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Sunshine Salad

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 jello salad on a white 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 make 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 for 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.”

A serving of jello salad on a white plate.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • 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.

Ingredient Notes

All ingredients needed to make sunshine salad.

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  • 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.)

The complete ingredient list with detailed measurements is included in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.

How to Make Sunshine Salad

Drain the Pineapple

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

Make the Jello

  1. Dissolve the jello with boiling water.
  2. Stir the pineapple juice mixture into the dissolved jello.
  3. Pour the jello into a mold or a small square (8″x8″) baking dish.
  4. Place it in the refrigerator and chill until it begins to thicken (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).

Add Ingredients to Jello

  1. Remove the dish from the refrigerator and add the reserved pineapple, shredded carrots, pecans, and salt. Stir very well to combine the ingredients.
  2. Chill until set (at least 4 hours; overnight is best).
A serving of jello salad on a white plate.

Chill and Serve

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

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.

Questions About Sunshine Jello Salad

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.

Lana Stuart.

Questions? I’m happy to help!

If you have more questions about the recipe, or if you’ve made it and would like to leave a comment, scroll down to leave your thoughts, questions, and/or rating!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Recipe

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A serving of jello salad on a white plate.

Sunshine Salad

Sunshine Salad is a traditional gelatin salad, or congealed salad, made with lemon jello, pineapple, carrots, and chopped nuts.
4.87 from 29 votes
Print It Rate It
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

  • 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.
  • The salad must be refrigerated for at least 4 hours to set properly but is best if chilled overnight.
  • May be stored in your fridge covered for up to 5 days.

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 healthcare provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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— This post was originally published on March 4, 2011. It has been updated with additional information.

A serving of sunshine salad on a small china plate.

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Recipe Rating




73 Comments

  1. Is it .3 oz sugar free jello? The recipe says 3 oz

    1. It’s the standard 3 (three) ounce box of lemon jello.

      If you want to use the sugar-free version, it would be the .3 (three-tenths) ounce box.

  2. 5 stars
    It’s great! You do have to watch the lemon jello to make sure it gets.

  3. 5 stars
    I’d add some golden raisins

    1. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a Jello salad with raisins in it. Interesting.

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

    1. Kim Quinn says:

      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!🥰

  5. Roxann Dupre says:

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

    1. It’s one of our family’s favorites, too. And just as good without the nuts :-)

  6. Nancy Steigerwalt says:

    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.

  7. 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

    1. Lana Stuart says:

      You’re welcome! I’m glad you found the recipe.

  8. My mother used to make this. It was a family favorite. She used orange jello and didn’t add lemon juice.

  9. Sarah brown says:

    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

    1. Lana Stuart says:

      Sarah, you are so welcome! I hope you enjoy the recipe!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. Sapha Richard says:

    I would love to have a copy of all of the recipes you talked about. Please share.

  13. Jill Ramsey says:

    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!

  14. Renee (Kudos Kitchen) says:

    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!

  15. caitmechanic says:

    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?

    1. I do have a spiced peach jello salad – I’ll look for it.

  16. 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.

  17. Amy @ A Little Nosh says:

    You top it with mayonnaise? Really? Wow. This Yankee is a little disturbed. LOL

    1. Yes, some people do. Just about 1/2 teaspoon on top of a serving.

    2. 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.

  18. Very interesting – always learn something new. I have never heard of congealed salad, but I am wondering if this comes from the aspic family? In Sweden we have this kind of stuff but with meat. Hmm wonder if they are related at all. BTW because you don’t have the right click functionality on your blog you remove ALL right click functionality. i.e. fill form, paste, spell check etc. All thing I use to write comments.

    1. Yes, it’s very much the same idea as aspic. It’s fruits or vegetables suspended in a flavored gelatin. In this recipe the gelatin used was a lemon flavor – “Jello” is the brand name.

      1. Just wanted to let you know, that i don’t get an email reply when you reply. Do i have to click subscribe to replies for that?

        1. Yes, you have to “subscribe to comments” to get my response or other readers’ comments sent to you via email.

  19. Takes me back to church pot lucks!

  20. Me likey, and I think the kids would find this old Southern Classic absolutely charming. PRETTY!

    1. My MIL introduced this to me 40+ years ago. In addition to carrots, celery, nuts, pineapple, I add some shredded cream cheese and use orange jello.

      1. Lana Stuart says:

        Sounds delicious!

