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

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.’

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

  1. In a large bowl, whip the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla with the whisk attachment (hand mixer works too) until soft peaks form.
  2. Fold in the pistachio pudding mix, crushed pineapple, and mini marshmallows. Chill until serving.

watergate salad

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:

watergate salad
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4.36 from 37 votes

Watergate Salad

This Watergate Salad is a vintage pistachio salad recipe made with pistachio pudding, crushed pineapple, marshmallows, and fresh whipped cream (no Cool Whip here).

Ingredients

Homemade Whipped Cream
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.
Remaining Ingredients:
  • 3.4 ounce package instant pistachio pudding mix
  • 20 ounces crushed pineapple undrained
  • 3 cups mini marshmallows

Instructions

  1. 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.

Recipe Notes

A thawed 12 ounce container of frozen Cool Whip can be substituted for the homemade whipped cream.

Salad will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.

To make sure your whipped cream doesn't break down, make sure you whip it until soft/medium peaks form.

watergate salad