This vintage recipe for 5 Cup Salad is made with just 5 simple ingredients! It's a family favorite and perfect for special occasions.
Okay, you caught me, this 5 cup salad recipe isn't really a salad. Well, not at least how you typically think of salad - you know, lettuce, vegetables, ranch dressing? Instead, it's a dessert salad.
Desserts salads such as this 5-cup fruit salad recipe were extremely popular during the period from the 1950s to the 1970s. They often featured canned fruit, marshmallows, and some kind of creamy base to hold it together.
This yummy fruit salad gets its name from the simple ingredients and preparation: you need just 1 cup of each of the 5 ingredients. Hence, 5-cup salad.
Why You'll Love It:
- It's a super simple version of the beloved Ambrosia fruit salad - it captures many of the signature flavors, but without the longer ingredient list and preparation.
- No chilling or resting time is required - but it can be made up to 24 hours in advance!
- It's an easy recipe that can be made with just a handful of ingredients.
- This delicious fruit salad is perfect for family gatherings, potlucks, holidays, family dinners, or just as a special treat!
- Mandarin oranges: While you can use fresh, canned segments are the most common. Just make sure to drain them first!
- Pineapple tidbits: These can be found in the canned fruit section. If you can't find pineapple tidbits you can use pineapple chunks.
- Mini marshmallows: I really like using the colorful ones for 5-cup salad, but you can use whatever you like best! Just be sure they are mini marshmallows, as regular-sized ones are too large.
- Shredded coconut: You can use either shredded coconut or coconut flakes, sweetened or unsweetened. Totally up to you!
- Yogurt or sour cream: While it's common to use sour cream to make this 5 cup salad recipe, I really like the taste of vanilla yogurt best! I recommend using Greek vanilla yogurt, as the thickness is closest to sour cream.
For garnish: If you want to add a pop of color to this simple dessert salad, add a few maraschino cherries and/or some additional shredded coconut to the serving dish.
Check the recipe card for a full list of ingredients and the quantities needed.
How to Make Five Cup Salad
This classic recipe for 5 Cup Salad is perfect for special occasions, and is such a cinch to make! It's a great recipe to keep in your back pocket for any last-minute parties or potlucks.
It's sure to become one of your favorite fruit salad recipes!
Step one: Add 1 cup of each ingredient to a large bowl.
Step two: Fold everything together until all of the fruit is well coated in the yogurt or sour cream.
Step three: Serve immediately, or wrap the bowl tightly and chill until ready to serve. Garnish with maraschino cherries or shredded coconut - or serve it just as is. It's even better the next day!
Top tip: If you want some added crunch, feel free to add toasted or chopped nuts on top.
To store any leftovers, wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap (or transfer it to an airtight container). Place it in the fridge for up to 3 days (although the first 24 hours are best). If any liquid collects at the bottom of the bowl either drain it off or stir it to redistribute.
Preparing in advance
If you want to prepare this easy fruit salad recipe ahead of time for a party or get-together, you can absolutely do that! Just combine the ingredients, cover, and chill for up to 24 hours.
Stir just before transferring to a serving bowl, then top with maraschino cherries as garnish (if desired).
Tips for Success
- Drain the fruit before measuring: Any extra liquid will make the creamy fruity salad soggy, so be sure to drain off any juice or syrup before measuring the mandarin oranges or pineapple chunks or tidbits.
- Yogurt or sour cream?: The classic recipe for 5-cup salad calls for tangy sour cream, but I always like to swap it out for Vanilla Greek yogurt. That's because the sweet, vanilla-based flavor is a good compliment to the fruit. If you prefer a tangy contrast, go with the sour cream instead.
- Use it quickly: Although this creamy fruit salad can be stored for a few days in the fridge, it really is best within the first 24 hours.
5 cup salad is a simplified version of the ever-popular Ambrosia salad. Both include coconut, mandarin oranges, pineapple, and mini marshmallows, but the creamy "dressing" can vary considerably, as well as additional ingredients. 5 cup salad uses sour cream or vanilla yogurt to bring the salad together, while Ambrosia may use whipped cream, cream cheese, sour cream, or any combination of those.
The word Ambrosia has its roots in Greek mythology, where it means "food of the gods." This refers to something that is particularly indulgent. Since ambrosia was created during a time when access to fresh fruit (particularly oranges and pineapple) was very luxurious, the name "Ambrosia salad" was fitting.
It's recommended to use either drained pineapple tidbits or chunks to make this popular fruit salad, but there is a way to use crushed pineapple if that's all you have on hand. Drain your pineapple in a fine mesh strainer, or line a colander with a single layer of cheesecloth. Allow the pineapple to drain for 5-10 minutes, then discard the liquid and use the drained crushed pineapple in your salad.
Variations and Substitutions
With Cool Whip: Substitute the yogurt or sour cream for 1 ½ cups of thawed Cool Whip.
Using fresh fruit: Substitute the canned mandarin oranges and pineapple tidbits for mandarin (or clementine) segments and finely chopped fresh pineapple.
With cream cheese: Soften 4 ounces of cream cheese and beat it with ¼ cup of powdered sugar. Fold in 1 cup of Cool Whip (or homemade whipped cream) and then use it in place of the yogurt (or sour cream).
With whipped cream: Add 1 cup of heavy cream to a chilled bowl, along with 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar and a touch of vanilla. Whip until fluffy, then use in place of the yogurt or sour cream.
More Easy Desserts
- Lazy Cheesecake Salad
- Nutella Pie
- Fruity Pebbles Treats
- Chocolate Wafer Icebox Cake
- No Bake Peanut Butter Bars
If you loved this recipe for 5 Cup Salad, let me know by leaving a 5-star review in the recipe card or comment below! You can also tag me on Instagram @dashfordinner.
5 Cup Salad
- 1 cup mandarin orange segments drained before measuring
- 1 cup pineapple tidbits drained before measuring
- 1 cup mini marshmallows
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt or sour cream
- Add the mandarin oranges, pineapple, mini marshmallows, shredded coconut, and vanilla yogurt (or sour cream) to a large bowl.
- Use a silicone spatula to gently fold all of the ingredients together until they are well distributed and coated with the yogurt (or sour cream).
- Serve immediately, or wrap the bowl tightly and chill until ready to serve.
- Garnish with marashino cherries, if desired.
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