This nutty, creamy, and crazy delicious keto Watergate Salad recipe is a rich, flavorful pistachio cheesecake mousse with pineapple and cherries. It will transport you right back to the summer potlucks of your youth!
Summer potluck foods are some of my most memorable childhood food memories.
There was my mom’s famous baked beans, for starters. And her taco salad. And her creamy mayo-based dressing for topping tomatoes right out of the garden.
My grandma on my dad’s side made this sort-of pineapple slab pie with vanilla frosting that was topped with almonds and cherries, which sounds weird as heck, but was actually pretty fabulous.
And on rare occasions, some kind of ambrosia salad would turn up. It was usually brought by a distant relative, no one in my close family made it. The minty green-colored one with the nutty flavor was always my favorite...the Watergate Salad!
Remaking this classic sweet treat into something that’s a bit healthier has been on my list of things to do for quite some time now. But I was making it overly complicated.
I wanted to come up with a from-scratch (healthy) recipe for every component: pistachio pudding, cool whip, marshmallows, etc. What a process!
In the end I realized that the whole point of Watergate Salad was simplicity. This low carb and keto version of Watergate Salad is simplified, but still full of flavor and texture!
The Best Easy Keto Watergate Salad Recipe
For this recipe, I use a base of cream cheese with whipped cream folded in to give it a mousse-like texture.
It’s flavored with fresh pineapple (a little goes a long way), vanilla, almond extract, and pistachio. You can add shredded coconut to really take it over the top.
This keto recipe has just 6g net carbs per serving (remember net carbs = total carbs – fiber) if you make it with keto sweetener. And if keto sweetener isn’t your thing, honey is delicious and you only need a touch!
- Cream cheese
- Fresh pineapple
- Vanilla extract
- Almond extract
- Allulose sweetener
- Heavy whipping cream
- Whip the heavy whipping cream to stiff peaks in a large bowl.
- In a separate large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and pineapple.
- Beat the vanilla extract, almond extract, and keto sweetener into the cream cheese/pineapple mixture. The mixture will be runny.
- Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese/pineapple mixture ¼ at a time until it's all incorporated.
- Add the cherries and pistachios.
- Gently fold them into the mixture until incorporated.
How to Store Watergate Salad
Store this treat in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Note that it will stiffen slightly, but still have a mousse-like texture.
Variations on this Watergate Salad Recipe
- Stir in up to ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut.
- Swap out the pistachios for any type of nuts you like. Pecans are another favorite of mine!
- Instead of almond extract, use pistachio extract or coconut extract.
Tips for Making Watergate Salad
- Instead of fresh pineapple, you can use canned pineapple chunks, canned pineapple tidbits, or canned crushed pineapple in juice. Drain it well and dab it with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
- To keep the carbs down, use fresh cherries if they’re in season, or frozen cherries if they’re not. You can use maraschino cherries or for a real treat use Amarena cherries if the sugar/carbs aren't a concern. If you use maraschino or Amarena cherries, you can reduce the sugar a bit by rinsing off the syrup and dabbing them dry.
- Don’t be tempted to add more almond extract, a little really goes a long way in this recipe.
Watergate Salad FAQs
What is Watergate Salad?
This is a type of dessert salad (also served as a side dish) similar to ambrosia. It’s usually made out of pistachio pudding mix, whipped topping, canned pineapple, and marshmallow.
It’s a popular treat to bring to potlucks in Mid-Western and Southern states of the US.
Why is it Called Watergate Salad?
One of the things I find most interesting is the intermingling of culture and cuisine. That’s the case with this salad. It's the stuff urban legends are made of. Like any good mystery, the rumors floating around are what make it intriguing.
General Foods (now Kraft Heinz) released their recipe for Pistachio Pineapple Delight (using two of their products, Jell-O instant pistachio pudding and Cool Whip whipped topping) in 1975.
Rumor has it that after that, a Chicago food editor renamed it “Watergate Salad” to promote interest, and the name stuck. (Although both the editor and article are somehow unable to be located.)
In June 1976, the Denver Post published a recipe for Watergate Salad, supposedly dreamed up by a sous chef at the Watergate Hotel.
It’s been said that the name of this salad comes from “Watergate Cake”, which is also full of nuts.
A Scandalously Named Treat
Both the salad and cake came out during the time of the Watergate scandal in the 1970’s. Although there isn’t a direct relation between these recipes and the political scandal, one theory on the origin of the naming of these dishes makes a correlation: cover up whatever is inside and tuck it away!
This is because Watergate Salad is a mix of a bunch of things, covered, and then put in the fridge. Similarly, Watergate Cake has a “cover-up” icing and is topped with nuts.
More No Bake Summer Dessert Recipes to Try
- Mini Frozen Peach Coconut Cream Pie with Almond Crust
- Keto No Bake Vanilla Cheesecake Mousse with Fresh Blueberry Sauce
- Vegan No Bake Chocolate Brownie Bite Truffles
- No Bake Oatmeal Cookie Energy Bites (Gluten Free)
Did you make this recipe? Please rate it and leave a comment below because I love hearing from you! You can also tag @anediblemosaic and #healthysweeteats on social media. To stay up-to-date FOLLOW ME on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Xoxo, Faith
Keto Watergate Salad Recipe
- 4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
- ½ cup diced fresh pineapple
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 drops pure almond extract
- 1 ½ tablespoons allulose sweetener or sweetener of choice
- ¾ cup heavy whipping cream whipped to stiff peaks
- ¼ cup unsalted shelled pistachios chopped
- 10 fresh cherries pitted and chopped
- Beat together the cream cheese and pineapple in a large bowl until the pineapple is crushed and the mixture is well-blended. Beat in the vanilla extract, almond extract, and sweetener.
- Add ¼ of the whipped cream and stir to combine. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the remaining whipped cream ¼ at a time.
- Gently fold in the pistachios and cherries.
- Cover and refrigerate until the mousse is fully chilled, at least 2 hours.
- Serve chilled.
- Net Carbs: 6g per serving (⅓ cup)
- This recipe makes about 2 cups of mousse, for a total of 6 (⅓-cup) servings.
- Store Watergate Salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Note that it will stiffen slightly, but still have a mousse-like texture.
This post was first published on Healthy Sweet Eats on June 21, 2018. It was updated with more information on June 10, 2021.