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Pistachio Salad Recipe

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a bowl of Watergate Salad topped with pecans and cherries
Light and refreshing, this pistachio flavored Watergate Salad is the perfect easy summer treat!
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Table of Contents
  1. Why Do They Call It Watergate Salad?
  2. Watergate Salad Recipe Ingredients
  3. Substitutions And Additions
  4. How To Make Watergate Salad
  5. How To Serve This Recipe For Watergate Salad
  6. How To Store A Pistachio Salad Recipe
  8. More Easy Dessert Recipes You’ll Love

Watergate salad is an easy dessert created by mixing together a packet of pistachio-flavored jello, crushed pineapple, and mini marshmallows. Folded in with creamy whipped topping and finally, topped off with crunchy pecans, the unique texture of this refreshing salad makes it a favorite vintage delight.

a bowl of Watergate Salad topped with pecans and cherries

Why Do They Call It Watergate Salad?

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Before this salad was created, there was a cake named Watergate Cake which also was made with pistachio pudding and had a similar green hue. It is unknown the exact origin of the name.

Some say that a chef at the Watergate Hotel invented it, while others say that a newspaper columnist printed it with that name to gain the attention of the recipe during the presidential scandal.

No matter how the name came to be, we love how easy and delicious this salad is!

Watergate Salad Recipe Ingredients

Watergate Salad raw ingredients that are labeled

You’ll need:

  • 1 large can of crushed pineapple
  • 2 boxes of instant pistachio pudding mix
  • ½ cup of chopped pecans
  • 1½ cups of white mini marshmallows
  • Chopped pecans and maraschino cherries for garnish
  • 12 ounces of Cool Whip
  • OPTIONAL: 1 cup shredded coconut, if desired

Substitutions And Additions

NUTS: While we are using pecans in this classic recipe, you could opt for a different type of nut.

Walnuts are a popular substitute, and almonds go great with pretty much anything.

FRUIT: You can add other canned fruit to the pistachio salad if you’d like. Try mandarin oranges or fruit salad.

CREAM CHEESE: For a thicker dressing, you could mix in cream cheese with the Cool Whip.

How To Make Watergate Salad

STEP ONE: In a large bowl, mix pineapple and dry pudding mix until the mix has completely dissolved and the pineapple is thick.


You can use the pineapple juice to dissolve the pudding mix.

pineapple and pudding mix mixed in a bowl

STEP TWO: Stir in the other ingredients, then fold in the whipped topping.


If using shredded coconut, add it in when combining the pecans and mini marshmallows.

Watergate Salad ingredients stirred in a bowl with the whipped topping

STEP THREE: Transfer to a serving bowl and top with chopped pistachios and cherries.

Watergate Salad transferred to a bowl and garnished with chopped pistachios and cherries

How To Serve This Recipe For Watergate Salad

This classic dessert salad is perfect for a side dish or as a dessert. It is a tasty treat to whip up for family gatherings or special occasions.

Don’t forget to top it off with delicious homemade whipped cream.

Serve our refreshing iced tearaspberry iced teasweet peach iced tea, or our southern strawberry sweet tea on the side.

Here are some other fun ideas for the perfect summer desserts. Both jello poke cake and no-bake cherry cheesecake are easy to make and create a light and fruity treat.


This simple salad tastes even better if you can let it chill for a couple hours before serving.

How To Store A Pistachio Salad Recipe

MAKE AHEAD: You can most definitely make this easy Watergate salad recipe ahead of time.

In fact, I recommend making it the night before you plan to serve it. That way, it can sit in the refrigerator, and the flavors can blend together.

It also allows the marshmallows to soften up a bit.

IN THE FRIDGE: Be sure to store your pistachio dessert salad in the fridge in an airtight container. It will stay good in the fridge for two to three days.

IN THE FREEZER: You can freeze pistachio fluff salad, and it will keep for about three months.

Be aware that the texture of the marshmallows won’t be the same once they’ve thawed out. Since this is such an easy recipe to make, it’s best to make it fresh.

Another fun idea is to use your leftover salad to make Watergate popsicles, using a popsicle mold.

You can also spread it in a baking dish and scoop it up like ice cream, once it freezes for a yummy twist.

a close up shot of Watergate Salad in a cup

Creamy Watergate salad, often called pistachio pineapple delight or green goddess salad, is so delicious and easy to make. With its pistachio and pineapple flavors, mixed with creamy whipped topping, and topped off with crunchy pecans, this retro dessert is a winner every time. This light and refreshing dessert salad is a great summer side.


Can I freeze this salad?

This simple recipe can be frozen, but note that the texture of the marshmallows will likely change once thawed.

Can I make this recipe ahead of time?

It is actually best to make this vintage recipe ahead of time. It gives the salad time to let all the flavors mingle and combine together for an even tastier green fluff salad.

What is in the pistachio pudding mix?

Pistachio pudding is a creamy jello pudding that is made with milk and has small pieces of pistachio nuts in it. The pudding tends to be a light green color.

Does jello pistachio pudding have nuts in it?

Jello pistachio pudding has pistachios and sometimes small pieces of almonds as well.

Why is pistachio salad called Watergate salad?

There is not a clear answer as to why it is called Watergate salad. Some believe it is named after Watergate cake which is similarly made with pistachio pudding. Others believe it was created by a chef at the Watergate hotel. Some even believe that the newspaper columnist that printed it gave it the name to gain attention to the recipe during the political scandal.

