This heavenly fruit salad is wrapped in a light and fluffy whipped cream dressing with a secret ingredient that makes it absolutely the best! Toasted coconut, pineapples, mandarin oranges, strawberries, grapes and bananas become a “to die for” side dish or dessert in this Ambrosia Fruit Salad recipe that’s perfect for holidays, family dinners, showers, even brunch!
Ambrosia. It’s one of those classic southern recipes that has a million family versions. It’s a tradition that’s both rich and fantastic and light and fluffy all at the same time. If Heaven has clouds, they’re most likely giant bowls of sweet Ambrosia Fruit Salad ready to be spooned up and savored.
Ambrosia was created to be special. Made of fruits that weren’t always easily available, this prized dish was reserved for holidays and special occasions. It’s name even means “food of the gods.” One look and there’s no doubting it’s fabulous.
So how do you make something that’s the food of the gods even better? You look back through old handwritten recipes and discover those little secrets that made the food our grandmothers whipped up magically better than anything else.
Ambrosia Salad & Secret Whipped Cream Dressing Ingredients
- mandarin oranges
- green grapes
- toasted coconut
- heavy whipping cream
- confectioner’s sugar
- real mayonnaise– this recipe’s secret ingredient!
Why Mayo? Real mayonnaise is super creamy and adds a full bodied, roundness to the dressing’s flavor by adding a tiny tad of umami that’s just barely there. It’s one of those tiny tricks that makes food so good, but you can’t really tell why or what it is.
Can You Taste The Secret Ingredient. No, you cannot taste it. While a little mayonnaise certainly grounds the dressing with a bit of umami, it doesn’t make it any less sweet. On the other hand, it doesn’t make it more sweet or more dessert-like either, the way cream cheese or sour cream does.
How To Make Ambrosia Fruit Salad
Prep the Fruit. Slice the bananas, strawberries and grapes. Drain the pineapple and oranges and make sure they are patted dry with paper towels. Any extra liquid will break down the whipped cream and make this salad weepy.
Whip Up The Sauce. In a large bowl, whip heavy cream with a whisk or mixer for approximately 3-5 minutes or until stiff peaks begin to form. As the cream whips, sprinkle in the confectioner’s sugar. When cream is fully whipped, gently fold in the mayonnaise until fully incorporated.
Fold it Together. In a large bowl, toss together all the fruit except the mandarin oranges (because they fall apart easily) and 1-2 tablespoons of toasted coconut (which will be a topping). To finish, gently fold oranges and whipped topping into the fruit mixture. Top with remaining coconut and serve.
How to Toast Coconut
Aside from the secret dressing, toasted coconut also makes this the best Ambrosia salad recipe around! Toasting coconut is such an easy step, but don’t dare skip or underestimate it. It brings delicious texture along with an amazingly light & nutty flavor to the mix!
To Toast. Spread coconut in a single layer across a baking sheet. Place baking sheet under broiler for about 1 minute or until coconut begins to brown. Watch it closely! Remove from under the broiler. Stir coconut on the pan to keep it from sticking as it cools and set aside. That’s it!
If you just can’t imagine Ambrosia without its traditional little marshmallows, just add them in! 1 cup is all it takes. You can also add 1 cup of any of the following, or maybe substitute a fruit from the ingredient list for one listed here you like better. Just remember, the more you add, the less dressing you will have.
- red or green apples
- maraschino cherries (drained & patted dry)
- sliced peaches (drained & patted dry)
- pecans or walnuts
Can you sub out the secret ingredient? Sure. My heart might break, and the recipe won’t be nearly as good (or technically even be the same recipe), but if you just can’t bring yourself to live that daringly, try sour cream, cream cheese or more whipping cream instead.
Other Fruit Salad Recipes You’ll Love
- Classic Fruit Salad with Old Fashioned Cream Sauce
- Red & Green Fruit Salad with Cinnamon Orange Dressing
- Layered Strawberry Jello Salad
- Blackberry Margarita Ambrosia
- Berry Watermelon Fruit Salad
- Tropical Orange Jello Salad
Fruit Salad is always a welcome dish no matter where you’re going or what the occasion! And this special Ambrosia recipe is perfect for celebrating friendships and all those little moments that make life together special.
If You Make This Recipe, I Can’t Wait To Hear About It!
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- 2 bananas, sliced
- 1 heaping cup pineapple chunks, drained and patted dry
- 1 heaping cup sliced strawberries
- 1 heaping cup sliced green grapes
- 11 ounce can mandarin oranges, drained and patted dry
- 1 cup toasted sweetened coconut flakes
Secret Ingredient Whipped Cream Dressing
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
- 1/4 cup real mayonnaise
- Spread coconut in a single layer across a baking sheet. Place baking sheet under broiler for about 1 minute or until coconut begins to brown. Remove from under broiler. Stir coconut on pan to keep it from sticking as it cools and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whip heavy cream with a whisk or mixer for approximately 3-5 minutes or until stiff peaks begin to form. As cream whips, sprinkle in the confectioner's sugar. When cream is fully whipped, gently fold in the mayonnaise until fully incorporated.
- In a large bowl, toss together all fruit except mandarin oranges and 1-2 tablespoons of toasted coconut. Gently fold oranges and whipped topping into the fruit mixture. Top with remaining coconut and serve.