Classic Watergate Salad Recipe

If you've never had Watergate salad, then you are missing out on a blast from the past. Though the name might conjure up images of crispy greens and dressing, Watergate salad is actually a dessert — and a somewhat bizarre one, at that. Pistachio pudding, whipped topping, crushed pineapple, and mini marshmallows come together to make up this true concoction of a confection, and truth be told, no one really knows who came up with it. According to NPR, its origins can be traced back to similar dishes in the early 1900s, and yes, the version that we know and love likely received its moniker when a certain hotel in Washington, D.C. was fresh in peoples' minds.

Regardless of any political history behind Watergate salad, recipe developer Erin Johnson is here to enjoy some good old nostalgia. "My favorite thing about this dish is 100% the nostalgia factor," Johnson explains. "I think everyone had a relative in the '70s and '80s who would bring this to every family get-together."

Gather the ingredients for classic Watergate salad

This recipe requires only 5 ingredients and 5 minutes, so it really does come together in a breeze. To make a classic Watergate salad, you'll need a packet of pistachio-flavored instant pudding mix, whipped topping, a can of crushed pineapple, mini marshmallows, and some chopped pecans. Of course, there are ways to get more creative, and Johnson encourages it. "You can be as creative as you'd like with this. Try adding in other fruit, substituting a different nut," she advises. "It won't be the 'classic,' but it may be delicious!"

Combine the pudding mix and pineapple

While pudding mix typically requires milk or water to dissolve in, for this recipe, you'll dissolve it right in the pineapple juice. So, in a large bowl, dump in all of the pistachio pudding mix, then add the crushed pineapple (juice and all). Mix these ingredients together until there's no more visible pudding powder. 

Fold in the rest of the ingredients

Dump the whipped topping into the bowl (you can reserve some for a garnish if you'd like) and gently fold it into the pudding and pineapple. Now fold in the marshmallows and nuts. At this point, you may wish to refrigerate the salad to allow it to chill and stiffen up a bit, but this is completely optional.

Garnish and serve your Watergate salad

Scoop out individual servings of the salad, and optionally top them off with more whipped topping, extra pecans, and a cherry on top. Now, you're ready to serve and enjoy what Johnson describes as "a blast from the past." If you happen to have leftovers, she notes that you can store them in the fridge for up to 5 days. There are some cool, creamy, and surprisingly refreshing flavors in this Watergate salad — don't be surprised when you're going back for seconds!

Classic Watergate Salad Recipe
5 from 26 ratings
What would the '70s be without odd culinary choices and political scandal? Combine them and you get Watergate salad; learn how to make this nostalgic dessert.
Prep Time
Cook Time
green dessert with cherry on top
Total time: 5 minutes
  • 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple
  • 1 (3.4-ounce) package instant pistachio pudding mix
  • 1 (8-ounce) container whipped topping
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
Optional Ingredients
  • additional whipped topping, for garnish
  • additional chopped pecans, for garnish
  • maraschino cherries, for garnish
  1. In a large bowl, combine the pineapple (do not drain) and pudding mix. Stir until fully incorporated.
  2. Fold in the whipped topping, marshmallows, and pecans.
  3. Scoop into individual bowls, and, if desired, top with additional whipped topping, pecans, and a cherry.
Calories per Serving 241
Total Fat 11.4 g
Saturated Fat 4.4 g
Trans Fat 0.0
Cholesterol 21.5 mg
Total Carbohydrates 35.1 g
Dietary Fiber 1.2 g
Total Sugars 29.3 g
Sodium 181.6 mg
Protein 1.9 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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