Ambrosia or “food of the gods” is best in its truest form of fresh oranges layered with flakes of coconut. (Yep, I’m on a coconut kick this summer after making coconut shrimp earlier this week!) This Southern dish became popular back in the 1800’s when getting fresh citrus was becoming a possibility. You will find it on pretty much every Southern sideboard or church potluck at Christmas time. As we are now able to get coconut and fresh oranges year round (especially in California!), ambrosia salad makes a great, fresh option in the summer. I hated dried coconut when I was a kid so my mom would always make half of the salad with mini marshmallows for my brother and I to enjoy. Martha Pearl Villas wrote “People who add grapefruit, pineapple, grapes, and bananas, and Lord knows what else to ambrosia simply don’t understand ambrosia,” in My Mother’s Southern Desserts, but I feel like you can make it your own, however you want. Add whipped cream, pistachios, cherries, bananas, whatever suits your fancy. If you want to original tried and true recipe, stick with simpler ingredients!
Shredding and roasting fresh coconut will give your dish the best flavor but it can be time consuming. It’s okay to substitute dried, sweetened coconut instead.
I opted to use a mix of Cara Cara oranges and Navel oranges to make today’s Ambrosia Salad. The sweet, complex flavored Cara Cara oranges give this dish a fun mix of color while maintaining the citrus flavor.
- 5 Large Naval Oranges
- 2 Large Cara Cara Oranges
- 1 Cup Dried Coconut
- Peel oranges.
- Dice into small pieces.
- Sprinkle with coconut.
- Option to refrigerate overnight to allow the coconut flavor to soak in.