All About Ambrosia

Ah, ambrosia, food of the gods. Usually served with nectar, tipple of the gods.

I somehow suspect that it is not that ambrosia that they meant Ambrosia Day (Dec. 12) to celebrate. No, I believe that it is a day devoted to ambrosia the fruit salad, staple of the Southern table. Not as lofty sounding perhaps but certainly more accessible to those of us not numbered among the deities.


Now as a matter of personal preference, I tend to stay away from salads that contain marshmallows but that put me firmly in the minority growing up (it’s a very Southern thing, you see). Still, you must make up your own mind about it.

Ambrosia Salad

  • 2 cans pineapple chunks
  • 2 cans mandarin oranges
  • 2 jars maraschino cherries
  • 1 can coconut flakes
  • 1/2 bag mini marshmallows
  • 4 oz. sour cream
  • 8-10 oz. Cool Whip – and honestly, it really MUST be Cool Whip if you want to ensure the Southern integrity of the thing. And no ‘Southern integrity’ is not an oxymoron. Keep that up and there will be no honey-dipped fried chicken or jambalaya for your later on.

Drain the fruit and set aside. Combine sour cream and Cool Whip. Fold in all other ingredients. Chill covered for at least 2 hours.

A few notes:

Like all dishes that are more assembly job than actual recipe, the proportions are up to you. Want more pineapple than mandarins? Use 3 cans of pineapple and 1 of mandarin. Want to use clementines instead of mandarins or in addition to mandarins? Go for it. Want some crunch? Throw in some pecans. Don’t want QUITE that much whipped dressing? Use less. This is a bespoke dessert salad and completely up to you.

coolwhipI can still hear some of you muttering about the Cool Whip thing. And I get it, I really do. Firstly, it isn’t available everywhere – which will come as a shock to the same people who are shocked that Crisco isn’t available everywhere. Secondly, I know quite a few people are a bit ‘meh’ about Cool Whip even if they can get it – not being keen on the whole ‘artificial’ whipped cream thing. In fact, they can’t even call it whipped cream. They call it whipped topping. Me? I’m not fussy – but then I sucked the nitrous oxide out of Reddi-Wip cans during high school so my whipped topping standards used to be pretty low.

So if you can’t get it – or don’t want to use it, that’s OK. I’m happy to break with traditions. After all, I just mentioned jettisoning the marshmallows and in some circles, that would get me run out of town. Just whip up – no pun intended – some sweetened whipped topping of your own then proceed with the assembly job described above.

DIY Ambrosia Whip:

  • 2 cups heavy/double whipping cream
  • Between a quarter and half a cup powdered/confectioners’ sugar

Place the cream and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and whip until stiff peaks are formed. Add the sour cream and whisk to combine.


The amount of powdered sugar you use will depend on how thick you want your whipped cream. If you’re looking to make a Cool Whip substitute, the thicker/firmer the better.

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