Easy Watergate Salad Recipe (Only 5 Ingredients!) (2024)

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Watergate Salad is a classic dessert salad recipe that’s perfect for holidays and potlucks. The combination of pistachio pudding, pineapple, marshmallows, pecans, and creamy whipped topping is simply delightful!

There’s nothing better than a quick and easy dessert recipe.If you’re a fan of quick and easy dessert salad recipes like I am you have to try my Snickers Salad recipe as well. Similar to this recipe for Watergate Salad, the no-bake Snickers dessert salad only takes a few minutes to whip up and is perfect for parties and potlucks.

Easy Watergate Salad Recipe (Only 5 Ingredients!) (1)

Even if you’ve never had this classic pistachio dessert before, you may have heard of it. It goes by several other names, including Pistachio Delight, Green Goop, Shut the Gate Salad, Green Goddess Salad, Green Fluff, Green Stuff, and Mean Green.

If you love pistachio dessert recipes be sure to try this easy pistachio pudding icebox cake recipe too. It is my husband’s favorite!

Watergate Salad vs Ambrosia

Whatever you call the ambrosia-like dessert, I am sure you will agree that the pineapple-pistachio dessert is absolutely delish!

Ambrosia salad and watergate salad are very similar. Both vintage dessert salad recipes start with a whipped topping base and use crushed pineapple and marshmallows.

However, there are some differences between the two desserts. Ambrosia doesn’t have the pistachio pudding that watergate has. Another difference is that a watergate salad recipe usually calls for nuts, unlike ambrosia. On the other hand, ambrosia typically incorporates oranges which is not common in watergate salad recipes.


This section includes ingredient notes and substitution options. Get all measurements, ingredients, and instructions in the printable recipe card at the end of this post.

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  • Pistachio Pudding– either 2 of the smaller 3-ounce packages or one larger 6-ounce box
  • Crushed Pineapples– undrained, you want to use all that flavor-packed juice from the crushed pineapple can
  • Mini Marshmallows– I find that the smaller size marshmallows make the dessert easier to eat, but if you can only find full-size marshmallows you can chop them into smaller pieces.
  • Chopped Pecans– You can buy pre-chopped pecans or buy the whole ones and use a food processor to chop them up yourself.
  • Whipped Topping– Cool Whip or store-brand, thawed in the fridge.

Watergate Salad Variations

  • Swap Cool Whip for the lite version if you prefer.
  • You can trade your chopped pecans for chopped walnuts or pistachios.
  • Feel free to garnish with cherries and/or a dollop of Cool Whip.
  • Try adding raisins or mandarin oranges to your dessert salad.
  • Some people enjoy adding a cup of cottage cheese to this recipe.

How to Make Watergate Salad

This section shows you how to make the recipe with step-by-step photos and instructions. For the full printable recipe, see the recipe card below.

Step 1: Stir together the pudding mix and crushed pineapple in a large bowl.

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Step 2: Add the marshmallows and pecans, stirring until evenly mixed.

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Step 3: Fold in the whipped topping until completely blended.

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Refrigerate until ready to serve, then enjoy!

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Serve as-is or topped with a cherry and/or a dollop of whipped topping.


Store in the refrigerator either covered tightly with plastic wrap or in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

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Expert Tips

  • Don’t let this dessert salad sit out at room temperature longer than 1.5-2 hours as it will start to change consistency.
  • Serve in a chilled bowl or dish to help it stay chilled longer.

Recipe FAQ

Why is it called Watergate Salad?

That’s a great question that nobody really knows the true answer to. The origins of watergate salad date back to the 1970s. Some say the name came from being invented by a chef at the Watergate Hotel. Others say that the recipe became popular because of another recipe, the Watergate Cake.

Can I make Watergate Salad the night before?

Heck yes, you can! That’s one of the reasons this “salad” is so popular. It’s simple enough to make ahead and have it ready waiting in the fridge for when you need it.As an added bonus, this is one of those recipes that starts to taste even better the more time it has to chill and meld all the fantastic flavors together. Just be sure to give it a good stir before serving.

Can I freeze Watergate Salad?

Yes, you can freeze Watergate Salad. Scoop it into an airtight freezer-safe container, making sure to allow enough room for expansion as it freezes.It will keep about 2-3 months in the freezer. Move it to the fridge and let it thaw before stirring and serving.

More of my Favorite No-Bake Desserts

  • Blueberry Yum Yum
  • Strawberry Jello Pie – only 4 ingredients!
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies
  • No-Bake Eclair Cake – tastes like a creamy and decadent cross between Boston cream pie and a chocolate eclair!
  • Reese’s Dip
  • Strawberry Fluff Salad
  • Peanut Butter Balls with Rice Krispies


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4.70 from 20 votes

Watergate Salad

Author: Jaclyn

Prep: 10 minutes mins

Total: 10 minutes mins

Watergate Salad is a tasty, classic dessert salad recipe that combines pistachio pudding, pineapple, marshmallows, pecans, and Cool Whip.


