Recipes » Salad Recipes » Sunshine Salad

Sunshine Salad

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Sunshine Salad is a traditional gelatin salad, or congealed salad, made with lemon jello, pineapple, carrots, and chopped nuts.
4.8 from 22 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
A serving of sunshine salad on a small china plate.

This classic southern recipe is great to make year-round whenever you need a treat that is light and delicious and bursting with color! Sunshine Salad is a traditional gelatin salad, or congealed salad, made with a base of lemon jello mixed with crushed pineapple, shredded carrots, and chopped nuts lending it loads of flavor and delightful textures.

Congealed salads are something that every southern cook of my generation has in his or her repertoire. And not just one or two recipes, either. I’m talking about dozens.

A serving of sunshine salad on a small china plate.

Those of you who are from Southern families – when have you ever been to a family reunion where there weren’t at least six different congealed salads offered? Or a church homecoming dinner-on-the-grounds. You could fix a plate of nothing but congealed salads at one of those affairs.

Now before you go looking down your nose at congealed salads, just stop and think about it a minute. What’s so bad about congealed salad? Why do people look down on them these days?

I know they’re out of style and yes, there’s a little sugar in there, but just look at my Sunshine Salad recipe – it’s jam-packed with freshly grated carrots, pineapple, and pecans. It’s vibrantly colorful and refreshing, too.

So, what’s not to like? Nothing bad there.

I’m going to encourage you to rethink your attitude toward the poor old congealed salad. Even if you think it’s hopelessly out of style, it’s still a classic. Or if it makes you feel more up-to-date, just call it “vintage.”


  • It’s packed with texture from the carrots, pineapple, and pecans.
  • It’s no-bake! No heating up the oven.
  • It’s a southern classic just brimming with nostalgia for lots of people.
  • A fun take on a fruit salad.
  • Can be customized with your favorite gelatin flavors.
  • Must be made in advance saving you time in your schedule.
  • Can be served as either a dessert or as a side to any savory dish.

About the Ingredients

  • Lemon Jello (Gives the salad a lively, fresh flavor and beautiful color.)
  • Crushed Pineapple (Lends a naturally sweet flavor and lovely texture.)
  • Lemon Juice (Compliments the gelatin flavor with freshness and acidity.)
  • Grated Carrots (Adds color, natural sweetness, and a slight crunch.)
  • Chopped Pecans (For a southern flair and texture.)
  • Mayonnaise (optional, but is often served on top of the finished salad.)

You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe at the bottom of this post.

How to Make Sunshine Salad

Let’s Go Step-by-Step

I always like to show you the photos and step-by-step instructions for my recipes to help you picture how to make them in your own kitchen. If you just want to print out a copy, you can skip to the bottom of the post where you’ll find the recipe card.

Drain the Pineapple

Pineapple draining in a strainer; adding lemon juice to pineapple juice.

Drain the pineapple, reserving the juice. Set the pineapple aside for now. To the reserved pineapple juice, add the lemon juice and enough cold water to equal one cup.

Make the Jello

Pouring hot water into jello.

Dissolve the jello with boiling water. Stir the pineapple juice mixture into the dissolved jello.

Pour the jello into a mold or a small square (8″x8″) baking dish. Place it in the refrigerator and chill until it begins to thicken (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).

Add Ingredients to Jello

Adding fruit and nuts to partially set jello.

Remove the dish from the refrigerator and add the reserved pineapple, shredded carrots, pecans, and salt. Stir very well to combine the ingredients. Chill until set (at least 4 hours; overnight is best).

Chill and Serve

To serve, cut into squares and top with a small dollop of mayonnaise (optional).

