Watergate Salad Recipe


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This classic American recipe is sure to be a hit with all of your friends and family! Watergate salad is a dessert salad that’s normally served as a side dish. It gets its signature green color and delicious flavor from Pistachio pudding mixed with crushed pineapple, whipped topping, mini marshmallows, and pecans. This super easy dump-and-go dish takes less than 5 minutes of hands-on time!

Watergate Salad

This is the ultimate recipe for Watergate Salad, a classic recipe featuring a creamy and flavorful combination of pistachio pudding, pineapple, marshmallows, and pecans. It takes only a few minutes of hands-on time and a couple of hours in the fridge.

Green fluff is the perfect side dish or dessert for family gatherings, potlucks, and picnics. Your family will love this easy-to-make, delicious treat!

Pistachio delight is a creamy, sweet side dish that’s been a favorite on tables across America for decades. This dessert salad has a whimsical green color, courtesy of pistachio pudding mix, that makes it a hit with kids and adults alike. Plus, it’s loaded with fluffy marshmallows and crunchy pecans. 

The chopped pecans add a delightful crunch and their sweet and buttery flavor pairs well with the sweetness of the other ingredients. Frozen whipped topping is folded in, giving pistachio fluff its creamy, dreamy texture.

If you’re a fan of coconut, feel free to sprinkle some shredded sweetened coconut in for an extra layer of flavor and texture. For those who love a pop of color and an extra burst of sweetness, maraschino cherries make an excellent garnish.

This is an easy recipe that I normally make for just about any holiday, from Easter to Christmas. While you’re here, be sure to check out our Ambrosia Salad recipe – it has tons of 5 star reviews!


Instant Pistachio Pudding Mix: This gives our salad its signature green color and unique flavor. 

Crushed Pineapple: This adds a tangy sweetness that balances the creaminess of the pudding. Don’t drain the juice – you need it to set the pudding.

Mini Marshmallows: These little clouds of sugar give the salad a light, fluffy texture.

Chopped Pecans: These add a delightful crunch and their sweet and buttery flavor pairs well with the sweetness of the other ingredients.

Frozen Whipped Topping: This gives the salad its creamy, dreamy texture. Make sure it’s thawed before you start!

Sweetened Coconut (optional): If you’re a fan of coconut, feel free to sprinkle some in for an extra layer of flavor and texture.

Maraschino Cherries (optional): These make the salad even more festive! Use them as a garnish, or mix them right in.

The labeled ingredients for watergate salad.

Alternative Ingredients

  • Not a fan of pistachios? Substitute pistachio pudding mix with vanilla or lemon for a different flavor profile.
  • If pecans aren’t your thing, walnuts or almonds would work just as well.
  • For a tropical twist, add some canned mandarin oranges or substitute the pecans with toasted macadamia nuts.

How To Make Watergate Salad

Combine Pudding and Pineapple: Add the instant pistachio pudding mix and crushed pineapple to a large mixing bowl. Stir until the pudding mix dissolves completely. (See the recipe card below for the full printable instructions.)

Adding the undrained crushed pineapples and pudding mix to the mixing bowl and mixing together.

Add Marshmallows and Pecans: Toss in the mini marshmallows and chopped pecans. Stir gently to combine these ingredients with the pudding and pineapple mixture. 

Adding the pecans and marshmallows to the bowl and mixing together.

Incorporate Whipped Topping: Now, fold in the thawed frozen whipped topping. Continue folding gently until it’s completely incorporated. If you’re using sweetened coconut, mix it in at this stage. 

Adding cool whip and shredded coconut to the mixture and gently mixing the ingredients together.

Chill the Salad: Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator. 

Covering the mixed salad bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerating until set.

Finish and Serve: Before serving, remember to give your salad a gentle stir. Transfer the salad into a serving bowl or individual dessert dishes. If you’re using maraschino cherries, add them on top for a pop of color. Your Watergate Salad is now ready to serve and enjoy! See the recipe card below for the full written instructions, including ingredient amounts, and helpful tips, etc.

An image showing the texture of the salad before adding the final garnishes.

