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What Happened to Ambrosia Salad?

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

Photo: Flicker: Steven Depolo

Ambrosia salad originated in 1867 in cookbooks as a tasty dessert served on holidays and special occasions. Early recipes used shredded coconut, sugar, oranges, pineapple, cream, or sour cream. The availability of oranges growing in the South increased the popularity of this recipe. Growth of the railroad made the ingredients of oranges, coconut, and pineapple more available to consumers.

In the 1880s the recipe added whipped cream and liquor to the ingredients. During the 1990s the recipe evolved into a fruit salad with oranges, bananas, pineapple, strawberries, grapes, apples, mandarin oranges, coconut, and lemon juice. Later recipes added marshmallows, marshmallow whip, sour cream, heavy cream, yogurt, and maraschino cherries. Recipes appeared from 1887-1949 in cookbooks like Buckeye Cookery by Estelle Wood Wilcox, published by Buckeye Publishing 1887 and Southern Cooking, by Mrs. SS.R Dull, Grossett & Dunlap, 1941.

This dessert can be a great addition to a potluck dinner, picnic, or buffet. The sweeter recipes are the most popular with cooks, but the original recipe used less sugar and cream. Many recipes use unsweetened coconut and leave out the sugar because the fruit already contains enough sugar.

Ingredients Used in Some Recipes Photo Source: Pinterest Dinner At the Zoo

Healthier Ambrosia Salad

This recipe uses fresh fruit not canned, and no sugar.

You will need a knife, cutting board, measuring cup, measuring spoon, and bowl to mix the fruit salad.

2 oranges or tangelos peeled and slices cut in half

1 cup fresh pineapple chunks diced

1/2 cup unsweetened or sweetened shredded coconut

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt

Whipped cream topping optional

Peel the oranges or tangelos and discard the peel. Cut the oranges slices in half. Cut the pineapple chunks into bite sized pieces. Put the fruit in the bowl and mix together. Add the coconut, and mix with the fruit. Add lemon juice and mix well. Add sour cream or yogurt and mix throughly Serve with whipped cream if desired. Serves 4


How Ambrosia Became A Southern Christmas Tradition, Robert Moss, Serious Eats

The Food Timeline, Lynne Olver, Virginia Tech University Libraries and the College of Liberal Arts & Human Services

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