  21. SMITH BITES says:

    i am laughing here Lana, because i’m definitely NOT a southern gal yet i have eaten my fair share of jello salads: potlucks, church dinners and family gatherings!! they are pretty!

  22. Never been a big congealed salad fan, myself, but this post brings up all smiles nonetheless. It reminds me of what Dad calls “church fluff” – the green Jello salad that you should see at every church potluck. Appropriate, since today’s his birthday!

    Thanks for the smile!

  23. MomandNana says:

    Ok, so now I can’t wait for the “pink stuff” and “bing cherry” recipes — promise they’re on the way, please!

    1. They’re on the way. Maybe not this week, but soon!

  24. I love this salad! Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  25. Stephanie says:

    I have never heard of this before! interesting

  26. Laura Flowers says:

    I’d love dozens of congealed salad recipes! You’re lucky to have a food history, up in the northwest we have a few things that are local staples but mainly we’ve only really been creating our own histories for about 10 years. Maybe a little longer. Unless you count burgers, pizza, and salmon.

    I’m going to make your sunshine salad!

    Laura

    1. Hi Laura! Burgers, pizza and salmon sure do count in my book!

  27. Looks great! I just made a congealed bing cherry salad with cream cheese, bing cherries, pineapple. I know that you remember it, cause Aunt Margie and Aunt Virginia made it a lot. One of my favorites. Your blog is wonderful.

    1. Yes, I love that one! Could you send me the recipe by email, please? I’d love to make it.

      1. Just got back from Mama’s, in celebration of our youngest sibling’s birthday. The congealed salad was wonderful, and I am sure that you will get the recipe shortly. Mama prepared Company Chicken. Yum. We divide the leftovers, and everybody went happily on his or her way home.

        Wish you could have been there.

        Miss P

        1. Yum! Sounds so good. Wish we could have been there, too, but it’s a bit of a drive there and back for lunch :-)

  28. I have never heard of these before. But I think it looks like it’d taste great.

    1. Thanks for your sweet comment, Charissa! It does taste great :-)

  29. I AM of a certain age and I’ve never really cared for these. Just seemed weird – all those textures together in my mouth. I really LIKE all those foods/flavors – but would rather have them in my mouth one at a time. Shredded carrots have never been appealing to me. I’d rather eat my carrots cooked (no extra stuff) or raw in sticks, etc. Jello is fine – for me it’s the weird mixture of textures that I just don’t enjoy. And I LOVE seasonings….just not this.

    1. LOL, Shenna. Well okay, I get it – this recipe just isn’t for you :-)

  30. Nutmeg Nanny says:

    Growing up in Ohio I’m very familiar with jello salad. I’m also a HUGE fan of jello pie…yum!

  31. Oh I bet this is great Lana, beautiful presentation!

  32. Tomato Aspic, with sliced green olives, chopped celery, little shrimp, and healthy glubs of Worcestershire Sauce, lemon juice and hot sauce. Not wimpy at all!

    1. I absolutely love tomato aspic! So good for lunch on a hot summer day.

    2. Tomato Aspic, I haven’t had that in over 40 years. I truly enjoyed it. I have to get a recipe and make one.

  33. Tell everybody about Polly’s Pink Stuff.

    Miss P

    1. I was trying to decide between making this one and the “pink stuff.” I need to get Polly’s exact recipe so I’ll be sure to have it right. Do you have it?

      1. Yep. I’ll e-mail it to you. I don’t want to spoil the surprise for your readers.

        Miss P

  34. Glorious! When I read the teacake post, it made me think of gelatin salads. I don’t know why…it must have been the reference to ’60’s food. All I could think of was that I needed to make a gelatin salad, and this just so happens to be my all-time favorite! I wish I had it in front of me right now! Thank you!

  35. Yum. Looks like carrot cake in a gelatin!

  36. Barbara @ Modern Comfort Food says:

    Yes, I’m Southern and yes I’m of a “certain” age, but I also don’t understand why congealed salads get such a bad rap. I love them and am quite certain they’ll come back into fashion one of these days. In the meantime, I’m left scratching my head about people who turn up their nose at gelatin but consider panna cotta, which after all is a gelatin-based dessert, to be a gourmet treat.

    1. I don’t understand it, either, Barbara. Who gets to decide what’s out of fashion, anyway? These lovely salads will always be “in style” at our home.

  37. This sounds interesting… Never heard of congealed salad, just wimp ones eheh
    When I saw the first picture I thought you did some sweet Moroccan carrot salad, wouldn’t that be great too congealed?? mmmm :D