Watergate Salad Recipe (5 ingredients+5 minutes prep!)

5 from 4 votes

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Watergate Salad takes 5 minutes to put together and it is so yummy! Bring this salad to a potluck and I promise people will be begging you for the recipe!

Watergate Side Dish in a white bowl with a cherry on top
Featured with this recipe
  1. Why is it called Watergate Salad?
  2. Watergate Salad Ingredients
  3. Recipe Variations
  4. More Easy Fruit Salad Recipes
  5. Watergate Salad (5 ingredients + 5 minutes prep time!) Recipe

Have you ever forgotten that you’re supposed to bring a side dish to a potluck until a few hours before? Well this is the dish for you! You seriously throw the ingredients together, leave it in the fridge for a couple hours and ta-da! Your friends and neighbors will love this dessert salad filled with pineapple, marshmallows, pecans, and pistachio pudding.

The fluffy texture of the marshmallows, the crunch of the nuts, and the creamy pistachio pudding all combine for a delightful treat. You won’t have to worry about leftovers either – I guarantee the bowl will be licked clean!

Why is it called Watergate Salad?

This classic Watergate salad is known by many names – Pistachio Salad, Pistachio Delight, Pistachio Fluff, Green Stuff, Green Fluff, Fluff Salad and my least favorite, Green Goop. But where did the Watergate salad name come from?

There are several urban legends about where the name of this salad came from. However, the most common story is that a sous chef at the historic Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. came up with this recipe. It was served at brunch most weekends and eventually gained popularity after the Watergate Scandal. People say it’s the perfect name because the Cool Whip is a great “cover-up” for all the ingredients and it is full of nuts!

Two bowls of Watergate Salad topped with cherries.

Watergate Salad Ingredients

There are 5 simple and easy to find ingredients in this salad:

  • Instant pistachio pudding mix
  • Frozen dessert whipped topping (we like to use the Cool Whip brand)
  • Crushed pineapple, with the pineapple juice
  • Pecans, halved or chopped
  • Mini marshmallows (white or the fruity, colorful ones)
Pistachio salad or Watergate salad with nuts sprinkled on top

Recipe Variations

This Watergate Salad is AMAZING just by itself. However, if you are wanting to jazz the flavor up a little bit, there are some things you can do.


First, you can add some garnishes. Top it with chopped nuts – I like to use either pistachios, walnuts, or pecans. You can also lean into the sweetness and top it with whipped cream and maraschino cherries. The bright red cherry is the perfect complement to the green color of the salad.

Additions and Substitutions

Some people like to add more fruit like mandarin oranges or bananas. However you want to serve it – your guests will love it! Let us know in the comments if there is another way that you like to serve this salad!

To make this more of an ambrosia salad, you can replace the crushed pineapple with a can of fruit cocktail and add coconut. The pastel colored mini marshmallows can also be used in place of the mini white marshmallows.

If you aren’t a fan of pecans, walnuts or pistachios can be used instead.

Watergate Salad in a green bowl, topped with pecans and a cherry.

More Easy Fruit Salad Recipes

Hopefully the weather will be warming up soon and you and your friends and neighbors will be planning your spring picnics and potlucks. I get tired of bringing the same old thing, so I like to try something new every once in a while. Check out some of our other potluck favorites for you to try out next time!

Watergate Side Dish in a white bowl with a cherry on top

Watergate Salad (5 ingredients + 5 minutes prep time!)

5 from 4 votes
Watergate Salad takes 5 minutes to put together, then chill and serve. Bring this salad to a potluck and I promise people will be begging you for the recipe!
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 8




  • In a large bowl combine the instant pudding mix, crushed pineapple, pecans and marshmallows. Stir well. Fold in Cool Whip until well blended.
  • Cover and chill in the refrigerator several hours or overnight.
  • To serve, top with Maraschino cherries and extra chopped pecans.


Tips for Watergate Salad

  • Make sure the Cool Whip is thawed correctly. Cool Whip is frozen when you purchase it. Don’t leave it out on the counter at room temperature! This will cause it to become runny and the salad won’t set. The proper way to thaw Cool Whip is to place it in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours or overnight. 
  • For a more colorful salad, try using the colorful marshmallows. The Jet Puffed brand calls these “Fun-Mallows.” The Great Value brand calls them mini fruit marshmallows.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1gCalories: 165kcalCarbohydrates: 33gProtein: 1gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 219mgPotassium: 74mgFiber: 1gSugar: 27gVitamin A: 55IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 34mgIron: 1mg

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About the author

Kelsey Crist

Kelsey lives in Washington with her husband, Alex, and two cats, Diana and Nova. Her happy place is in the kitchen listening to an audiobook and trying new recipes. When she's not in the kitchen you can find her hiking, shopping at Trader Joe's, or playing Animal Crossing. Her favorite food is pasta and Alex loves when she makes Homemade Oreos.

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