The fluffy sweet salad your grandmother used to make

Somehow, we got into the business of making old-fashioned salads for our free drive-thru meal ministry at a United Methodist church in Knoxville, Tennessee. That may have happened because we have limited oven and storage space, so we aim to have at least one cold dish to make ahead and stash in the refrigerator.

At our Easter Saturday takeout lunch, we served “Strawberry Fluff Salad” alongside the holiday ham. Everyone who saw it said, “Oh, my mother/grandmother used to make that.” Kitty, one of our regular volunteers, tasted it and said, “Oh, I forgot how good it is.”

This salad (or is it a dessert?) won’t win awards for nutrition or originality. A 2019 NPR story lumped our salad in with a pistachio-flavored version (known famously as “Watergate Salad”) before dismissing it with, “The salad became a food grandmas made, a staple of church basements.”

Pistachio-flavored “Watergate Salad” is a relative of our Strawberry Fluff.

Anyway, our guests loved this easy and inexpensive blend of fruit-flavored gelatin, whipped topping (Cool Whip), cottage cheese, and crushed pineapple. I grew up with a lime-green version including chopped pecans or walnuts, traditionally served at Christmastime. We just called it “Green Jello Salad.” Kitty said her family called it “Green Mush.” I’ve also heard about salads with similar ingredients and different fruit flavors that families affectionately called “Pink Stuff” or “Green Goop.”

We picked strawberry-flavored gelatin for our Easter salad, which inspired us to slice one perfect strawberry – a tip of the hat to the first fruits of spring – on each serving.


Strawberry Fluff Salad

Serves 8

  • 15-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 16-ounce container cottage cheese
  • 3-ounce package strawberry gelatin
  • 8-ounce container whipped topping, thawed
  • Fresh strawberries (optional)

Combine pineapple, cottage cheese, pineapple, and gelatin in a bowl. Stir well. (Don’t prepare the gelatin with boiling water — just mix in the powder.)

Fold whipped topping in with other ingredients until combined. Do not over mix to keep the salad “fluffy.”

Refrigerate until serving time. If desired, slice fresh strawberries over each serving.

Write to me at annettespence@holston.org.

4 thoughts on “The fluffy sweet salad your grandmother used to make

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  1. My favorite is a layered orange lemon jello salad with pineapple, bananas, and mini marshmallows topped with a whipped cream/pineapple puddingish thing and topped with grated sharp cheddar cheese. Salad? Dessert? Why the cheese? I don’t know but it is a delicious combo.

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  2. I never knew where my mother got the recipe so I was interested in this article. My favorite is 2 boxes of strawberry Jell-o powder and 1 box of orange Jell-o powder mixed into the carton of cottage cheese. Then I stir in 3 small containers of whipped topping (thawed). Next I stir in at least 3 small cans of mandarin oranges (drained well). Save out some of the nicer segments of mandarin oranges to make a design on top. Chill until ready to serve. This makes a very large bowl full which is good for family gatherings.
    I like the strawberry orange flavor with the mandarin oranges. We just called it Jell-o salad but our daughter-in-law named it Pink Fluff. She loves it!

    My mother experimented with different flavors of Jell-o and fruits. Cans of fruit cocktail give it more variety with the different fruits.

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