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Vintage Watergate Salad

Take a trip back in time with this old favorite Vintage Watergate Salad recipe! Just 5 little ingredients make up this nostalgic pistachio fluff that’s been a favorite of our family for decades.

Let’s take a trip back to the 1970s with this iconic Vintage Watergate Salad recipe. I remember when this dish first started making the rounds after the infamous Watergate presidential scandal. The recipe has nothing to do with politics. Legend has it that the title was coined by a Chicago newspaper that was merely capitalizing on the scandal’s notoriety.

A serving of Watergate Salad in a white ramekin.

The recipe has been known by several other names over the years, including pistachio fluff, green fluff, pineapple pistachio delight, and ambrosia salad. Whatever you call it, you’ll love this classic recipe that has stood the test of time and continues to be looked for with great anticipation at family gatherings and potlucks. And if you’ve never tried it, you’re in for a real treat!

❤️ Why I Love This Recipe

  • Simple Recipe: You’ll need only five ingredients and minimal prep time.
  • Versatile: It can be served as either a side dish or a dessert. In the South, we mostly serve this (and any jello salad) as a side dish.
  • Nostalgic charm: There’s just something special about vintage recipes and the memories they carry.

You’ll also find this recipe in my cookbook!

You can see Watergate Salad on page 118 of my cookbook, My Southern Table! Get your signed copy today.

🛒 Ingredient Notes

Ingredients needed to make this recipe.

This post contains affiliate links. Lana’s Cooking is reader-supported and earns a tiny commission at no extra cost to you when you shop from our links.

  • Crushed pineapple: You’ll need canned crushed pineapple with juice. Dole brand is very reliable, but store brands are sometimes more budget-friendly.
  • Miniature marshmallows: Make sure the marshmallows are fresh and soft. In a pinch, you can make mini marshmallows by cutting regular marshmallows into quarters.
  • Chopped pecans: The pecans add a nice crunch to the salad. I like to lightly toast them for extra flavor. To toast chopped pecans, put them in a single layer on a baking sheet and cook in the oven at 350 degrees F for 6-8 minutes. Watch carefully to prevent burning.
  • Instant pistachio pudding mix: The pretty green color of this recipe comes from the pistachio pudding jello used as its base. Make sure you pick up “instant” pudding mix for this. Other styles won’t work correctly.
  • Frozen topping (Cool Whip): Let the topping thaw before using it in the recipe. Cool Whip is probably the most popular brand, but others work as well.

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

🥄 How I Make Watergate Salad

  1. In a large bowl, combine the crushed pineapple (undrained), miniature marshmallows, chopped pecans, and instant pistachio pudding mix. Stir together until well mixed.
  2. Gently fold in the thawed frozen topping until thoroughly combined.
  3. Transfer the mixture into a large serving bowl or individual bowls.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving to allow the flavors to meld.
  5. When ready to serve, top with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry for a festive touch.
A spoonful of Watergate Salad in a white ramekin.

⚠️ Troubleshooting Tips

  • If the salad seems too thick, try thinning it out with a tablespoon or two of milk.
  • For a creamier texture, fold in a little whipped topping just before serving.
  • If you prefer a stronger flavor, add a drop or two of almond extract to the mixture.

🔀 Recipe Variations

This is an established vintage recipe that has stood the test of time. Of course, we all like to experiment in the kitchen, and you can vary it if you like, but changes make it into something other than true Watergate Salad.

  • Swap out the pecans for chopped walnuts or almonds.
  • Experiment with different flavors of pudding mix, such as vanilla or coconut.
  • Add diced fresh fruit, such as bananas or strawberries.
A serving of Watergate Salad in a white ramekin.

🍽️ How to Serve

Watergate Salad is incredibly versatile and can be served as a side dish or a dessert. Here are a few serving suggestions.

  • Serve alongside grilled chicken or pork at summer barbecues.
  • Enjoy it as a sweet ending to a holiday meal with classic favorites like roast turkey or glazed ham.
  • Spoon into individual parfait glasses for an elegant presentation.
  • Use as a filling for mini tart shells or as a topping for angel food cake.

🍚 How I Store the Leftovers

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. A piece of plastic wrap placed directly on top of the salad will keep it from forming a skin. Serve chilled straight from the fridge.

❓ Questions About Vintage Watergate Salad

Can I use fresh pineapple instead of canned?

Canned pineapple is preferable for its consistent texture and ratio of fruit to juice.

Can I substitute homemade whipped cream for the frozen topping?

Whipped topping is preferred because it’s more stable than whipped cream. Whipped cream may be used if you’re planning to serve within a few hours, but you will quickly see some separation of the salad and weeping of the cream, especially when the salad is stored. If you do use homemade whipped cream, be sure to sweeten it to taste before folding it into the salad mixture.

Is it necessary to refrigerate the salad before serving?

Yes. It should be served cold. Chilling for at least an hour also allows the flavors to meld.

Can I make this salad ahead of time?

Absolutely! This is a great make-ahead dish. Simply prepare the salad as directed and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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!

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A serving of Watergate Salad in a white ramekin.

Vintage Watergate Salad

Travel back in time with this Vintage Watergate Salad recipe! Just 5 ingredients make this nostalgic pistachio fluff a favorite for decades.
5 from 2 votes
Print It Rate It
Course: Desserts, Salads
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Chill Time:: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 214kcal
Author: Lana Stuart


  • 20 ounces crushed pineapple undrained
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • ½ cup pecans chopped
  • 3.4 ounces instant pistachio pudding mix
  • 8 ounces frozen topping (Cool Whip), thawed
  • Optional garnishes: whipped cream, maraschino cherries


  • In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the thawed topping. Stir until combined.
  • Gently fold the topping into the mixture until uniformly combined.
  • Turn into a large bowl or into individual serving bowls.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
  • When ready to serve, top with whipped cream and cherry (optional).


  • Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. A piece of plastic wrap placed directly on top of the salad will keep it from forming a skin. Serve chilled straight from the fridge.

Nutrition Information

Serving 1 | Calories 214kcal | Carbohydrates 35g | Protein 2g | Fat 8g | Saturated Fat 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat 1g | Monounsaturated Fat 3g | Cholesterol 1mg | Sodium 200mg | Potassium 144mg | Fiber 2g | Sugar 32g | Vitamin A 60IU | Vitamin C 7mg | Calcium 37mg | Iron 0.4mg

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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