Holiday Fruit Salad with Marshmallows has been part of our family holidays for decades. In fact, this sweet side dish recipe originates from my great-grandmother, a sweet petite Irish woman (who barely hit 4 feet, 8 inches) who loved to sip a glass of wine and spin a tale.
The Origin of this Holiday Fruit Salad
My great-grandmother left this world at age 92, when I was in 3rd grade, but she has lived on through her stories, which were well known to be a mix of fact and fiction, and her fabulous recipes. My mom and her sister would stop by Dama’s house for visits after school often to sample a loaf of her purple bread, baked with whole walnuts which provided the distinctive color.
Practicing her kneading technique on Dama’s fleshy arms was one of my mom’s favorite memories of her grandmother. Dama’s roast mallards, brandied peaches, spicy pickles and relishes and even her young suckling pig complete with a red apple in its mouth were some of the legendary creations from her kitchen. As was this Holiday Fruit Salad recipe.
Overnight Fruit Salad: A Holiday Tradition
One of her mottoes was, “It’s enough to feed a starving man,” which was repeated due to the queries of why there was a bowl with just a few peas along with a mishmash of other leftovers stored in the ice box. She and Dappy (my great-grandfather) lived near a railroad line and Dama wanted to be prepared with provisions in case a beggar should come knocking on her door.
This treasured recipe from Dama for 24-hour salad became part of our holiday tradition and appeared on our dining room table for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter celebrations.
Overnight Fruit Salad – Now Enjoyed by a 4th Generation
There is now a 4th generation making this holiday fruit salad for special occasions. I’m certain my oldest, Tom, will have his wife (someday, no pressure, Tom) make this for him. He considers it breakfast food, too! With fruit, eggs, dairy, it makes a lot of sense, no?!
My mom’s version of this overnight fruit salad varies from Dama’s recipe which called for 2 whole eggs, 1/2 can pineapple, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 pound marshmallows, 1/2 pint of whipping cream, juice of one lemon, 1/2 pound green grapes and a pinch of salt. It has definitely morphed through the years.
Dama’s directions were pre-refrigeration stating, “Let stand in a cold place 24 hours before serving.” My splattered recipe card mentioned you can use vinegar or lemon juice and the addition of pineapple juice was also scrawled in the margins as an afterthought. No matter what fruits or acids you choose to use, I hope this lovely holiday fruit salad graces your table one day soon.
Tips for Making this Holiday Fruit Salad:
- This is an extremely versatile salad! I typically use softer fruits, both fresh and drained canned fruit. But chopped apples, dates and/or nuts would be wonderful, too. The can of Royal Anne Cherries (I use Oregon brand) is a must for my family’s version, though I have been having trouble locating them the past couple years.
- This is definitely an “overnight” fruit salad as the time spent in the refrigerator allows the marshmallows to soften and the dressing to thicken. So plan ahead when adding this to your menu.
- Make sure to drain your canned fruit as excess juice will thin the dressing.
- I add the bananas the day I’m serving this salad so they don’t discolor. Gently toss before serving. My mom would add maraschino cherries for a pop of red color.
More Holiday Salads:
- Candied Almond & Mandarin Salad with an Orange Poppyseed Dressing from Chelsea’s Messy Apron
- Holiday Lettuce Salad from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Blood Orange Salad from Oh, Sweet Basil
- Cranberry Fluff Salad from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Arugula, Red Grape and Manchego Holiday Salad from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Holiday Fruit Salad
This Holiday Fruit Salad is a family tradition that has been made for 4 generations!
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 10 servings 1x
- Category: Salad
- Method: Simmering
- Cuisine: American
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons pineapple juice (from can of pineapple)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
- dash of salt
- 1 or 2 cans Royal Anne cherries, drained
- 2 cups pineapple chunks, Dole pineapple preferred
- 1 large can mandarin oranges, drained
- 1 can pear chunks
- 2 bananas, sliced
- 1–2 cups grapes, sliced
- 2 bananas, peeled and sliced
- 2 cups large marshmallows, cut in half
- 1 cup heavy cream
- In a double boiler, whisk egg yolks, lemon and pineapple juices, sugar, butter and salt till mixture thickens. Set aside to cool.
- When the sauce is cooled, put fruit (except for bananas) and marshmallows in a large bowl. Whip cream and add cream and sauce to fruit. Toss gently to coat and refrigerate overnight. Before serving, peel and slice the bananas and add to salad.
Total time does not include overnight chilling.
The long chilling time allows the marshmallows to soften, which is important for a most delicious result!