A serving of sunshine salad on a small china plate.
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Recipe Tips and Variations

  • When mixing the salad ingredients, be sure to stir until fully combined and evenly distributed. This will ensure that each bite has a consistent mix of all the flavors and textures.
  • Make sure to reserve the pineapple juice to mix with the jello.
  • The salad must be refrigerated for at least 4 hours to set properly but is best if chilled overnight.
  • Customize the jello flavor by using raspberry, orange, or lime flavored jello.
  • Mix in your favorite chopped nuts — walnuts, cashews, or macadamias will work.
  • Top with whipped cream to make into more of a dessert than a salad.
  • Swap out the pineapple for mandarin oranges or strawberries.
  • Mold the salad in a bundt cake pan for a fun shape.

Storing and Freezing

  • Storing: This sunshine salad recipe can be stored in your fridge covered for up to 5 days.
  • Freezing: Recipes containing gelatin do not freeze properly. Best to enjoy this salad while still fresh.

FAQs

Why is it called Sunshine Salad?

Because the bright colors and flavors of this jello salad capture the mood of a sunny day.

Is congealed salad the same as gelatin or jello salad?

Yes. It’s all the same thing. They’re salads that contain fruit, jello (or gelatin) and other mix-ins that are poured into a mold to set.

Why is jello salad so popular in the south?

Jello based dishes were new, time-saving recipes that emerged during the mid-20th century when refrigeration became available to all households. Their novelty caught on and continues to be popular in lots of places, not just the southern U.S.

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Recipe

A serving of sunshine salad on a small china plate.

Sunshine Salad

Sunshine Salad is a traditional gelatin salad, or congealed salad, made with lemon jello, pineapple, carrots, and chopped nuts.
4.82 from 22 votes
Print It Rate It Save
Course: Salads
Cuisine: Southern, Vintage
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 5 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 9 servings
Calories: 102kcal
Author: Lana Stuart

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces lemon jello
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 8 ounces canned crushed pineapple
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 medium carrots grated
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • dash salt
  • Mayonnaise optional

Instructions

  • Drain the pineapple, reserving the juice. Set the pineapple aside for now.
  • To the reserved pineapple juice, add the lemon juice and enough cold water to equal one cup.
  • Dissolve the jello with boiling water.
  • Stir the pineapple juice mixture into the dissolved jello.
  • Pour the jello into a mold or a small square baking dish.
  • Place it in the refrigerator and chill until it begins to thicken (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).
  • Add the reserved pineapple, shredded carrots, pecans and salt. Stir very well to combine the ingredients.
  • Pour into a mold and chill until set (4 hours or overnight).
  • To serve, cut into squares and top with a small dollop of mayonnaise (if desired).

Notes

Tips and FAQs
  • When mixing the salad ingredients, be sure to stir until fully combined and evenly distributed. This will ensure that each bite has a consistent mix of all the flavors and textures.
  • Make sure to reserve the pineapple juice to mix with the jello.
  • The salad must be refrigerated for at least 4 hours to set properly but is best if chilled overnight.
  • Customize the jello flavor by using raspberry, orange, or lime flavored jello.
  • Mix in your favorite chopped nuts — walnuts, cashews, or macadamias will work.
  • Top with whipped cream to make into more of a dessert than a salad.
  • Swap out the pineapple for mandarin oranges or strawberries.
  • Mold the salad in a bundt cake pan for a fun shape.
  • Add a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg for a warm background flavor.
  • Storing: This sunshine salad recipe can be stored in your fridge covered for up to 5 days.
  • Freezing: Recipes containing gelatin do not freeze properly. Best to enjoy this salad while still fresh.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1 | Calories: 102kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 58mg | Potassium: 125mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 3413IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 15mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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Recipe Rating




71 Comments

  1. 4 stars
    Mom made this….sometimes used drained cottage cheese with a lime jello & pineapple & then grated carrot on top over mayo….

    1. 5 stars
      Thank you! I am a Yank from MA but distinctly remember my grandmother and aunt making this and using cottage cheese. I remember red or green jello and the sweet/tart flavors and cool cottage smoothness. I am now 61. Last had it at about 12. Thanks for the memories! I will be making it myself this year!🥰

  2. 4 stars
    This a wonderful salad, my grandmother used orange jello but didn’t use nuts. It was always a family favorite.

