Watergate Salad

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4.70 from 20 votes
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Watergate Salad is a classic dessert salad recipe that’s perfect for holidays and potlucks. The combination of pistachio pudding, pineapple, marshmallows, pecans, and creamy whipped topping is simply delightful!

There’s nothing better than a quick and easy dessert recipe. If you’re a fan of quick and easy dessert salad recipes like I am you have to try my Snickers Salad recipe as well. Similar to this recipe for Watergate Salad, the no-bake Snickers dessert salad only takes a few minutes to whip up and is perfect for parties and potlucks.

Watergate salad in serving glass and topped with cherry.

Even if you’ve never had this classic pistachio dessert before, you may have heard of it. It goes by several other names, including Pistachio Delight, Green Goop, Shut the Gate Salad, Green Goddess Salad, Green Fluff, Green Stuff, and Mean Green.

If you love pistachio dessert recipes be sure to try this easy pistachio pudding icebox cake recipe too. It is my husband’s favorite!

Watergate Salad vs Ambrosia

Whatever you call the ambrosia-like dessert, I am sure you will agree that the pineapple-pistachio dessert is absolutely delish!

Ambrosia salad and watergate salad are very similar. Both vintage dessert salad recipes start with a whipped topping base and use crushed pineapple and marshmallows

However, there are some differences between the two desserts. Ambrosia doesn’t have the pistachio pudding that watergate has. Another difference is that a watergate salad recipe usually calls for nuts, unlike ambrosia. On the other hand, ambrosia typically incorporates oranges which is not common in watergate salad recipes.


This section includes ingredient notes and substitution options. Get all measurements, ingredients, and instructions in the printable recipe card at the end of this post.

Ingredients for Watergate Salad.
  • Pistachio Pudding– either 2 of the smaller 3-ounce packages or one larger 6-ounce box
  • Crushed Pineapples– undrained, you want to use all that flavor-packed juice from the crushed pineapple can
  • Mini Marshmallows– I find that the smaller size marshmallows make the dessert easier to eat, but if you can only find full-size marshmallows you can chop them into smaller pieces.
  • Chopped Pecans– You can buy pre-chopped pecans or buy the whole ones and use a food processor to chop them up yourself. 
  • Whipped Topping– Cool Whip or store-brand, thawed in the fridge.

Watergate Salad Variations

  • Swap Cool Whip for the lite version if you prefer. 
  • You can trade your chopped pecans for chopped walnuts or pistachios.
  • Feel free to garnish with cherries and/or a dollop of Cool Whip.
  • Try adding raisins or mandarin oranges to your dessert salad. 
  • Some people enjoy adding a cup of cottage cheese to this recipe. 

How to Make Watergate Salad

This section shows you how to make the recipe with step-by-step photos and instructions. For the full printable recipe, see the recipe card below. 

Step 1: Stir together the pudding mix and crushed pineapple in a large bowl.

Crushed pineapple and pistachio pudding in glass mixing bowl.

Step 2: Add the marshmallows and pecans, stirring until evenly mixed.

Mini marshmallows and chopped pecans on top of pistachio pudding mixture in mixing bowl.

Step 3: Fold in the whipped topping until completely blended.

Pistachio salad mixture with cool whip on top.

Refrigerate until ready to serve, then enjoy!

Pistachio delight dessert salad in large bowl.

Serve as-is or topped with a cherry and/or a dollop of whipped topping.


Store in the refrigerator either covered tightly with plastic wrap or in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Pistachio pudding dessert salad with pecans, cool whip, pineapple, and cherry.

Expert Tips

  • Don’t let this dessert salad sit out at room temperature longer than 1.5-2 hours as it will start to change consistency. 
  • Serve in a chilled bowl or dish to help it stay chilled longer. 

Recipe FAQ

Why is it called Watergate Salad?

That’s a great question that nobody really knows the true answer to. The origins of watergate salad date back to the 1970s. Some say the name came from being invented by a chef at the Watergate Hotel. Others say that the recipe became popular because of another recipe, the Watergate Cake.

Can I make Watergate Salad the night before?

Heck yes, you can! That’s one of the reasons this “salad” is so popular. It’s simple enough to make ahead and have it ready waiting in the fridge for when you need it. As an added bonus, this is one of those recipes that starts to taste even better the more time it has to chill and meld all the fantastic flavors together. Just be sure to give it a good stir before serving.

Can I freeze Watergate Salad?

Yes, you can freeze Watergate Salad. Scoop it into an airtight freezer-safe container, making sure to allow enough room for expansion as it freezes. It will keep about 2-3 months in the freezer. Move it to the fridge and let it thaw before stirring and serving.

More of my Favorite No-Bake Desserts

Watergate salad in a glass bowl topped with cherry.
4.70 from 20 votes

Watergate Salad

Author: Jaclyn
Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Watergate Salad is a tasty, classic dessert salad recipe that combines pistachio pudding, pineapple, marshmallows, pecans, and Cool Whip.


  • 2 3.4 ounce boxes instant pistachio pudding
  • 2 8 ounce cans crushed pineapple with juice
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 8 ounce container frozen whipped topping, thawed


  • Stir together the pudding mix and pineapple in a large bowl. Add the marshmallows and pecans, stirring until evenly mixed.
  • Fold in the whipped topping until completely blended.
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Store in the refrigerator either covered tightly with plastic wrap or in an airtight container for up to 2 days.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 144kcal
Watergate salad in a glass bowl topped with cherry.

Did You Make This Recipe?

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Watergate Salad; Easy Dessert Salad.

4.70 from 20 votes (20 ratings without comment)

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