Although Southerners have been eating ambrosia for well over a century, this dessert for too long departed from its light and bright origins and became a gloppy, obligatory salad weighed down by marshmallow fluff and languishing in the mid-day sun on many a picnic table during summer family reunions. In the beginning, ambrosia was meant to be a sweet but lighter counterpoint to heavier foods like fried chicken, casseroles, and potato salad, but somewhere along the way, we lost ourselves in a sea of pineapple tidbit-studded cool whip. Now we as a people have returned it to its original glory by making it more fruit-driven and subtly sweet.
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Learn how to make classic Ambrosia:
You can also substitute nearly every ingredient. Don’t have the time to make fresh whipped cream? Pick up a can of spray whipped cream. No judgment. Can’t find meringue cookies? I used to graham crackers. Don’t have a grapefruit on hand? You can really use any combination of citrus and tropical fruits from mandarin oranges to pineapple or even mango; as long as there’s coconut, we say it’s safe to call it ambrosia.