Pistachio Salad Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 10 min. + chilling
Fluffy, creamy, sweet pistachio salad isn't exactly what you expect from a salad—but it is delicious. Here's how (and when) to make this vintage side dish.

Updated: Mar. 11, 2024

If you think salads must include leafy greens, think again! Just like vegetable salads, retro-style marshmallow salad recipes have a cool, fresh taste. In these sweet salads, however, we call upon pudding mix and marshmallows in place of veggies. Take this pistachio salad, for example. Full of pineapples, pistachios and mini marshmallows, it can be served as a side dish or dessert, depending on where you’re from.

You’ll typically see fluff salads and other vintage potluck recipes like this in the South and Midwest, although they can be enjoyed anywhere, at any time. It may sound odd to eat something sweet and creamy as a salad, but once you taste it, you’ll give in to this luscious treat. After all, you don’t get a lot of opportunities to eat marshmallows before dessert!

What is pistachio salad?

Fluffy pudding-based salads became popular at the turn of the 20th century, shortly after the invention of instant gelatin. That magical ingredient made it simple to create airy treats like pudding and marshmallows. Home cooks layered these modern fluffy ingredients into “salads,” colorful dishes that sit proudly on the salad buffet table at family get-togethers.

Pistachio salad came about in the mid-1970s, after the release of pistachio-flavored pudding mix. Pistachio salad gained popularity around the same time, which is most likely why it’s also known as the Watergate salad (the infamous Watergate scandal was unfolding around the same time in Washington, D.C.). The biggest difference between our pistachio salad and Watergate salad recipes is the nut used: One uses pistachio, the other pecan.

This side dish goes by a lot of names, from “pistachio delight” to “green fluff” to “pistachio mallow salad.” No matter what you call it, pistachio salad is a beloved (and delicious) generations-long staple among many families.

Ingredients for Pistachio Salad

  • Pudding mix: Green pistachio pudding mix is the base of this classic recipe. Since this is a popular one-dish potluck recipe, there’s no need to prepare the pudding. Just dump the mix into the bowl!
  • Whipped topping: To get that classic airy, creamy texture, stir whipped topping into the salad base. If using frozen whipped topping, allow it to thaw first.
  • Canned pineapple: Bits of bright pineapple add color and sweetness to the salad. Don’t drain the pineapple; you want the juice to help create moisture for the salad.
  • Nuts: Crunchy pistachio or walnuts offset the creamy texture of the salad. Lightly toast the nuts to add extra depth of flavor if you like.
  • Marshmallows: Chewy marshmallows add volume and bite to this salad.


Step 1: Stir together the base

combining whipped ingredients for Pistachio Mallow Salad in a glass bowlTMB Studio

In a large bowl, combine the whipped topping and pudding mix. If desired, add food coloring.

pineapple and mini marshmallows ready to be mixed in to Pistachio Mallow Salad TMB Studio

Fold in the mini marshmallows and pineapple.

Editor’s Tip: The extra food coloring makes pistachio salad a perfect green food to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Step 2: Chill the salad, and serve

Pistachio Mallow Salad served into a few small glass bowlsTMB Studio

Cover the bowl, and refrigerate for at least two hours. This allows the pistachio salad to set for the optimal texture. Just before serving, top the large bowl or individual serving dishes with additional whipped topping if desired, and sprinkle with nuts.

Recipe Variations

  • Add maraschino cherries: Bright-red cherries make a striking garnish on the green dessert. Chop them up, and mix them into the bowl, or top each serving with a single cherry.
  • Swap the nuts: While pistachios are an obvious match with pistachio pudding, walnuts or pecans will also taste great.

How to Store Pistachio Salad

Store pistachio salad in the refrigerator, tightly covered with plastic wrap. It will keep for up to two days, although the whipped topping may lose some volume. It will still taste delicious.

Can you freeze pistachio salad?

You can freeze pistachio salad, though the texture of the fluff and the marshmallows will change. To freeze, transfer the salad to an airtight container, and cover tightly. Pistachio salad will keep for up to three months in the freezer. Make sure to defrost completely before serving.

Pistachio Salad Tips

Pistachio Mallow SaladTMB Studio

How do you serve pistachio salad?

Think of pistachio salad as an offbeat sweet side dish—sort of the way candied yams work well on a Thanksgiving table. Pistachio salad tastes great with spring and Easter dinner ideas, such as glazed spiral-sliced ham, lamb or pot roast. Pistachio salad also makes a tasty dessert after one of your favorite hearty spring casseroles.

What if my pistachio salad looks watery?

The crushed pineapple may have added too much liquid to the mix. To thicken it, stir in additional whipped topping. Next time, you may want to drain some liquid from the pineapple before adding to the recipe.

Watch how to Make Pistachio Salad

Retro Pistachio Salad

Prep Time 10 min
Yield 12 servings.


  • 1 carton (16 ounces) whipped topping
  • 1 package (3.4 ounces) instant pistachio pudding mix
  • 6 to 7 drops green food coloring, optional
  • 3 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 can (20 ounces) pineapple tidbits, undrained
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios or walnuts
  • Additional whipped topping, optional


  1. In a large bowl, combine whipped topping, pudding mix and, if desired, food coloring. Fold in the marshmallows and pineapple. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Just before serving, top with additional whipped topping if desired, and sprinkle with nuts.

Nutrition Facts

3/4 cup: 236 calories, 9g fat (7g saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 140mg sodium, 35g carbohydrate (23g sugars, 1g fiber), 2g protein.

This fluffy salad is a real treat since it's creamy but not overly sweet. It's easy to mix up, and the flavor gets better the longer it stands. It's perfect for St. Patrick's Day, served in a green bowl. —Pattie Ann Forssberg, Logan, Kansas