My easy Watergate Salad is the perfect dish to make for any potluck, holiday or church picnic! No need to spend hours baking fancy desserts to be the talk of the party.  This Watergate Salad recipe just takes a few minutes, and it’ll be the most popular dish at your next potluck!

Watergate Salad

It used to be that I’d only pull out my recipe for Watergate salad during the hot summer months. The cool summer fruits against the flavors of the pistachio pudding, for me, just shouted summer.

It’s an interesting recipe, really. The lightness of the pineapple and cherries and the fullness of the pistachio pudding create the perfect combination for warm days.

It wasn’t until a friend of mine presented a Watergate salad with cottage cheese at a holiday party last year that I changed my mind. I was almost embarrassed that I’d not thought of it myself. There are so many ways to play with recipes – it was odd that I hadn’t tried my own “winter” Watergate salad variations.

The taste of Watergate salad always brings me back to my childhood. I can almost hear the laughter at the community potlucks where, invariably, someone would bring a dessert salad. They’re so easy and quick to whip up, then simply leave to set. It’s a wonder everyone didn’t bring one, in hindsight.

I’ve not experimented too much with my recipe over the years. I have made a Watergate salad with coconut, and that was successful. I’ve also made a Watergate salad with mandarin oranges. That was a hit as well.

I do love to stick to the tried and true. But, as you know, I also love to play with flavors.


When my friend served her winter salad, I was dumbfounded. I’d honestly never thought of the dessert as a winter dish.

The Watergate salad origin comes from the 1970s, when Kraft released the oddly colored pistachio pudding mix. The pudding started a trend – Pistachio Pineapple Delight.

The recipe took off in kitchens across America, until it was finally printed in a Chicago publication.

They say that’s how the Watergate salad got its name, actually. Some cheeky editor from a Chicago newspaper renamed the salad “Watergate salad,” as a joke referring to the political tension of the time.

Oddly enough, the name stuck.

Anyway, the dessert is still around, and I know there are just about as many variations on the recipe as there are people who love it. There is Watergate salad with cherries, a Watergate salad recipe with cream cheese – pretty much every modification you can imagine.

My recipe is actually pretty close to the original.

There’s something nostalgic about that to me. Even though I’m not afraid to experiment with flavor combinations, I love knowing that my recipe is pretty close to the ones prepared in households back in the 1970s.

That said, I’m curious to find out what you can come up with. What will you add to make your dessert unique?

Heck, you can do anything; I’ve even tasted a recipe from one brave chef who created a spicy Watergate salad!

Watergate Salad

There are a few tips that you’ll need to remember when you make your own dessert dish at home. First of all, the recipe won’t work if you make the pudding first. I tried it once, and it was not a success. Instead, pour the powdered pudding mix into the bowl. There’s no milk in the recipe.

Secondly, I’ve found that, even though this is meant to be an inexpensive recipe, I’ve had better success with the name brands. There’s just something that tastes different about store-brand pistachio pudding or whipped cream. It’s an affordable recipe, so I recommend you go for gold and buy name brand. Try Dole pineapple and Cool Whip.

Last, you can technically use any type of nuts that you’d like. But I’ve tried a few, including walnuts, and my family didn’t care for it. The taste of the walnuts was too earthy for the salad, and I didn’t find that it was successful. But fresh pecans? Oh, heaven.

Alright, are you ready to try it? If you’re feeling curious, look up the Watergate salad recipe retro recipe 1975 style. Then try mine, and you’ll taste the difference.

Be sure to come back here and let me know what you think!

Recipe Notes for Watergate Salad:

A Classic Recipe – Watergate salad is a classic recipe, and it’s been brought to church potlucks for almost 50 years. You’ll find some version of Watergate salad in almost every church and community cookbook.

What’s great about Watergate salad is that you can keep the ingredients on hand. Even if you’re not headed out to a potluck tomorrow, you can keep the items in the pantry, where they’ll be available for those last minute emergencies. You know, “mom, can you bring snacks to the party tomorrow?”

Watergate Salad

Pineapple – As you know, there are two types of pineapple in stores. Pineapple can be canned in its own juice or it can be canned in syrup. Steer clear of the pineapple packed in syrup. Not only will you be filling your dessert with useless sugar, but it’ll also turn out way too sweet. Instead, use the pineapple packed in its own juices.

Fresh pineapple doesn’t work in this recipe. Pineapple has enzymes which won’t react well with the whipped topping, and you’ll be left with a soupy mess. Stick with crushed, canned pineapple packed in pineapple juice and you’ll be just fine.

Let it Set – One of the things I like best about Watergate salad is that it’s so easy to make in a pinch. Whether you’ve got a school event, a potluck, or a last minute dinner invitation, it’s easy to toss together this salad recipe.

The key, however, is to make it the night before. Prepare the salad, cover it in plastic wrap, then let it sit overnight in your refrigerator. If you prepare Watergate salad the same day, it will end up tasting like unprepared pudding. Remember, there’s no milk. So you’re depending on the whipped topping to bring the flavors of the fruit and pudding mix together.

Wait until just before serving to add some of your nuts and the cherries. Your nuts will stay crunchy and your cherries won’t change the color of your Watergate salad if you add them right before you serve your guests.

Check out these Salads

Mexican Corn Salad – The perfect mix of tangy , sweet, and savory tastes in a side dish!

Cucumber Tomato Salad – A crisp, colorful, refreshing side with salty bits of mozzarella and a rich, tangy balsamic vinaigrette!

Grape Salad -Wonderful and unique salad, topped with roasted pecans and brown sugar!

Watergate Salad
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Watergate Salad Recipe

Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes


  • 1 3.4 Ounce Box Instant Pistachio Pudding
  • 1 20 Ounce Can Crushed Pineapple-Drained with 1/2 Cup Juice Reserved
  • 1 Cup Miniature Marshmallows
  • 1 Cup Pecans Chopped~Divided
  • 1 3/4 Cup Frozen Whipped Topping-Thawed
  • Maraschino Cherries


  1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together Pistachio pudding, drained pineapple, 1/2 cup reserved pineapple juice, marshmallows, and 1/2 cup pecans.
  2. Fold whipped topping. Cover and refridgerate overnight.
  3. To serve, sprinkle top of salad with remaining  cup pecans and top with a Maraschino cherry.

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