This Cool Whip Ambrosia Salad recipe is about as quick and easy as they come. If you have 5 minutes and 6 ingredients, you can mix up this simple but super delicious low-calorie dessert.
I found the best recipe.
I was flipping through my Mom's old cookbooks yesterday, just looking for something sweet to make. And in between her Better Homes & Gardens and her Joy of Cooking, I found these thin spiral-bound cookbooks. They were dog-eared little recipe collections put together in the 1980s by the members of my Mom's Women's Club.
It was great to see it again because I remember so many of these recipes from when I was a kid.
Some of the recipes are so simple that you'd never find them in a real cookbook. Take poke cake for example. The instructions are "Bake a white box cake. Poke holes in it and pour Jello into the holes. Done." It was ridiculously simple to make, but who cares? Poke Cakes are the height of popularity!
Which brings me to another ridiculously easy dessert: the Cool Whip Fruit Salad, also known as Ambrosia.
💬 About Ambrosia Salad
Ambrosia literally translates to "food of the gods". In today's recipe, that means a mixture of whipped cream, sour cream, marshmallows, pineapple, maraschino cherries, and mandarin oranges. And sometimes coconut.
It was known as the food of the gods because the ingredients used to be so hard to come by. Ever noticed the pineapple motifs in woodwork from centuries past? They used to be much-coveted fruits brought from warmer climes. So a dessert involving pineapple was quite a treat for mere mortals.
A dessert made from Cool Whip and marshmallows doesn't really come to mind when you hear the word salad. So let's just put it in air quotes. Today I'm going to share my recipe for Cool Whip Ambrosia "Fruit Salad". But let's not kid ourselves that it isn't a marshmallow salad.
These are both retro salads, and they have almost exactly the same ingredients, so it's easy to get them mixed up. But the Watergate Salad is a lovely minty green and involves pistachio pudding mix, and Ambrosia Marshmallow Salad does not.
Looking for more fruit salads with whipped cream? Try this Watergate Salad, Mandarin Orange Jello Salad or Jello Fluff Salad. All three classic Cool Whip fruit salad recipes will take you back in time.
- Cool Whip
- Mini Marshmallows
- Pineapple Tidbits
- Mandarin Oranges
- Maraschino Cherries
- Sour Cream or Plain Greek Yogurt
🥥 Coconut? Nuts?
These are optional ingredients that you can mix with the fruit and marshmallows. You can add chopped pecans, chopped walnuts, and/or sweetened shredded coconut to your Cool Whip Fruit Salad. I've gotten some salty comments from people who insist that an Ambrosia Fruit Salad recipe must include shredded coconut, but these people can talk to the hand.
Because I just don't understand.
You start by draining the pineapple, mandarin oranges, and maraschino cherries very well.
Then mix together Cool Whip and sour cream in a large bowl.
Fold in the marshmallows. Fold in the cherries and pineapple. Fold in the mandarin oranges last because they are the most delicate and prone to break.
Finally, you chill the "salad" in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. It's perfectly fine to eat it right after you mix the Cool Whip Ambrosia up, but chilling it gives the marshmallows time to soak up the liquid from the fruit.
🍚 Sugar-Free Options
- I used Sugar-Free Cool Whip when I tested this recipe, but if you compare the nutritional labels of Regular and Sugar-Free, there is just a teeny tiny difference between the two. They both have 3g of carbohydrate, but Sugar-Free Cool Whip has 20 calories and regular has... 25 calories. So either one is fine.
- Buy the pineapples and mandarin orange slices canned in water or juice, rather than syrup to make the recipe as low in sugar as possible. Go for "No Added Sugar" if you can.
- There are no sugar-free maraschino cherries on the market, unfortunately.
- You can buy sugar-free marshmallows on Amazon.
La Nouba Sugar-Free MarshmallowsBuy Now →
⏲️ Quick tips and tricks
- You can swap the sour cream with plain yogurt if you'd like. I've tried making the "salad" both ways and couldn't taste any difference between the two.
- You can use fruit flavored marshmallows for some added color and flavor.
- You can also add 2-3 drops of red or green food color to give it a nice pale pastel look. Just stir the food coloring in after you mix together the Cool Whip and sour cream.
- I put sweetened shredded coconut on the optional add in list, but many people see coconut as one of the main ingredients. So if you are on Team Coconut, you can add in ½ cup of coconut along with the marshmallows and fruit for a little added texture. Or you can just sprinkle a little shredded coconut on top as a garnish.
- You can add in chopped pecans or walnuts if you'd like. Just use ½ cup of one or the other.
- And the elephant in the room: the canned fruit. You are free to use fresh fruit if you like, but in this one instance, canned fruit might even taste better. The juices mix with the whipped topping when it sits in the fridge, and make it extra yummy. But the following fruits will work in this salad: strawberries, bananas, blueberries, grapes, and apples.
