Pistachio Salad, also known as Watergate Salad, is a sweet side dish or dessert that your guests will love. It’s made with just 5 ingredients and takes 10 minutes to put together.
For many people, Pistachio Salad is a nostalgic treat. The recipe dates back to the 1970s and it was a staple at potlucks and parties for a number of years. It’s easy to see why—it’s really easy to make, and despite often being served as a side dish, it tastes like dessert!
Origin of Pistachio Salad
According to Kraft, their team of scientists developed Jell-O pistachio pudding in 1975. A decade later, they provided a recipe for “Pistachio Pineapple Delight” on the side of the box. The recipe was similar to this one, but it didn’t have any marshmallows in it.
It is thought that the addition of marshmallows came in the early 1990s, when the name of the salad was changed to “Watergate Salad.” There are a number of legends as to who changed the name and why, but most agree that it was a Chicago-based food columnist who re-named it.
- Jell-O pistachio pudding provides the flavor, sweetness, and a gorgeous light green hue to this salad.
- Canned pineapple adds sweetness with a bit of acidity to balance the flavors.
- Chopped walnuts add crunch.
- Mini marshmallows add sweetness and volume.
- Whipped topping is essential here. Do not substitute whipped cream, as the whipped cream isn’t stable enough to withstand the weight of the other ingredients without deflating.
How to make pistachio salad
This recipe is impossibly easy.
1. Drain the pineapple chunks. Reserve the juice for another use (or just drink it!).
2. Stir together the whipped topping and pistachio pudding mix using a spatula.
3. Stir in the marshmallows, drained pineapple, and walnuts.
4. Place the salad in a serving bowl and top with additional walnuts.
Serving pistachio salad
You can serve it in a big bowl, topped with chopped walnuts or even a maraschino cherry or two. Or, you can spoon it into individual parfait dishes or dessert dishes, like I did here.
The season for serving this salad varies widely. I love it for summer picnics and cookouts. It’s light and easy, and it’s no cook. Taffy Apple Salad is another favorite of mine for summer!
Some people serve it with Easter dinner, or for other spring events. I can see why—the color is perfect for spring!
Yet others serve Pistachio Salad for Thanksgiving or holiday gatherings. I can imagine that the tradition started in their family a number of years ago, and they want to keep it alive. I can relate. My family serves Strawberry Pretzel Salad at Christmas, and dinner wouldn’t be the same without it!
What can I do with leftover pineapple juice?
Add it to a fruit salad. Toss chopped apple slices in it to prevent the apple slices from turning brown. Blend it into a smoothie. And of course, you can drink it. 🙂
Can I use whipped cream instead of whipped topping?
No, unfortunately. Whipped topping contains stabilizers that support the weight of the pineapple and walnuts. Fresh whipped cream doesn’t contain the same stabilizers, and the other ingredients will cause the whipped cream to collapse under their weight.
Is this recipe gluten-free?
The ingredients in this recipe don’t typically contain gluten. However, please check the labels of your individual ingredients if you are serving this to gluten-free guests.
Can I use large marshmallows instead?
You can use large marshmallows for this, just cut them into quarters before stirring them into the salad. A pair of kitchen shears usually works best for this. 10 large marshmallows equals approximately 1 cup of mini marshmallows.
- 1 (20 oz) can pineapple chunks
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 cup miniature marshmallows
- 1 (3.4 oz) box Jell-o pistachio pudding
- 1 (8 oz) container whipped topping (like Cool-Whip)
- Drain the pineapple chunks in a colander. Reserve juice for another use.
- Put the whipped topping and pistachio pudding mix in a large bowl. Use a spatula to gently fold the pudding mix into the whipped topping.
- Gently stir in the pineapple chunks, chopped walnuts, and miniature marshmallows.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve.