Years ago, the decadent sweet iconic dessert Southern-Style Ambrosia Salad would start as a simple three-ingredient dessert recipe consisting of only freshly grated coconut, orange pulp or sliced oranges, and a bit of sugar. These days it has become an epic experience depending on who makes this vintage Southern Dessert.
My recipe for southern-Style 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 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 to this beautiful 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 to this beautiful 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 has a beautiful meaning that 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 explicitly titled, Southern-Style Ambrosia Salad began to appear in the last 25 years of the 19th century in American cookbooks. Before this period, several recipes were reasonably similar to Ambrosia, titled by different names. I have also noted from a historical timeline of Ambrosia Salad there are many variations of the method for ambrosia, all containing the critical 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 conventional 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 three-ingredient recipe.
Below you will find our family recipe for Southern-Style Ambrosia Salad, which has gone strong since the ’70s; it’s a bit more dramatic than the original but still so yummy on the first bite and every single bite afterward.
Items needed to make Southern-Style Ambrosia Salad
One cup of heavy whipping cream
Two tablespoons of finely granulated sugar
Six ounces of sour cream
Three mandarin oranges were peeled and chopped into small pieces
Two and 1/2 cups of fresh pineapple cut into small pieces
Five cups of miniature white marshmallows
One cup of coconut flakes
One cup of well-drained maraschino cherries
Toasted chopped pecans optional
Fresh mint sprigs
Southern-Style Ambrosia Salad
- 1 cup Heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons Granulated sugar
- 6 ounces Sour cream
- 3 Mandarin oranges peeled and chopped into small pieces
- 2½ Fresh pineapple chopped into small pieces
- 5 cups Miniature white marshmallows
- 1 cup Coconut flakes
- 1 cup Well-drained maraschino cherries
- ½ Toasted chopped pecans optional
- 8 Fresh mint sprigs
- 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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