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vegan Watergate Salad, the Classic Fruit Salad Recipe

5 from 8 votes

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This vegan watergate salad is a remake of the classic pistachio pudding mix cool whip and fruit salad. The green fluff is made vegan with silken tofu and cashews. This veganized “green stuff” ambrosia salad has a little bit of a twist by using different canned fruits and vegan marshmallows.

vegan watergate salad in flowered bowl

Everybody has somewhere in the back of their memories, that classic creamy fluffy ambrosia jello salad thing in a big bowl sitting right in the middle of their holiday table. Was it fruit salad? Dessert? Were you supposed to put it on a plate alongside the main course, in a bowl off to the side? Didn’t really matter. When grandma set it on the table, we all dug in!

Our family favorites were orange fluff and watergate salad – the green fluff! Some surprising vegan ingredients make this watergate salad perfect for plant-based eaters. All of the flavors of the traditional watergate salad but made vegan-friendly.

Reasons you’ll love this vegan watergate salad recipe

  • classic flavors
  • uses extra canned fruit
  • makes plenty to feed your crew
  • makes you think of cool retro desserts
  • a little more healthy with higher protein with the cashews and tofu
  • vegan subs for the cool whip and for the mini marshmallows
  • Who doesn’t love marshmallows!

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vegan watergate salad in flowered bowl with pinterest text overlay

Ingredients needed to make vegan watergate salad

Some of the same ingredients are used in this recipe as in the classic pistachio pudding fruit salad, and some major differences in ingredients too!

  •  raw cashews (and soaking water)
  • canned mandarin oranges, drained
  • canned crushed pineapple, drained
  • canned fruit cocktail,  drained
  • full-fat coconut milk
  • 3.5 ounces pistachio pudding mix, make sure to use the instant pudding – not cook and serve
  • vanilla extract
  • silken tofu
  • powdered sugar
  • vegan dandies (mini marshmallows)
  • top with pecans (optional)
  • You’ll also need a high-speed blender
ingredients needed for vegan watergate salad

How to make your own watergate salad just like mom did – only vegan!

Follow along with me while I veganize this family favorite watergate salad. You might be surprised by some of the ingredients that make this classic pistachio pudding fruit salad vegan-friendly.

Step 1: Prepare the ingredients

The cashews and canned fruit

Soak the cashews in very hot water for about 30 minutes. It is important that you use unsalted and raw (not roasted) cashews. If you are unable to find any raw cashews and end up using salted and roasted cashews, soak overnight and triple rinse to remove all of the salt. I hope that works for you.

Open the cans of mandarin oranges, crushed pineapple, and fruit cocktail and drain. The classic watergate salad only uses the crushed pineapple and not the other canned fruits. My family’s watergate salad recipe contains all of the fruit!

The coconut cream

This is also a great time to remove the cream from the top of the canned coconut milk. You will only the using the cream part at the top – not the watery coconut water liquid in the can. This will help to set the green pudding mix mixture.

Don’t shake the can around before opening. The coconut cream should be on the top layer and easy to scoop. If you have handled the can too much and it’s mixed in, put the can in the frige or freezer and the white cream part will rise to the top and become more solid.

removing the coconut cream for a can of coconut milk

The tofu

Cut open the package of silken tofu and drain. We won’t be pressing silken tofu. It isn’t necessary. Simply allow the liquid to run off and then place the block of tofu on a napkin and pat dry. If you cannot find silken tofu in your grocery store you might try very soft tofu. I honestly have not tried it before and don’t know how it will work.

patting dry the silken tofu
Just pat the tofu dry – do not press the silken tofu.

Step 2: Blend, blend, blend the green fluff

What would watergate salad be without green fluff? Watergate salad traditionally gets its sweet green “dressing” from mixing some sort of artificial whipped topping or whipped cream with pistachio pudding mix.

coconut cream, soaked and drained cashews, pistachio pudding mix, and vanilla extract

The pistachio pudding mix

Did you know that Jello brands puddings are considered accidentally vegan? Fruit flavored jello is not as it contains gelatin, but the jello pudding mix does not contain gelatin. It does contain sugar from an unknown source. If this does not go with your ethics then this is not the recipe for you. Use only instant pudding mix and not cook and serve.

About whipped topping

Cool whip and other similar whipped toppings are not vegan because they contain dairy – even “fake” whipped topping brands like cool whip. I’ve heard dairy-free whipped topping exists but I have not found vegan whipped topping at my grocery store. If you are able to find dairy-free whipped topping, then you can just follow any non-vegan watergate salad recipe you find online and sub in the dairy-free whipped topping.

Also, know that I have tried to make my own whipped topping for watergate salad out of canned coconut milk and it was a big fail! Thus the recipe with tofu and cashews…

Time to blend

Add the soaked and drained cashews and the drained silken tofu to a high-speed blender along with the powdered sugar, coconut milk, pistachio pudding mix, and vanilla extract. Blend for two-three minutes until it’s nice and smooth.

showing the blended pistachio pudding mixture

Step 3: mixing it together

Add the drained canned fruit and vegan marshmallows to a large bowl. Pour the blended pudding mixture on top and fold it all together.

