and has a lot of memory problems now. One thing she discovered was she forgot her recipe for this salad! She was asked to bring it recently but couldn’t even remember how to begin. She never wrote it down, since she never guessed she’d forget it. I will have to try this and see if I can tweak it to what I remember. Thanks!


    • Michelle on May 30th, 2012 at 5:18 pm

      Aww, I am so glad that you might be able to use the recipe to help your grandma. Best wishes to her!


  43. Vicki @ WITK on May 30, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Yep, my gram also had an endless supply of fruit cocktail in her cupboard. Must be a popular item among old ladies ๐Ÿ™‚ This ambrosia salad looks just like the one my gram made for us, great memories!


  44. Paula @ Vintage Kitchen Notes on May 30, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    I relate to your reaching for them before thinking. Itยดs also a natural and sweet way to keep them close.
    I never had anything like your recipe. Here Ambrosia is a milk, sugar and egg mixture cooked a lot on the stove, that ends up like a cross between flan and bread pudding.


  45. Angelyn on May 30, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    This looks really, really good! I’v never had Ambrosia before, but I must try it soon!


  46. Suzanne - the Farmer's Wife on May 30, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Oh, I love ambrosia. Thanks for sharing your grandmother’s recipe. I’m pretty sure that “back in the day” she used sour cream or something else because Cool Whip wasn’t available.

    Our family also had to versions, one with the mandarin oranges, pineapple and coconut and another called “Edna’s Salad” that was made with vanilla pudding cooked with the juice from a can of fruit cocktail. The cooled mixture was then combined with the fruit cocktail and whipped cream was folded in. It’s fabulous. Yes, canned fruit is a grandma thing. My 91-year-old mother-in-law gets panicky if there’s no canned fruit in the pantry. I’d never buy it myself.

    Nineteen is pretty young to lose your father. The thing is, at that age you don’t even really know all the things you’d like to know.


  47. Linda from NJ on May 30, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    what I wouldn’t give for just one more day with those in my life who have passed … it’s funny how the thoughts flood in when those people are gone, all the things you wish and want to know more about but never thought anything more about.


  48. Martha in KS on May 30, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    My step-grandmother’s recipe was called Moron Salad because it was a cup of each ingredient. It called for pineapple tidbits and sour cream instead of whipped topping. Mom always made a separate dish without coconut for one of my sisters.


  49. Ali on May 30, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    I remember my sister and I loving this as kids. The perfect summer treat! Now I can make her some ;). Thanks!


  50. Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love. on May 30, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    What a sweet post! This ambrosia salad is a perfect tribute to your grandmother!


  51. Emma, Food, Fork & Good on May 31, 2012 at 6:04 am

    What a lovely post =] And the pictures are gorgeous


  52. on May 31, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Such a nice post… I lost my Sicilian mom this past February, and at least once a day my hand reaches for the phone to call her until I catch myself. She always used to say that if there were no leftovers that means you didn’t cook enough in the first place. Someone may have wanted a second helping, and they didn’t get it–the ultimate Italian cook’s shame!


  53. DB-The Foodie Stuntman on May 31, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Glad you were able to share a family recipe. They’re always the best!


  54. colleen @ Secrets fromthe Cookie Princess on June 1, 2012 at 8:20 am

    I lost my mom in January and also thought I lost some of her recipes that I was sure she never wrote down, specifically her potato salad that I always meant to ask her for. I just stumbled upon it and was shocked that it actually tasted the same with the measured quantities because I know she never measured anything for this recipe! Just tasting it brought tears to my eyes.

    I find myself wanting to call her often, and you are so right that we need to talk more and cherish everything with the time we have.


  55. Lindsey on June 1, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    My family called it honeymoon salad made with sour cream instead of cool whip and my mom always added a cup of chopped pecans because I always remember this being made along side lime jello with shaved carrots and pecans in it.