  • 2 3.4 ounce boxes instant pistachio pudding
  • 2 8 ounce cans crushed pineapple with juice
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 8 ounce container frozen whipped topping, thawed


  • Stir together the pudding mix and pineapple in a large bowl. Add the marshmallows and pecans, stirring until evenly mixed.

  • Fold in the whipped topping until completely blended.

  • Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Store in the refrigerator either covered tightly with plastic wrap or in an airtight container for up to 2 days.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 144kcal

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Did You Make This Recipe?

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Easy Watergate Salad Recipe (Only 5 Ingredients!) (10)
Easy Watergate Salad Recipe (Only 5 Ingredients!) (2024)


What is Watergate salad made of? ›

Watergate salad, also referred to as Pistachio Delight or Shut the Gate salad, is a side dish salad or dessert salad made from pistachio pudding, canned pineapple, whipped topping, crushed pecans, and marshmallows. It is very quick and simple to prepare: the ingredients are combined and then often chilled.

Why do they call it Watergate salad? ›

Washington, D.C. The story goes that the salad became popular during and after the Watergate scandal involving President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s. Several food brands have also claimed to have invented the classic fluff salad under various names.

What is cranberry salad made of? ›

Fresh produce: From the produce section, you'll need fresh cranberries, an orange, and fresh celery. Sugar: A cup of white sugar sweetens this cranberry Jell-O salad. Walnuts: Walnuts lend nutty flavor and welcome crunch. Canned pineapple: A drained can of crushed pineapple adds sweet, fruity flavor.

What is composed salad made of? ›

It shows off the intense, irresistible vegetables, herbs and fruits of the season — but can also have rich components like cheese, eggs, toasted nuts and smoked fish or meat. With a loaf of (preferably grilled) bread, it is a meal in itself.

What is a Faucon salad? ›

Xavier Faucon was a French restaurateur and reportedly an extraordinarily gifted cook. People were already trying to get his salad recipe when he retired in 1926. The salad ingredients were simple enough: iceberg lettuce, bacon, hard-boiled eggs, and sometimes a tomato (though that may be a contemporary innovation).

What is pink fluff made of? ›

Pink Fluff. It's not complicated. Just combine cottage cheese, jello mix, fruit, and cool whip. The resulting concoction will leave you breathless, and full.

Why is pistachio cake called Watergate? ›

According to WAMU reporter Gabe Bullard, the name may be satirical wordplay: an early recipe published by the Hagerstown Daily Mail of Maryland in September 1974 (a month after the resignation of Richard Nixon) credits Christine Hatcher, who gave the cake its name "because of all the nuts that are in it." Author Joseph ...

What is ambrosia salad made of? ›

Most ambrosia recipes contain canned (often sweetened) or fresh pineapple, canned mandarin orange slices or fresh orange sections, miniature marshmallows, and coconut. Other ingredients might include various fruits and nuts: maraschino cherries, bananas, strawberries, peeled grapes, or crushed pecans.

Can you eat raw cranberries in a salad? ›

You can add them to smoothies or salads, or eat them whole. Eating raw cranberries is safe and easy, though their sharp, bitter flavor isn't for everyone. Be sure to clean and sort them thoroughly.

Why should cranberries not be eaten raw? ›

Yes, raw cranberries are safe to consume raw, but you probably don't want to eat them that way. "Cranberries are safe to eat raw. However, usually they are cooked and have sugar added because of the bitter and sharp taste they have when raw," says Kelly West Keyser, a registered dietitian in Alabama.

Why do they put cranberries in water? ›

Wet Harvesting

Cranberries have pockets of air inside the fruit. Because of this, cranberries float in water, and thus, the bogs can be flooded to aid in removal of fruit from the vines. Water reels, nicknamed “egg-beaters” are used to stir up the water in the bogs.

What are the 5 components of a salad? ›

There are five elements to a perfect salad: greens, sweetness, creaminess, crunchiness, and dressing. Let's talk about each one.

What are the 5 main types of salad? ›

The five basic types of salad are green salads (tossed or composed), bound, vegetable, fruit, and combination. The five basic salads that can be served throughout the course of a meal are starter, accompaniment, main course, intermezzo, and dessert.

Who invented Jello salad? ›

The origins of jello salad can be traced back to a dish called 'perfection salad' ( c. 1904) by Mrs. John E. Cook of New Castle, Pennsylvania, which won third prize in a Better Homes and Gardens recipe contest.

Why is it called Ambrosia salad? ›

Ambrosia was so named for the food of the Greek and Roman gods. Its region of origin is lost to history. Its ties to the South are strong, though some believe it began in Vermont or elsewhere in New England.

Why is it called Waldorf salad? ›

Waldorf salad is named for the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City, where it was first created for a charity ball given in honor of the St. Mary's Hospital for Children on March 13, 1896.

What salad was invented in California? ›

The iconic Cobb Salad was invented in 1937 at the Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood, California, by Bob Cobb. The ingredients for Cobb Salad vary from recipe to recipe but they typically start with some sort of leafy green like Romaine lettuce.

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