Too much green stuff! Please read!

One flaw with this recipe is that you might end up with a little extra green pudding mixture. It’s just the way it worked out with the ratios and packaging. I’m not really mad about it. Just pay attention to how much mixture you are pouring into the drained fruit and marshmallows and stop when you have enough. I make pudding cups with the extra to take to lunch and eat during the week.

small glass container with leftover watergate salad pudding mix topped with marshmallows

You could also slice in a banana or add more marshmallows. I kinda like the bonus pudding though!

Serving suggestions

Allow chilling in the fridge for a few hours to set up. This will not be as light and fluffy as it would be if you had used a commercial whipped topping. I actually think it’s creamier and better-tasting this way.

You can top with more marshmallows, pecans, or pistachios. You must disclose to anyone you are serving this fruit salad that it contains cashews!

It can keep in the fridge, tightly covered, for about 5 days. If it gets a little watery then simply gently stir together.

For some more delicioius retro vegan side dishes from Veggie Fun Kitchen, try

The printable recipe card for vegan watergate salad

Did you love this recipe? Want to share the love? It would thrill me to no end if you could leave five ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ stars and even a comment. Did you know that this will help google to find this recipe when others are looking for something similar? Thanks, Cindy

vegan watergate salad in flowered bowl

Watergate Salad, Vegan Friendly and Oil-Free

This vegan watergate salad is a remake of the classic pistachio-flavored jello pudding mix cool whip and fruit salad. The green fluff is made vegan with silken tofu and cashews. This veganized ambrosia salad has a little bit different twist with the canned fruits and vegan marshmallows.
5 from 8 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert, party food
Cuisine: American
Keyword: vegan holiday food, watergate salad
Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
chill time: 3 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 267kcal
Author: Cindy Rainey

Equipment

  • high-speed blender

Ingredients

  • 1 cups raw cashews
  • 15 ounces mandarin oranges, canned drained
  • 20 ounces crushed pineapple, canned drained
  • 30 ounces fruit cocktail, canned drained
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 3.5 ounces pistachio pudding mix instant
  • teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 14 ounces silken tofu
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups vegan marshmallows

Instructions

  • Soak the raw cashews in very hot water for about 1 hour. Drain.
  • Open the canned fruit and drain well in a strainer. Set aside.
  • Scoop out ½ cup coconut cream from the top layer of a can of coconut milk. Set aside. Discard or save the rest for another use.
  • Open and drain the silken tofu. Do not press it but gently dry with a paper towel. Allow to rest on a dry paper towel while you are preparing the other ingredients.
  • Add the soaked and drained cashews and the drained silken tofu to a high-speed blender along with the powdered sugar, coconut milk, pistachio pudding mix, and vanilla extract.
  • Blend for 2-3 minutes till nice and smooth.
  • Add the drained canned fruit and vegan marshmallows to a large bowl. Pour the blended pudding mixture on top and fold it all together. You might end up with a little extra green pudding mixture. I just make pudding cups and eat the next day. See blog post for details.
  • Chill in the fridge for about 3 hours. It will set up when chilled.

Notes

You MUST disclose to anyone eating this watergate fruit salad that it contains cashews and soy. They are both serious allergins and are not typically found in food such as this.
Please use raw unsalted cashews. If you use salted, roasted cashews then you will need to soak overnight and triple rinse to remove the salt.
The cashew soaking time is included in the prep time. Be sure to reserve time to chill – at least three hours. 
If you are here for the dairy-free pistachio cream mixture, then use any marshmallows you’d like. If you are here for the vegan-friendly pistachio fruit salad, I like Dandies  vegan miniature marshmallows, the best!  This affiliate link is for two bags. You will only need bag for this recipe – including any extra toppings. That’s okay, because I usually end up just eating half a bag anyway…
The serving size is for 12 one-half cup servings. It’s pretty rich and you won’t need a lot more than that. If you serve three-fourths a cup each then you will get 8 servings.
One flaw with this recipe is that you will have too much of the pistachio mixture for the fruit. It doesn’t really work well to add more fruit or marshmallows and in fact is perfect as is (except that you will have over one-half cup too much pistachio mixture.) I use what I need for the salad and pour the rest into small containers for pistachio pudding snack. top with marshmallow, fresh fruit, or anything else for a quick little surprise snack. 
This will keep refrigerated for up to five days. It might separate a little. Just stir together before serving. 

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cup | Calories: 267kcal | Carbohydrates: 48g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 137mg | Potassium: 323mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 40g | Vitamin A: 636IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 2mg
By on February 24th, 2022

About Cindy Rainey

Veggie Fun Kitchen by Cindy Rainey
Welcome to Veggie Fun Kitchen where you will learn to recreate family favorites the plant-based/vegan way! Let me know if I can help. I'm here for you.

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