Ah, ambrosia, that Southern fruit salad that’s actually more like dessert. Brings back memories. This recipe will make you forget all about any other fluffy fruit concoctions.

Ah, ambrosia. Brings back memories, don’t it? As author James Farmer recalls, “I remember reading in middle school literature that the gods on Mount Olympus feasted on nectar and ambrosia. This puzzled me because we were just Southern folks in a small town in Georgia and had ambrosia all the time. What was so special about this deity diet? If we ate it, it couldn’t be all that special, right?” He goes on to reminisce that whether ambrosia should have marshmallows or not is up to debate in the South, as is whether ambrosia should be just citrus and pineapple or if apples are allowed. Don’t even get a Southerner started on whether nuts have a place in ambrosia. These are things you’re just going to have to contend with using your own common sense and personal preference. As for Farmer, he takes the stance that “ambrosia is perfect any way,” which is oh so cordial of him, although we’re partial to his recipe that follows.Renee Schettler Rossi


A silver bowl filled with ambrosia salad with a bone-handle knife beside the bowl.
Ah, ambrosia, that Southern fruit salad that’s actually more like dessert. Brings back memories. This recipe will make you forget all about any other fluffy fruit concoctions.
James Farmer

Prep 30 mins
Cook 2 hrs
Total 2 hrs 30 mins
10 servings
309 kcal
5 from 1 vote
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  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • Two  7-ounce) jars grapefruit drained (one regular grapefruit, one ruby red if available)
  • Two (11-ounce) jars Mandarin oranges drained
  • Two (15.25- to 20-ounce) cans pineapple tidbits or chunks drained
  • One (10-ounce) jar maraschino cherries drained and halved
  • 2 smallish apples (preferably one green and one red), chopped
  • 1 cup lightly salted pecans chopped and toasted
  • 1 heaping cup miniature marshmallows
  • 1 heaping cup sweetened flaked coconut


  • If you have the time, chill a glass or metal bowl or the bowl for your stand mixer for at least 30 minutes. Then add the heavy cream, sour cream, and sugar to the bowl and beat with an electric mixer or your stand mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form.
  • Ever so gently fold the grapefruit, mandarin oranges, pineapple, cherries, apples, pecans, marshmallows, and coconut into the whipped cream mixture. For the best taste, cover and let the flavors of the ambrosia come together in the fridge for at least a couple hours or overnight.
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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 309kcal (15%)Carbohydrates: 35g (12%)Protein: 3g (6%)Fat: 20g (31%)Saturated Fat: 8g (50%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 42mg (14%)Sodium: 26mg (1%)Potassium: 335mg (10%)Fiber: 5g (21%)Sugar: 27g (30%)Vitamin A: 1392IU (28%)Vitamin C: 35mg (42%)Calcium: 91mg (9%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Ambrosia is heavenly! This one has a few differences that make it better than most. Using jarred or canned fruit made the only hands-on time chopping the apples and nuts and whipping the cream. The whole dish can be completed in 30 minutes. I had toasted salted pecans on hand, which added a really nice crunch and salt factor to the mix. The whipped cream made the final product lighter than usual. I don’t typically add grapefruit or apples to my ambrosia, and I liked the addition of both. I let my ambrosia set overnight, and the mixture was perfectly light. Not soupy at all. Will not last long now that husband knows it’s there.

I haven’t had ambrosia in a long time and had actually never made it myself, so I was excited to try this recipe. This dish tasted good and was very, very easy to make. It was colorful and reminded me of the past. I rested the dish overnight, and we loved the resulting pillowy texture of the marshmallows. I am curious if they would still have that texture with less resting time. I’d almost say that it needs to sit long enough for the marshmallows to become fluffy. I would make this again. Next time, I’d add more nuts and marshmallows, try swapping fruit juice for the heavy cream (as suggested in the head note), and maybe change up the fruit to see what it’s like.

Originally published March 12, 2016


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  1. The late and much lamented Jefferson Market in Greenwich Village had a delightfully retro prepared-food section—one could get Salisbury steak there, with a side of creamed spinach and some nice Jell-o with canned peaches in it for dessert, long after every other place had upgraded to mediocre versions of sushi and sesame noodles. And they ALWAYS had ambrosia. Theirs was just canned mandarin oranges, coconut, marshmallows, and pecans with…eh, probably Cool Whip. But the truth was, it was delicious. And once or twice a year, when I had a bad cold or a bad case of the blues, I would get a vat of the stuff and eat it in bed.

  2. It has been decades since I’ve enjoyed a spoonful of ambrosia. My Italian mother just did not make dishes like this one ~ at least she didn’t until she had it somewhere, maybe at a friend’s house or some social event. Anyway, she got the recipe, and from then on, for a little while, we always had a bowl of ambrosia in our fridge. It was completely foreign to us! We all loved it (with the exception of my dad). Thanks for posting this.

    1. You’re so very welcome, Domenica. It’s just one of those things from childhood that, no matter how contrary it is to how most of us eat these days, deserves a special place in our recipe box.

  3. My family called it Moron Salad because we used 1 cup of oranges, 1 cup of pineapple, 1 cup of mini marshmallows, 1 cup of sour cream & 1 cup of coconut. Not PC, but those were the 60’s!

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