Light and Tropical Ambrosia Salad

I was pleasantly surprised by the (super official and unbiased – ha!) instagram polls with a picture of my Light and Tropical Ambrosia Salad. So many more people liked it than I expected! Usually if the words Ambrosia and salad come up together they are met with moans of disgust, often misguided, and a litany of bad childhood memories of overly sweet, gloppy concoctions that were too “retro” to be cool and just felt out or date and unappetizing. I always think of that scene in Edward Scissorhands where he’s being fed all the ambrosia salads by the eager and repressed housewives of the neighbourhood. The kitschy pastels, the questionalble gloppity-gloop of it all, it always makes me smile. He’s so clearly repulsed and overwhelmed by a confection that is named for the food of the gods. Thank you, Tim Burton, for that nostalgic absurdity.

This particular Ambrosia I am calling Light and Tropical Ambrosia Salad because I have kept it more refreshing and focused in its flavours. If you look into Ambrosia recipes from the last 60 years or so you will see that there’s almost an Ambrosia for every cook out there. Much like other “salads” of its day, the term salad seems to just mean “all in one bowl”. For the uninitiated, Ambrosia seems to always include a few key elements: gelatin, whipped cream, and marshmallows. The combinations of fruit, and sometimes vegetables, is vast, with dividing lines drawn around specific additions – to add maraschino cherries or not, for example.

The key here is not so much the recipe but the ratios.

The best balance, in my opinion, is:

  • 1 part coconut
  • 1 part jello
  • 2 parts fruit
  • 2 parts cream
  • 2 parts marshmallows

Using this ratio you can play with the flavors and alter the ingredients of the recipe below for Light and Tropical Ambrosia Salad. You can also add other things, bonus items, like nuts or America’s beloved maraschino cherries.

For the Light and Tropical Ambrosia Salad combination I used the following:

1 cup of unsweetened, shredded coconut

1 cup of prepared lemon-lime jello

1 cup (1 can) of pineapple tidbits, well drained

1 cup (2 cans) of mandarin orange sections, well drained

2 cups (a whole can) of coconut “whipped cream”*

2 cups plain mini marshmalllows

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the jello and coconut so that the jello breaks into small bits, you want it to streak through the cream in the finished salad, not be in big cubes. Add all of the fruit, stir, add the cream and marshmallows. Stir to combine all the ingredients. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.


* a note about coconut whipped cream: if you cannot find it at your grocer, you can substitute in the more traditional whipping cream or a product like CoolWhip and add a 1/4tsp coconut extract to up the tropical vibe of this Light and Tropical Ambrosia Salad.

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