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Watergate Salad Recipe

Is it a side salad or a dessert salad? It’s either! Watergate Salad breaks all the rules. It’s a crazy delicious concoction of pistachio pudding, Cool Whip, pineapple, and marshmallows. This retro dessert is both fun and tasty.


Bowl full of Watergate Salad.

Set some pistachio-favored dessert salad out at your next Potluck and watch it disappear. It’s also a great salad to include for your Easter Meal.

Large bowl full of green fluff.


Most people either grew up with Watergate Salad or they don’t know what in tarnation it is. If you grew up in the south, you probably had a grandmother who made it for every special occasion or church luncheon. Watergate Salad was originally developed by Kraft under the name Pineapple Pistachio Delight in 1975 when they first introduced pistachio pudding.

The pistachio pudding gives it its characteristic mint green color and a good bit of its flavor. It is affectionately known as “Green Stuff” to many people.

If you’ve never had Watergate Salad, be prepared. It has a wild and crazy texture with tons of contrasts. The cool whip makes it a little airy and light, but there are small chunks of pineapple and a crunch from the pecans, giving your teeth a little something to sink into. And of course the marshmallows really stand out with their completely distinct soft but a little chewy texture. Once your senses get over the craziness of it all, you’ll discover that it is really quite delicious.

Watergate Salad is a dessert salad that tends to be appealing any time of year. Its light texture lends itself to the warm weather months, but throw a cherry on top and you have a perfectly festive red and green treat for Christmas. And of course its pastel color is fantastically fitting for Easter.

Try These Other Pistachio Flavored Desserts:

Watergate Salad in a alrge white bowl.


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Bowl full of Watergate Salad.

Watergate Salad

Is it a side salad or a dessert salad? It's either! Watergate Salad breaks all the rules. It's a crazy concoction of pistachio pudding, Cool Whip, pineapple, and marshmallows.
PREP: 1 hr 10 mins
COOK: 0 mins
TOTAL: 1 hr 10 mins


  • 2 (8-ounce) cans crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
  • 1 (3.4-ounce) package pistachio instant pudding
  • 1 (8-ounce) tub frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped


  • In a medium bowl, stir together the full contents of the pineapple cans and the pudding mix until smooth.
  • Fold in whipped topping and marshmallows. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
  • Sprinkle pecans on top before serving.


Calories: 223kcal
Author: Christin Mahrlig
Course: Dessert, Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: dessert salad, Easter

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Originally published April 8, 2014.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

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86 thoughts on “Watergate Salad Recipe”

  1. Wow! My doctor has been telling me to eat more salad. Now I can tell him that I have been eating lots of salad. LOL

  2. Wow…i gorgot about this salad! I am from Louisiana and used to eat tgus as a young girl….thanks for the recipe. I just made one and i can hardly wait until it is chilled. Do you think adding mardarin oranges would be good? Thanks again

  3. This was a favorite for Thanksgiving at my grandparent’s home in Alabama, and my mom and I carry on the tradition. Was always called Watergate Salad in our family. I just married a man from Iowa- he’s very confused about this being on our Thanksgiving day menu! He’ll get used to it ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I’m dead set against mkaing anything with cool whip, but for some reason, I don’t mind instant pistachio pudding (a guilty pleasure). Anyway, in a moment of utter weakness, I’ve been known to make this recipe using freshly whipped cream (w/sugar and vanilla).Oh, I have a friend who brings this to church dinners and she insists it is a “salad”, and should be served as such – will move it from the dessert table to the savory food table. So funny.Ho, ho, ho,ButterYum

  5. I love Watergate salad and make this every Easter and Christmas and sometimes on Thanksgiving because it is as easy to make as it is delicious! One of my daughters does not like nuts so I make a bowl with nuts and one without. My mother-in-law makes a version with lime jello and cottage cheese but I personally prefer the pistachio pudding and cool whip!

  6. Amy @ Elephant Eats

    I totally love desserts like this!!! My family used to make those jello mold desserts with marshmallows and nuts. Yummy…takes me back ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Trevor aka The Burger Nerd

    Wow, I’m having some serious flashbacks of being at my grandmother’s diner table! I’m not from the South but I remember my grandmother would make it for special occasions and holidays. It also reminds me of my mother’s old recipe box. I used to skim through it when I was a child and be mesmerized by all the “exotic” delights like Chicken Parmesan or Beef Wellington. Thanks for sharing the recipe and for the trip down memory lane ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. My mother used to make this! It’s fantastic! Very 1970s. (I was in high school during the Watergate scandal.)

    There was also a cake – recipe card in Mother’s recipe box – that I loved. Just delicious!

    I think that pistachio pudding is so good. (Not everyone agrees.)
    Maybe it was invented in the 1970s.

    1. Christin Mahrlig

      Some recipes really bring back memories don’t they? An old church cookbook I have has a recipe for Watergate Cake that my grandfather submitted (he was the cook in the family). I’ve been waiting for a special occasion to make it ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Beth Schwerdfeger

    We make this with 1 1/2 cups of cottage cheese instead of marshmellows. Because my daughter is allergic to nuts I sometimes make it with cheesecake flavored pudding instead of pistachio and add a can of mandrin oranges (drained). Its all good!

    1. Christin Mahrlig

      Cheesecake pudding sounds like a delicious alternative Beth! I will have to try that. And adding cottage cheese instead of marshmallows adds so much protein. Great idea ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. If you substituted the cheesecake flavor and used the pineapple, I wonder if you could add coconut instead of marshmallows?

  10. Nicole ~ Cooking for Keeps

    I totally grew up with this and LOVED it, but we called it something different, I can’ even remember what it was. Regardless, this looks SO yummy and totally takes me back.

  11. I have never had (or heard of!) watergate salad before! But I am smitten with that pretty green color! Pistachio anything is such a favorite of mine!

  12. I’ve heard of ambrosia salad but this is definitely new to me. I love learning about regional foods and new things in general. I didn’t even know there was instant pistachio pudding out there either! So much to learn. This would be a pretty dish to set out for Easter.

  13. Christina | A Soulful Twist

    Oh my goodness this recipe takes me back! I have not had one of these since childhood, it will make the perfect Easter dessert for sure! Plus it’s sounds really easy to prepare!

  14. I have never had such dessert before! It sounds like a very delicious combination of flavors!

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