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Watergate Salad – a classic dessert salad known by many names, has been a staple on holiday tables and family gatherings for decades.
This simple, yet delicious salad is often referred to as Pistachio Pineapple Delight, Pistachio Fluff Salad, or even Ambrosia Salad, depending on where you are and who you ask.
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The Origins of Watergate Salad
Before we dive into the delightful combination of pistachio and pineapple, let’s address the elephant in the room – the origin of the name “Watergate Salad”.
Despite its connection to the infamous Watergate scandal of the early 1970s, this creamy dessert salad has no actual ties to the Watergate Hotel or political scandal.
Instead, it can be traced back to the creative minds at General Foods, who launched a line of pistachio pudding mix, giving birth to this classic dessert salad.
The mix’s vibrant green color adds a unique visual appeal, making it a “green goddess” salad that’s perfect for the holiday dinner table.
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- No Cool Whip – Traditionally, Watergate Salad recipes call for Cool Whip as the creamy whipped topping. It wouldn’t be a retro dessert without Cool Whip, right? However, my version steers clear of this ingredient, opting for a homemade approach. By using cream cheese and heavy whipping cream, we achieve the same creamy, dreamy consistency, but with a more natural flavor profile. This version offers a creaminess that’s sure to please even the most discerning dessert enthusiasts.
- Interesting Combination of Flavors – The combination of pistachio and crushed pineapple is what gives this salad its distinct flavor and interesting texture. The creamy whipped topping, made with a blend of cream cheese and heavy whipping cream, is the perfect canvas for the sweet, nutty notes of the pistachio pudding and the tropical tang of pineapple. The crunchy pecans and mini marshmallows provide a delightful contrast to the creamy, airy texture, creating a harmonious balance in every bite.
- Sweet Salad for Special Occasions – This easy Watergate Salad, with its delightful green color and sweet flavor, has been a favorite thing on holiday tables for generations. Whether you serve it as a side dish at Thanksgiving, a dessert at Christmas, or a fun idea at family gatherings, this classic dessert salad never fails to impress and is always a crowd favorite. Who knew green fluff would be such a fun addition to a holiday meal?
- A Versatile Dessert – The Watergate Salad is a versatile dish that can be adapted to different tastes and preferences. Some people like to add maraschino cherries or mandarin oranges for a fruity twist, while others sprinkle chopped walnuts, in addition to the pistachio pieces, on top for an extra layer of crunch. Whether you stick to the classic recipe or add your unique twist, this creamy dessert salad is always a crowd favorite.
The ingredients used in this recipe are canned crushed pineapple, instant pistachio pudding mix, mini marshmallows, pistachios, powdered sugar, cream cheese, and heavy whipping cream.
How to Make Watergate Salad
Scroll down for the printable recipe card, but here is a step-by-step summary.
Mix the Green Goop
Step 1: In a large bowl, combine the crushed pineapple along with any pineapple juice and the pistachio pudding mix.
Step 2: Mix until combined.
Step 3: Add the marshmallows and the pistachios to the mixture.
Step 4: Fold them in and set them aside.
Make the Fluff
Step 5: Beat the cold heavy cream with the powdered sugar using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat the mixture on high speed until medium peaks form and it holds its shape. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the mixture to a separate bowl.
Step 6: Add the softened cream cheese to the mixing bowl and beat until soft and fluffy.
Step 7: Use a spatula to scrape it away from the sides of the bowl. Add about 2/3 of the sweetened whipped cream to the cream cheese (the remaining whipped cream will be reserved as topping when serving). Whip the mixture together until light and fluffy.
Mix the Pistachio Pudding Salad
Step 8: Add the cream mixture to the pistachio mixture.
Step 9: Fold the cream mixture into the pistachio mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Serve individual portions topped with the reserved whipped cream and chopped pistachios.
You can find raw or roasted pistachios without the shell at stores like Trader Joe’s. They make a great garnish and add a fabulous crunch to this recipe!
Absolutely! Watergate Salad can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days. Just remember to cover it with plastic wrap and stir it well before serving.
While pistachio pudding mix is the traditional choice, you can experiment with other flavors or even use vanilla pudding mix if you prefer.
Yes, you can substitute Cool Whip for the homemade whipped topping if you prefer a quicker and more convenient option. I always prefer heavy cream over Cool Whip though.
Yes, you can get creative with add-ins like maraschino cherries, mandarin oranges, or chopped nuts to tailor the flavor to your liking.
Watergate Salad is perfect for special occasions, holiday dinners, family gatherings, and even potlucks. It’s a versatile and crowd-pleasing dessert.
While cream cheese and heavy whipping cream contribute to the creamy texture, you can always explore alternative ingredients like sweetened cottage cheese or Greek yogurt for a different twist.
- 20 ounces crushed pineapple canned, undrained
- 6.8 ounces instant pistachio pudding mix each package should be 3.4-ounces
- 2 cups miniature marshmallows
- 3/4 cup pistachios raw recommended (but you can use roasted if unsalted)
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 4 ounces cream cheese softened
- 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream chilled
- additional pistachios for garnish chopped
- In a large bowl, stir together the pineapple and pistachio pudding mixes until combined.
- Fold in marshmallows and pistachios. Set aside.
- Beat the cold heavy cream with the powdered sugar using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until medium peaks form and it holds its shape. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the mixture to a separate bowl.
- Add the softened cream cheese to the mixing bowl and beat until soft and fluffy.
- Use the spatula to scrape it away from the sides of the bowl. Add about 2/3 of the sweetened whipped cream to the cream cheese (the remaining whipped cream will be reserved as topping when serving). Whip the mixture together until light and fluffy.
- Fold the cream mixture into the pistachio mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
- Serve individual portions topped with the reserved whipped cream and chopped pistachios.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.