Best Ambrosia Salad {No Cool Whip} #SundaySupper

My great grandmother’s fruit salad always graced our holiday table. For a delicious alternative, my Best Ambrosia Salad is incredibly delicious! And as a bonus, there’s no Cool Whip in the dreamy dressing.

The Best Ambrosia Salad {No Cool Whip} | A dreamy fruit and coconut salad with marshmallows and pecans.

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Best Ambrosia Salad

My first exposure to an ambrosia salad was in college.  When I was living in the dorms as a freshman, I’d hit the cafeteria for at least one meal a day. Occasionally, they’d have this creamy, fruit laden salad with coconut and marshmallows. Once I discovered ambrosia, I was in love!

Living with coconut averse family, I never had an occasion to make it at home. It was time. High time. And, surprise, this was way better than that most basic version I ate as a coed!The Best Ambrosia Salad {No Cool Whip} | A dreamy fruit and coconut salad with marshmallows and pecans.

How to Kick Your Ambrosia Salad up a Notch

Though a little foggy, my memories of that first ambrosia salad’s ingredients included mandarin oranges, pineapple, marshmallows, coconut and some sort of whipped cream dressing. After researching and hunting for an ambrosia without Cool Whip, I saw a variety of ingredient options. So, I selected my favorites.

  • A combination of sweetened whipped cream and sour cream provided the creamy dressing (from Alton Brown’s version). Not much sugar was needed since the marshmallows would add more sweetness.
  • I used both canned and fresh fruit: canned pineapple tidbits, canned mandarin oranges, bagged coconut, fresh grapes, and a jar of maraschino cherries. Mini-marshmallows and pecans were classic additions I included as well.
  • So many recipes used Cool Whip, and though I’ve definitely enjoyed those kinds of ambrosia in the past, but I loved this no Cool Whip version so much more!

The Best Ambrosia Salad {No Cool Whip} | A dreamy fruit and coconut salad with marshmallows and pecans.

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Best Ambrosia Salad {No Cool Whip} #SundaySupper

Serves 6     adjust servings

Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 mins



  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup mandarin orange slices, drained
  • 1 cup pineapple tidbits, drained
  • 1 cup fresh green (or red) seedless grapes, halved if large
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1 8.25 jar maraschino cherries, drained and rinsed (mine were bourbon soaked)


In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream with the sugar until stiff peaks form. Beat in the sour cream until smooth.

Add all the rest of the ingredients except for the cherries, and use a rubber spatula to mix. Mix in the cherries.

Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.


Recipe Notes

Recipe adapted from Alton Brown.

Feel free to use the whole can of mandarin oranges and pineapple in this recipe.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving As Served
Calories 449kcal Calories from fat 243
% Daily Value
Total Fat 27g 42%
Saturated Fat 15g 75%
Cholesterol 37mg 12%
Sodium 44mg 2%
Carbohydrate 54g 18%
Dietary Fiber 5g 20%
Sugars 41g
Protein 4g

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs:

Calories 2000
Total Fat Less than 65g
Sat Fat Less than 25g
Cholesterol Less than 300mg
Sodium Less than 2,400mg
Total Carbohydrate 300g
Dietary Fiber 25g
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The Best Ambrosia Salad {No Cool Whip} | A dreamy fruit and coconut salad with marshmallows and pecans.

The Sunday Supper Movement is committed to bringing our readers delicious recipes that encourage them to gather and eat together around the family table. Search for your favorite ingredients on our Sunday Supper website. Also check out the Sunday Supper Pinterest boards for plenty more ideas and inspiration.


  1. I have never had a Ambrosia salad…actually have never heard of it.. Looks so colourful and delicious, Liz.

  2. This is how my mom made hers no cool whip always with sour cream and heavy cream.. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your beautiful family. This brought back a big smile of memories for me.

  3. Liz, that´s the first I have heard of Ambrosia Salad – it looks delightful and delicious and perfectly suited for a Holiday spread! Creamy, fruity, colorful and very pretty!
    Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!!!

  4. Glad you skipped the cool whip! I need to try it this way!

  5. I’ve heard of ambrosia salad but admit wasn’t entirely sure what went in it. Love how colorful it is.

  6. Ambrosia was a constant on my grandmother’s holiday menu but the Louisiana version omits the creamy component. It was basically just a big fruit salad. I need to try your version, Liz! More like dessert with the whipped and sour cream!

  7. I could probably eat my weight in this 🙂 !!

  8. I remember having this kind of salad a lot back in those days as well. Sometimes this was served in hollowed out pineapple boats for luau day. Besides the Alton Brown version where he adds the sour cream, I have also seen it with mayonnaise as the salads leaned more towards Waldorf salad end of the spectrum, but there are many variations. I’m still trying to recall how a certain cheese ambrosia salad went in my memory. It is about the only one that seems to escape me. Maybe it has been too long. But trying to reach back and get it is part of the cooking fun! I love ambosia!

  9. This is on my Thanksgiving table Thursday for sure! A classic everyone loves but I’ve never made it myself, now I have a recipe. Thank you!

  10. This is exactly the way my family likes our holiday ambrosia! So delicious!

  11. What a lovely looking treat. I’ve never seen Ambrosia salad in the UK, probably because we don’t sell cool whip. But this version is something I can make here and enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving Liz 🙂

  12. That is so pretty! I think I’m going to try this on Thursday. I think my family will really like this and I’ve never had it before. I’m somewhat embarrassed about that! Great post!

  13. Such a pretty side dish… And with a cherry on top:@)

  14. I could eat a tub of Cool Whip on its own. Just kidding. I’ve tried, and I cant.

  15. This brings back memories for me also. My mom used to make it and I don’t recall having since I was a teenager. I need to bring back this tradition but I’m sure there will be a few picky eaters whose portion I will gladly take.


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