Grandma’s Best Ambrosia Salad Recipe – This marshmallow salad recipe is a fruity retro favorite that is perfect for enjoying all summer long. This fruit salad may not be considered a healthy food, but it’s fluffy, refreshingly sweet, and completely irresistible!

Grandma's Ambrosia Salad Recipe - close up with canned ingredients

Why We Love This Ambrosia Salad Recipe

This bright, colorful Ambrosia Salad dessert is one my Grandma used to make over and over each season and was always a big hit at our neighborhood gatherings. Nowadays, I make it often for my family, who love enjoying it as we make our own summer memories together!

You can easily make this fruit salad in only 15 minutes using many pantry staple ingredients, and it keeps well in the fridge for up to an entire week.

Recipe for Ambrosia Salad  - overhead shot

The Original Marshmallow Salad

If you’re from the South then you’ve probably had an Ambrosia Recipe at a summer barbecue, or at a relative’s house.

If not, you may be asking “What is Ambrosia?”

This throw-caution-to-the-wind fruit “salad” is more of a guilty pleasure than anything else. It’s also sometimes called Marshmallow Salad or Marshmallow Fluff Salad.

You might be asking yourself where this Ambrosia Salad recipe originated…

Although many people relate Ambrosia Salad to the South, there is no official record of its true birthplace. However, some sources actually claim it originated in Vermont.

Many believe Ambrosia Salad first appeared in a cookbook released in 1867 called “Dixie Cookery: or How I Managed My Table for Twelve Years.” It gained popularity in the 1870’s in a variety of different cookbooks as well.

Ingredients for Ambrosia Recipe

Why Do They Call It Ambrosia?

The word Ambrosia literally means immortality in Greek. Believe it or not, at the time this recipe started gaining popularity the ingredients involved (various canned fruits, marshmallows, and coconut) were considered exotic and hard to find. Therefore, this salad was named after the elusive nectar, or drink of the gods, in Greek mythology. “Food of the Gods” is the official Latin translation.

Decades later, many of these same ingredients were considered pantry staples in the United States. So Ambrosia salad continued on as a popular American side dish because it was quick and easy to throw together for us mortals. *wink*

The Best Ambrosia Recipe We’ve Ever Made

Ambrosia Salad first started as a simple side, yet has transformed into a more complex dish of flavors and colors over the years.

Yet its simplistic roots remain, with the use of canned goods that together still taste wonderfully refreshing and bright.

A good (modernized) Ambrosia Recipe offers 4 things:

  1. The comfort of Grandma’s kitchen
  2. A pop of fresh fruit flavor
  3. Classic canned fruit add-ins
  4. An unexpected ingredient or twist in the mix!
Measured and chopped ingredients for Ambrosia Salad Recipe

Our Ambrosia Recipe Twist

This is a classic ambrosia salad recipe with just a few slight changes. Some people like to use sour cream as the base, while others use Cool Whip. In my humble opinion, a blend of both ingredients creates the best flavor.

I like to add green grapes for a bit of freshness in this fruit salad, as well as candied (crystallized) ginger for a surprise touch of sweet-heat in each spoonful.

You simply can’t go wrong with these delicious ingredients!

Ingredients for ambrosia salad in a bowl.

Ingredients for Ambrosia Recipe

  • Mandarin Oranges – The orange citrus adds a delicate tangy note and color.
  • Peaches – Fresh summer flavor from a can.
  • Pineapple  Adds a tropical twist to this classic recipe. 
  • Maraschino Cherries – For color and extra sweetness.
  • Green Grapes – Fresh, juicy, colorful.
  • Coconut Shreds/Flakes – For a tropical underlying flavor.
  • Mini Marshmallows – To lighten the texture with the perfect amount of fluff.
  • Pecans – Completely optional, but adds a bit of crunch.
  • Crystalized Ginger – Let’s spice it up! (This is my favorite secret ingredient.)
  • Sour Cream – Balances the sweet flavors.
  • Cool Whip – The best light and quick creamy base!
  • Salt – To bring all the vibrant flavor to the forefront.
mixing together the ambrosia salad in a mixing bowl.

