I was born in Georgia and raised in, Texas but I never tasted Ambrosia until I was over 40. It was a staple on all my friends’ feast tables, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and guests often generously brought it to our house, but I wouldn’t touch it. A food snob from conception, I guess.

I’m assuming you know what Ambrosia is: a mixture of fruit and coconut and pecans, served in the South as a salad on Special Occasions.

My parents, neither of them born in the Deep South, eschewed it, although we never had roast turkey without oyster gravy and sauerkraut, so we did have our own idiosyncrasies. But really, in the sixties, Ambrosia was usually made with canned Mandarin oranges, sweetened coconut, cherries from a jar…what was to like? Many recipes call for heavy cream and mini marshmallows. (Of course, Food Network’s Alton Brown’s recipe calls for homemade mini marshmallows.

But when I was old, and worked at Central Market in Texas, I discovered what Ambrosia could be. That’s where this recipe was dreamed up, I think. Not bad. I’m still not a fan of sweet salads, or even fruit salads, usually, but this recipe would be good served between courses, like a sorbet, or as a dessert with a tuile-like cookie. In Utah, where folks think salad is a first-course dessert, this might be really popular. And of course there may be a Utah version I’m unaware of. Chances are, though, that the Utah version would NOT have a shot of brandy in it and I’m the first to admit that the brandy may be just the ingredient that disperses my ambrosial skepticism.


Serves 6-8


1 ripe pineapple

3 medium blood oranges

4 clementines

2 Ruby Red grapefruit

2 cups freshly grated coconut

½ cup chopped, toasted pecans

½ cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup brandy or fruit flavored brandy (optional)



1. Toast the coconut in a 350 degree oven until it is a light, golden brown.

2. Peel and core the pineapple. Slice into thin rings, reserving the juice.

3. Peel and section the blood oranges, clementines and Ruby Red grapefruit Be sure to remove all of the white pith and reserve the juice. Keep each fruit in a separate bowl.

4. Toss each fruit with some of the sherry or brandy (if you are using the optional liquors).

5. In a clear glass, straight sided bowl, layer the pineapple slices, the blood oranges, the clementines, and the grapefruit, lightly dusting each layer with sifted powdered sugar.

6. Combine any remaining fruit juice and liquor and pour evenly over the layered fruit. The recipe can be made to this point and refrigerated for several hours until you are ready to serve.

7. Top the fruit with the toasted coconut and sprinkle the coconut layer with toasted pecans.