Watergate Salad: the effortless recipe for a classic Midwestern dessert

Total time: 5 Min + Chilling time
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 10 people
By Cookist

If you're a fan of ambrosia salad and pistachios, you'll fall in love with Watergate salad. This easy, delicious green dessert comes from the Midwest and is made from pistachio pudding mix, sweet, tangy pineapple, fluffy marshmallows, chopped nuts, and Cool Whip. Each bite of this creamy green dessert is a delight to the taste buds, especially on a hot day.

Watergate salad is super easy to make – it only takes about five minutes to put together. Perfect for picnics, potlucks, and barbecues, as well as holiday parties, Watergate salad is fluffy and perfectly sweet, with a fantastic combination of flavors and textures. It's perfect for feeding a crowd – you can easily double up the recipe for a large group of friends and family.

What is a Watergate Salad?

Also known as pistachio delight, green fluff, mean green, green goop, shut the gate, and green goddess salad, Watergate salad is a classic dessert from the American Midwest.

The original recipe was developed in the mid-1970s by General Foods (which is now part of Kraft). No one is quite sure just how the Watergate salad got its name. However, some believe the dessert was served at the Watergate Hotel and became popular in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.

Another theory suggests like the similarly named Watergate cake, the dessert was named because the pudding and Cool Whip cover up the nuts and fruit, a tongue-in-cheek nod to the scandal.


Watergate Salad Ingredients

To make Watergate salad at home, you'll need pistachio pudding mix (which gives this wonderful dessert its characteristic green color), a can of crushed pineapple plus the juice, mini marshmallows, chopped pecans, and Cool Whip.

Of course, you can use any nut you prefer or add other ingredients, but these are the basics for making traditional Watergate salad.

How to Make Watergate Salad

It couldn't be easier to make this easy Watergate salad. All you need to do is stir the pudding mix, crushed pineapple plus juice, marshmallows, and nuts in a large mixing bowl until all the ingredients are combined. Next, add in Cool Whip. Pop the bowl in the fridge and leave your Watergate salad to chill until it's time to dig in!

Can You Make Watergate Salad Ahead of Time?

Absolutely! Watergate salad is a great make-ahead recipe. You can make it two days in advance.


Tips for Making Easy Watergate Salad

Make sure to add the juice from the crushed pineapple to the dessert. It will mix with the pistachio pudding mix and give the Watergate salad its delectable pudding-like texture.

You can use fresh pineapple instead of crushed canned pineapple – just be sure to add a pinch of sugar to the Watergate salad and pour in some pineapple juice.

Watergate Salad Variations

The classic Watergate salad is always a winner, but you can add other ingredients to make it your own. Shredded coconut is a fantastic addition to this tasty fruit salad because it goes well with pineapple.

You can use chopped peanuts, almonds, or walnuts instead of pecans. Toasted or candied nuts are also wonderful in a Watergate salad.

Add other fruit to your salad like strawberries, canned peaches, or mandarin oranges.

Instead of pistachio pudding, use lemon or lime pudding for a tasty citrus flavor or strawberry pudding mix to make pink Watergate salad.

Like a bit of tanginess in your sweets? Mix in some sour cream to make an ambrosia Watergate salad.

You can also top it with maraschino cherries as we did to make an eye-catching dessert!


How to Store Watergate Salad

Store your Watergate salad in the fridge for up to 5 days.

More Recipes You'll Like

pistachio jell-O instant pudding mix
1 3.4-oz box
crushed pineapple
20 oz
Mini marshmallows
1 cup
pecans, chopped
1/2 cup
Cool whip
1 8-oz container


Pour the crushed pineapple plus juice in a large mixing bowl.

Pour the pudding mix.

Add in marshmallows.

Add chopped pecans.

Pour in Cool Whip.

Stir well to combine, then place in the fridge.

Garnish with extra whipped cream, crushed pistachios or maraschino cherry if you want, then serve and enjoy!


You can use whipped cream instead of Cool Whip.

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