  56. Gabrielle on June 2, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Lovely story. My family had this on occasion. We also had a cranberry Waldorf salad, the recipe of which I include here. The “melted” marshmallows, combined with the whipped cream give you the texture of Coolwhip, without having said ingredient. I just noticed that several people were asking how to make the ambrosia with out so much processed food. I suppose the marshmallows would be considered processed, unless you make your own. Obviously, you’d want to switch up the fruit to make the ambrosia ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Cranberry Waldorf
    serves 12

    2 C. fresh cranberries, ground
    3 C mini marshmellows
    3/4 C sugar
    2 C diced tart apples
    1/2 C seedless grapes, halved
    1/2 C broken walnut meats
    1/4 tsp salt
    1 C whipping cream, whipped

    The night before serving, grind the cranberries and stir them and rendered juice into the marshmellows and sugar. Cover and put in fridge. The next day stir in apples, grapes, walnuts and salt. Fold in the whipped cream.


  57. M. Vivian on June 7, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Grandmas (grams, nanas, gommies, & g-mas) make the world go round ๐Ÿ™‚ My Gram just passed this May 13 @ 104!! And this just reminded me of all her fabulous recipes ๐Ÿ™‚ My aunt is putting together a book of them for me. It’s one of the best ways to remember someone!


  58. Simba on August 21, 2012 at 5:49 am

    That sounds interesting, will try to do this soon.
    Thanks for sharing


  59. Lori on August 29, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    FINALLY! The real deal for ambrosia salad. I had to sift thru tons of pages to find a website that had it correctly and also included a photo. My search is over.


  60. Claudia Haney on November 15, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Is Ambrosia considered a dessert? I think it is, but my friend says that they used to have it WITH a meal. Sounds nasty to me! ๐Ÿ™‚


  61. Cathee on December 13, 2012 at 9:07 am

    My Grandmother made this recipe twice a year, once for Easter and then for Christmas. After moving to Missouri from California (Dad was Military); I never had it again. My Grandmother has since had a stroke and her memory is not the greatest, I have tried getting the recipe from her and she only remembers bits and pieces.
    This is BY FAR the closest I have come to the original that she made, it is missing one element…she always used maraschino cherries (halved).
    I WILL be making this for Christmas this year (as a surprise).
    Hopefully I can do it justice.
    Thank you for the recipe and letting us share in your memories.


  62. Lesley Shell on February 23, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    My hubby and I were sitting here arguing about how ambrosia is made and what ingredients are used, well darnnit, he wins, I thought that you whip jello until it is creamy (orange, pineapple or lemon) and then add fruit. He says it is cream. I love your grandma’s recipe. I miss my Nanny with all my heart, even though she never cooked, she worked outside the home, there were a few recipes she had that i adore just like you do. When I make this we will salute your Grammy.


  63. Alvina Lewis on June 1, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Tasked with providing a fruit salad for church and automatically thought about my late Aunt Sarah. As a kid I remember watching her feel each and every orange and grapefruit with a smile on her face. Ofcourse coconut, powered sugar and cherries were used, and it was a great and sweet dessert. Can’t get a kid near grapefruit. I miss her tremendously and this gave me another opportunity to think her of her…with love.


  64. Holly of Sinful Sugar on July 12, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    I just lost my grandma last year, right before her 98th birthday. She too was an Italian lady who made ambrosia for summer gatherings. I still remember those recycled cool whip containers she’d use to send us left overs. My mom has a hand written version of this, except she threw in a small can of fruit cocktail and a little sour cream. We’d fight with my cousins over who got the maraschino cherries. Thanks for reviving this oldie but goodie. I brought this to a BBQ last summer and our friends’ children never had the pleasure of eating this light and tasty favorite.


  65. Mandy on October 4, 2013 at 7:11 am

    How lovely!! Ambrosia is the best and the canned versions of the fruits are much better and sweeter than the fresh ones. Plus the cool whip cream is sooooo much better than whipped cream that you made yourself!! Why bother when cool whip is so good for you??????


  66. viktoriya on December 21, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Could I completely omit the coconut? Would it be any different? If its essential is there another option because I’m ellergic to coconut?


    • Michelle on December 22nd, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      Yes, you could omit it without an issue.


  67. Erin on December 23, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Loved your story! I lost my grandmother 10 years ago at 91, but she is always close to my heart and in thought. She taught me how and inspired me to love cooking and food! Thankfully, I have many of her very old cookbooks and recipes. I’ve been looking for an ambrosia recipe I could modify for my dairy and nut allergic daughter, and I think I’ve found it – thank you!! Unfortunately cool whip does contain milk proteins, so I’m going to substitute “Sour Supreme”. It is a dairy free sour cream substitute that is made with soy, and I’ve used it successfully in other recipes. Hoping this will work! I try to accommodate her as much as possible so she isn’t left out of the eating fun, which to me are some of the best Christmas memories!


