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This is the original, classic Ambrosia Salad recipe, which is also known as 5 cup salad. Our Grandma’s didn’t used to make ambrosia salad with Cool Whip, it used to be sour cream – and let me tell you, once you try this you aren’t going back to edible oil products in your ambrosia salad again!

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good cool whip salad like my Watergate Salad Recipe, but there is something about this 5 cup salad that uses sour cream to offset the sweet ingredients that is perfect.This is the way that ambrosia salad was made first, and then the whipped cream versions (which are still good!) are the ones that you now see more commonly. This version I have seen

Originalambrosiasaladnanasfivecupsalad1 Original Ambrosia Salad (Nana's 5 Cup Salad)
Ambrosia Salad ( 5 Cup Salad)

How to Make Ambrosia Salad

First, to make the classic ambrosia salad you need only 5 ingredients. The  “5 cups” is a loose interpretation as we use a can of pineapple and a can of mandarin oranges and not a cup, it’s not literal. You combine all of the ingredients together and refrigerate until the marshmallows are softer and have expanded. It doesn’t get any easier than that!

The 5 Cup Salad Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup of mini marshmallows ( white is traditional)
  2. 1 cup of sweetened shredded coconut
  3. 1 cup of sour cream
  4. 1 can of mandarin oranges, drained
  5. 1 can of pineapple chunks, drained
Originalambrosiasaladnanasfivecupsalad Original Ambrosia Salad (Nana's 5 Cup Salad)
Ambrosia Salad ( 5 Cup Salad)

Ambrosia is served as a dessert salad

Ambrosia salad is a dessert salad, meaning that it’s sweeter but still graces the table at the same time as the main meal. This is a very retro way to serve it, nowadays dessert salads are left until the last until, well, dessert time. Ambrosia salad is very popular at Christmas and is served on the table alongside turkey, ham and whatnot. Think of the jello salad (with cat food hahaha!) in that Christmas movie classic, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It’s on the table with the (dried out) turkey. That’s what a dessert salad is, something sweet alongside all of the savory.


I find that this version lends itself to being a real dessert salad more than the one with whipped cream, as that one I find is a true dessert. This one is a good one to serve on the table with the main meal, the sour cream really foils the sweet ingredients nicely.

Originalambrosiasaladnanasfivecupsalad2 Original Ambrosia Salad (Nana's 5 Cup Salad)
Ambrosia Salad ( 5 Cup Salad)

Karlynn’s Tips & Tricks for Making Ambrosia Salad

  • You can substitute in low fat sour cream and you have a great low fat dessert for those of you that need lower fat recipes (gallbladder removal patients, etc.)
  • You can also substitute in a flavoured yogurt instead of the sour cream, it’s not the classic taste but it’s delicious as heck! Vanilla yogurt really makes the flavours come together nicely.
  • You can add in ingredients as you see fit. As you can see in the ambrosia salad video, I like to top mine with pecans to add a nice crunch and of course, a maraschino cherry for a pop of color!

So who else loves the 5 cup salad version? It’s really one golden oldie of a recipe and I think I will be making it again for Christmas this year – and maybe a nice green jello catfood salad….



Pinnable-Pic-Recipes Original Ambrosia Salad (Nana's 5 Cup Salad)

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Originalambrosiasaladnanasfivecupsaladm Original Ambrosia Salad (Nana's 5 Cup Salad)

5 from 1 vote
Originalambrosiasaladnanasfivecupsalad-220x220-c Original Ambrosia Salad (Nana's 5 Cup Salad)
Original Ambrosia Salad (Nana's 5 Cup Salad)
Prep Time
10 mins
Total Time
10 mins

This is the original, classic Ambrosia Salad recipe, which is also known as 5 cup salad. This is the ambrosia salad version with sour cream.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: 5 cup salad, ambrosia salad
Servings: 6
Calories: 175 kcal
Author: Karlynn Johnston
  • 1 11 oz can of whole mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 8 ounce can of pineapple chunks, drained
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup sour cream
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Stir together until combined thoroughly.

  2. Cover the top with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a 3-4 hours. Serve cold and enjoy!

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

If you use low fat sour cream, this is a great low-fat dessert for those of you that need to eat lower fat.

Nutrition Facts
Original Ambrosia Salad (Nana's 5 Cup Salad)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 175 Calories from Fat 108
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 18%
Saturated Fat 9g 45%
Cholesterol 19mg 6%
Sodium 76mg 3%
Potassium 104mg 3%
Total Carbohydrates 15g 5%
Sugars 12g
Protein 1g 2%
Vitamin A 4.8%
Vitamin C 0.4%
Calcium 4.4%
Iron 2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Hey guys, I'm Karlynn! Welcome to The Kitchen Magpie, my website full of family friendly recipes, cocktails & homesteading tales of chickens & cows from the family farm! Make sure to check out my bestselling cookbook, Flapper Pie & a Blue Prairie Sky ,stay tuned for info on my second cookbook!

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