Home Desserts 5 Cup Salad (Easy Recipe)

5 Cup Salad (Easy Recipe)

This 5 Cup Salad is just like the classic recipe your grandma used to make. It’s creamy, tangy, and loaded with fantastic texture.

Also known as Ambrosia salad or 24-hour salad, this dessert salad goes way back to the 1950s. It hasn’t changed much since then, and it doesn’t need to!

Delicious 5-Cup Salad with Marshmallows, Mandarin Oranges, Pineapples, Coconut, and Sour Cream
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Coated in tangy sour cream, 5 cup salad isn’t overly sweet. Instead, it’s bright and fresh, with plenty of yummy extras to add a sugary kick.

Trust me, between the fruit and marshmallows; your sweet tooth will be more than happy.

You might already know that I don’t love regular salads. But dessert salads are an exception, with this sour cream dessert being one of my all-time faves.

So, let’s go retro with this delicious and nostalgic 5 cup salad!

5 Cup Salad 

One cup each of mini marshmallows, mandarin oranges, crushed pineapple, shredded sweetened coconut, and sour cream are all you’ll need to make 5 cup salad, hence the name.

Yes, you read that right: the OG salad used sour cream, not Cool Whip. You might think the dressing is too acidic, but surprisingly it works with the rest of the ingredients.

The coconut lends sweetness and a refreshing tropical flavor, while the oranges and pineapple give it a fruity twist. 

It seems like marshmallows have no business being there, but actually, their sweet, fluffy, and pillowy goodness is what makes this salad stand out. 

Finally, the sour cream coats the fruits and mallows beautifully, providing creaminess, moisture, and tangy contrast to the sweet components.

Believe it or not, while today’s version of 5 cup salad is typically served for dessert, the original recipe was actually served as a side dish alongside entrees. 

So, serve this as a delicious side, dessert, or afternoon snack. Heck, I’d gladly eat it anytime, any day!

5-Cup Salad Ingredients: Marshmallows, Coconut, Pineapple, Sour Cream and Mandarin Oranges

How to Make 5 Cup Salad 

This 5 cup salad is embarrassingly easy to make! Just take a large bowl, and toss together the mini marshmallows, sweetened coconut, pineapple, and sour cream.

Once well-combined and the sour cream has coated the ingredients nicely, gently mix in the oranges. You’ll save them for last because you don’t want them to break apart during tossing.

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Now, for the hard part: let the salad chill in the fridge for 5 hours.

As difficult as it is, it’s a non-negotiable. This time is needed for the flavors to marry and the marshmallows to soften and expand.

Close up of 5-Cup Salad with Marshmallows, Shredded Coconut and Fresh Fruits

Tips for Making The Best Salad 

I know this seems like a fool-proof recipe – and it is! But I’ve still got a few handy tricks for you:

  • Drain the crushed pineapple and mandarin oranges well. Otherwise, the liquid will cause the dressing to be runny when it should be thick and creamy. I like to let them sit on a sieve for 30 minutes to discard as much liquid as possible. 
  • Let the salad chill in the fridge for at least 5 hours, better if overnight. The longer it sits, the better it gets. The flavors marry and the mini marshmallows get soft and pillowy. This is why it’s also sometimes referred to as the 24-hour salad.
  • Use sweetened coconut to counterbalance the acidity of the sour cream. It’s not manditory, but it helps if you like things sweet.
  • Don’t limit the fruits to just mandarin oranges and pineapple. Fruit cocktail works, but feel free to add fresh fruits, as well.
  • Give it a pop of color with maraschino cherries, pomegranate seeds, and red, green, and purple grapes. The sky’s the limit!

Just note that when adding maraschinos, you’ll want to do so right before serving. If you mix them with the rest of the ingredients, the dressing will turn pink. If you’re okay with that, then, by all means, go ahead!

  • Want a more waist-friendly salad? Go for yogurt or reduced-fat sour cream.
  • On the contrary, if you want a creamier, more sinful salad, use whipped cream instead. A blend of whipped cream and cream cheese works too. 
  • Add a bit of sweetened condensed milk. It will make this ridiculously rich.
  • A pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg goes a long way. Start out slow and add the spices to taste, like you would salt and pepper.
  • Do not overmix the fruits, or you might end up with mulch. If the fruit is delicate, be sure to add it right at the end, once everything has been well tossed and coated.
  • Toss in chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, or hazelnuts for a nutty, crunchy twist. Just be sure to let your friends and family know as this isn’t typical of the dish. Allergies, beware!
  • Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for up to 3 days. Don’t leave the salad at room temperature for over 2 hours, or the dressing will melt.
  • Do not freeze. The fruits will release liquid while defrosting, causing the dressing to break.

If you’re okay with eating frozen fruit salad, though, then do it! It tastes like fruit-flavored ice cream. You could even turn it into fun popsicles!

More Dessert Salad Recipes You’ll Love

5 Cup Salad (Easy Recipe)



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This 5 cup salad is just like the classic recipe your grandma used to make. It’s creamy, tangy, and loaded with terrific texture, making it the ideal post-BBQ dessert.


  • 1 cup mini marshmallows

  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut

  • 1 cup drained pineapple

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 1 cup drained mandarin oranges


  • In a large bowl, toss together mini marshmallows, sweetened coconut, drained pineapple, and sour cream until well combined.
  • Gently mix in the drained oranges, careful not to break them apart.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 5 to 6 hours for the flavors to marry. Serve chilled and enjoy!
5-Cup Salad

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

2 thoughts on “5 Cup Salad (Easy Recipe)”

  1. I’ve been making this salad for probably 35 yrs.. It’s a favorite, but my original recipe called for 1 t. vanilla extract, but none of the recipes that I’ve seen on Pinterest call for the vanilla. Give it a try, it’s delicious!


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