Pro Tips

  • Make sure to stir the pudding mix and pineapple until it’s fully dissolved to avoid any lumps.
  • If you prefer a lighter texture, you can fold in an additional 1/2 cup of whipped topping before serving.
  • Remember to chill the salad for at least two hours before serving – this helps the flavors meld together and gives the salad a chance to fully set.

What Are The Ingredients In Watergate Salad?

The key ingredients are instant pistachio pudding mix, crushed pineapple, mini marshmallows, chopped pecans, and whipped topping. Optional ingredients include sweetened shredded coconut and maraschino cherries.

Does It Have Cherries In It?

It can! While not a traditional ingredient, you can add maraschino cherries for extra color and sweetness.

Is It A Southern Thing?

Though Watergate Salad is loved in the South, it isn’t exclusive to this region. It’s also known as a classic dish in the Midwest and is enjoyed all across the United States!

A large bowl next to two small bowls filled with a delicious dessert salad.

Is Watergate Salad A Dessert?

Watergate Salad is a delightful paradox – it’s a dessert that’s also a salad! Though this dessert salad is sweet enough to be served as a dessert, it’s traditionally served as a side dish or an accompaniment to the main course. But of course, there are no hard and fast rules – you can also serve it as a dessert if you like!

Can It Be Made A Day Ahead?

Absolutely! In fact, it tastes even better when it’s had time to chill and the flavors meld together.

Can It Be Frozen?

While you can technically freeze Watergate Salad, I’d recommend enjoying it fresh for the best texture and flavor. If you do need to freeze it, be sure to thaw it in the refrigerator before serving.

How Long Does It Last In The Fridge?

If stored in an airtight container, it can last in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

An overhead image of a scene of multiple bowls filled with watergate salad next to a couple of garnish bowls.

Why Is It Runny?

If it’s runny, it might be because the pineapple juice wasn’t fully incorporated into the pudding mix. Make sure to stir until it’s fully dissolved.

Why Do They Call It Watergate Salad?

The recipe for Watergate Salad was supposedly released by Kraft Foods in the 1970s under the name Pistachio Pineapple Delight. It was around the same time as the infamous Watergate scandal, and the name somehow switched. Despite the salad having nothing to do with the political event, the unique name stuck around and has been used ever since!

Keep In Touch

I’d love to hear what you thought of this recipe in the comments or on Instagram! @KeyToMyLime #KeyToMyLime

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A Pinterest pin image with a picture of watergate salad, with title text at the top.

Salad Recipes

If you like this recipe, be sure to check out all of our other side dish recipes. Some reader favorites are:

Yield: 10 servings

BEST Watergate Salad Recipe

The best watergate salad recipe.

Watergate salad gets its flavor and green color from Pistachio pudding mixed with pineapple, whipped topping, marshmallows, and pecans.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes


  • 1 (3.4-ounce) package instant pistachio pudding mix
  • 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 (8-ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut (optional)
  • Chopped maraschino cherries, for garnish (optional)


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pistachio pudding mix and the undrained crushed pineapple. Stir well until the pudding mix is fully dissolved and incorporated.
  2. Add the mini marshmallows and chopped pecans to the bowl. Stir gently to combine.
  3. Fold in the thawed whipped topping until the mixture is smooth and well combined. If using, add the shredded sweetened coconut and mix gently.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until the salad is chilled and set.
  5. Before serving, give the salad a gentle stir to redistribute any settled ingredients. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl or individual dessert dishes.
  6. If using, garnish with maraschino cherries for a pop of color.
  7. Serve chilled and enjoy!


Store any leftover Watergate Salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

If you prefer a lighter texture, you can fold in an additional 1/2 cup of whipped topping before serving.

Nutrition Information:

Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 301Total Fat: 19gCarbohydrates: 32.7gFiber: 3.7gSugar: 21.4gProtein: 4.4g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.


Tag @KeyToMyLime on Instagram so we can see your delicious meal!

Watergate Salad is a classic dish that’s sure to win over anyone who tries it. Whether you’re serving it up for a holiday feast, a summer potluck, or just a weeknight dinner, you can’t go wrong with this sweet, creamy, and utterly delightful salad.

The best watergate salad recipe.

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