Pistachio Fruit Salad (or Watergate Salad)

This creamy pistachio fruit salad (also known as Watergate salad, pistachio fluff salad or green fluff salad) is a delightful, old fashioned recipe. Whether you serve it as a dessert or a side dish, there’s never any left at the end of the meal.

pistachio fruit salad or watergate salad

This pistachio pineapple dessert salad is the perfect combination of sweet, fruity, and nutty without being too sweet. Great for taking to a potluck dinner, putting out for a buffet, or serving for a holiday dinner.

It’s super easy to make and tastes even better after it’s been sitting in the refrigerator for a day.

Which means you can (and should) make it ahead of time. My favorite kind of party food!

You may wonder after looking at the ingredients if this is a dessert or a salad. You can serve it as either, so it’s also a very versatile dish.

If you’re in need of more than 16 servings, then you can easily double the recipe to make more.

Ingredients

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pistachio Jell-O, fruit cocktail, pineapple, marshmallows, maraschino cherries, pistachios, and Cool Whip on white surface

These are the ingredients you will need for your pistachio fruit salad.

  • Pineapple – I used one 20-ounce can of diced or crushed pineapples in juice (not syrup).
  • Pistachio instant pudding – One 3.4 ounce package of instant pudding is needed. The small box!
  • Fruit cocktail – One 15-ounce can of fruit cocktail, drained. Optional, but encouraged. You could also substitute mandarin oranges if desired.
  • Mini marshmallows – You will need one cup of miniature marshmallows.
  • Maraschino cherries – ½ cup of cherries plus more for garnishment
  • Pistachios – ½ cup of lightly salted chopped pistachios. You can also use chopped pecans or walnuts if preferred. I like to use salted nuts because it dulls down the sweetness in the Watergate salad. The nuts can be omitted, but I think the recipe tastes better with the extra crunch they provide.
  • Cool Whip – One eight ounce container of Cool Whip. For a healthier version, some people use cottage cheese instead (although that completely changes the flavor and texture of the dish).

How to Make Pistachio Fruit Salad

Three dishes of pistachio fruit salad with spoons

Prep Work

Make sure to thaw the Cool Whip prior to using it in this recipe.

Chop 1/2 cup of maraschino cherries in half.

Chop 1/2 cup of salted pistachios.

Drain the juice from the fruit cocktail. (Don’t do this for the pineapple!)

Combine Pineapple and Pudding Mix

Mix pineapple and pistachio pudding

First, in a large bowl, combine one can of diced pineapple with the dry pistachio pudding mix. Do not drain the pineapple juice as it is needed for the dry pudding mix.

Stir until all of the pudding has been dissolved in the pineapple juice.

Mix Ingredients

Chopped pistachios, cherries, and marshmallows with instant pudding

Next, mix in the unsweetened fruit cocktail (if using), miniature marshmallows, chopped maraschino cherries, and chopped pistachios.

Fold in the Cool Whip

Pistachio fruit salad being made in bowl with Cool Whip

Finally, fold in the container of Cool Whip.

Mix just until combined. You don’t want to stir it too much or the whipped topping will start to lose its fluffiness. This is also why it is added at the very end.

Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours and up to three days before serving.

I like to let it chill for at least one day. That allows the flavors to blend together and the marshmallows to soften. And it just tastes so much better.

Before serving, garnish with chopped pistachios and a cherry.

Watergate salad in glasses with cherries and spoons

FAQs

Why is pistachio salad called Watergate salad?

Some people think that the Watergate name is derived from the classic Watergate cake as they are both made with pistachios and shades of green.

What can I do with leftover ambrosia salad?

You can blend the ingredients together to make a beverage that is similar to a smoothie or milkshake.

What is the flavor of pistachio pudding?

The flavors of pistachio pudding are smooth and nutty. Pistachio pudding has a very distinct flavor that stands out in any recipe.

More Dessert Recipes You Will Love

pistachio fruit salad with one cherry and spoon

Pistachio Fruit Salad

Wanda Simone
4.5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cooling time 4 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 5 mins
Course Dessert, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 16 servings
Calories 125 kcal

Equipment

  • large bowl
  • mixing spoon
  • plastic wrap

Ingredients
  

  • 1 3.4-ounce package pistachio instant pudding
  • 1 20-ounce can diced or crushed pineapple in juice (not syrup)
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • 1 15-ounce can unsweetened fruit cocktail drained (optional)
  • ½ cup chopped maraschino cherries plus more for garnish
  • ½ cup chopped, lightly salted pistachios plus more for garnish
  • 1 8-ounce container Cool whip thawed

Instructions
 

  • In a large bowl, combine 1 can undrained diced pineapple with the dry pistachio pudding mix. Stir until smooth and creamy.
  • Mix in 1 can unsweetened fruit cocktail (if using), 1 cup miniature mini marshmallows, ½ cup chopped maraschino cherries, and ½ cup chopped pistachios.
  • Fold in 1 container of Cool whip until completely combined.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 3 days.
  • Before serving, garnish with chopped pistachios and a cherry.

Notes

  • This dessert tastes much better if made at least a day ahead of time. This allows the flavors to combine and gives the marshmallows time to soften.
Substitutions:
  • Substitute walnuts or pecans for the pistachios if desired.
  • Unsalted nuts will work, but I find the added salt cuts down on the sweetness of the dessert.
  • Omit the fruit cocktail, or replace with canned mandarin oranges or fresh fruit if desired.

Nutrition

Calories: 125 kcalCarbohydrates: 25 gProtein: 2 gFat: 3 gSaturated Fat: 1 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 2 mgSodium: 104 mgPotassium: 125 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 22 gVitamin A: 117 IUVitamin C: 4 mgCalcium: 31 mgIron: 1 mg
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