Pistachio Salad is a family favorite, classic dessert recipe that will take you back to your childhood. Also known as Watergate Salad, pistachio fluff salad is filled with pineapple, marshmallows, cool whip and walnuts.
Family gatherings always included my aunt, my grandmas and cousins when I was young. Being a (sort of) only child with much older siblings, I always looked forward to these family events. Each family member had their part to play when it came to the food.
My mom always made her Macaroni Salad, my grandma brought the Deviled Eggs and I always made dessert. My aunt was famous for her Pistachio Salad because it was always one of the first things to disappear.
Why is Pistachio Salad Called Watergate Salad?
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it wasn’t my aunt’s creation but really it was a classic potluck side dish from the 70s. Pistachio Fluff Salad is known by many names, like “Watergate Salad,” “Pistachio Delight,” or even “Green Stuff.” The original recipe came from General Foods (now known as Kraft).
It doesn’t matter to me where the recipe originated, I just know it’s delicious. This is one of those classic midwestern recipes that you always find at church and family potlucks. It’s easy, using just 5 ingredients, and it’s yummy. What more can you ask for?
How to Make Classic Pistachio Fluff Salad
There are only 5 ingredients in pistachio salad. Here are the ingredients you need:
- Cool Whip (or Tru Whip) – I am partial to Tru Whip because it’s a little better for you and doesn’t contain corn syrup.
- Mini marshmallows – these are a must! Or Cranberry Fluff salad. Or Sweet Potato Casserole. Or Rocky Road Cookies. I could go on and on because who doesn’t love marshmallows?
- Crushed pineapple – this adds a tartness to contrast all the sweet and a little bit of texture, too. No need to drain the liquid, because it all soaks up when you dump it all in and combine it with the pistachio pudding mix.
- Pistachio pudding mix – One of the most often asked questions is whether you need to mix this with milk first. The answer is – Nope! Just sprinkle the dry mix in with the other ingredients and it will magically become a creamy, dreamy delight!
- Chopped walnuts – Depending on who I’m making pistachio salad for, I may opt to leave these out and you can to. I love the texture they add however, so I recommend using them.
Recipe Notes and Tips
- The directions are super simple and literally are just to mix the ingredients together, chill and serve. When mixing, I do so gently and sort of fold the ingredients together.
- Variations and Additions: I like to add some maraschino cherries to mine sometimes, and a few drops of green food coloring but those two items are completely optional.
- You definitely want to chill the salad for a couple of hours to let everything set and get all the flavors to combine and play nicely together.
- Save a handful of chopped walnuts or marshmallows for garnishing the top.
Does Pistachio Pudding Have Nuts?
Pistachio pudding is green pudding that’s made from pistachios nuts. It occasionally contains almond pieces. The instant pudding mix used in this recipes does contain nuts, so please be aware of that if you have an allergy.
Is this Pistachio Salad really a salad?
I get comments from time to time about dessert salads like my Twix Apple Fluff Salad or my Sour Cream Salad and I’m sure I’ll get the same about this Pistachio Fluff Salad. So, let’s look at the definition of a salad.
“A salad is any of various cold dishes consisting of foods, such as meat, seafood, eggs, pasta, or fruit, prepared singly or combined, usually cut up, mixed with a dressing, and served cold.” (source)
So a “dessert salad” is a fitting description since it does include fruit (pineapple) and the pudding makes the dressing, right?
Either way you look at it this delicious Pistachio Salad is a classic staple that everyone at your Thanksgiving Feast will love!
How to Serve and Store
Serve Pistachio salad as a side dish for family potlucks and holidays or as a dessert. Store leftovers in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days and stir before serving. Do not freeze.
Must Try Classic Desserts
- Strawberry Pretzel Salad
- Coconut Key Lime Pie
- Pineapple Fluff Pie
- Sour Cream Salad
- Chocolate Lasagna
Classic Pistachio Fluff Salad
- 10 ounces non-dairy whipped topping softened
- 3 cups mini marshmallows
- 3.4 ounce package pistachio pudding mix
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 20 ounce can crushed pineapple undrained
- 1/2 cup maraschino cherries sliced in half
- Green food coloring optional
- Stir ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined.
- Chill for 2-3 hours before serving.
- Garnish with maraschino cherries or chopped walnuts.