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

Best Ambrosia Salad {No Cool Whip}

Home » 125+ Best Salad Recipes » Best Ambrosia Salad {No Cool Whip}

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.

This Fruit Salad Recipe is a bit of a splurge as far as salads go, but a perfectly tasty recipe for your Thanksgiving or Christmas table!

The Best Ambrosia Salad {No Cool Whip} in a white ceramic bowl


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 a coconut averse family, I never had an occasion to make it at home. It was time. High time. And, surprise, this  fruit salad recipe was way better than that most basic version I ate as a coed!

The Best Ambrosia Salad {No Cool Whip} in two small white bowls

Tips for Making Ambrosia Salad

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 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 provide additional sweetness.
  • I used both canned and fresh fruit: canned pineapple tidbits, canned mandarin oranges, bagged coconut, fresh grapes, and a jar of maraschino cherries. Add or eliminate ingredients according to your preference!
  • Mini-marshmallows and pecans are classic additions I included as well. Toast, then cool your pecans if you’d like to enhance their flavor.
  • The maraschino cherries will bleed and color the dressing pink. To avoid that, place your cherries on paper toweling to dry the excess juices, and mix in just before serving. 
  • I only used part of the cans of mandarin oranges and pineapple. Feel free to add all the fruit so you don’t have to deal with leftover canned fruit.
  • 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} in a white ceramic bowl surrounded by grapes, marshmallows and orange segments

More Festive Salads You’ll Love:

There are certain salads I seem to reserve for the holidays. The term salad usually conjures up visions of lettuce or other greens tossed with a creamy or vinegar-based dressing and other ingredients. But rules are broken during the holidays and salads which include marshmallows and whipped cream dressings are acceptable fare!


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

Best Ambrosia Salad {No Cool Whip}

The classic fruit salad made without Cool Whip!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Yield 6


  • 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 adapted from Alton Brown.

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

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 387Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 34mgSodium: 73mgCarbohydrates: 50gFiber: 4gSugar: 38gProtein: 3g


Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Note: This post may contain affiliate links; view my Disclosure Policy for details. I earn a small percentage from any purchase you make by clicking on these links at no extra cost to you.

29 comments on “Best Ambrosia Salad {No Cool Whip}”

  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.

  16. this is a salad I will never get tired of I absolutely love it! Yours looks marvelous!

  17. I have to give this a try! 

  18. Such a fun recipe. I have to make it soon!

  19. one of my families favorites

  20. I love that this is an *actually good* ambrosia salad. Great ingredients!

  21. Love this version with whipped cream and sour cream.

  22. My family LOOOOOOOVES this!!

  23. This salad looks really amazing! Would love to give it a try!

  24. This is a must-make for the holidays!

  25. This no Cool Whip version is our fave!

  26. We make this all the time and love it!

  27. Tried and true recipe that is delicious every time.

  28. I give this recipe 10 10 10! Love it, Liz!

  29. Delicious and perfect for summer entertaining!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.