Hawaiian Ambrosia Fruit Salad

A white bowl of fluffy dreamy Ambrosia fruit salad garnished with maraschino cherries on a light blue background.

Say Aloha to this Hawaii-inspired Ambrosia Fruit Salad made with whipped topping, coconut, and tropical fruits. It’s THE classic recipe for creating the creamy dessert salad that everyone knows and loves.

Vintage recipes are classics for a reason. They are popular recipes that home cooks depend on, year after year. They may start out as a fad but because they evoke such vivid food memories, they stay in our hearts and minds forever. Recipes like Homemade Tapioca Pudding and Turkey Pot Pie are vintage recipes that do double duty as comfort foods. What is your favourite vintage recipe?

A white bowl of fluffy dreamy Ambrosia fruit salad garnished with maraschino cherries on a light blue background.

Hawaiian Ambrosia Fruit Salad

The first time I tried Ambrosia Fruit Salad at Christmas dinner, I thought had hit the jackpot. One taste of this dreamy, cloud like ‘salad’ at nine years of age and I was in heaven. Forty years later, I’m still in love.

Vintage recipes sometimes have a habit of fading away, then coming back into popularity. At our ‘friendsgiving’ potluck this year, a friend brought his version of Ambrosia salad and everyone, including me, was thrilled! I was then inspired to share my Ambrosia fruit salad recipe with you.

A white bowl of fluffy dreamy Ambrosia fruit salad garnished with maraschino cherries on a light blue background.

You will adore the contrasting flavours of the tropical fruit in sweet, whipped cream and… the MARSHMALLOWS! My goodness, the mini marshmallows give this ambrosial fruit salad its signature texture and flavour.

Why is it Called Ambrosia Salad?

In the context of this salad, both definitions of Ambrosial apply. Ambrosia fruit salad is ‘exceptionally pleasing to taste or smell; especially delicious or fragrant’ and ‘heavenly; being worthy of the gods’.

So, what makes it ‘Hawaiian’? This dreamy, creamy fruit salad doesn’t come from the islands of Hawaii, per se. It contains pineapple tidbits and sweetened shredded coconut, both ingredients that evoke memories of a tropical island, such as Hawaii. It takes you away on a tropical culinary adventure.

Ingredients required to make an Ambrosia fruit salad.

Variations on a Classic

Over the years, there have been many recipe variations on this classic recipe. In my family alone, there’s one that contains cans of fruit cocktail and another that contains sour cream, along with the whipped topping.

Other variations may include crushed pecans, chocolate chips or fruits such as bananas, or strawberries. The creamy dressing may also include mayonnaise, cream cheese, pudding, yogurt or even cottage cheese.

Then, there’s the famous Watergate Salad which contains pistachio pudding in addition to the whipped topping. That’s a vintage recipe for another day!

A series of process images showing how to make an Ambrosia fruit salad.

Ambrosia Fruit Salad Ingredients

When I make this salad at home, I always include the signature maraschino cherries as garnish but when I was a kid, they were part of the salad. I always felt like I had won a prize when I found more than one cherry in my serving of salad!

  • Mandarin Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Pineapple Chunks
  • Maraschino Cherries
  • Sweetened Shredded Coconut
  • Whipped Topping
  • Milk
Three white bowls of fluffy dreamy Ambrosia fruit salad on a light blue background.

No matter how you serve it, this ethereal fruit salad must contain, at bare minimum, pineapple, mandarin oranges, grapes, and coconut. You can also add strawberries and bananas to the mixture if you prefer. I prefer a chunkier salad, so I use a can of pineapple chunks instead of tidbits.

Since this is a Hawaiian ambrosia salad, you can add lychee, passion fruit, dragon fruit, mango, or papaya for even more tropical flavour.

Three white bowls of fluffy dreamy Ambrosia fruit salad on a light blue background.

Some recipes call for the grapes to be peeled, but who has time for that?! I always say, keep it simple and keep it easy. This is one of those easy recipes and it doesn’t need to be complicated. You can use either green or red grapes (or a combination of the two) for this recipe.

You can use either shredded coconut or coconut flakes in this salad, if they are sweetened. I prefer the smaller size as it is less intrusive and more of a background flavour. If you want to get fancy, you can toast the coconut first.

Three white bowls of fluffy dreamy Ambrosia fruit salad on a light blue background.

