Pistachio Fluff Watergate Salad + Video

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Watergate Salad is one of my favorite summer desserts. It goes by several different names, including pistachio fluff, but the end result is the same — an easy dessert that starts with a box of pistachio flavored instant pudding mix. Keep this Watergate salad recipe handy, because everyone will be asking for it!

titled: Pistachio Fluff Watergate Salad


Watergate Salad

This pistachio fluff is a delicious summer dessert that has fruit, marshmallows, pecans, and a tub of Cool Whip topping.

It’s so easy to make that I make sure I always have the ingredients on hand — especially instant pudding. It’s one of my most requested recipes for summer barbecues and potlucks!

measured ingredients for watergate salad

Watergate salad does need to be refrigerated for at least an hour before you serve it. So, keep that in mind when you are planning your meal.

Recipe Video

To see us make this Watergate salad recipe from start to finish, watch the video in this post!

There are so many ways to use instant pudding mix in desserts. It adds flavor and texture, and most of the time, you can add it dry!

From refreshing icebox cake to boozy pudding shots, there’s no excuse not to keep a few boxes in the pantry.

You can even use them for cookies and brownies — well, lemon flavored ones at least!

crush pineapple combined with pistachio pudding mix in bowl

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Crushed Pineapple – These pieces are much smaller than tidbits, so pay attention to the label.

    If you grabbed the wrong can, you can mash them down by hand or with a food processor.
  • Pudding Mix – You must use a pistachio-flavored mix to get the right flavor and color.

    Check the box carefully — it has to be the instant kind, not the one that needs to be cooked on the stove.
  • Mini Marshmallows – Here’s a fun way to add some extra flair!

    While regular white marshmallows will do, you can also use the rainbow bags to add pops of color and fruit flavor.
  • Chopped Pecans – Feel free to swap these with chopped walnuts, pistachios, or macadamia nuts. Or, leave out the nuts entirely!
mini marshmallows and chopped pecans in bowl with pudding pineapple mixture

Recipe for Pistachio Fluff Tips and Tricks

  • Save some of the juice.

Pour about 1/2 cup of the canned pineapple juice into a measuring cup and set aside.

This keeps your dessert from being too soggy, but you’ll have it on hand in case the texture is too thick.

  • Plan ahead.

The tub of Cool Whip needs to be thawed first — this can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours in the refrigerator.

To be safe, move it over the night before you plan on making this recipe for pistachio fluff.

  • Enhance the color.

With just the pudding mix, you’ll end up with a lovely pastel green.

If you prefer a bolder hue, stir in a few drops of green food coloring right at the end. Gel tends to give better results than the liquid kind.

base for pistachio fluff in bowl next to whipped topping

Make Ahead Instructions

Yes, pistachio salad needs to be refrigerated for at least an hour. But, it really is best when it’s refrigerated overnight!

So, if you want to make this recipe for pistachio fluff up to a day in advance, you can.

Just cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. Then, give it a quick stir before you serve it.

pistachio salad base topped with cool whip

Watergate Salad Variations

  • Add extra fruit. Include a drained can of mandarin orange slices or halved Maraschino cherries.

    These can be in addition to or in place of the mini marshmallows.
  • Make it extra creamy. Whip a softened block of cream cheese with the pudding mix and crushed pineapple before adding the Cool Whip.
  • Use real whipped cream. You can certainly whip up your own whipped topping if you prefer.

    But because it isn’t stabilized like Cool Whip, it’s not a great option if you’re planning on leftovers.
freshly mixed pistachio fluff in bowl

Storing Leftover Pistachio Salad

If you manage not to lick the bowl clean, you can store leftover pistachio salad in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

Keep tightly covered or transfer to an airtight container. For best results, stir well before serving.

You can’t freeze this dessert — it will come out grainy and watery when thawed. Luckily, it’s easy to make a fresh batch whenever the craving strikes!

overhead: bowl of pistachio dessert salad topped with cherries

Watergate Salad Recipe FAQ

Why is it called Watergate salad?