  3. Have been making this salad to serve with ham for Easter dinner since Home Economics class in high school many moons ago. Used lime Jello though and a tablespoon of vinegar which, with the salt, helps to cut the sweetness of the Jello.

  4. Thank you so much for this beautiful salad. Has been made in my home for many years. I was in 4H and this was one of the first things we made.. could not find the recipe for years. We always added diced celery to it then dressed with mayo and sugar… love your blog

  5. I have been looking for this for years..one of my Aunt’s use too make this..but no one knew which one or just didn’t remember it…I want too Thank ya so much…but first want to Thank God for getting me too your site too fine this..Thank ya so much…God Bless…..Sarah

  6. I have been looking for a jello salad that was made with green jello and had veggies in it. does anyone know this one.

    1. The green jello with veggies is my favorite and it is called Perfection Salad. It has crushed pineapple, grated carrots and sliced celery, you can add nuts but I prefer it without and always served with a big dollop of mayo.

      1. Another version of the green jello salad – I use precut coleslaw mix but I chop it some more to make it really fine. Add diced green peppers. Nuts according to my panty and mood. Sometimes raisins. Serve with dollop of mayo.

    2. Jello used to make a celery flavor that a lot of older people really liked for that recipe. I’ve thought about making a celery broth, add unflavored gelatin to that, then add veggies.

    3. My mother used to make this, too. Added finely chopped cabbage and carrots, along with the pineapple tidbits and occasionally chopped apple. I loved it, lots.

  7. My mom made this since at least 1960 for church suppers, calling it Sunshine salad. That was in New Jersey. This must have been in an old cookbook every bride had at that time. My mom used vinegar instead of lemon juice and I don’t remember mayonaise, she would have used Miracle Whip. She put it in a mold to look pretty. Jello salads have a long tradition in Lutheran churchs for dinners. As for the pink fluff, someone in our church made that, and I never got the recipe. I called it pink calories! There is a green one my MIL made with green Jello, Sprite, and a jar of apple sauce, my kids called it green slime after the Nickolodeon show. There is an old Lutheran myth of what color Jellow salad to use for weddings, funeral, receptions, confirmations, rally day, etc.

  8. I’ve had this salad numerous times at our country church. All the older ladies of the church have a recipe for it, sometimes with slightly different ingredients. Some add diced cucumber, sometimes its diced green pepper, sometimes grated onion is added. Sometimes the gelatin flavors will be lime or orange. Sometimes walnuts replace the pecans depending on the cook’s mood! Carrots and pineapple are always part of it though no matter the variations. All are delicious! Often the top will be frosted with mayonnaise. Thanks for this reminder of a great summer salad!

  9. What a great combination of flavors, colors and textures. My kind of dish and I’ll bet it’s perfect for the dog days of Summer. Lovely Lana!

  10. Thank you so much for posting this! My grandmother is a Kansan, not a Southerner, but she does indeed boast a wide jello repertoire, including this recipe (but minus the pecans). And it’s truly delicious! Another one of her famous jellos is a spiced peach one – do you know of it?

  11. As someone who grew up all over, I almost never meet any foods that have the ability to totally surprise me. With the emphasis on ALMOST. CONGEALED salad? I’m gobsmacked. ;-)

    1. So funny the few comments I’ve had from people who’ve never heard of congealed salads. Every church or fund-raising cookbook I’ve ever seen from the South for the last 60 years has had page after page of congealed salads. They’re just so commonplace that we don’t think much about them even. I’ll have to do some more soon!

      1. Hello Lana. I’m from Maine and we have the same thing but call it Sunset Salad. I make it all the time but make my own dressing. Been making it for more than 60 years and eating it for longer.

    1. Hey, fello Yankee. I’m from Maine and we have the same thing but call it Sunset Salad. I make it all the time but make my own dressing. Been making it for more than 60 years and eating it for longer.