As mentioned earlier, the creamy dressing may also include mayonnaise, cream cheese, pudding, yogurt or even cottage cheese. I have kept the recipe simple with a tub of whipped topping (Cool Whip) thinned out with a touch of milk. You can substitute real (sweetened) whipped cream if you prefer.

How to Make Ambrosia Fruit Salad

All you need to make this ambrosia salad recipe is a large bowl, a medium bowl, a spoon, and a can opener.

Since you are using mostly canned fruits in this recipe, it is important to thoroughly drain them beforehand, especially the mandarin oranges as they can contain a lot of moisture. Otherwise, the dressing may turn watery instead of light and creamy.

A white bowl of fluffy dreamy Ambrosia fruit salad garnished with maraschino cherries on a light blue background.

To begin, place the 2 cups sweetened coconut, drained mandarins and pineapple, grapes, and marshmallows in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the whipped topping and tablespoon of milk together until the mixture is smooth and slightly thinner.

Next, add the whipped topping mixture to the fruit bowl and mix until well combined. Cover and refrigerate the for at least an hour to allow the flavours to develop. During this time, the marshmallows will soak up some of the moisture and begin to soften.

A spoonful of Ambrosia fruit salad above a bowl of the same salad.

Simply garnish with maraschino cherries before serving. Or, for best presentation, arrange extra mandarin oranges, marshmallows, or pineapple slices in a pattern, along with the cherries before serving.

This salad will keep in the fridge for up to five days. In the summer, you can freeze it overnight in a glass baking dish, then scoop and serve it as a fruity ice cream.

Pinterest image featuring bowls of Ambrosia fruit salad garnished with bright red maraschino cherries.

If you make this Hawaiian Ambrosia Fruit Salad recipe, please be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Pinterest for my latest recipes. Also, if you do make this recipe please tag me on Instagram, I’d love to see what you guys are making! Thank you so much for reading my blog.

Yield: 6 servings

Hawaiian Ambrosia Fruit Salad

A white bowl of fluffy dreamy Ambrosia fruit salad on a light blue background.

Vintage recipe alert! Try this Hawaii-inspired Ambrosia Fruit Salad made with whipped topping, coconut, and tropical fruits. It's THE classic recipe for creating the creamy dessert salad that everyone knows and loves.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shredded, sweetened coconut
  • 2 cups mini white marshmallows
  • 1 (11 oz) can mandarins; drained
  • 1 cup pineapple chunks; drained
  • 1 cup green grapes
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen whipped topping; thawed
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
  • 1 cup maraschino cherries

Instructions

  1. To a large mixing bowl, add the 2 cups coconut, drained mandarins and pineapple, grapes, and marshmallows.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the whipped topping and tablespoon of milk together until the mixture becomes smooth.
  3. Add the whipped topping mixture to the fruit bowl and mix until well combined.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Garnish with marashino cherries before serving.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving:Calories: 335Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 102mgCarbohydrates: 57gFiber: 4gSugar: 46gProtein: 2g

Nutritional calculation was provided by Nutritionix and is an estimation only. For special diets or medical issues please use your preferred calculator.

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13 comments

  1. Amy Liu Dong

    This is so easy and delicious.
    The perfect dessert to make for Christmas!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      It’s one of our favourites, such a classic!

  2. Karen

    This was amazing! My family loves a good fluff salad- I tried this and everyone loved it. Will make again!

    Reply

  3. Tina

    I love the Gawain twist to the ambrosia salad! Can’t wait to make it for a party.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Thank you so much Tina! Happy Holidays!

  4. megane

    Oh, gosh I remember this salad. Now I know how to make it too. Cheers.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      It’s an oldie, but a goodie!

  5. Swathi

    Ambrosia salad looks delicious. Perfect side for holiday meal. I am going to add it to my menu. Thanks for the recipe.

    Reply

  6. Marcellina

    I totally agree! I feel as though I’ve won when I get two or more maraschino cherries in my serving! Great tip to freeze this salad to serve as a fruity ice cream. I’ll be trying that!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      It’s such a treat! Thanks for stopping by and Merry Christmas Marcellina.

  7. Dee Broughton

    I love ambrosia salad! I used to make it for my daughter all of the time so thanks for making me feel nostalgic! Ha!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      You are so welcome! I love hearing about everyone’s food nostalgia.

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