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Watergate Salad & The History Behind the Politically Charged Side Dish

Politically-charged and walking the line between dessert and salad, this retro recipe is sure to bring back countless memories of 70s parties, record players, and bell bottoms. No one knows for sure where the name came from and how it centers around one of the most talked-about political scandals in the United States. But they all know one thing: the combination of instant pistachio pudding mix, miniature marshmallows, cool whip whipped topping, and canned pineapple with pineapple juice makes one heck of a dish to bring to a potluck.


It's been called pistachio delight, green goob, green fluff, and even barf, but nothing can contain the love Americans have for this sweet dish many call Watergate salad. What is now known as the Watergate salad recipe was first published by General Foods (since merged into what is now Kraft Heinz), to showcase two of their products: Jell-O instant pistachio pudding and Cool Whip whipped topping. But at that time (it was 1975, a year after Nixon resigned) the salad donned the name, Pistachio Pineapple Delight.

General Foods sent out the recipe to newspapers around the country and one unnamed Chicago food editor decided to change the recipe name to Watergate Salad to attract more readers. Since then, the original author has still not been identified.

In 1976, the Denver Post shared a recipe for Watergate Salad, rumoring that the recipe was originally concocted by a sous-chef at the Watergate Hotel and was served during brunch (likely to link it to the Watergate scandal). However, when questioned, the Denver Post noted that the references were obscure and they were just sharing a "rumor".

To this day no one knows for sure where the name Watergate Salad came from, but we do know that the yummy dessert salad still plays a vital role in cookouts and luncheons. With a short prep time (literally minutes) and a taste you can't get enough of, there's no question about why this green stuff became so popular.

Want to make it for yourself or for get-togethers? Here's the salad recipe from Kraft Recipes. Simply combine an undrained can of crushed pineapple, mini marshmallows, JELL-O Pistachio Flavor Instant Pudding, and chopped pecans in a large bowl (some recipes also call for maraschino cherries as a garnish). Fold in the cool whip (or other whipped cream) and refrigerate 1 hour to meld the flavors together. 

This article was originally published in March 2019.

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