Marshmallow Salad. The Salad That Sounds Like an April Fools’ Joke.

It seems very, very wrong to call this concoction a salad, but history in my family dictates that’s its name.  Marshmallow Salad. Similar to ambrosia but served with the meal not as a dessert.  SO weird, but it’s our tradition. 

I know it’s April Fools Day but a salad made out of mini marshmallows and canned fruit only seems like a joke.

For as long as that mushy thing in my skull  can remember, my family has served Marshmallow Salad at holiday dinners.  Marshmallow salad is also known as Ambrosia.  On occasion we’d call it Sour Cream Salad.  Truth is, we really never knew what to call it, other than an embarrassment.

We’re not the fanciest people on earth, but we’re fancy enough to know anything that includes marshmallows should at least be served as a dessert.  You see, for some reason we never serve Ambrosia as a dessert.  We served it as a side dish.  There it sits on the table, right beside the perfectly respectable green beans and mashed potatoes; a big bowl of marshmallows, fruit and coconut winking, “Here I am, in all my tacky glory.  Caught ya lookin’!”.

If marshmallow salad were a dinner guest, she’d be the sparkly, hooker-with-a heart-of-gold that your Uncle Nick brings to Easter dinner every year. An embarrassing, loud, colourfully dressed dish that you can’t help but love.

Plus it’s sort of understood you don’t talk about either one of them in public.

I’m not sure when it happened, but I’ve taken over the Marshmallow/Sour cream/Ambrosia Salad tradition.  It is now my job to smuggle it out of the house under the cover of ageing Tupperware, to all of our holiday dinners.   If the neighbours ask, I lie and tell them it’s something a little more respectable than marshmallow salad.  Like a 3 bean salad.  Or a shrunken head.

The good news is, this dish now officially has a name in our house.  One year it was dubbed White Trash Salad.   The name stuck.  And quickly.  Like Crazy glue to a hard hat.  Or sparkles to a stripper.

Here’s to strippers, hookers, marshmallows and not caring what other people do or think.  Here’s to … white trash salad!

Marshmallow Salad


10 oz. Can of Mandarin Oranges (drained very well)



14 oz. Can of Crushed Pineapple (drained very well)




1 cup Sour Cream

1/3 cup Maraschino Cherries (cut in half)

1/4 cup Sweetened Coconut

3 cups Mini Marshmallows (use the coloured ones for added trash)

Add all the ingredients to a bowl.

Like this.  Then fold everything together.  Cover it up and let set in fridge overnight.

Told ya the coloured marshmallows gave it that added zip.

And I vow here and now, on this very day not to hide the White Trash Salad anymore.  I just don’t have the energy.   I will carry it with my head held high to every family dinner we have.

Because it’s tradition, because it now has a really cool name and most importantly … because I like it.   And even though they may not admit it publicly, so does everyone else.

Marshmallow Salad (also known as White Trash Salad)

This is in no way a salad. Not even close. 
4.55 from 11 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert, Salad
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 15 people
Calories: 97kcal
Author: Karen


  • 1 10 oz can mandarin oranges drained very well
  • 1 14 oz can crushed pineapple drained very well
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup maraschino cherries cut in half
  • 1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 3 cups mini marshmallows


  • Add all the ingredients to a bowl and fold together.
  • Cover with plastic and let set in the fridge overnight.


Calories: 97kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 24mg | Potassium: 26mg | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 95IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 17mg | Iron: 0.1mg

If you’re looking for another dish to horrify your guests with (until they try them) whip up these bacon wraps made from bacon, condensed milk, dijon, cheese and bread. You would NEVER those ingredients would make up anything even close to delicious but they’re a favourite of everyone who’s tried them.

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Marshmallow Salad. The Salad That Sounds Like an April Fools\' Joke.


  1. Pats says:

    Heh. Mom made this even more white trash. Drained fruit cocktail and Cool Whip. Mixed with marshmallows, and coconut if no one objected to coconut. WE even had a dedicated bowl for it, called “The Fruit Salad Bowl.” My brother has dibs on that bowl when Mom dies.

  2. Laurel says:

    I am sorry, but … ewww. Those cherries in particular are glow in the dark toxic. But, hey, I am aware that that vast majority of people don’t eat food because it is healthy.

