Pistachio fluff fruit salad, otherwise known as watergate salad, combines pistachio pudding, Cool Whip, and pineapple for a classic holiday side dish or dessert. Stir it together in just minutes for an easy make-ahead dish to bring.
Yes, that lovely green fluffy treat featured here is a "salad."
Don't believe me? Just ask my husband's family about their Minnesota salad traditions.
Once I embraced the idea of serving a sweet Jell-o salad as a side dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter, a whole world of easy fruit side dishes opened up.
Now I confess that this tasty pistachio fluff is one of the things I look forward to most on our holiday buffet table!
Is It a Side Dish or a Dessert?
If you're new to the idea of Cool Whip being in a "salad recipe" and are feeling a little surprised, I don't blame you.
A salad is generally something we serve as a side dish or first course, right?
But the pudding mix and Cool whip are usually more at home on the dessert table.
That's why this recipe is SO FUN to serve for a special holiday meal:
Nothing feels more festive to me than mixing things up and offering such a sweet side dish like this right along with the main course.
But if you're more comfortable reserving it for after the meal, it works just great as a dessert, too.
The ingredients for this pistachio fluff fruit salad couldn't be easier:
- Pistachio Pudding Mix: Just use the dry mix, you will not be mixing it with milk.
- Cool Whip
- Pineapple Tidbits: See note below.
- Mini Marshmallows
- Chopped Pecans
- Maraschino Cherries: Optional. We don't prefer them but they are a classic mix-in.
Which Canned Pineapple to Use
Most recipes you'll find on the internet call for crushed pineapple.
I STRONGLY discourage this.
Pineapple tidbits are a far superior ingredient because the texture of the final fluff recipe is so much better.
We prefer a solid bite of pineapple in our fluff so that it tastes more like a fruit salad. When you used crushed pineapple, the texture makes you feel like you're eating floss.
On the other hand, pineapple chunks are too big, the tidbits size is just perfect.
How to Make It
Add the dry pistachio pudding mix to a large mixing bowl. Add the entire can of pineapple tidbits and the canned juices to the bowl and stir them together.
The juices from the pineapple will activate the pudding mix and dissolve the powder.
Stir in the mini marshmallows and chopped pecans if you are using them. We love the bit of crunch the pecans bring to the mix, but you can skip them if you want.
Lastly, add the Cool Whip to the mixing bowl and carefully fold it in. Don't stir too hard or the Cool Whip will break apart in the mixture and get too liquidy. The final texture should still be light and fluffy.
A Note on Maraschino Cherries:
If you want to use maraschino cherries in this recipe, you can chop a few up and stir them in with the marshmallows or you can simply add a few to the top of the dish for garnish.
Transfer the pistachio fluff to a pretty bowl for serving and chill in the fridge until ready to serve at your meal.
I like to sprinkle some chopped pecans over the top for color and crunch.
For a holiday buffet, I prefer to add the fluff to just one large serving bowl that gets passed at the table.
However, you could also portion out the prepared fluff into individual dessert dishes before chilling in the fridge. This makes a lovely presentation for a special meal.
Make Ahead Tips
You can prep the pistachio fluff fruit salad in the morning in just a few minutes and let it chill until your holiday meal.
It will also keep in the fridge for up to 3 days as long as it is covered in plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out.
Do not try to freeze the dish, the texture will not keep well.