Southern Ambrosia is a quick, easy, and refreshing side dish or dessert. The simple ingredients and recipe make this a trusty crowd-pleaser for any table.
Ambrosia. Ambrosia Salad. Southern Ambrosia Salad. It goes by a few different names. The folks over at Merriam-Webster say the word ambrosia means “food of the gods.” And I’ll say, I have to agree.
This sweet fruit salad (gotta love a place that calls dessert a salad, right?) is a perfect potluck recipe. You won’t find many summer soirees down South without some variation of this stuff on the menu. It’s a sweet – and somehow still light – dish that’s perfect for cooling off in the sweltering heat down this way.
What is Southern Ambrosia?
Southern Ambrosia is a true Southern side or dessert dish. This fruit salad features a combination of fruits mixed with whipped cream or marshmallows or both. Different recipes may also call for sour cream, pecans, and other ingredients, such as cherries. The most common fruits found in ambrosia are oranges, pineapple, and shredded coconut.
Southern Ambrosia is served chilled and as a side or dessert. This is especially popular during the hot summer months at potlucks and other gatherings. It is one of those potluck dishes that just can’t go wrong.
What’s Ambrosia Salad made of?
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to ambrosia salad ingredients. For example, this recipe varies a bit from the one in my cookbook because, well honestly, my tastes have changed over the years. I really like the sour cream in this version as it brings down the sweetness a little.
You can change up your ingredients based on what you have on hand and what you like. Generally, however, most all ambrosia salads feature a fruit base (usually oranges and pineapples at least) with a white creamy substance mixed in, like sour cream, whipped cream, or yogurt.
The rest is up to you! Go wild and enjoy!
Variations and Alternatives
Sour Cream or Yogurt – You honestly don’t have to use either. However, for this recipe, I like to incorporate sour cream. You could absolutely use a plain yogurt or even a vanilla yogurt for added sweetness and protein.
Pecans or No Pecans – I didn’t include pecans in the recipe I have featured in my cookbook. However, who doesn’t like a few pecans thrown in, right? For even more flavor, give the pecans a toast before adding them to the salad. Just bake them on a rimmed baking sheet in an oven at about 350°F until they’re fragrant – usually about 5 minutes. Then, allow them to cool before adding to the mix.
Cool Whip or Whipped Cream – If whipped topping (A.K.A. Cool Whip) is your foe, you can certainly use fresh whipped cream in this recipe. Nevertheless, I find that the whipped topping holds up a bit better being that this dish really benefits from a little time in the fridge to allow the flavors to meld before serving. If you go the fresh route, you’ll need to whip about 1 1/2 cups of whipping cream with 5 tablespoons of powdered sugar until stiff peaks, then use as the recipe calls. Just beware that some of the fruit juices can cause it to break down.
- 1 (20-ounce) can pineapple tidbits in juice
- 1 (15-ounce) can mandarin oranges
- 1 (10-ounce) jar maraschino cherries
- 1 (8-ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
- 1 cup mini marshmallows
- 1/3 cup chopped pecans
- Drain the pineapple and the orange segments very well. Set aside.
- Drain the cherries and slice each one in half. Rinse the cherries well and allow to drain. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix together the whipped topping and the sour cream. Add in the coconut and mini marshmallows. Fold in the drained pineapple, oranges, and cherries. Add the pecans and gently stir to combine. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour before serving.
* If nutritional values are provided, they are an estimate and will vary depending on the brands used. The values do not include optional ingredients or when ingredients are added to taste. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, I recommend grabbing your favorite brands and plugging those ingredients into an online nutritional calculator.