ambrosia salad recipe

Thanksgiving Tradition: Mom’s Ambrosia Salad Recipe

This easy Ambrosia Salad Recipe goes so well with Thanksgiving turkey dinner. There’s something about its sweetness that pairs well with the savory turkey/stuffing/gravy combo. Plus it is out of this world in a very 60’s throwback kind of way. In our family, we call it Bloat Salad, which does not sound like a super delicious name for what is actually a tasty dish. But there is a funny family story behind it.

Beautiful Thanksgiving Day dining room table decor with gourds, ears of dried corn, and flowers in the middle and table settings at each chair.
Ready for the Thanksgiving feast!

My mom used to make this easy salad for every Thanksgiving dinner, and it quickly became a favorite tradition our entire family looked forward to. I mean, our kids BEG ME to make this dish each year. The real name of this dish is Ambrosia Salad, because perhaps it tastes like the Nectar of the Gods? Not sure on that one, but we do love it nonetheless for its decadent, sweet fruitiness.

So how did it get the unfortunate nickname, you ask? We have my Uncle Sam to thank for that.

My mom and her brother Sam, my famous uncle (Mendocino, CA 1996)

The Story Behind Mom’s Ambrosia Salad Recipe

As we typically do at family feasts and especially Thanksgiving, we would overindulge and pile our plates high with all the usuals: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, warm buns, cranberry sauce and other deliciousness. And this Ambrosia Salad recipe of course.

Roasted whole turkey for Thanksgiving, just from the oven all golden brown and sitting in the roasting pan ready to carve.
Our family could eat the traditional Thanksgiving meal several times throughout the year.

And each year we would sit around after dinner and slices of pie, rubbing our bellies and complaining of how full we have become. In his discomfort, Uncle Sam would comment how bloated he felt, and would blame the salad. Of all the many things he put on his plate and into his stomach, the Ambrosia Salad was the culprit?

Through the years, we would all laugh and tease Uncle Sam as he annually proclaimed “I’m feel so bloated. It’s that damn salad that put me over the deep end”! And thus, the name Bloat Salad was born and will forever more be the name of this delicious concoction.

Anne Bailey’s Ambrosia Salad Recipe

Here’s mom’s Ambrosia Salad recipe if you would like to make a serving  yourself. (It really is good, and I promise is NOT the cause of any excessive bloating!)

You can make this a couple of days in advance of your dinner to save prep time on the actual feast day.

Despite the nickname, this Ambrosia Salad is quite delicious in a 1960s kind of way.

Serves 10-12


  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup whipped topping (my mom used Cool Whip!)
  • 1/4 cup sweet shredded coconut
  • Three cans pineapple chunks in syrup – drained well
  • Two cans mandarin orange segments in syrup – drained well
  • 3/4 cup mini marshmallows
Crazy how something like canned pineapple can taste so good! (photo by ac_bnphotos)


  1. In a large bowl, combine sour cream and whipped topping. Mix in coconut.
  2. Add pineapple to the bowl and mix well to coat.
  3. Add marshmallows and mandarin oranges, and mix very gently to coat. (Gentle, because the orange segments will break up if you are too vigorous)
  4. Place salad in a serving bowl and refrigerate for at least two hours and up to two days.
Canned Mandarin orange slices that have been rinsed in strainer to remove the syrup to remove excess sugars and lessen calories
Don’t forget to drain the syrup or the salad will be too watery and too sweet. (photo by Merrimon)

Serve cold with garnish of fresh mint sprigs.

1960s Trailer Trash?

I think this dish is technically 1960s trailer trash cuisine, along with jello molds and the occasional serving of Spam. Hey, no shaming – all families have their traditions and this is ours. Thank you Uncle Sam for firmly putting Bloat Salad at top billing. Dang I miss that man.

What’s your trashy family tradition? Come on, I know you have one….. share away!

Pin it!

Sign up for Cookbook Recipe Updates!

    Array We can book your trip! Let us help you plan.

    One thought on “Thanksgiving Tradition: Mom’s Ambrosia Salad Recipe

    1. Yes, got to love these family traditions from the past. Our family still loves the hash brown casserole made with mushroom soup. lol

    Leave a Reply

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