Healthy Watergate Salad
Published Jun 14, 2019, Updated Nov 10, 2021
This post may include affiliate links. Thank you for your support.
Healthy watergate salad that’s still sweet, fluffy and delicious, but instead of instant pudding mix and marshmallows, we’re using Greek yogurt, coconut whip and real pistachios.
Watergate salad was one of my favorite things to eat growing up. My mom would make it every year for Easter and for summer cookouts.
If you didn’t grow up in the south you might be wondering what the heck watergate salad is, so let me fill you in real fast.
What is Watergate Salad?
This “salad” goes by a lot of names… I’ve always known it as Watergate Salad but apparently, it’s also known as Pistachio Delight, Shut The Gate Salad, Green Goop, Green Fluff or Green Stuff. Lots of official names. 😉 Traditionally it’s made from pistachio pudding mix, canned pineapple, whipped cream, crushed pecans and marshmallows. This recipe originated in the mid-1970s when instant gelatin was a new invention.
How is This a Salad?
I don’t know if this is a southern thing or just old school, but we had so many dessert salads growing up! My mom always made watergate salad and my grandma would make something called strawberry pretzel salad which has a pretzel and butter crust, a layer of whipped cream and cream cheese, all topped with strawberry jello.
And apparently, there is a “salad” called Candy Bar Salad with apples, whipped cream and snickers (so delicious but…?!) Need a walk down memory lane? Check out this round-up! LOL! You can also read some really interesting information on the history of Jell-O salads here.
Making Watergate Salad With Real Food Ingredients
My mom used to make watergate salad “healthy” by using fat-free Cool Whip and sugar-free pistachio pudding mix. I recently looked at the ingredient lists for these items and they were scary! I immediately decided I needed to find a way to make watergate salad with real food ingredients.
The sugar-free pistachio pudding mix has aspartame and food dyes while Cool Whip has corn syrup as the first ingredient and hydrogenated vegetable oil as the third. No thanks! Here’s how I made this version healthier:
- I really wanted to use fresh pineapple but when I tested the recipe with it, something always tasted off so I’m using canned crushed pineapple (that’s packed in juice not syrup) for the recipe. The flavor is perfect and it brings a familiar texture to the dish as well.
- Instead of the pudding mix, I opted to use vanilla Greek yogurt (I like Siggi’s) blended with spinach for the green color and a little almond extract. And of course, for the pistachio flavor I’m using chopped pistachios!
- For the whipped cream, I recommend using frozen coconut whipped cream. I tried making the recipe with homemade coconut whip several times, but none of those batches turned out. The homemade coconut cream separated and became thick. Plus, I found that the store-bought coconut whipped cream added the best fluff and sweetness, making this healthier watergate salad more similar to the real deal. I recommend using the SoDelicious Coco Whip.
- At first, I skipped the marshmallows all together, but in a couple test batches I added chopped dates to replace the marshmallows and I really liked the substitution. The dates are optional for the recipe, but I think they are fun addition if you want to find surprise bites of soft and sweet throughout the “salad.”
Here’s What You Need
- canned crushed pineapple – buy the kind that is packed in juice, not syrup. The flavor and texture are perfect to use in this healthy updgrade.
- Greek yogurt – I recommend buying full-fat Vanilla greek yogurt for this recipe. If you need this recipe to be dairy-free you can sub in a non-dairy yogurt!
- spinach – not traditional, but this is blended with the greek yogurt to get that iconic green color! It doesn’t hurt that it boosts nutrients a bit too!
- almond extract – another addition to help make the flavor similar to if we were using pudding mix.
- pistachios – traditional to watergate salad, chopped pistachios offer such a great crunch to this dish!
- granola – alongside the pistachios, granola adds a nice crunch. My grain-free granola or hemp granola would be delicious options!
- coconut whipped topping – combined with the greek yogurt to give the light and fluffy texture this dish usually has.
- medjool dates – these are completely optional, but I love the texture they bring to this dish. They also add that extra bit of sweetness that marshmallows traditionally added.
How to Make Healthy Watergate Salad
It’s super simple to put together this recipe! Start by adding your vanilla Greek yogurt, almond extract and spinach to a blender and blend until the spinach is completely chopped up and the mixture is green.
Next, take out a large bowl and add the drained pineapple, coconut whipped topping, pistachios and granola. Pour the green Greek yogurt mixture over top of the ingredients and use a spatula to gently combine the ingredients. Add in the chopped dates if you’re using them.
Place the bowl in the fridge for 2-3 hours to chill before serving. Enjoy!
If you’re like me and grew up with this salad, I hope you like this healthier version. I can’t wait to hear what you think!
How to Store
You can keep leftovers covered in the fridge for 3-4 days.
It’s a great make-ahead dish to serve at parties! Just follow the recipe, store it in your fridge, and take it out when you’re ready to serve.
More Healthier Twists on Classic Recipes
- Waldorf Salad
- Healthy Green Bean Casserole
- Vegan Meatloaf
- Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole
- One Pot Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff
- Mashed Cauliflower
Be sure to check out all of my dessert recipes here on EBF!
- 2 20 oz cans of crushed pineapple drained
- 3 cups frozen coconut whip thawed
- ½ cup chopped pistachios
- ½ cup granola I used almond honey granola
- 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt or coconut milk yogurt
- ½ cup baby spinach
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 4 medjool dates chopped (optional)
- Add vanilla Greek yogurt, almond extract and spinach to a blender and blend until spinach is completely chopped and the mixture is green.
- Add drained pineapple, coconut whipped topping, pistachios and granola into a large bowl. Pour green Greek yogurt mixture over top and toss to combine. Add chopped dates if using.
- Place mixture in the fridge for 2-3 hours to chill before serving.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
I grew up in Texas and have never heard of this, but my mom used to make the strawberry pretzel salad. What a blast from the past! You should try to recreate using real food ingredients!
Very nice. I don’t eat sugar, so even this recipe is too much for me. However, I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the way you have redone this recipe. Aslo, for migraine sufferers like me, the medjool dates are a trigger. I would use dried plums, chopped. Thank you again for what you do! Blessings as you venture into motherhood!
Yum, I love that this is a healthier version that is certainly not short on flavor! Will be sure to try this recipe at some point this summer; it sounds great!
How do you know anything about the flavors in his dish if you haven’t made it?!
I was stoked when i seen you re-vamped this old school recipe that I remember from my grandmas house lol. And let me say that it has all the flavors I remember and so much more! Another amazing one Brittany!
My grandmother made this recipe every year for Christmas growing up. I’ve been missing it for a few years now as she developed Alzheimer’s and passed 2 years ago right before Christmas. I can’t tell you how much it means to me to have found a cleaner version to keep the tradition going even though she’s no longer with us. I happened to have homemade marshmallows on hand and diced those up. Delicious! Thank you for bringing back memories.
Awww this makes me so happy to read, Ashton. I’m so glad you found this recipe. 🙂 And thank you so much for coming back to leave a comment and star rating. The reviews are super helpful to other readers, so I really appreciate it. <3
How far in advance can this be made? Is it okay to make a day ahead of time?
Absolutely! It’s a great make-ahead dish. Just follow the recipe, store it in your fridge, and take it out when you’re ready to serve! Enjoy!