  3. Sally says:

    Yes…this is a salad!!!! We here in Georgia consider mac n cheese a vegetable too. So sue me. Or bite me. What ever. This is still a SALAD! (cute post. ugly salad. still a salad. ::::fingers in ears:::: La alalal la lala…I can’t hear you, people who think this is a dessert)

    • Teri on the (very) Wet Coast says:

      Ha ha, so Georgia was where my mother went to learn to cook. Mac and cheese (yes, Virginia, it even came in a can at one time) was a vegetable served in my house when I was growing up.
      And along side of something with grapes and walnuts and celery mixed in whipped cream, White Trash Salad was served at fancy times (weddings and funerals) as part of the main course. Definitely not served as dessert.

  4. Gayla T says:

    I forgot to tell you that Better Homes and Gardens April issue has an big article about front yard veggie gardening. I didn’t have time yet to read the entire article but it looked very nice.

  5. Gayla T says:

    Well, I have to agree that your family is way way trashier than mine. We were really upper stuff because we also add a can of fruit cocktail and glued it together with half sour cream and the other half is…….WHIPPED TOPPING. Ta dah! Aren’t you just completely blown away by knowing someone like us? Some times my mom would put some cooked rice in it. I’ve also seen her put it into a graham cracker crust for a pie. It, being food of the gods, was named Ambrosia. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Back in the day, whipped topping was really whipped. It came in a box, just white powder you put into 2 cups of milk and beat it until it was thick and creamy. I sure miss my mom when I think of these old recipes.

    • N.D. Weiss says:

      I recall that stuff in a box—Dream Whip! Or Wip.
      It tasted exactly like… whipped topping out of a box. But it tasted fabulous to us!

  6. Marti says:

    Hey Karen…

    My mum makes this with Cool Whip or worse, store-brand non-dairy whipped topping. I think I’ve just taken it down and entire notch, yes?

    If I used sour cream or “creme fraiche” that would totally class it up! Haha!

    Ok, back to the soups post…

  7. Rose says:


    I have eaten this my WHOLE LIFE, and still never had a name for it! Well, I do now! In our recipe, you do use sour cream, and either white or colored marshmallows, but instead of individual cans of fruit, we just get canned fruit cocktail – with cherries and all – and just drain and dump. Voila! Much to my delight, my husband absolutely LOVES the stuff, and requests it on occasion. We’ve always served it as a side dish, too. No idea why. Just do.

  8. Debbie @ Swampbilly Ranch says:

    My mother still makes this for every holiday dinner. She actually calls it Fruit Salad. My husband loves it!

  9. Elisa says:

    Wow! I cannot believe this salad has made its way out of the South. I keep trying to convince myself that it will count as the fruit salad my mother in law requested. After seeing your post, I will be bringing it with me to Easter dinner!

    You should tackle a good homemade pimento cheese. Apparently, it is considered white trash as well!

  10. Ecochic says:

    White Trash Salad sounds about right! My friends have taken to calling this White Person Salad. They just don’t understand the allure of it. lol

  11. Pauline Clark says:

    Thank you! I love this stuff. Never knew the name of it and no one ever knew what I was talking about…so now I have a recipe AND it has a super fun name! Can’t wait to write it into my treasured cookbook!

  12. princesslala says:

    Why did no one run with the idea of calling candy salad? I’m going to start this trend by having a KitKat and Twizzler salad right now. This is revolutionary.

    Darn right you should hold your head high when you carry this salad. I think you should carry this salad ON your head to parties. That’s badass.

    • Karen says:

      Princes Lala – Carry it on my head? That’s something a crazy person would do. ;) ~ karen

    • Heidi says:

      Candy salad is our name for it too.
      We decorate it with the cherries cut up and arranged like flowers and maybe a crushed candy cane border.
      Yes it is a salad and proud to see it on our table.
      I think we must all be related or at least distant cousins. I have never met any one else that has seen this before.

  13. Jen says:

    Oh man, I totally love this stuff. …and I will henceforth call it White Trash Salad from now on!

    But we have ours with plain mini-marshmallows and without the maraschino cherries. ‘Cause, you know — we have class, baby.

  14. Dani says:

    My Oma would make this for all special occasions when I was a kid, except she would freeze it in a big square tupperware container, and when it was time to be served cut us off a big old slab, lol. Yes it was served at dinner time, right next to the beets :P

  15. Susan says:

    Couldn’t you tart this up to elevate it from its white trash orgins?

    Such as using homemade marshmallows painstakingly cut into chevrons. Use the rarest, sweetest cherries such as the black surinam variety, toast the coconut on a responsibly sourced plank of wood from an exotic rainforest? Free trade pinapple crushed by a mallet of pure platinum and use sumo oranges instead of tinned mandarians?

