5 Cup Salad, also known as Ambrosia Salad, is a sweet fruit salad made with just 5 ingredients! Your guests and your family will love this vintage recipe.
5 Cup Salad is a simple delicious fruit salad that can be served as a side dish or dessert. It’s known as 5 Cup Salad because it’s made with approximately one cup of each of the five ingredients.
In certain parts of the country, it’s also known as Ambrosia Salad. Ambrosia means “food of the gods”, referring to Greek mythology.
It also means something “very pleasant to taste or smell”. And I can vouch for the fact that this salad is very pleasant, indeed!
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Origin of ambrosia
A version of ambrosia salad dates back to the late 1800s. It originally contained orange segments, sugar, and coconut.
Over the years, a variety of fruit has been added, in addition to sour cream, whipped cream, etc., to hold it all together.
Ambrosia is also known as 5 Cup Salad, and it’s made with canned pineapple, canned mandarin oranges, sweetened coconut, mini marshmallows, and sour cream. Traditional recipes call for one cup of each ingredient.
This recipe calls for one cup of each ingredient, except for the sour cream (you’ll need ¾ of a cup instead). I tried it both ways and prefer the ¾ cup version.
- Mini marshmallows are best for this. If you only have large marshmallows, you can cut them into quarters using kitchen shears.
- Canned crushed pineapple and canned mandarin oranges are the base of the salad.
- Sweetened shredded coconut adds sweetness and crunch. I don’t recommend using unsweetened coconut.
- Sour cream transforms the fruit into a creamy salad. You can use regular or low fat.
How to make 5 Cup Salad
Drain the mandarin oranges. Drain the crushed pineapple but reserve 1 tablespoon of pineapple juice.
Stir the one tablespoon of pineapple juice into the sour cream.
Mix gently until combined.
Add the drained pineapple, drained mandarin oranges, mini marshmallows, and shredded coconut.
Stir the mixture gently to combine.
Refrigerate the salad for at least one hour, or up to 8 hours. The refrigeration time allows the flavors to combine and intensify.
5 Cup Salad: Frequently Asked Questions
For best results, use canned mandarin oranges. Fresh oranges have a pith (the white part) around each segment, which will affect the texture of the dish.
You can substitute 1 cup of fresh pineapple, finely chopped, for the crushed pineapple. The idea is to chop the pieces relatively small so that the pineapple distributes nicely throughout the salad.
There are 8 large marshmallows in 1 cup.
Snip the marshmallows into quarters using kitchen shears to turn them into mini marshmallows.
You can use full-fat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream for this recipe. It’s not as traditional, but it’ll still be delicious!
You can replace the sour cream in this recipe with 1 (8 oz) block of softened cream cheese. Make sure that it’s softened, otherwise it’ll be impossible to mix it with the fruit without smashing the fruit.
Make it ahead
5 Cup Salad can be made up to 8 hours in advance. Make the salad and then refrigerate it until you’re ready to serve it.
If it sits for longer, it may start to get runny.
Also, do not freeze this salad—the texture will be negatively affected.
How to serve 5 Cup Salad
After refrigerating the salad, stir it and then transfer it to a large serving dish, or several individual serving dishes. The salad serves 4–6 people.
The recipe can easily be doubled to serve 8–12 people. Simply double each ingredient (use the “2x” button on the recipe card below) and serve it in a large bowl. Doubling the recipe is the perfect size for a potluck.
If you’d like, you can sprinkle the finished salad with a little more shredded coconut on top. You can also reserve a few mandarin orange segments for the top.
More old fashioned sweet “salads”
And Snickers Salad always makes me laugh—it’s the furthest thing from a “salad” but GOSH is it good!
Or if you’re after another salad made with lots of fruit, this Creamy Fruit Salad is made with a sour cream, orange juice, and honey dressing—it complements the fruit perfectly.
Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and/or comment below!
5 Cup Salad (Ambrosia)
- 1 (8 oz) can crushed pineapple
- 1 (11 oz) can mandarin oranges
- 1 cup mini marshmallows
- 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
- ¾ cup sour cream (regular or light)
- Drain mandarin oranges. Pour 1 tablespoon of pineapple juice out of the can and into a large bowl, then drain the crushed pineapple. Discard any additional pineapple juice, or save for another use.
- Add sour cream to the reserved 1 tablespoon of pineapple juice. Stir to combine.
- Add the mandarin oranges, coconut, marshmallows, and crushed pineapple to the sour cream mixture. Use a spatula to gently fold all of the ingredients together.
- Place the salad in the refrigerator for at least one hour, or up to 8 hours, to allow the flavors to blend.
- When ready to serve, stir the salad and transfer it to a large bowl. Garnish with additional shredded coconut, if desired. Serve immediately.