  68. Audean on March 24, 2014 at 2:33 am

    Memories are such a precious gift!! I think of my “Granny” and “Grandma” almost daily and both sadly have been gone many years now. I wanted to share with you my memory of Ambrosia salad. 15 years ago I married. I remember being a young girl and going to many Bridal showers at my “Granny’s” house. Aunts, Cousins and neighbour girls getting married, all were given showers. Along with rolled sandwiches, ambrosia or 5 cup salad as I knew it, was served along with tea in cups and saucers and a hidden sticker under a random saucer :). As I had said I married 15 years ago and it was not until a shower was hosted in my Granny ‘s home by my Mother and Aunts, complete with rolled sandwiches, 5 cup salad and tea in a collection of tea cups, did I really believe that I was getting married! It continues to amaze me just how much a recipe can transport us to times in our lives we hold so precious. Thank you for sharing yours.

    By the way, I am attending a bridal shower next week and I have decided, 5 cup salad will be my contribution to the celebration. ๐Ÿ™‚


  69. Heather on May 10, 2014 at 12:08 am

    I was searching the web for this exact recipe. My mom made this when I was a kid. I’ve seen many versions while looking for this one. I’ve seen sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, or yogurt but this is what I wanted to make my mom for Mother’s Day. Both my mom and I love it and I’m a mom too. As far as the memories it so true. I did not grow up having any grandparents on either side nor did I grow up with a father so I urge everyone to cherish who ever they have and make beautiful memories that will transcend along not only your lifetime but maybe your grandchildren as well if we are so blessed. Thanks for sharing your memories with us and for the recipe. I can’t wait not only to make it but eat it too. You can have your Ambrosia and eat it too!


  70. Gee on July 27, 2014 at 7:49 am

    Does any one know if ambrosia can be made without coconut. I love coconut flavor but I do not like the texture of coconut. I would love to hear a response from anyone. Looking forward to your response.


    • Michelle on July 28th, 2014 at 10:50 am

      Hi Gee, You can omit the coconut if you wish.


  71. Betty on August 19, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    Really enjoyed reading this, I’m a great grandmother and was looking for an old recipe. It had mandarin oranges, pineapple, and of all things cottage cheese with lime jello. I need to talk to my niece but it really sounds like it might have been made from a ambrosia recipe. By the way the cottage cheese made it not so sweet. Need to find the other ingredient now. It was great and had no coconut in it.


  72. Kathy Milczarski on March 30, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    Michelle, Just wondering if you double the ambrosia recipe or not? And we have always thought of it as a salad and not a dessert. Also I loved your commentary on your Italian grandmother’s hospitality–what you said is so true!!! My mom is Italian and we always want to have more than enough and choices (something for everyone). So that is why I am wondering if you doubled the ambrosia recipe. (And it did look neat in the trifle. Is that one batch?) Thanks!


    • Michelle on April 1st, 2015 at 2:09 pm

      Hi Kathy, Yes, you could definitely double this recipe! Enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚


  73. Sally on May 25, 2015 at 7:20 am

    I’m 66. My mom died when I was 16 and I remember her making this salad – the version with sour cream called “5-Cup Salad.” I’ve made it nearly every year since as part of Thanksgiving dinner. Funny, I never think of it as a summer dish!

    You wrote about wanting to ask your dad or grandma questions. I’ve had the same experience and still do on occasion. Often it’s stuff that I didn’t know I’d want to know when I was much younger. And often it’s about recipes.


  74. Kathleen edsall on December 20, 2015 at 11:32 pm

    Thank you for such a heart warming post. I myself make piergoes a receipt from Grandma Checkie for the holidays as well. I wish I knew your grandma first name so I could call them grandma ” so and so ” ambrosia. But that’s okay you need not respond. Guess it’s our way of having them be part of our lives forever. That is of course if our future families carry on our tradition. Any way. Thank you for sharing. Will make this for Christmas.


  75. Diane on January 31, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Can’t wait to try this


  76. Linda on June 11, 2016 at 11:43 am

    I add sliced bananas and uncrushed pecans or walnuts or whateverer is available.


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