Ambrosia Salad

You may not actually know the name of this “salad”, but it’s that one with usually fruit and marshmallows and jello probably in a creamy base. Good ones have a variety of fruit and some coconut. Bad ones are mostly incredibly sweet creamy fluff with marshmallows and jello and if you’re lucky some fruit.

I had a craving so we made some for the family holiday party after I found a Serious Eats article about the history of it.

The short version is that originally – in the 1800s in the south of the United States – it was just fresh citrus, shredded coconut and a bit of sugar. Those ingredients would all be seasonal or rare treats then, even if now they are ubiquitous and often available year round. The marshmallows and creamy base came later. The cream base is varyingly cream, marshmallow fluff, cool-whip, sour cream, mayonnaise (!) or a mixture, often along with jello. Maraschino cherries, nuts and marshmallows pieces are also more modern.

So I decided I should make some. And I would wing it and not follow a recipe (aside from this argument) because how hard could it be? No jello or marshmallow but maraschino cherries were always my favorite so they stay in.


  • Three navel oranges, segments cut into chunks. I didn’t supreme them (removing all the membrane bits) but did remove as much pith as I could tolerate and tried to remove seeds and really tough parts.
  • Three satsumas (“mandarin” oranges) opened up with again pith and stringy bits removed. These I didn’t cut up.
  • Three 10oz cans of pineapple chunks in juice (not syrup). I had no patience for cutting up fresh pineapple. I drained the juice to save for the child but then it got lost in the festivities.
  • A couple cups of sweetened shredded coconut. Originally I was going to use unsweetened and sugar separately per the article, but the store only had sweetened.
  • A smallish jar worth of marischino cherries. I cut these in half so they’d go further (no syrup used).
  • Fresh cream whipped with a touch of he pineapple juice

I actually prepped as I went but here’s the approximate steps using these ingredients:

  1. Put cut up navel oranges in serving bowl.
  2. Add satsuma segments.
  3. Sprinkle some coconut around.
  4. Add pineapple.
  5. Add cherries and sprinkle more coconut around.
  6. Sprinkle some more coconut on top.
  7. Whip cream and serve on the side.

It was delicious and exactly what I was craving despite not having jello or marshmallow.