    Of course then you’d have to call it Pretentious Salad.

  16. Paula says:

    This post really hit home with lots of people judging from the number of comments. It brought back to me a salad my mother-in-law made that had cottage cheese in it. I really miss her but I don’t miss that salad. Yukko!!!

  17. Amy in StL says:

    Wow, I’ve seen this at potlucks but never partake because I think shredded coconut is like having grass in my food. I subscribe to a recipe service that has one of the side options as apple salad. Which basically is apples, bananas, cool whip and macadamia nuts with marshmallows in a bowl. I pretend it’s an actual salad.

  18. Betsy says:

    Yes, 5 Cup Salad at our house too…..1 cup of each ingredient mixed together. But we used green grapes instead of the pineapple. Usually just at Easter dinner with the ham…yes, side dish, not dessert. Love it! Very spring-like….fresh and yummy. Seriously. I am going to go buy the ingredients right now because I had actually forgotten about it. Happy Spring everybody!

    • Denise Potter says:

      That’s what we called it too! I’m sure I have several of those “neighborhood” or “church” recipe books that were sold as fundraisers, with the recipe in it. Good memories.

  19. jonquil says:

    I’m so sorry Karen, I read your blog avidly and pretty much love everything you do. But this, this looks horrible!

    Mind you, seeing as so many people commented on how great it is, maybe I’m the one who’s the culinary philistine…

  20. deborahinps says:

    I actually had a cookbook called White Trash Recipes… Of course your recipe was included.
    One of my favs was a smashed ketchup sandwich.

    I think one of my dear friends lifted it from my cookbook collection a few years back.
    She’s tacky like that :)

    • Mary W says:

      I had that cookbook also. Of course, we ate this salad many years ago – probably 50 at least. Always a side, never dessert. I love the colored marshmallows. It always got eaten with no leftovers. That was in Wisconsin for holidays and 40 years in Florida again at holidays. Weird no one ever made it except for holidays. Wonder why?

  21. amy dame says:

    i’ve only ever had this with the whipped cream, my old boss used to make it and whenever we had a potluck, we’d beg her to bring it in. we didn’t care if it was trashy, it was GOOD!

    my family’s holiday dessert is a REAL salad (ie, with gelatin). it’s layers of cherry jello, cream cheese mixed with crushed pineapple, and lime jello made with the drained pineapple juice instead of water. mmm, so yummy. west coast people look at us strangely, but prairie folks know how good it is!

  22. You could probably do the same thing with chopped up Peeps. Don’t you still have a stash of those somewhere? ;)

    I actually made s’mores with Peeps last night and I am not even kidding when I tell you that they were the most delicious s’mores I’ve ever tasted. It was rather surprising, considering that I don’t even like them otherwise.

  23. Kathy says:

    Was your mom by any chance a United Church Lady? I have a theory, you see.

    My mother also made this almost-exact dish for every holiday gathering; even as a delighted small child I couldn’t figure out how it qualified as “salad.” Anyhow, my theory is that at some long-ago church-basement supper some UCL brought Ambrosia as a dessert but someone put it on the main buffet table by accident, and ever since then it’s been a fancy-supper salad staple.


    • lj says:

      This made me laugh out loud! Now I know why this is so familiar, though never served at any family dinner in my memory. ( We do still always have lime/lemon Jello with grated carrots, and crushed pinapple.)

      • Dolores says:

        And do you add cottage cheese and chopped celery to it too? That’s another 70’s salad thing that my BFF used to make.

  24. Lin N says:

    I had forgotten about having this years ago at my aunts. Loved it! Thanks for the memory and smile. Can’t have it these days as it would play havoc with my glucose level.

  25. Traci says:

    HA! We do Watergate salad, but leave out the cherries! The crazy thing is that NOBODY eats it, but it is ALWAYS a part of every holiday meal!

    • Amy in KC says:

      I LOVE Watergate salad! A potluck favorite and family dinner favorite too. And then there’s the pink version that’s really good also.

  26. Lynn says:

    I cannot eat this salad, it makes my teeth hurt just looking at it. We only had this salad when I was really little (the late 70s), and I think a relative made it. So I have been saved for the most part at family functions in my adult life. We did have one Thanksgiving though when some random relatives brought the colored chocolate pastilles you melt to make candy with and put them out in a bowl as an appetizer/dessert. Ew.

