Watergate Salad

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Watergate salad, also known as Pistachio Fluff, is a cool and refreshing Jello salad. It’s an easy mid-century recipe Grandma would make for potlucks, parties, and casual get togethers for gossiping.

Much like ambrosia salad, Watergate salad comes together with a handful of ingredients in less than 10 minutes, then chilled. This is a fabulous make-ahead dessert for holidays and special occasions.


A large glass bowl of Watergate Salad with dessert cups garnished with whipped cream and a cherry.


Younger generations often wonder, what is Watergate salad? Where did the name come from? This light, fluffy Jello salad was born in 1975, when Kraft Foods created instant pistachio pudding mix.

General Foods (now Kraft Heinz) created the original recipe using the green pudding mix, pineapple, marshmallows and whipped topping. It was first known as Pistachio Pineapple Delight, and later as Pistachio Fluff. For generations, this refreshing salad was a summer staple of family get-togethers, picnics, and church socials.

According to urban myth, an unnamed Chicago food editor reprinted the recipe in her column with a touch of satire. She renamed it the Watergate Salad, after President Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal. The name stuck! Restaurants and hotels in Washington, D.C. started serving it.

In 1993, following consumer trends, Kraft embraced the name change. For many, the Watergate salad is a refreshing throwback recipe. For others, it’s simply known as a delicious Jello dessert that’s quick to assemble!

Individual serving of Watergate Salad dessert with a metal spoon.


One 8-ounce tub of Cool Whip yields approximately 3 cups. Although you can get by with that size container for this recipe, I recommend buying the larger 16-ounce tub. This will ensure you’ll have plenty of whipped topping left over to garnish individual servings of this yummy dessert salad.

  • Crushed pineapple (canned) with juices
  • Jello Pistachio Instant Pudding Mix (box)
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Pistachios, chopped
  • Cool Whip whipped topping, thawed
  • Garnishes: dollops of Cool Whip + Maraschino cherries
  • Secret Ingredient: A pinch of nostalgia!

PARTY TIP: When making Pistachio Fluff for parties and potlucks, I recommend tripling this recipe.

Watergate Salad ingredients on a maple surface.


There’s so much to love about this easy no-bake dessert! With affordable ingredients and a few basic kitchen tools, this delicious Jello salad comes together seamlessly.

Kitchen tools for a no-bake dessert: rubber spatula and glass mixing bowl.


For this make-ahead dessert, shelling and chopping nuts can be done in advance. I highly recommend hiding the nuts from pistachio lovers! My husband thinks he’s so sneaky. He’ll casually pass by, snagging a handful of nuts right off the cutting board. To reduce recipe prep time, use pre-shelled nuts.

Pistachios being shelled and chopped on a wooden board with a Shun knife.


If you love easy summer desserts, like this yummy Watergate Salad, you’ll also enjoy these popular recipes:


I have fond memories of my Grandma assembling this salad in her large farmhouse-style kitchen. I also remember my aunts bringing this Jello dessert to family reunions and get-togethers. There would be large Tupperware bowls full of this yummy Pistachio Fluff!

Here’s how to make this easy recipe step by step:

  • STEP 1: Add crushed pineapple with juices to the bowl. Add the Jello on top. Mix well. The acid from the pineapple will activate the green food coloring in the powdered mix. It’s beautiful!
  • STEP 2: Add chopped nuts and mini marshmallows to the bowl. Stir to combine.
  • STEP 3: Add Cool Whip to the bowl. Gently fold it into the mixture.
  • STEP 4: Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Serve with a dollop of whipped topping and stemmed Maraschino cherries!

KITCHEN TIP: Whenever working with dry and wet ingredients, always add wet ingredients to the bowl first and then the dry. This makes it much easier to combine the ingredients together. You won’t need to scrape the bottom of the mixing bowl as much.

4-image collage showing how to make Pistachio Fluff / Watergate Salad step by step.


