The Great Salad Debate: Watergate Salad Vs. Ambrosia

When you’re looking for a quick dessert to serve after dinner, you might consider making a classic recipe like Watergate salad or Ambrosia salad.

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Many people think they are actually one recipe with different names, but in fact, Watergate and Ambrosia are two delicious retro sweets that have been around for generations.

Let’s break down the pros and cons of each one so you can decide next time you’re wondering which one to make.

What is Watergate salad?

Watergate Salad is a green salad that is made with canned pineapple, marshmallow, pistachio pudding, and crushed pecan.

The salad is named after Watergate Hotel in Washington DC where this famous salad was created by the executive chef Walter Staib.

The first known recipe for Watergate Salad was published in Richard Graff’s “Salads You Can Live With”, in 1979.

The original recipe called for canned pineapple chunks, Jell-O lime-flavored instant vanilla pudding mix, and whipped topping or Cool Whip brand whipped cream topping (both available at any grocery store), but no nuts.

This version has been modified quite a bit since then; it still remains one of the most popular salads out there today, especially in the Upper midwest area.

It can be served as a side dish salad or dessert salad—it just depends on how you feel about eating raw vegetables and fruits with your main course.

What is Ambrosia salad?

Ambrosia salad is a popular fruit salad that originated in the south of the United States.

The salad has been served at weddings, holiday dinners, and other special occasions for decades thanks to its appealing appearance and delicious flavor.

It typically contains coconut, canned mandarin oranges, marshmallows, and whipped topping.

The original recipe uses a canned fruit cocktail but feel free to use fresh fruits in season for extra flavor.

It gets its name from the Greek myth about Ambrosia, which was food given to gods by Zeus.

It was made of nectar and honey, and it gave these gods immortality.

Ambrosia can be used as a dessert or side dish depending on what ingredients you choose to include in it.

What are the differences between Watergate salad and Ambrosia salad?

There are some differences that can help you distinguish between a Watergate salad and an Ambrosia salad:

Watergate salad often calls for pistachio pudding, while Ambrosia salad uses whipped topping

The pudding topping is slightly different between the two recipes.

Watergate salad traditionally uses pistachio pudding, which gives it a green-y color.

Meanwhile, the Ambrosia salad recipe often calls for whipped topping, which is creamier and white.

Watergate salad contains pineapples whereas Ambrosia salad uses oranges and coconut

The second difference is that Watergate salad usually uses canned pineapples and it doesn’t contain coconut.

On the other hand, Ambrosia has coconut to add crunch and it also uses oranges instead.

Watergate is nuttier while Ambrosia is fruiter

Due to the difference in the ingredients that are mentioned above, the flavor between Watergate and Ambrosia is also a little bit different from each other.

Watergate is nuttier thanks to the use of crushed pecan and pistachio pudding, while Ambrosia is fruitier.

What are the similarities between Watergate salad and Ambrosia salad?

Watergate salad and ambrosia salad are also similar in many ways.

Both salads involve marshmallows, a creamy topping, and fruits

The first thing in common is their ingredients in general.

No matter what ingredients you want to customize and add to your salad, these two recipes always include a variety of fruits, marshmallows, and a creamy topping.

Both are light, fluffy, and refreshing

The second similarity is that they share light and refreshing flavor with a fluffy and creamy texture.

The best thing is that although both are packed with creamy ingredients, they are not heavy but satisfying and extremely delicious.

Both are favorite American desserts or side dish salads

The last thing that Watergate salad and Ambrosia salad share with each other is that they can be served as either a side dish salad or a dessert salad.

In fact, both are common choices of Americans after they enjoy greasy and heavy dishes like fried meat, stews, or soups.

Which one is better?

The two salads are quite similar.

Both dishes feature a creamy-style dressing, but ambrosia has more layers and a more “cool” look to it.

The choice is up to you and we won’t give an exact answer on which one is better between these two classic salads.


The two salads are very similar in ingredients, therefore, we believe that it won’t be a hard decision to make when choosing between Watergate salad or Ambrosia.

It just depends on your mood, what is sold in your area, and what recipe you find on the Internet grabs your attention more.

But why not try both of them and decide for yourself then?