Watergate Salad

A retro recipe that is always welcome on the table.

Watergate Salad

Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

Active Time:
5 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 5 mins

Whether you refer to it as Pineapple Pistachio Delight, Green Fluff, or Funeral Salad, nothing screams nostalgia quite like the Watergate Salad.

Made from pistachio-flavored instant pudding mix, canned pineapples, whipped cream, mini marshmallows, and toasted nuts, the recipe for this American potluck classic traces its roots back to the mid-1970s when Jell-O first debuted its line of pistachio pudding mix.

Today, you'll find the Watergate Salad served as dessert or a sweet side dish on holiday tables across the South.

And, with a recipe that's super simple to make like this one, it's not hard to see why it's so beloved—all you need to whip up a light and fluffy batch of this vintage sweet "salad" are six ingredients and five minutes of prep work.

What Is a Watergate Salad?

Watergate Salad is a sweet "salad" commonly served as dessert or a side dish at potlucks and holidays. Whipped topping, pistachio-flavored instant pudding mix, canned pineapple, mini marshmallows, and chopped nuts come together to create this light and fluffy American classic that's beloved by home cooks everywhere, not just in the South, but the Midwest as well.

According to NPR , the recipe for this vintage salad first made an appearance in the 1970s, when Jell-O launched its pistachio-flavored instant pudding mixes.

It was, however, known by different names like pistachio pudding salad or pineapple pistachio delight until around 1993 when Kraft revised the famous recipe , adding mini marshmallows and renaming it the "Watergate Salad."

Ingredients for Watergate Salad

The frozen whipped topping makes this sweet salad incredibly light and airy, while a topping of maraschino cherries and chopped toasted walnuts add a deliciously sugary crunch to every mouthful.

Here's a list of all the ingredients you require to make this easy Watergate Salad recipe:

ingredients for watergate salad

Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  • Crushed pineapple: The key to preventing your Watergate Salad from turning too watery and not cloyingly sweet is reducing the amount of pineapple juice used. This recipe uses only two tablespoons of pineapple juice (use the remaining liquid to make yourself a refreshing Ambrosia Cocktail ) from an 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple.
  • Pistachio instant pudding mix: The Watergate Salad's iconic green color comes from a package of pistachio-flavored instant pudding and pie filling. To keep things as close to the classic recipe as possible, we recommend using a 3.4-ounce package of Jell-O.
  • Whipped topping: The key to a light and airy Watergate Salad is to gently fold in in the whipped topping with the rest of the ingredients. Overmixing can lead to a completely deflated salad. Run out of frozen whipped topping? You can whip up a batch of whipped cream at home in just five minutes.
  • Mini marshmallows: A cup and a half of fluffy mini marshmallows contribute to its distinct flavor and lightness.
  • Toasted walnuts: In this recipe, walnuts are folded into the salad for texture, as well as added as a garnish before serving for a much-needed crunch. Toasting them also enhances the depth of flavors in this popular sweet side dish. All out of walnuts? Feel free to use toasted pecans or whatever chopped nuts you may have on hand.
  • Maraschino cherries: Topping each serving with a maraschino cherry keeps the dish whimsical and nostalgic.

How to Make Watergate Salad

This six-ingredient Watergate Salad recipe is a simple and delicious addition to any church potluck or holiday menu.

Step 1. Drain canned pineapple and reserve juice

Strain the can of crushed pineapple through a fine mesh strainer, making sure to reserve 2 tablespoons of pineapple juice.

Step 2. Combine pineapple and pudding, then add to remaining ingredients

Add the pudding mix, 2 tablespoons of pineapple juice, and crushed pineapple to a medium bowl. Stir until well combined.

Fold in the thawed whipped topping, mini marshmallows, and chopped walnuts.

Step 3. Cover and chill

Cover and chill the mixed salad in the refrigerator for at least an hour. The salad can be refrigerated for up to 2 days but can deflate over time.

Step 4. Serve the Watergate Salad

Divide the salad into 4 serving bowls. Garnish with mini marshmallows, chopped walnuts, and a maraschino cherry.

How To Make This Watergate Salad Vegan

Turning a Watergate Salad vegan is surprisingly easy—all you have to do is swap out the whipped topping and mini marshmallows for plant-based versions. The Jell-O pistachio-flavored instant pudding mix just so happens to be vegan as it contains no gelatin.

What To Serve With Watergate Salad

This retro sweet salad is best served as part of a larger holiday spread or a side dish accompanying heartier casseroles at church or neighborhood potlucks.

Here are a few more recommendations for dishes that pair well with a serving of Watergate Salad:

How To Store Watergate Salad

This Watergate Salad can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days before serving. However, it's important to note that the whipped topping may deflate over time.

Ended up with more leftovers than you'd like? This recipe can also be frozen in a freezer-safe container for up to three months. However, the texture of the mini marshmallows will change upon thawing.

Editorial contributions by Christabel Lobo .


  • 1 (8-oz.) can crushed pineapple in juice

  • 1 (3.4-oz.) pkg. pistachio instant pudding and pie filling (such as Jello)

  • 1 (8-oz.) container frozen whipped topping , thawed

  • 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows , plus more for garnish

  • 1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts , plus more for garnish

  • 4 maraschino cherries with stems


  1. Drain crushed pineapple using a fine mesh strainer, reserving 2 tablespoons of the juice. Discard any remaining juice.

  2. Place pineapple, reserved juice, and pudding mix in a medium bowl; stir to combine.

    clear glass bowl with pineapple, pudding mix, and juice

    Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

    Add whipped topping, marshmallows, and walnuts; stir gently until mixture is combined and light green in color. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

    watergate salad in a glass bowl

    Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  3. Divide salad evenly among 4 glass cups. Top each evenly with marshmallows, walnuts, and a maraschino cherry.

Additional research by
Christabel Lobo
Christabel Lobo

Christabel Lobo is a freelance food writer and illustrator based between Washington, D.C., and India. She has contributed to Southern Living, Allrecipes, Zagat, OpenTable, EatingWell, Cooking Light, Insider, and more.

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