This easy Watergate Salad recipe (aka Pistachio Fluff Salad) makes the beloved classic dessert salad in mere minutes! With a combination of pistachio pudding mix, juicy pineapple, fluffy marshmallows, crunchy pecans, and homemade vanilla whipped cream, it's a super quick and tasty treat!
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Watergate Salad, Pistachio Fluff, and Pistachio Dessert Salad are all names referring to this yummy, sweet salad that is straight out of the 1970's when it was first introduced by Kraft under the name "Pistachio Pineapple Delight" as a way of promoting their new pistachio instant pudding mix.
This super fun dish is simple enough to have on busy weeknights for dessert after family dinners, but it can also be well presented on a dessert table for special occasions too. It's got marshmallows, pineapple, and pecans in a sweet, creamy, pistachio green fluff mixture, then this is it!
It most often turns up at holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas or at various family gatherings like potlucks and reunions, and it's so delicious!
Ready in just 5 minutes, it's made with a handful of simple ingredients you may already have on hand, it's a classic recipe that's great to have on hand for last-minute dessert emergencies or to round out the dessert table at BBQs or during the holidays!
Why We Love This Recipe
- It's always a crowd favorite at gatherings, we never have leftovers!
- Made with simple ingredients you probably already have at home.
- You only need 5 minutes to it whip up a fresh batch!
What You'll Need
Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Pudding - Use an instant pistachio pudding mix to give this dessert it's classic green color and sweet, nutty flavor.
- Crushed Pineapple - We'll be using a whole can of undrained pineapple for this salad, juice and all, to get all those citrus juices involved!
- Marshmallows - White mini marshmallows are a classic addition to fluff salads and add a nice soft texture and sweetness.
- Pecans - Pre-chopped pecans are fine, or you can use whole pecans you chop yourself.
- Sweetened Whipped Cream - Heavy cream sweetened with a little powdered sugar and vanilla extract is best for making the creamy whipped topping from scratch instead of using a tub of Cool Whip. It's my secret ingredient and the reason why this Watergate salad recipe always tastes better than any other version.
How to Make Watergate Salad
- Combine ingredients. In a large bowl, combine the pineapple with its juice, the instant pudding mix, marshmallows, and pecans.
- Make cream mix. Beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract together in a separate bowl using a hand mixer or stand mixer until stiff peaks form.
- Combine mixtures. Fold the whipped cream into the mixed salad ingredients to make a creamy fluffy mixture.
- Chill. Refrigerate the creamy watergate salad for 1 hour before serving. Garnish with a sprinkle of extra nuts or marshmallows and top with a few maraschino cherries for extra vibrant color!
I like to transfer the salad from my large mixing bowl to a smaller serving bowl for a cleaner, more generous looking presentation. Or you can also divide it between individual dessert cups for a dinner party for a fun look with a cherry on top of each serving.
The origin of the name of this fruit salad is obscure. Some say it was named after the Watergate Hotel where it was supposedly first served after being invented by a chef there. Others claim it was given the name by a food editor in a newspaper article after trying it. The original recipe gained popularity during the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s which was so infamous that numerous recipes from that time bear the same name like Watergate Cake. Regardless, this easy dessert remains a classic today!
Store any leftover salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
This salad only takes 5 minutes to whip up from scratch, but if you're needing to prep several dishes or desserts for a large gathering - I see you! You can actually freeze this dessert salad in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Let it thaw completely in the fridge overnight, stir, and add a few fresh garnishes like the cherries or a sprinkle of chopped pistachios or pecans before serving.
Tips for Success
- Serve this dessert on holiday tables in a large serving bowl with your garnishes on top, or serve it individually portioned in small bowls.
- Add an extra dollop of homemade whipped cream to the top to serve if you like.
Top with an extra fresh dollop of whipped cream, some extra chopped pecans or walnuts, and a few maraschino cherries for a truly retro dessert with colors that really pop!
Substitutions and Variations
- Most every recipe I have ever seen for watergate salad uses an 8-ounce tub of thawed Cool Whip instead of homemade whipped cream if you prefer not to whip your own.
- Add a few drops of green food coloring to the mix if you want a more vibrant color.
- Use a different flavor of instant pudding mix for a different flavor, like vanilla or banana.
- You can use different nuts like walnuts or chopped pistachio nuts if you prefer.
- Any color of marshmallows will work here if you happen to have the multicolored ones, but mini marshmallows work better than large ones.
More Dessert Salad Recipes
Did you make this recipe?
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- 1 (3.4-ounce) box instant pistachio pudding mix
- 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
- 1 cup mini marshmallows
- ½ cup pecans, chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Combine pineapple with its juice, pudding mix, marshmallows, and pecans in a large bowl.
- Beat heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract in a separate bowl using a hand mixer or stand mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the other salad ingredients.
- Let the salad chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving. Garnish with a sprinkle of extra nuts or marshmallows and top with a few maraschino cherries for color.
- Storage: Store any leftover salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
- Freeze: Freeze this dessert salad in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Let it defrost in the fridge, stir, and add fresh garnishes before serving.
- Cool Whip: You can replace the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract with an 8-ounce tub of thawed Cool Whip if you prefer not to whip your own cream.
- Nuts: You can replace the pecans with chopped walnuts or pistachios.