Years ago, the decadent sweet iconic dessert Southern Ambrosia Salad would start as a simple 3 ingredient dessert recipe consisting of only freshly grated coconut , orange pulp or sliced oranges, and a bit of sugar, these days it has become the epic experience depending on who is in charge of making this vintage Southern Dessert.
My recipe for Ambrosia Salad is the very one my momma made on special occasions such as the Christmas holidays, potlucks, family gatherings in the summer, and so forth when we were children; laden with fluffy white marshmallows, sweet coconut flakes, fresh pineapple chunks, juicy mandarin orange segments, homemade whipped cream and sour cream.
Did that girl just say, “Her momma used sour cream?” Oh yes, I most certainly did y’all, there would be no such thing as vanilla yogurt or cottage cheese added in this wonderful Southern concoction of my momma’s. Sour cream may be a little more fattening but you have no idea the delicious wonderful flavor it lends this wonderful dessert we fondly call Ambrosia Salad.
Have you ever wondered what the word “Ambrosia” means? If you were to look it up in the dictionary you would see it actually has a wonderful meaning that really seems so fitting for this fabulous dessert salad we call Ambrosia Salad.
The Definition of Ambrosia
- The food of the Greek and Roman gods :
- The ointment or perfume of the gods
- Something extremely pleasing to taste or smell
- A dessert made of oranges and shredded coconut.
Historically recipes that were specifically titled ambrosia began to appear in the last 25 years of the 19th century in American cookbooks. Before to this time period, there were several recipes that were fairly similar to Ambrosia titled by different names. I have also noted by a historical timeline of Ambrosia Salad there are many variations of the recipe for ambrosia; all containing the key ingredient of coconut. Just like any recipe from our past this recipe sure has evolved.
I also want to warn y’all that in some Southern homes the traditional Ambrosia recipe will still merely be a simple combination of Coconut flakes, fresh oranges, and sugar, so when visiting an old school, more traditional Southern home around the holidays; don’t be surprised if their version does not contain all the add-ons we have placed in a once 3 ingredient recipe.
Below you will find our families recipe for Southern-Style Ambrosia Salad, which has gone strong since the 70’s; it’s a bit more dramatic than the original but still so yummy on the first bite and every single bite afterward.
Southern-Style Ambrosia Salad
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons of finely granulated sugar
- 6 ounces sour cream
- 3 mandarin oranges peeled and chopped into small pieces
- 2 and 1/2 cups of fresh pineapple chopped into small pieces
- 3 cups of miniature white marshmallows
- 1 cup of coconut flakes
- 1 cup of well-drained maraschino cherries
- toasted chopped pecans optional
- fresh mint springs
- Place the heavy whipping cream and the finely granulated sugar into a cold glass or cold metal bowl, using a handheld mixer with the whisk attachments , whip the heavy cream and finely granulated sugar until stiff peaks are formed and it becomes whipped cream.Fold in the 6-ounces of sour cream gently.
- Next add the chopped mandarin oranges, fresh chopped pineapple, miniature white marshmallows, coconut flakes, and 3/4 of the maraschino cherries, reserving the remaining cherries to top the finished Ambrosia salad.
- Refrigerate for 2+ hours before serving
- You can optionally garnish the finished Ambrosia salad with mint and toasted chopped pecans.
- Enjoy at any time of the year Southern-Style Ambrosia salad is often also enjoyed in the summer months and ALWAYS makes an appearance at the Christmas holidays.
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