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 one cup of each of the five ingredients (almost—more on that below).
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!
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 works best for this. I don’t recommend using unsweetened coconut.
- Sour cream transforms the fruit together 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 meld.
Can I use fresh clementines or mandarin oranges instead of canned?
For the best result, use canned mandarin oranges. Fresh oranges have a pith (the white part) around each segment, which will affect the texture of the dish.
Can I use fresh pineapple instead of canned?
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 nicely distributes throughout the salad.
How many large marshmallows are in 1 cup of marshmallows?
There are 8 large marshmallows in 1 cup.
How do I turn large marshmallows into mini marshmallows?
Snip the marshmallows into quarters using kitchen shears to turn them into mini marshmallows.
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.
More sweet salads
5 Cup Salad
- 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 pineapple juice. Stir to combine.
- Add the mandarin oranges, coconut, marshmallows, and crushed pineapple to the sour cream mixture. Use a spatula to gently combine 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.