How To Make Ambrosia Salad

  1. Drain. Set a large colander in the sink. Pour the canned mandarin oranges, peaches, pineapple tidbits, and cherries into the colander.
  2. Cut. Once the fruit is well drained, chop each peach slice into 3-4 pieces. Remove all cherry stems, then cut the cherries in half.
  3. Dice. Cut the green grapes in half. Chop the pecans (if using) and dice the crystallized ginger pieces.
  4. Combine. Next, set out a large bowl. Pour the drained, chopped fruit into the bowl. Then add the remaining ingredients – grapes, coconut, marshmallows, pecans, crystallized ginger, sour cream, and Cool Whip. Add a good pinch of salt and gently fold the salad until everything is well incorporated.
  5. Cover or Serve. Cover and chill/refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be made up to 7 days in advance for all those summer potluck parties. 

Get the Full (Printable) Best Recipe for Ambrosia Salad + VIDEO Below. Enjoy!

Spoon scooping a serving of marshmallow ambrosia salad.

Tips & Tricks

  • Gently fold the salad to make sure that the mandarin slices do not break!
  • Replace the sour cream in this recipe with plain greek yogurt or regular plain yogurt if desired!
  • To make this amrosia salad ahead of time, combine all the ingredients and store covered for up to 1 day. This will soften up the marshmallows. If you don’t want the marshmallows to become soft, then fold in the marshmallows before serving instead!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Substitute Pecans for a Different Nut?

Of course! Try chopped almonds, walnuts, or your choice of nut as a substitution. You can also omit the nuts if needed.

How Long Does This Fruit Dessert Last?

Cover it tightly, store it in the fridge, and your Ambrosia Salad with Cool Whip and Sour Cream can last up to 7 days.

Can I Substitute Something for the Cool Whip in this Recipe?

You can use a mixture of heavy cream and sugar to make fresh whipped cream to use in place of the Cool Whip. I have also heard of people using vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt or plain vanilla yogurt instead of whipped topping.

Where Can I Find Cool Whip in the Grocery Store?

You can find Cool Whip in the freezer aisle. Be sure to thaw it in the refrigerator before using.

Can You Freeze Ambrosia Salad with Sour Cream?

Sure you can, but it won’t thaw to the same consistency as before. The chunks of fruit will likely break into smaller pieces. For best results, eat it fresh after mixing.

Ambrosia salad in a serving bowl.

Looking For More Southern-Style Salads?

Find all our summer side dishes here!

Check the printable recipe card below for this side dish’s prep time and nutrition information including calories, carbohydrates, protein, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, fiber, vitamin C, and calcium percentages. Make sure to share this recipe on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Recipe for Ambrosia Salad - overhead shot
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Grandma’s Ambrosia Salad Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Grandma’s Best Ambrosia Salad Recipe – This marshmallow salad recipe is a fruity retro favorite that's perfect for enjoying all summer long. Although fruit salad may not actually be considered health food, it’s fluffy, refreshingly sweet, and completely irresistible!
Servings: 12



  • Set a large colander in the sink. Pour the mandarin oranges, peaches, pineapple tidbits, and cherries in the colander.
  • Once they are well drained, chop each peach slice into 3-4 pieces. Remove all cherry stems, then cut the cherries in half.
  • Cut the green grapes in half. Chop the pecans (if using) and dice the crystalized ginger pieces.
  • Set out a large salad bowl. Pour the drained fruit into the bowl. Add the grapes, coconut, marshmallows, pecans, crystalized ginger, sour cream, and cool whip. Add a good pinch of salt and gently mix the salad until everything is well incorporated.
  • Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be made up to 7 days in advance.



I never add the pecans when I’m taking ambrosia salad to parties, in case of nut allergies.
This recipe can be easily doubled.


Serving: 0.5cup, Calories: 172kcal, Carbohydrates: 27g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 6mg, Sodium: 35mg, Potassium: 218mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 23g, Vitamin A: 675IU, Vitamin C: 16.5mg, Calcium: 40mg, Iron: 0.5mg
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Author: Sommer Collier
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