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Easy Ambrosia Salad

Grandma’s easy ambrosia salad is a creamy fruit salad filled with coconut, pineapple, mandarin oranges, marshmallows and more. This family favorite is my go-to easy fruit salad recipes!

If your family loves nostalgic salads that can also be a side dish or dessert, other favorites include watergate salad, cranberry salad and strawberry pretzel salad!

Ambrosia salad in a bowl.
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Grandma’s Ambrosia Salad

Easy ambrosia salad is a classic dessert like pineapple upside down cake that’s perfect for any holiday gathering! It’s a sweet and creamy salad made with pineapple, mandarin oranges, shredded coconut, mini marshmallows, and whipped cream cheese.

This ambrosia salad is a family recipe that’s very dear to me. It came from my Grandma (along with my homemade caramels and divinity candy recipe) and now my kid’s love it too! It’s just as refreshing as my honey lime fruit salad or berry fruit salad

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Easy to make. With only 6 ingredients and 5 minutes prep time, this salad is so simple!
  • A holiday classic. It’s a family favorite that has been served for years at Easter, Christmas or Mother’s Day. It’s fresh light texture and pretty pastel color makes it great for spring and summer!


All you need are a few simple ingredients to make this delicious ambrosia salad recipe!

Ambrosia salad ingredients on counter.
  • Cream cheese: This is the base of the fruit salad that adds a creamy texture.
  • Mandarin oranges: Drain the mandarin orange slices so they doesn’t water the salad down.
  • Pineapple: I like to use a combination of pineapple tidbits and crushed pineapple (drain as much juice as you can).
  • Mini marshmallows: Love the sweetness these add. Fruit-flavored marshmallows are fun and festive!
  • Coconut: This could be omitted if you don’t love it, but I enjoy the flavor and texture it adds.

Substitutions and Variations

  • For a lighter version, try mixing together 8 ounces Cool whip or whipped cream with 6 ounces Greek yogurt. I like to use vanilla yogurt.
  • Add in more fruit like strawberries, blueberries, green grapes, peaches or bananas, depending on what’s in season.
  • To add a crunch, mix in some nuts like chopped pecans.
  • You can substitute cream cheese with sour cream if preferred. Sometimes I’ll do half and half.
  • If you love cherries, feel free to fold in as many maraschino cherries as you’d like.

How to Make Ambrosia Salad

Showing how to make ambrosia salad in a 4 step collage.
  • Mix. Whip the cream cheese in a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer or stand mixer.
  • Add. Then fold in the drained fruit, marshmallows and coconut.
  • Chill. Cover and let chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour prior to serving.
  • Serve. Serve as a salad, side dish or dessert.

Recipe Tips

  • Softened cream cheese. Be sure to soften your cream cheese so it whips easily without any lumps.
  • Drain fruit. Drain your canned fruit really well otherwise the salad will be too watery and runny.
  • Combine gently. I like to use a spatula to fold in the fruit and marshmallows so they stay intact and don’t break and get mushy.
  • Don’t skip chilling the salad. Ambrosia salad is best made ahead so be patient while the flavors meld together for at least an hour or two.
Ambrosia salad.

Recipe FAQs

What’s ambrosia salad made of?

It is typically made with canned pineapple, mandarin oranges, coconut and marshmallows.

Why is it called ambrosia salad?

This salad originated in the American south and has since made its way across the midwest as a popular holiday or potluck food. You may even hear it called 5-cup salad, 5-cup fruit salad, Southern ambrosia, picnic salad or marshmallow salad to name a few.

The word ‘ambrosia’ is a reference to the food of the gods in Greek mythology and roughly translates to mean ‘nectar of the gods’. With it’s juicy fruits, it is no wonder the salad is called this!

Can you make ambrosia salad a day head?

One of the main questions I get about this recipe is if you can make it a day ahead. The answer is yes!

It needs to chill in the refrigerator before serving anyways, so that the salad forms and the flavors marinate together. If making a day ahead, I would just drain some of the liquid the next day and stir very well before serving. We love to make this ahead as a recipe to bring to a BBQ!

How to store ambrosia salad?

As long of you keep leftovers of this classic ambrosia in the fridge covered in an airtight container it should not go bad and will last around three days.

Ambrosia salad in a bowl.

Other fruity recipes we love include salad with mandarin oranges and mandarin orange pretzel parfait! This fruit dip recipe is great to include on a fruit platter.

More Fruit Salad Recipes

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Ambrosia salad in a glass bowl.

Ambrosia Salad Recipe

5 from 24 votes
↑ Click stars to rate now!
Author: Jamielyn Nye
Grandma's ambrosia salad filled with fresh coconut, pineapple, marshmallows and more. So creamy and absolutely delicious. This family favorite is one of my go-to easy fruit salad recipes!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Refrigerate: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 12



  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese , softened
  • 2 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges , drained
  • 1 (20-ounce) can pineapple tid bits , drained
  • 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple , drained
  • 2-3 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup shredded coconut


  • In a large bowl, whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy with an electric mixer.
  • Using a rubber spatula, fold in the oranges, pineapple, marshmallows, and coconut.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving.


  • Can substitute 1 block cream cheese with sour cream if preferred.
  • To add a crunch, mix in some chopped nuts.
  • When in season add fresh peaches or berries. 
  • Add in some orange zest for an extra boost of fresh flavor.
  • If you love cherries, feel free to fold in some maraschino cherries.
Make-ahead: Prepare as directed, then store in an airtight container in the fridge overnight. Right before serving, drain some of the liquid and stir very well. 


Calories: 162kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 0.2mg | Sodium: 12mg | Potassium: 246mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 403IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 37mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American

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