Watergate Salad is a simple recipe made from a combination of pistachio pudding mix, crushed pineapple, marshmallows, and fresh whipped cream (no Cool Whip here). This easy dessert has been making its way into our potlucks and holiday tables since 1980.
WATERGATE SALAD RECIPE
This salad is traditionally made with pistachio pudding, Cool Whip, pineapple, marshmallows, and nuts. I didn’t realize until college that real homemade whipped cream actually existed. Cool Whip was used in every…single…dessert. Once, I knew you could actually make whipped cream from scratch I never looked back.
This version of the green stuff uses fresh whipped cream that has been stabilized so you can make it a day or two ahead of time if needed. Although it literally takes minutes to prepare so that’s not really necessary.
WHY IS IT NAMED WATERGATE SALAD?
Seems like an odd name for a simple salad, right? The origin of the name has a few possible starts. Kraft Kitchens originally called this Pistachio Pineapple Delight in 1975. Apparently, when the food editor printed it in the newspaper column she renamed it Watergate Salad to stir more interest in the recipe. The Watergate Scandal was the name of the presidential scandal at the time. It has been rumored that the chef at the Watergate hotel invented this classic recipe.
Aside from the actual history, my family has a history of this green fluff being present at every one of our family gatherings since 1980. This retro dessert seemed to be my sister Shelly’s responsibility to make it and we never could remember what went in it so there were various versions through the years. Like ambrosia salad, it’s fluffy and light with simple ingredients.’
- PISTACHIO PUDDING – a small box of instant pudding is the way to go here. I always use the Jell-O brand. It has tiny crunchy pistachios in the mix.
- CRUSHED PINEAPPLE – we leave this undrained so that the pineapple juice gets adding to the mix.
- MINI MARSHMALLOWS – the texture of the marshmallows gives it a fluffy bite.
- FRESH WHIPPED CREAM: Made with heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla. You can replace it with Cool Whip if you want it more like the vintage recipe .
- (Options) – some people add crunchy pecans or add a maraschino cherry or two.
HOW TO MAKE WATERGATE SALAD
- In a large bowl, whip the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla with the whisk attachment (hand mixer works too) until soft peaks form.
- Fold in the pistachio pudding mix, crushed pineapple, and mini marshmallows. Chill until serving.
CAN I USE COOL WHIP?
Yes. The classic dessert salad uses Cool Whip but I love the fresh whipped cream version better than the original recipe which uses frozen whipped topping.
HOW TO STORE THIS SALAD
This salad will keep chilled in the fridge in an airtight container for at least 2 days.
OTHER POTLUCK RECIPES:
- Four Layer Yummy
- Chocolate Eclair Cake
- Strawberry Pretzel Salad
- Snickers Apple Salad
- Grape Walnut Salad
- BLT Pasta Salad
- Crunchy Pea Salad
- Cowboy Caviar
Homemade Whipped Cream
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.
- 3.4 ounce package instant pistachio pudding mix
- 20 ounces crushed pineapple, undrained
- 3 cups mini marshmallows
- In a large bowl, whip the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla with the whisk attachment (hand mixer works too) until soft peaks form. Fold in the pistachio pudding mix, crushed pineapple, and mini marshmallows. Chill until serving.
Thank you. I am not a fan of Cool Whip so this is just what I was looking for.
Watergate salad does not seem to ever have been served at the Watergate hotel. It was a recipe that had been around for a good while and was renamed Watergate Salad because it was very like Watergate Cake– which was made with pistachio pudding mix, and had a very fluffy icing heaped on it: the cover-up, get it, ha-ha? There are problems tracing the history of the cake, because the first recipe found in print was in 1974, and Jello says they introduced the flavour in 1975. So something’s off, somewhere. There is also the complication that the cake was based on the salad, but that the salad was named after the cake. But to refer to Watergate as a “scandal” is to diminish it to the point of calling the Depression “that little dip in the economy”. Watergate was not some secret love child. It was a national crisis, which culminated in 40 government officials being indicted and/or imprisoned, the wife of one of whom was kidnapped and drugged to prevent her from revealing details, and the president of the United Stated resigning.
Wow you know so much about it. Thank you!
I believe the Watergate salad got it’s name because it was served at the Watergate Hotel. Later it became notable because it happened to be the same hotel that was used as a base for the Nixon election scandal. At least that’s how I remember it from the early 80s.
In our family, this is known as “The Green Stuff”. Nobody knows what the ingredients are, but my great-grandma always used the pastel mini-marshmallows. And I think nuts. We all like it, but are not sure why.
My question, though, is why this… and things like this… were called “salads”… and how is this related to America’s confusion on what a healthy diet is made of.
I mean, it wouldn’t be a holiday without my 3 bites of it, but I remember it being on people’s dinner plates… look at the ingredients… why was it not on the dessert table?
And yes, made with Cool-Whip (West Virginia/Ohio border).
Haha true. The furthest thing from a salad.
This (with Cool Whip instead of homemade whipped cream) was my grandma’s go to for potluck and family events. It’s been almost 20 years since I have had it, and there will never be a more nostalgic food for me.
Yes, even with cool whip it’s good!
You forgot the maraschino cherries that’s one of the best parts
I’m not a fan of them in this but you’re welcome to add them!
This salad is my husband’s favorite and it is known as Nixon salad at our house. I have never run across this particular salad made with nuts or real whipped cream. I will have to try the whipped cream and possibly some real pistachio nuts in it!
I’m so glad you love it like I do.
When i lived in FL over 30 years ago, we called it Green Glop. What about the NUTS for this Green Glop? aren’t there supposed to be walnuts or pecans in it? i don’t like marshmallows, so pick throught or leaver them out….but i do like the fact that you use REAL whipped cream and NOT that crappy Cool Whip.
I decided I don’t like nuts in mine but you can totally add them.
Is that crushed pineapple in juice or light syrup, or does it matter?
We used to have this at Thanksgiving when I was growing up. The pineapple my mother used was in heavy syrup.
They probably don’t even make that now.
This exact recipe came down from my dad’s side of the family and we always have it at Thanksgiving. We call it Pistachio Salad and our holiday meal is not complete without it. I’ve never tried it with fresh whipped cream; thanks for the idea!
This is Sooooo good. At Easter I would use the pastel marshmallows. Adding a few cut up maraschino cherries is a plus when it comes to our family
You are so right when it comes to making and using the homemade whipping cream; much better than taking short cut and using the cool whip stuff but still ok to use in a pinch.