    My mom makes a really tasty Waldorf Salad!

  27. Marie says:

    Love this salad! We make it with mandarin orange slices, pineapple chunks, and grapes-I’ll have to try adding coconut next time. I need to find a dairy-free version to bring to dinners now that we have some dietary restrictions in the family. Thanks for the memories.

    • amy dame says:

      ultra ultra low fat dream whip is dairy free, if your recipe is for dream whip instead of sour cream. (it’s completely oil product, i have friends who refer to dream whip and bananas as white trash vegan dessert)

      or, tofutti makes a good soy based sour cream, if you prefer the sour cream.

  28. Tess says:

    Marshmallows totally gross me out. I have to go lay down as my heart is just racing and I think I’m having a panic attack.

  29. B-Naz says:

    I’m quite amused by the fact that you dedicated a whole post to the ‘White Trash Salad’. When my boyfriend and I first moved into our place we decided to have our first proper holiday dinner for friends that didn’t have anywhere to go. THIS salad was on his list of must haves so like a good girlfriend I scoured the internet to find out what the heck it was he was talking about. And yes, I did make it and yes, everyone did think it was dessert.

    In the end I no longer fight it (no matter how odd I think it is) and I make it for big dinners because I’ve come to realize it’s a prairie thing and even though it never all gets eaten having it on the table is like a flash from his childhood for him.

    Thanks for the smiles. xo

  30. Mindy says:

    Yes, this also makes an appearance at our family holiday dinners. Thankfully, I don’t have to be the one to make it. Another one that falls into the same category is the jello salad. There are all types of combos that are equally disgusting, but the one I like to scoff at the most is the…wait for it…lime jello with grated carrots. What the?!

    • Karen says:

      Mindy – That made me laugh OUT LOUD. Yeah. It’d take some sort of Professor of Gross to explain the lime jello with grated carrots. ~ karen

      • Denise Potter says:

        This has got to be the most hilarious post and RESPONSES of any I’ve read on your website. “Professor of Gross”, I almost had to go change clothes after than one.

    • Joi Lin Olsen says:

      Are you from Utah? That’s a Relief Society staple around these parts, lol!

  31. Britt says:

    Wow… my family must be more White Trash because we make a similar salad only ours is encased in yellow jello… Looks disgusting but tastes soooo good!

  32. Allyson says:

    We have that every year for Thanksgiving! Except we use Cool-Whip instead of sour cream. Because apparently the marshmallows don’t make it sweet enough. We add actual cut up fruit too, like apples and bananas.
    I guess it’s to make up for the cool-whip.

  33. Kim says:

    So glad you’re taking this public! Our family has “enjoyed” this salad for 4 generations. We call it 5-Cup Salad…made almost the same as yours Karen, minus the coconut. One cup of each ingredient all mixed together.
    Your name is definitely going to come up at the dinner table this weekend!
    Love the variety on your site, Happy Easter.

  34. Audrey says:

    Nice. I actually love ambrosia. I also like Waldorf Salad and I’m pretty sure they are in the same family of “what-the-what is that?!”. I am going to be trekking back to my home state in a few months for a family reunion..I think I’ll be bringing multicolored marshmallows this year.

  35. pegr says:

    What a flash back to the 70’s. Stoners used to love this stuff. FYI, waldorf salad has chicken.

    • Karen says:

      Pegr – I can’t imagine stoners could get their shit together enough to make this salad! LOL. Oh. And classic Waldorf salad doesn’t have chicken at all. That’s a variation of Waldorf that people occasionally make. It’s normally just fruit and vegetables. Although … I make a variation on a curried chicken/Waldorf salad that has all of those things and it’s delicious! ~ karen

  36. jen says:

    Lets not forget Watergate salad. With marshmallows,pineapple chunks,cherries and pistachio pudding with cool whip.
    We also make a mix of pretzles,peanuts,m&ms,chex and cherios cearel mix it with melted white chocolate chips and that is what we call white trash. So funny how much white trash there can be at ones dinner table.

    • Dd51 says:

      We use a melted chocolate with peanut butter instead of White chocolate, we call it dog food, but I think the proper name is puppy chow. So I can say in total honesty, my kids ate dog food growing up.

  37. Brittany says:

    In my family, we call it Waldorf Salad and we have it every year for Thanksgiving as a side dish. Not really sure why, since most of my family can’t stand it, but hey, what’s Thanksgiving without tiny marshmallows?

