What’s Pistachio Salad?

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Pistachio salad, also known as Watergate salad, is a cold dessert made with instant pistachio pudding, canned fruit, whipped toppings, and chopped nuts. It originated in the US in the mid-1970s and requires no cooking. It can be served immediately or chilled for at least an hour. It can also be used as a cake frosting for Watergate cake.

Pistachio salad is a creamy cold dessert that mostly consists of instant pistachio pudding and canned fruit. The dish is also commonly referred to as a Watergate salad. It is thought by some to have originated in the United States in the mid-1970s as a marketing tactic for instant pudding mix. The historical explanation of how the dessert was invented or how it was given the alternative name Watergate salad has not been conclusively proven.

The basic ingredients of a traditional pistachio salad recipe tend to include a prepared instant pistachio-flavored pudding, canned pineapple chunks in their own juice, whipped toppings, and chopped nuts. Although the recipe name refers to pistachios, some variations of the recipe call for ground almonds or walnuts instead because these nut variations tend to be less expensive in some regions than fresh pistachios. Other variations of the ingredients for the standard salad recipe include canned tangerines or fruit cocktail instead of canned pineapple chunks. Miniature marshmallows or shredded coconut can also be mixed into the salad for extra flavor and texture.

The process of preparing a pistachio salad traditionally requires no cooking. Instant pudding is made following package directions, which generally involve combining the powdered batter with cold milk and letting it sit until it thickens and firms up slightly. The pudding is then combined with chopped nuts, canned pineapple and juice, and whipped cream made topping and chilled.

While pistachio salad can be served immediately after making it, many recipes recommend letting the dish chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Chilling the salad allows the flavors of the various ingredients to mix. Usually the dish can be safely stored for about three days in the refrigerator.

The pistachio salad also forms the basis of an expansion of the recipe, commonly called the Watergate cake. The salad itself is reserved and used as a cake frosting. The cake is usually made from yellow cake mix, pistachio instant pudding mix, milk, oil, egg, and a carbonated ginger ale or lemon-lime flavored drink. Once baked, the pie is topped with salad and is often garnished with chopped nuts, shredded coconut, mini marshmallows, or canned fruit.

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