Watergate Salad

This is an old and easy salad recipe that dates back to my childhood.  It was allegedly created by a chef at the Watergate Hotel in D.C. and was  served at brunch and on weekends.  This may or may not be true.  The salad reportedly gained popularity after the political scandal of the same name  (Watergate Scandal) that began in June of 1972 when  there was a break in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex which is on the same 10 acre site as the hotel.  For more information about that scandal, refer to the Wikipedia.

Whatever the source of the recipe, it is very quick, easy, and uses some pantry staples, mainly canned crushed pineapple and instant jello pudding.  Toss in some marshmallows, cool-whip, and chopped nuts (optional) and you have a delicious treat that is somewhere between a fruit salad and dessert.  It’s really good, too.


All you need is a small package of instant pistachio pudding, a 20 oz can of crushed pineapple packed in pineapple juice, 2 cups of marshmallows, 1/2 cup of chopped pecans (optional), and an 8 oz container of frozen whipped topping such as cool whip..  One of the things that I love about this recipe is that it is easily adapted.  It tastes just as good with sugar free instant pudding or fat-free frozen whipped topping.

Once you have gathered all of the ingredients, here’s what you do.

Dump the entire can of  pineapple into a medium sized mixing bowl.  Sprinkle the instant pudding on top of the pineapple and mix well until the pudding has completely dissolved and is beginning to thicken.  Stir in the 2 cups of marshmallows and the chopped nuts (if you are using them).  Fold in the thawed, frozen whipped topping.  Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve it.

It’s really that easy.

Recipes like this always seem to take on a personality of their own as they travel through different regions of our country, and different households.  I recently had a colleague bring Watergate Salad to a party.  Her version was very tasty, but tasted different than mine.   She made the pudding with  milk before adding the other ingredients.  She also drained the pineapple before adding it.  The result was a still a delicious pineapple and pistachio dessert.  It just had a slightly different taste and texture than the way I make it.  She was incredulous to find out that I don’t make the pudding first.  I promised to bring her a batch of Watergate Salad made my way.

For my home, I prefer my method.  I get to be a little lazy because  I don’t have to make the pudding first.  Of course, there’s also the fact that I don’t want  to waste the juice from the pineapple.  I do admit that  if my colleague wants to make another batch of her version for me, I’ll gladly eat it.  It’s just that when I’m in the kitchen, I sometimes like to be able to be lazy take the shortest distance between two points without sacrificing flavor.

Here’s the recipe.  Let me know what you think.

Watergate Salad
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
Simple pineapple and pistachio fruit salad type dessert that is very easy to make.
  • 1 small package of instant pistachio pudding (3.4 oz regular or 1 oz sugar free)
  • 1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple packed in pineapple juice
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • 1 (8 ounce) tub frozen whipped topping
  1. Thaw frozen whipped topping in refrigerator prior to beginning recipe.
  2. Place entire contents of can of pineapple into a medium sized mixing bowl.
  3. Sprinkle instant pudding onto pineapple.
  4. Mix pudding mix into pineapple until pudding mix is dissolved and the mixture begins to thicken. This takes approximately 2 - 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in miniature marshmallows and pecans (if using)
  6. Fold in whipped topping.
  7. Cover and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  8. Serve .



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