This Ambrosia Fruit Salad recipe is a creamy salad bursting with fruit, marshmallows and fluffy cream. Added bonus: it comes together in minutes and can be served as a festival of colors as a side or dessert!
The perfect Ambrosia Salad Recipe for the holidays
I remember the first time I had ambrosia salad. It was served as a side dish with Thanksgiving dinner and I couldn’t believe this fluffy, marshmallowy bowl of heaven was part of the main meal.
It is a tradition for family gatherings and special occasions and is served with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner as a side dish, but I usually steal an extra bowl for dessert and I’ve been known to eat it for breakfast the next morning too. It is also common at baby showers and bridal showers, probably for the pastel colors.
What is Ambrosia Salad?
Ambrosia salad is a mixed fruit salad with marshmallows and some sort of cream. It’s commonly made with a combination of sour cream and whipped topping (not too be confused with real whipped cream), but can also contain plain Greek yogurt, vanilla yogurt, heavy cream, cottage cheese or mayonnaise. Cool Whip is my go-to.
Sour cream adds a nice contrast of flavor between the sweet fruit and miniature marshmallows and makes a creamy fruit salad with tang.
Ambrosia is technically considered a fruit salad and almost always contains pineapple tidbits (or crushed pineapple or fresh pineapple) and mandarin oranges, but you can add almost any fruit you like. Any mix of fresh fruits and canned fruit are both acceptable. There are many variations on ambrosia recipes.
I always add a can of fruit cocktail and a handful of fresh grapes, but you could add chopped apple, pears, or even banana. Sometimes I even add extra maraschino cherries.
Fresh fruit is also an option, but requires a lot more chopping taking away from the time-saving advantages. Adding nuts is optional, but adds a bit of crunch and texture. This is the base of an easy ambrosia salad.
Why is it called Ambrosia Salad?
The name Ambrosia salad comes from the Greek word Ambrosia which translates to immortality or “food of the Gods”.
In Greek mythology, only the Gods were permitted to eat Ambrosia, where it gets the definition “food of the Gods.”
It is easy to see why this fluffy, fruit filled dish was given the name. Its cloud-like texture is like heaven in a bowl.
Ambrosia Salad ingredients
Grab the following ingredients, but also know you can add some of your own customizations.
- mandarin oranges
- pineapple tidbits
- fruit cocktail
- sour cream
- Cool whip (or similar whipped topping)
Common add-ins are:
- Chopped pecans
- Chopped walnuts
- Shredded coconut
- Vanilla extract
- Sour cream
How to make Ambrosia Salad
Mixing in stages is the key to keepings your juicy ingredients whole and not juiced. Gently strokes with a spatula are best and do not over mix. The prep time is minimal.
- First, toss the fruits in a large bowl. Then add nuts, if using and mini marshmallows. I like these tri-colored ones because it just adds to the party.
- Fold together whipped topping and sour cream until fully combined, then fold into mixture and chilling.
How to serve this Ambrosia Recipe
Ambrosia can be served in a variety of ways. It is most commonly a side dish, but some argue it is a dessert.
I like presenting it in a large serving bowl topped with a dollop of whipped cream or a sprinkle of shredded coconut for added texture and flavor.
Ambrosia can be enjoyed as a side dish or dessert on its own, or it pairs wonderfully with brunch spreads, picnics, and summer gatherings. Its combination of sweet and tangy fruit flavors.
Storing Ambrosia Fruit Salad
Yes! In fact, this classic salad is better when it is made ahead of time.
You can eat Ambrosia salad right away, and I have, but the longer it rests the fluffier it will become.
I recommend making this salad at least 4 hours ahead of time, but making it the day before you want to serve it is even better.
I’m sorry to tell you that this sweet salad will not freeze well. Not at all, in fact. If you try to put this in the freezer you will be left with nothing but a puddle of mushy fruit when it thaws. The best way to store this salad is in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 3 days.
Ambrosia Marshmallow Salad FAQs
Ambrosia salad gained popularity in the United States during the mid-20th century, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s. It became a staple at potlucks, holiday gatherings, and picnics, reflecting the era’s fondness for canned fruits and creamy, gelatin-based dishes.
In Greek mythology, “ambrosia” refers to a divine food or nectar that grants immortality to the gods and bestows exceptional longevity and strength to those who consume it.
To prevent fruit salad from turning brown, you can add a small amount of lemon juice or citrus juice. You can also pick apples, like Envy, that do not oxidize (turn brown).
More Fruity Salads
Ambrosia (Fruit Salad)
- In a large bowl, mix the oranges, pineapples and fruit salad. Then stir in the marshmallows and pecans.
- In a small bowl fold together the sour cream and the whipped topping. Folded blended mixture into the salad.
- Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.
- If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or ratings.