Ambrosia Salad – Eating Bird Food


Ambrosia salad is a classic recipe loaded with pineapple, mandarin oranges and coconut all tossed in a creamy, fluffy dressing with marshmallows. It’s the perfect side dish (or dessert) for potlucks and holiday meals!

I love recreating classic salads that I grew up with. I’ve shared a healthy watergate salad, which was a favorite of mine as a kid and today I’m sharing another fave… ambrosia salad.

My mom would always make ambrosia salad for the holidays and I would gobble it right up. I mean what kid wouldn’t love marshmallows in their salad?!

This version I’m sharing today still has the same flavor and creaminess as I remember, it’s just a tad healthier as I skipped the whipped topping and used Greek yogurt instead.

What is Ambrosia Salad?

Ambrosia salad is a classic Southern fruit “salad” that instantly takes me back to my childhood. If you didn’t grow up in the south you might be wondering what the heck ambrosia salad is, so let me fill you in real fast.

This fruit salad originated in the South, but the name “ambrosia” comes from Greek and Roman mythology. It means “nectar of the gods” and was also associated with immortality. While this dish can’t promise immortality it can promise divine flavor.

Ambrosia salad is typically made with canned pineapple, mandarin oranges, mini marshmallows, whipped cream, sour cream, coconut and cherries. I’ve also seen some variations made with cottage cheese, mayo, vanilla pudding, nuts and other varieties of fruit. No matter the variation, the basis of ambrosia salad remains the same… it’s a creamy, sweet fruit salad. And the real question… is is a dessert? A snack? A side? We always served it as a side dish for holidays, but it can be whatever you want it to be. That’s up for you to decide!

A serving of ambrosia salad on a small plate with a metal spoon.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Easy to make: You only need 6 simple ingredients and less than 10 minutes of prep time to make this ambrosia salad.
  • Family Favorite: This is a classic recipe that has stood the test of time!
  • Healthier Recreation: This version is made with Greek yogurt instead of whipped cream, which adds a bit of protein and nutrients.
  • Perfect for Gatherings: It’s a great dish to bring to potlucks or for holiday meals like Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.
Ingredients measured out to make Healthy Ambrosia Salad: canned pineapple, shredded coconut, canned mandarin oranges, maraschino cherries, plain Greek yogurt and mini marshmallows.

Ingredients & Substitutions

  • pineapple – a must for ambrosia salad! Opt for either crushed pineapple or pineapple tid-bits in the can with juice. Just don’t forget to drain it otherwise your salad will turn out watery.
  • mandarin oranges – another classic ingredient! Again, be sure they are well-drained to keep the texture of the salad just right.
  • shredded coconut – you can choose between sweetened or unsweetened, based on your sweetness preference. I usually lean towards unsweetened shredded coconut to avoid making this dish too sugary. My favorite brand is Bob’s Red Mill shredded coconut.
  • mini marshmallows – these add a fun, fluffy texture to the mix. You can stick to the classic white marshmallows or jazz things up with fruity-fun marshmallows for added color and flavor.
  • yogurt or sour cream – this is where the creaminess comes into play. The choice between Greek yogurt and sour cream depends on your preference for tanginess. Greek yogurt is a bit tangier and lighter, while sour cream offers a richer consistency. If you’d like, you could add a flavored yogurt like vanilla yogurt to enhance the flavors of this salad.
  • maraschino cherries – not just for looks, these add a burst of sweetness and make the salad pop visually. They’re perfect for topping and turning your dish into a festive treat.
Side by side photos of the ingredients to make Healthy Ambrosia Salad in a bowl, before and after being mixed.

How to Make Ambrosia Salad

Prep: Start by draining the canned fruit. This ensures your salad isn’t too watery.

Combine: In a large bowl, combine the pineapple tidbits, mandarin oranges, shredded coconut, mini marshmallows and your choice of Greek yogurt or sour cream. It’s important to fold the mixture gently. This keeps the fruit and marshmallows intact and ensures everything is evenly coated without becoming mushy.

Chill: Once mixed, cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour. This step is crucial as it lets the flavors meld and intensify.

Serve: When you’re ready to serve, take the bowl out and give it a quick stir. Garnish your salad with maraschino cherries and an extra sprinkle of shredded coconut for added texture and visual appeal.

Ambrosia salad in a large bowl with a metal spoon topped with shredded coconut, cherries, and mini marshmallows.


Every household seems to have its unique twist on ambrosia salad. This recipe I’m sharing today is based on my family’s recipe and I love it as is, but feel free to make this recipe your own! Here are some ideas:

  • Use different fruit: Want to add in different fruit? Go for it! Grapes, bananas and strawberries are other common fruits that you might see in ambrosia salad.
  • Add some crunch: For some added crunch and flavor, mix in chopped walnuts, pecans or toasted almonds.
  • Add whipped topping: Add a dollop of whipped cream or cool whip to give this salad a creamier, fluffier consistency.
  • Add cottage cheese: As an alternative to yogurt or sour cream, cottage cheese offers a unique texture and protein boost.
  • Pudding: Adding a packet of vanilla or coconut-flavored instant pudding (just the powder) can give the salad a richer taste and creamier texture.
A serving of ambrosia salad on a small plate with a metal spoon.

Recipe Tips

  • Don’t forget to drain your fruit: Don’t skip this otherwise your salad will turn out too watery.
  • Mix gently: When mixing everything together make sure to fold the mixture gently to ensure that the fruit and marshmallows stay in tact and don’t become mushy.
  • Be patient: I know it might be hard, but make sure you let this salad chill for at least an hour to let the salad set and the flavors meld together.

How to Store

Leftover ambrosia salad should be covered and kept in the fridge for 3-4 days.

It’s a great make-ahead dish to serve at parties! Just follow the recipe, store it in your fridge, and take it out when you’re ready to serve.

More Classic Recipes to Try

Be sure to check out all of my salad recipes here on EBF!

  • In a large mixing bowl, add the drained pineapple, drained mandarin oranges, shredded coconut, mini marshmallows and Greek yogurt (or sour cream).

  • Gently fold all the ingredients together until the fruit and marshmallows are evenly coated.

  • Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. This chilling time allows the flavors to meld together.

  • Just before serving, you can garnish with a few maraschino cherries and a sprinkle of shredded coconut if you like.

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 185kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 23mg | Potassium: 164mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 22g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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