  • HOW TO THAW COOL WHIP: Place an 8-ounce frozen container of whipped topping into the refrigerator. Allow it to defrost for 4 hours, or overnight. A 16-ounce container will be completely thawed in about 5 hours. DO NOT thaw Cool Whip on the counter or in the microwave.
  • FOR A DEEPER SHADE OF GREEN: Add one drop of green food coloring to the dessert salad mixture. Stir it in. The color will be that of a Shamrock Shake!
  • MIX THINGS UP WITH ADD-INS: For additional texture, stir in 1/4 cup shredded coconut. For additional flavor, mix in seedless green grapes (cut in half). For more color, use colored mini marshmallows and garnish with rainbow sprinkles. For a healthier spin, add in drained mandarin oranges and sliced bananas.
  • HOW TO STORE WATERGATE SALAD: Keep Jello salad refrigerated until serving. For food safety, keep it cold at 40°F or less.
  • CAN WATERGATE SALAD BE FROZEN? This is not recommended. The texture of the marshmallows will be affected. This recipe tastes best when it’s fresh.
Pistachio Fluff dessert salad in individual serving dishes with whipped topping and a stemmed cherry.


  • LOW-FAT WATERGATE SALAD: For a lighter version of this Jello dessert, use a 1-ounce box sugar-free/fat-free Jello Pistachio Instant Pudding, 1 cup vanilla low-fat yogurt, 1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple in juice (undrained), and 2 cups thawed fat-free Cool Whip.
  • HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE ON A BUDGET: When making this recipe for large groups or parties, it’s easy to cut costs. Skip the nuts entirely, or look for other nuts on sale. Substitute pistachios for walnuts, pecans, or almonds. You can even try sunflower seeds! If you have heavy cream on hand, make your own whipped topping.
  • EASY MAKE-AHEAD RECIPE: For holidays and parties, assemble this Jello dessert up to three days in advance. Store Watergate Salad in a covered container and refrigerate.
  • MAKE A NO-BAKE PIE! After assembling the Watergate Salad, spoon the mixture into a graham cracker crust. Smooth the top with a spatula. Chill your Watergate Salad Pie in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours before serving.
Pistachio Watergate Salad in dessert cups and a large glass bowl on a white tabletop.


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Friends say this is the best Pistachio Fluff recipe! It’s so tasty and refreshing. If you agree, give this Watergate Salad a 5-star rating in the comments.

Stemmed dessert dish filled with Pistachio Fluff Watergate Salad with whipped cream and cherry.
Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com
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Watergate salad in a glass serving bowl with dessert dishes and spoons on the side.

Watergate Salad

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 10 reviews

  • Author: Denay DeGuzman
  • Total Time: 1 Hour 10 Minutes
  • Yield: 8 Servings 1x
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Serve delicious Watergate Salad at your next gathering. Your guests will enjoy this mid-century party recipe. This cool creamy classic is fun, refreshing, and festive!


  • 1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
  • 1 box (3.4 oz.) Jello Pistachio Instant Pudding Mix
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup (shelled and chopped) pistachios
  • 2 cups thawed Cool Whip whipped topping
  • Garnishes: A pinch of nostalgia, dollops of Cool Whip + Maraschino cherries with stems


  1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Gently fold in thawed Cool Whip.
  3. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or overnight (for a make-ahead dessert).
  4. Serve with dollops of Cool Whip and stemmed Maraschino cherries!



  • A LIGHTER VERSION OF WATERGATE SALAD: For a low-fat Jello dessert, use a 1-ounce box of sugar-free/fat-free Jello Pistachio Instant Pudding, 1 cup vanilla low-fat yogurt, 1 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple in juice (undrained), and 2 cups thawed fat-free Cool Whip.
  • WANT A DEEPER SHADE OF GREEN? Add one drop of green food coloring to the dessert salad mixture. Stir it in. The color will be that of a Shamrock Shake!
  • HOW TO STORE WATERGATE SALAD: Keep Jello salad refrigerated until serving. For food safety, keep it cold at 40°F or less.
  • MORE INFO ABOUT THIS RECIPE: As always, further details are included in the body of the post, along with helpful step-by-step recipe images.
  • Prep Time: 10 Minutes + 1 Hour Chilling
  • Cook Time: 0 Minutes
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: No-Bake
  • Cuisine: American
Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com


Do you love Pistachio fluff Jello Salad? Did you know it was also called Watergate Salad? Share your thoughts about this Jello dessert in the comments below!

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  1. My daughter was having a purple themed birthday slumber party with her 2 cousins and we needed snacks. I added one can of dark, sweet cherries with the can of crushed pineapple and it was perfect and purple! Delicious too.

  2. This has been a favorite salad to share during the summer months for years! Always a hit and I love the texture from the nuts. Simple and delicious. So glad to have this recipe at my fingertips. Thanks.

  3. Watergate salad brings back so many great memories every time I eat it! So yummy, just like Mom used to make!

  4. I love this recipe! I made it without the actual pistachios because I knew that would go over better with my kids. So delicious!