Southern Ambrosia is often called “Nectar of the Gods,” which is an excellent description of this famous old-fashioned, citrusy fruit salad.
In the south, there are probably as many variations of ambrosia as they are elves. But my favorite and the recipe I am sharing today is merely fresh navel oranges and their juice, a touch of powdered sugar, and a bit of coconut on top.
Yes, I know many of you also add grapefruit or other citrus, pecans, and pineapple, and some of you go all the way with the addition of whipped cream and marshmallows.
The variations are endless. I have tasted and enjoyed all of the combinations for this tasty fruit salad, but this simple recipe is the one I love. For many southerners, classic ambrosia is a traditional Christmas dish, and I am no exception. I can’t imagine the holidays without this delicacy front and center on my table.
Here’s what’s in it:
The ingredients are simple: navel oranges and juice, powdered sugar, sweetened coconut, and maraschino cherries for garnish.
Here’s how to make this recipe:
Gather your ingredients and begin by peeling the oranges with a sharp paring knife. Make sure to remove all of the white pith.
Next, section the oranges by placing the knife along the inside of the orange membrane for each section. Run the blade to the center of the orange and pop out the orange section. When you are sectioning the oranges, be sure to do this over a bowl to catch all of the juice.
Place the orange sections in the bowl with the juice and mix in the powdered sugar. Place in a serving dish and top with the coconut and, if desired, a maraschino cherry. That’s it!
Is ambrosia a fruit salad, a dessert, or a dessert salad?
There are no rules for Southern ambrosia, and whether you serve it as a fruit salad for a Christmas brunch, or a light dessert, it’s entirely up to you. But, no matter when or where you serve it or call it, it makes the meal memorable.
What to serve it with:
Sharon’s Expert Tips:
If you are making ambrosia ahead, cover and refrigerate for up to four days. Wait to add the cherry until you are ready to serve it.
I like to use navel oranges, but you can use Valencias or any sweet orange variety you want.
Oranges vary in sweetness. If your fruit is really sweet, you might want to cut back on the amount of sugar you add. Conversely, if your oranges aren’t that sweet, you may need to add a little more sugar.
If your family isn’t a fan of coconut, feel free to leave it out.
If you would like to change things up a bit, you can also add grapefruit or other citrus, pecans, and/or chunks of pineapple and whipped cream or marshmallows.
You can browse all of my breakfast and brunch recipes here or check out my roundup posts, Easy Make-Ahead Christmas Breakfast, and Brunch Recipes, 25 Best Christmas Breakfast and Brunch recipes.
Oh, and ambrosia isn’t just for Christmas! It’s perfect for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, or any occasion you want something special!
★ If you make Southern Ambrosia, please leave a comment and give this recipe a star rating. I would love to know how you liked it!
Thanks so much for visiting Grits and Pinecones!
Old-Fashioned Southern Ambrosia Recipe
- 4 Navel oranges peeled and sectioned
- 2-3 tablespoons powdered sugar or to taste
- 2 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut
- Maraschino cherries for garnish
- Peel the oranges with a sharp paring knife. Make sure to remove all of the white pith. Next, section the oranges by placing the blade along the inside of the orange membrane for each section. Run the blade to the center of the orange and pop out the orange section. When you section the oranges, be sure to do this over a bowl to catch all of the juice.
- Place the orange sections in the bowl with the juice from the oranges and mix in the powdered sugar. Place in a serving dish and top with the coconut and if desired a Maraschino cherry.