The Best Ambrosia Dessert

5 from 2 votes

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An easy dessert salad filled with mandarin oranges, crushed pineapple, and sweet maraschino cherries, in a creamy marshmallow sauce.

Aerial photo of a bowl of ambrosia salad with a serving spoon in it.

If you’re anything like me, this traditional ambrosia salad immediately makes you think of potlucks, holiday gatherings, family reunion picnics, and maybe even more specifically those of your childhood.

This super simple recipe uses pre-made, canned ingredients which means it comes together in a snap. It also needs to “marinate” in the refrigerator for a few hours, so it’s perfect for preparing ahead of time. And the best part is, it’s a completely no bake dessert so it’s a great option for holidays when that oven space and time is precious.

What makes this the BEST Recipe for Ambrosia Salad

This recipe has been made for and by me dozens of times, as it’s a recipe from my dear mother-in-law. Her ambrosia, cornbread, and snowball cookies were the 3 recipes that I have adopted into my own baking collection. It’s sweet, slightly crunchy, full of flavor, and the way the marshmallows soften from the liquid makes them extra fun to eat!

Ambrosia Salad Recipe ingredients

The ingredients for this dessert salad is very short and everything comes from a can for super easy preparation.

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Aerial photo of ingredients for ambrosia salad labeled with text overlay to identify each ingredient.

You will need:
• mandarin oranges
• crushed pineapple 
• maraschino cherries
• sour cream
• mini marshmallows

How to make Ambrosia Dessert

Making ambrosia salad could not be easier. Just dump, stir, and chill!


Place all of fruit and the sour cream into a large bowl, then stir to combine.


Add the mini marshmallows and stir to distribute evenly.


Cover bowl and chill in the refrigerator at least 8 hours.

A bowl of ambrosia salad with a yellow kitchen linen in the background.

That “soaking” for the marshmallows does wonders for distributing that sweetness without having to add anything else. Be sure you build in enough time for the dessert to marry and the marshmallows to soften. They will create a creamy texture that is unbeatable!

Be sure to build in “marrying” time so the marshmallows can soften and the flavors can blend together. You will want at least 8 hours of chilling before serving.

Ambrosia Recipe variations

ADD NUTS: I often see ambrosia with walnuts or pistachios, though you can really use any kind of nut you like or think would suit your tastebuds. Add about 1 cup of coarsely chopped nuts, and you can toast them before adding them if desired.

SWAP OUT OTHER FRUIT: don’t love one of the fruits suggested? It’s totally fine to swap them out or double up on what’s already there. Just try to stick to the same amount of total fruit added so the proportions stay the same.

ADD COCONUT: sweetened shredded coconut is often a traditional ingredient in ambrosia salad. Add 1 cup of shredded coconut to the salad when you add the marshmallows.

USE GREEK YOGURT INSTEAD: want a lighter version? I have made this many times with plain or vanilla Greek or regular yogurt. The taste is a little different but still delicious!

Serving this Classic Ambrosia Salad Recipe

Once your ambrosia dessert has “marinated” for 8 hours, it’s ready to serve.

This dessert salad is best served cold. While it is on the sweet side and typically served as a dessert in our house, I have seen it served as a side dish.


Since the liquid in this ambrosia will break down the marshmallows, it’s best eaten within 5 days.


Yes, you can absolutely freeze ambrosia salad, but keep in mind that this will alter the texture of the marshmallows when thawed.


You can definitely make ambrosia salad the night before you want to serve it! In fact, it needs to sit for a few hours to marinate and soak the marshmallows anyway, so it’s the perfect dish for making ahead of time.

If you’ve never had this sweet, creamy, texture-ful salad, you’re totally missing out! Plus, if you’ve got leftover fruit that you think might go well with oranges, pineapple, and cherries, add ’em to the bunch and make your ambrosia á la you!

Best Ambrosia Salad Recipe FAQs

Ambrosia salad is a popular dessert and side dish in Southern America. It’s easy to make and easy to eat!

Since ambrosia is made of fruit and marshmallows, it has a sweet but tangy flavor. If you decide to add nuts and/or sweetened shredded coconut, it will have those flavors layered in, too.

If your ambrosia is watery, you likely added too much liquid or you didn’t let it sit long enough before serving it.

The word “ambrosia” means “fragrant” and refers to something that tastes or smells pleasing. Not only that, but the food included was believed to be the magical fruit of Roman and Greek gods.

Aerial photo of a bowl of ambrosia salad with a yellow kitchen linen around it.
5 from 2 votes
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Classic Ambrosia Salad Recipe

An easy dessert salad filled with mandarin oranges, crushed pineapple, and sweet maraschino cherries, in a creamy marshmallow sauce.
Prep Time5 minutes
Chilling Time8 hours
Total Time8 hours 5 minutes
Recipe Author Lynn April
Servings: 12 servings


  • 2-11 ounce cans (624g) mandarin oranges drained1
  • 1-20 ounce can (567g) crushed pineapple drained (as well as you can)
  • 10 ounces (283g) maraschino cherries drained, stems removed, and halved (approximately 1 cup)
  • 1 cup (226g) sour cream2
  • 10 ounces (283g) mini marshmallows


  • Place all of fruit and the sour cream into a large bowl. Stir to combine.
    2-11 ounce cans (624g) mandarin oranges, 1-20 ounce can (567g) crushed pineapple, 10 ounces (283g) maraschino cherries, 1 cup (226g) sour cream2
  • Add the mini marshmallows and stir to distribute evenly. Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator at least 8 hours. Stir again before serving. Store in a covered or sealed container in the refrigerator up to 5 days.
    10 ounces (283g) mini marshmallows


  1. Drain the oranges: I prefer mandarin oranges in pear juice as opposed to any sort of syrup or artificial sweetener to keep the added sugars low.
  2. Sour cream: you’ll find the creamiest texture with full fat sour cream, but I have also made this dish with Greek and/or regular yogurt, too. 
Did you make this recipe?Mention @freshaprilflours on Instagram or tag #freshaprilflours!

Nutrition Disclosure

All nutritional values are approximate and provided to the reader as a courtesy. Changing ingredients and/or quantities will alter the estimated nutritional calculations.

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 156kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 26mg | Potassium: 41mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 163IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 35mg | Iron: 0.2mg

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  1. 5 stars
    Lynn, this is delicious! I added fresh strawberries and blueberries for a patriot twist today. Happy, healthy 4th! Keep the recipes coming. You are very talented!

  2. 5 stars
    Thank You for upgrading to a Healthier Ambrosia Salad I’ve NOT eaten this for Many Years Now I’m a Type 1 Diabetic ( botched operation in Sydney🇦🇺) I have to Drastically Cut Back on Sugar But I Will give this a Try 🥰 Again Many Thanks