    • Karen says:

      Brittany – LOL, that’s really strange. Does your family know Waldorf Salad is an actual salad? (that doesn’t have marshmallows in it?) If I recall Waldorf salad is apples, celery, walnuts, raisins and some mayo. Or maybe you’ve just added marshmallows to Waldorf salad. I’m so confused. Do you see how confusing salads of the 60’s are making my life? :) ~ karen

      • Brittany says:

        Ours is like real Waldorf Salad and your salad had a baby. A delicious, too-sweet baby that results in left-overs for weeks because no one wants to eat it. But let’s see, in our bastardized version, there’s no raisins but we do use mayo instead of sour cream…but then we have the mandarin oranges, cherries, walnuts, celery, apples and marshmallows. Oh and bananas. It kind of looks like cat vomit, to be honest.

  38. Beckie says:

    We eat this at thanksgiving in my fam.. but we add cold, cooked rice and it is dubbed “heavenly rice”… and it is, it truly is heavenly!

  39. Colleen says:

    To make the salad even more white trash substitute Cool Whip for the sour cream (too uptown). Guilty pleasure!

  40. Shari says:

    Love it!! We make it with whipped cream and pineapple chunks!

  41. Amie says:

    That’s the craziest shit I have ever seen!

  42. Jocelyne says:

    On Top Chef Masters last week, the chefs had to update (mostly) tacky 60s food. One of those foods was ambrosia which I had heard tales of, but never seen or tasted. What a strange little concoction…

    • Karen says:

      Jocelyne – What a GREAT idea for a show, to update tacky 60’s food! It is a strange concoction, that’s for SURE. ~ karen

  43. Suzan says:

    When my sister was a young bride she brought ambrosia to a large family gathering. She used colored marshmallows. My brother took one look and said, “Look, Julie brought Lucky Charms Barf!” and that is what we have called it ever since. “White Trash Salad” is a MUCH nicer name!

    • Beth says:

      Oh my gosh Suzan — LUCKY CHARMS BARF!!!! I just scared the bejeebies out of the cat sitting on my desk in front of the computer – by laughing OUT LOUD and just about screaming!! And I thought White Trash Salad was hilarious!!!

      Karen – thank God for your blog – between you and your readers – I never fail to get a good laugh, and that’s just what I needed today!! Getting ready for Thanksgiving at my Sister-in-Laws in a couple days – I’m thinking White Trash Salad (or Lucky Charms Barf) will have to be making an appearance this year!!! (though I know for sure the coconut will have to bow out, or I will be thrown from the premises!) I know my 12 year old will probably make sure the leftovers disappear!!! Thanks for the laugh and hope everyone has a blessed Holiday season!!!

    • Denise Potter says:

      I laughed so hard reading this post that tears started sneaking from my eye. Thanks for sharing this!

  44. den says:

    where i come from, it’s not salad unless it has gelatin. :( think of it as a jiggly, fake-fruit-flavored crouton.

  45. Rea Niece says:

    LOL Love the name. I am making that for Easter dinner…and I always make it for Thanksgiving and Christmas too. The family will get a kick out of the new name!

  46. Adrienne Audrey says:

    The only food I will mix marshmallows with besides smore ingredients and rice krispies is yams. My family’s thanksgiving tradition is to add marshmallows to the tops of the yams and cook it under the broiler for a few minutes. Sounds gross but it’s yummy!

  47. Kate S says:

    I have never had the please but it sure reminds me of Edward Scissorhands.

  48. Pati says:

    Yummm! Love your name for it! Also grew up with this on our table at every family gathering…we used plain white mini marshmallows tho..and no cherries. It always sat beside the green jello, grated carrot, weird shaped salad…
    In my adult life I have made Ambrosia once and it was for dessert, I just don’t get it as a side dish? But it is yummy!

  49. Karen says:

    OMG I am making that this weekend. Seems scrumptious!!

    Oh, and is Sister Wives worth watching? Like start at Season 1 and watch them all?

    • Karen says:

      Karen – Meh. It’s more of a have it on in the background kindda show. Paying too close attention might make you itchy. ~ karen

  50. Rebecca says:

    Oh man, I love that stuff! I’d totally forgotten it existed. My kids’ll go apeshit if I serve that with dinner. Thank you, Karen. Oh, and I think there actually is something with an inkling of nutrition in marshmallows. Not that I’m saying this is not total white trash, but maybe they keep your fingernails strong or something! Must go google…

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