More Easy Dessert Recipes You’ll Love

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a bowl of Watergate Salad topped with pecans and cherries

Recipe For Watergate Salad

4.89 from 34 votes
Light and refreshing, this pistachio flavored Watergate Salad is the perfect easy summer treat!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 8


  • 1 large can crushed pineapple
  • 2 boxes pistachio pudding mix
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • cups white mini marshmallows
  • chopped pecans and maraschino cherries, for garnish
  • 1 cup shredded coconut, if desired
  • 12 ounces whipped topping


  • In a large bowl, combine the pudding mix and pineapple until the mix has completely dissolved, and the pineapple mixture has thickened.
  • Stir in chopped pecans and mini marshmallows, then fold in whipped topping. 
  • Transfer to serving bowl or glass and top with chopped pistachios and cherries.



  • If using shredded coconut, add in when combining pecans and mini marshmallows.
  • You can use the juice from the pineapple to dissolve the pudding mix.
  • This simple salad tastes even better if you can let it chill for a couple of hours before serving.


Calories: 216kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 42mg | Potassium: 159mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 26g | Vitamin A: 67IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 1mg
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This recipe was developed, tested, cooked and photographed by the Spaceships Kitchen. From our dinner table to yours, we hope you think it's out of this world!

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  1. Nan says

    This has been a guarantee salad/dessert at house for years. I sometimes add a small can of drained mandrin oranges.

  2. Wanda says

    5 stars
    I love the Watergate salad. My sister made it years ago but I never heard it called that. It is so light & creamy. No matter what it’s called I just call it delicious.

  3. Barb says

    Sounds delicious. I would certainly try the shredded coconut and if I didn’t have chopped pecans, I would use chopped walnuts which I usually have on hand in the freezer.

  4. Clarazina Graham says

    5 stars
    This is an old recipe that is excellent in taste. I add macadamia nuts and it reaches a different height in taste! Absolutely delicious!👍🏾😋

  5. Betty kolb says

    this recipe takes me back to my childhood… it. I love coconut so
    i think it would be great to add it, I also think pistachios would be really good in it.

  6. Maureen Swymer says

    5 stars
    I make this salad all the time. I would pecan & cashew. I would add coconut to this salad. I have made popsicle but the marsh mellow get mushy.

  7. Shannon says

    5 stars
    This looks delicious. I think I would try to freeze the leftover and Mane watergate popsicles, especially if it’s during the warmer weathers

  8. Melanie says

    5 stars
    Made this after Thanksgiving. It was like eating a cloud….so yummy.
    I would never add coconut, that would spoil the experience.

  9. Torria says

    Coconut would be pretty on top. My grandmother would put extra chopped pecans and a few cherries on top, as extra garnish. I used to eat this a slightly frozen, like icecream.

  10. Teresa Cunningham says

    5 stars
    Love this! I’ve been given different recipes for the same “look”, but this one will taste delicious! IF I was lucky enough to have any leftover salad I’d definitely make Watergate popsicles.
    Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  11. Annette Lewis says

    4 stars
    Definitely add coconut, Mandarin oranges are also a good choice. My favorite nut in it is pecans. It is a quick and easy salad. A fun color for the holidays.

  12. Alison H says

    Since I am not a lover of Pistachio’s I would like to change the Jello flavour but to stay with the colour I would Coconut Pudding mix and drop in a few drops of food colouring or maybe Lime Jello to change the Sweetness of the Salad.

  13. Beverly Lloyd says

    5 stars
    This looks really good. It has been a long time since I had watergate salad. I would probably use the pecans in it because I like them best but you could use walnuts or cashews. Freezing it as either popsicles or ice cream sounds really good and I think I will try that.

  14. Jan Barrett says

    5 stars
    Really makes a festive table presentation. I would add more nuts, like English Walnuts, Pistachios (always good with green). This would make it more crunchy and give an extra flavor.

  15. Sable says

    5 stars
    I’ve never heard of this but I will definitely make it, it looks delicious! I wouldn’t add shredded coconut. I love the popsicle idea, sounds so yummy 😋

  16. Julie says

    4 stars
    I couldn’t find the size of Jello mix you are suppose to use. Anybody wants to let me know, I would really appreciate it. My grandmother made this special in the hot summer. It was so good and cold dessert after lunch. Hot day sandwiches, and potatoes salad topped with this salad and a big glass of ice tea perfect summer day.
    Thanks for putting it up very good salad.
    Just Ned the size of Jello box 3 or 6 oz?

  17. Maureen says

    5 stars
    This recipe has been around for awhile but I haven’t tried it yet. It is so simple and sounds delicious. I would defintely keep the pecans and the coconut. They add real texture to the salad.

  18. Britnei Tweedy says

    5 stars
    Would you add shredded coconut to this watergate salad?

    Yes I would add coconut to it and also I would add walnuts and almonds in addition to the pecans because I think it would taste very good that way. I Never heard of this salad before but I am definitely going to try it.

  19. Jill says

    5 stars
    This is so good. It reminds me of the Watergate cake that was popular when I was little. I’d definitely add the coconut to it.

  20. Bobbie says

    I do think that shredded coconut would add a zing to this recipe, however, I love it just the way it is! Thank you for reminding us that it’s a fun holiday treat! 🙂

  21. Laurie Mathews says

    i’ve never put coconut in watergate salad or Gorilla Snot Salad as it’s known in our house. my sister came up with the name when my son was little. The name has stuck ever since.

  22. Jennifer D says

    5 stars
    Watergate salad is one of my childhood favorites. People that have never heard of it always think it looks weird and then they love it!! I tend to make a basic recipe of just the pudding, pineapple, and cool whip. I’ve never been a huge fan of the marshmallows in it. I think I would try adding even more fresh pistachios to the recipe! I think that would add a nice crunch


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