Many believe that this fluffy concoction is named after the presidential scandal of the same name. Or, at least after the Watergate Hotel where it took place.

The dessert has been around in some form since the early 1900s, when ambrosia salads became popular on household menus.

In fact, the name comes from Watergate Cake which includes similar ingredients and features a pistachio pudding frosting.

According to a news article from the 1970s, it’s a satirical reference to a dessert “full of nuts” with a “cover up” in the form of thick frosting. But no one knows for sure!

Is Watergate salad made with cottage cheese?

There are several variations of this recipe for pistachio fluff, and one of them calls for a 16-ounce tub of cottage cheese.

If you want to do that, you certainly can. The final results will be extra thick and creamy, and it’s a great way to add protein to the dish.

However, the flavor will make your Watergate salad less sweet and not as dessert-like.

What about WW Pistachio Fluff?

If you’re following Weight Watchers and want something that is a little bit more in line with their plan, simply swap in a tub of sugar-free Cool Whip and a box of sugar-free instant pudding.

That will help cut the sugar content, which also makes for a slightly healthier Watergate salad recipe.

individual glasses filled with watergate salad

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bowl of pistachio fluff topped with whipped cream and cherries

bowl of pistachio fluff topped with whipped cream and maraschino cherries

Pistachio Fluff Watergate Salad + Video

Donna Elick
Watergate Salad is one of my favorite summer desserts. Make pistachio fluff with crushed pineapple, instant pudding, Cool Whip, and pecans.
4.75 stars from 4 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Method Mixed
Servings 8



  • 20 ounce can crushed pineapple in juice, do not drain
  • 3.4 ounce box pistachio flavor instant pudding mix
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 8 ounces thawed Cool Whip whipped topping
  • optional green food coloring


  • Reserve 1/2 cup of pineapple juice from the crushed pineapple can.
  • In a large bowl combine the pineapple in its remaining juice with the pudding. Mix until well combined and all of the pudding has dissolved.
  • Stir in marshmallows and pecans.
  • Fold in the whipped topping.
  • If it needs more liquid add the reserved juice a tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Add a couple drops of green food coloring if desired to get a darker green color
  • Refrigerate at least 1 hour, but it is best overnight (6-8 hours).
  • Serve with a dollop of cool whip and a maraschino cherry.


Donna’s Notes

For a lighter dish, you can substitute sugar-free instant pudding and Cool Whip Free.
To thaw the Cool whip, place the container in the refrigerator for about 4 hours.
Fun add-ins: 1/2 cup shredded coconut, 1/2 chopped maraschino cherries, try your favorite nuts instead of pecans (walnuts, pistachio nuts, sliced almonds, etc). Try adding drained fruit cocktail or mandarin oranges. The possibilities are endless.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 218cal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 200mg | Sugar: 32g | Fiber: 2g | Calcium: 38mg | Iron: 1mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
titled image (and shown): Pistachio Fluff Watergate Salad

Originally published June 2020, updated and republished August 2023

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  1. 5 stars
    My grandmother used to make this and she never made enough! It was always the first thing to go at family gatherings. This recipe tastes just like the one she used to make! so good!

  2. I make this with sugar free pudding and sugar free cool whip. I use crushed pineapple in natural juice…..I leave out the marshmallows but not the pecans….yummy sugar free dessert.

  3. 4 stars
    I prefer to use coconut cream pudding instead of pistachio pudding. Draining the crushed pineapple and mixing the pudding with its juice makes it creamier. Adding 8 ounces of cottage cheese cuts the sweetness. May want to add 1/2 cup flaked coconut. Add the Cool Whip last by folding it in.

  4. 5 stars
    I made the recipe just as the recipe said to. I didn’t substitute the Cool Whip or the nuts or the pudding. And guess what? It’s delicious!
    Please remember the title of this section is reviews. Of the actual recipe.

  5. 5 stars
    This watergate salad recipe from The Slow Roasted Italian is a breeze to make and absolutely delicious!

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