- This really is the best Ambrosia Salad recipe to bring to get-togethers (not to brag). It makes a great side dish at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and you will be the toast of any potluck dinner. I bring this to family dinners and am always the belle of the ball.
And that's that. 👩🍳
In just a few minutes, you'll have a super tasty Cool Whip Ambrosia recipe with just 100 calories per serving. After your first bite, you'll see why it ended up in the old beat-up community cookbook. These are all the best recipes from each woman, the ones that always slayed when they brought them to Tupperware parties and potluck dinners. The ones that everybody always wanted the recipe for.
All you need is 6 ingredients and 5 minutes, and you can make yourself Ambrosia, the food of the gods. 🥰Print
Easy Cool Whip Ambrosia Salad
This recipe for Cool Whip Ambrosia Salad is about as quick as they come. If you have 5 minutes and 6 ingredients, you can mix up this simple but super delicious low calorie dessert.
- Prep Time: 5
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: 7 cups 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Chilled
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Low Calorie
- 1 (8oz) tub of Sugar-Free or Regular Cool Whip
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 cups mini marshmallows
- 1 (20oz) can of pineapple tidbits or chunks
- 1 (11oz) jar of maraschino cherries
- 1 (15oz) can of mandarin orange slices
Optional Add Ins:
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ½ cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 2-3 drops food coloring
Step 1. Using a colander or sieve, drain as much of the liquid from the oranges, cherries, and pineapple as you can. Keep the oranges separate from the other fruit because you are going to mix them in last.
Step 2. In a large bowl, mix together Cool Whip and sour cream. Mix in food coloring if you are using it.
Step 3. Carefully fold in the marshmallows, pineapples, and cherries. Fold in mandarin oranges last because they are the most delicate and prone to fall apart. Step 4. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.
- Serving Size: ½ cup
- Calories: 100
- Fat: 2
- Carbohydrates: 21
- Fiber: <1
- Protein: <1
Keywords: Ambrosia Salad, Cool Whip Ambrosia Salad, Easy Ambrosia Salad
📺 Watch the how-to video
If you are looking for another quick fruit and cream recipe, try my Goat Cheese Covered Blackberries.
Nutrition facts are off on this recipe. I went off the zero sugar cool whip, 10 oz cherries, and light sour cream to lower the calories. For a 1 cup serving it's 220 calories 45 carbs 5 fat 30 sugar and 2.6 protein. I love ambrosia salad it takes me back to my childhood. Thanks for your recipe and hope this updated nutrition info helps.
Allyson Gil says
Has anyone ever tried making this with a pkg of jello?? Wondering how it might turn out!
Emily Krill says
I’ve never tried it but my guess would be that it was gritty. But you could make up the Jello according to the package instructions, chill it until just set and whip it into the whipped cream and sour cream before adding the fruit. That should work.
Dana Parker says
I was wondering if inst can you use a sugar free cherry yogurt or even strawberry banana.instead of maricino cherries, can you use a sugar free cherry yogurt or even strawberry banana?
Emily Krill says
Yes, that sounds delicious. I often make this recipe with plain yogurt instead of sour cream. Just replace the sour cream with the cherry yogurt in a 1:1 ratio.
My family loved this recipe. I couldn't stand using all that canned fruit though, so I added some red grapes instead of the maraschino cherries. No one seemed to mind it.
Emily Krill says
Yea, maraschino cherries can be a bit over the top.😊
Should I use unsweetened coconut flakes or sweetened?
Emily Krill says
It's just personal choice. The salad is plenty sweet, so when I've made it with coconut for my friends who like it, I've used unsweetened coconut flakes.
OMG, so good. This is EXACTLY like the Ambrosia fruit salad that my grandmother used to make. She always sprinkled coconut on top touhgh, so I did that too. Thanks for this recipe!
Emily Krill says
Winnie Wiggins says
My great aunt used to make this whenever we would go up to visit. I haven't had this heavily dessert since my childhood (waaay too many years to recall). My Mom and I just happened to come across your site here. And, except for adding a little sweetened coconut, this was my aunt's recipe! I'm so grateful to you for posting this. I'm heading to the store tomorrow to get the ingredients!! Can't WAIT to taste this delicious, heavenly dessert once again. Thank you!
Emily Krill says
Yay! No problem. 😊
Girl - Thank you So Much for this recipe. ...I am trying to replicate the Ambrosia my aunt made when I was growing up. I remember the Cool Whip. I don't remember sour cream being in the recipe but that could just be because I don't remember. My aunt used pineapple, mandarin oranges, maraschino cherries and of course marshmallows. Can't wait for Thanksgiving! xx
Thank you so much for this message! So happy this recipe reminds you of your aunt’s Ambrosia Salad.
Trying to remember how my mother-in law made Ambrosia. I added a drained can of fruit cocktail and an extra cup of marshmallows.
Sprinkled 1/2 c sweetened shredded coconut on top. Yum!
It really looks delicious. Can’t wait to eat some.
Can’t go wrong with more marshmallows! Hope you like it.😊