Who Else's Southern Grandmother Always Made "Pink Stuff" During the Holidays?

Cranberry Fluff Salad
Cranberry Fluff Salad

Photographer: Greg DuPree, Food Stylist: Emily Neighbors Hall Prop Stylist: Christine Keely

There's something so equally funny and comforting about the fact that many classic Southern salads—specifically the ones we serve at elegant affairs such as ladies luncheons, baby showers, and Easter brunches—contain ingredients that seem, well, quite un-salad-like. We're talking about canned pineapple, condensed milk, Jello packets, frozen whipped topping, and copious blocks of cream cheese. Salad where?

In the dusty recipe cards that divulge the secrets of the coconut-laden ambrosia salad, mayonnaise-topped pear salad, and partially congealed strawberry-pretzel salad, there is an even more elusive and unexpected salad known as "Pink Stuff." Fluffy, fruity, and the color of bubblegum, this salad is known by many, enjoyed by some, and perplexing to all.

At the core, it's a quintessential cold, sweet Southern salad that's been served by many grandmothers—including my own—at family gatherings for generations. It comes in many forms and has been called by various names, which usually hark to its colorful hue, including Pink Lady Salad or Pink Fluff Salad. Most recipes you'll see online or in your family's recipe box will call for around five ingredients. The most common recipes typically include at least a can of crushed pineapples, a container of whipped topping (such as Cool Whip), and a packet of Jello (usually strawberry)—often with canned cherries or cranberries mixed in.

From there, the recipes get arbitrary and rather random. Some include chopped pecans, marshmallows, or another form of dairy, whether it's cream cheese, cottage cheese, or condensed milk. Some include a combination of all the above. Everything is mixed together, chilled, and garnished with extra cherries or pecans later if desired. Our nostalgic take on Cranberry Fluff Salad gets you pretty close to the "Pink Stuff," and our Orange Sherbet Salad is basically a citrus counterpart in just as festive a color.

Southerners like to think that "Pink Stuff" salad is more about the memory and tradition than taste or appearance. It doesn't have to make sense, because who would ever argue with grandma's recipe? Or her choice to serve it at Christmas lunch?