My Mom’s Cookie Salad Is Equal Parts Cool Whip and Nostalgia

updated Jun 27, 2023
4th of july
Cookie Salad

A creamy, fluffy, sweet concoction made by whipping together buttermilk and instant vanilla pudding mix, then folding in Cool Whip, crushed pineapple, mandarin oranges, and Fudge Stripes cookies.

Serves8 to 10

Prep10 minutes

Jump to Recipe
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Kelsey Ogletree

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. This week, our Kitchn love letter comes from Chicago-based journalist Kelsey Ogletree, who is sharing her mom’s recipe for cookie salad.

One of my family’s favorite sides is served in a soufflé dish — but it’s far from French. Whether you call it salad (as we do) or a dessert, cookie salad is a little bit country, a little bit indulgent, and a whole lot nostalgic.

Growing up 20 miles from the nearest town in rural Montana, my two younger brothers and I could count on at least one supersized bowl of cookie salad at any potluck or picnic at our little country Lutheran church. On our birthdays, my mom always let us “order” our favorite meal — and cookie salad was the one constant on the menu.

How To Make Cookie Salad

The delightfully creamy, fluffy, sweet concoction is made by whipping together buttermilk and instant vanilla pudding mix, then folding in Cool Whip, crushed pineapple, and mandarin oranges. The finishing touch? Big handfuls of crushed Fudge Stripes cookies. My mom frequently served cookie salad in a large white soufflé dish, with a few extra cookies broken over the top. It’s simple to make, yet it felt like a decadent addition to our plates — and always had us scooping up seconds.

I went years without making this recipe myself — it felt too tied to my childhood home and my family to make an appearance on my Chicago table. But recently, as I stirred everything together in my kitchen, the memories came flooding back, and I felt like I was carrying on a tradition. Whether you grew up with cookie salad or not, I encourage you to give it a try — if nothing else, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever eaten.

What to Know If You Make Cookie Salad

1. Forget counting calories: A healthy dish this is not. It does, however, fit the definition of salad, according to Merriam-Webster: small pieces of food mixed with a dressing (a bit of a stretch, I know). Enjoy a little at a time for celebratory occasions, and savor every bite.

2. Drain the juice: Dump your cans of canned pineapple and mandarin oranges into a colander over the sink and let them drain while you’re making the base of the salad. If you add the entire can, you’ll end up with a watery mess instead of the fluffy texture you’re going for.

3. Thaw your Cool Whip: Make sure your tub is completely thawed in the fridge, and not frozen, for maximum creaminess. And don’t go subbing any of those healthier frozen whips. (There are cookies in this bowl, after all.)

4. It’s OK to not use the entire package of cookies: While they do add great crunch, the recipe may come out too sweet for your taste if you use the entire package (plus, they’ll get soggy after more than a day or two in the fridge). They’re easy to crumble, so crush them gently with your hands. Enjoy leftover cookies for a snack later.

5. Feel free to get creative: Many of the church mothers went beyond cookies into other dessert-salad variations, like Snickers salad (with chopped apples and candy bars) or Watergate salad (made with pistachio pudding, plus walnuts and mini marshmallows).

6. Use a pretty bowl: Whether you opt for a soufflé dish or smaller decorative cups, make this salad look more appealing by arranging it in an attractive vessel. (You’ll want to prepare it in a large mixing bowl, then transfer.) It might not be the most Instagrammable item on your table, but the cloud-like texture will have dinner guests piling it onto their plates.

Credit: Kelsey Ogletree

We want to know: What’s your family’s go-to potluck salad? Tell us in the comments below.

Cookie Salad

A creamy, fluffy, sweet concoction made by whipping together buttermilk and instant vanilla pudding mix, then folding in Cool Whip, crushed pineapple, mandarin oranges, and Fudge Stripes cookies.

Prep time 10 minutes

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 cup

    buttermilk

  • 1 (5.1-ounce) package

    instant vanilla pudding

  • 1 (8-ounce) tub

    Cool Whip, thawed

  • 1 (8.25-ounce) can

    crushed pineapple, drained

  • 1 (8.25-ounce) can

    mandarin oranges, drained

  • 1 (11.5-ounce) package

    Keebler Fudge Stripes cookies, crumbled and divided

Instructions

  1. Whisk together the buttermilk and pudding mix in a large bowl. Fold in the Cool Whip. Stir in the pineapple, oranges, and 1/2 of the crumbled cookies. Transfer to a pretty bowl and top with the remaining cookies just before serving.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated up to 2 days.

Ingredient/Equipment Variation: You can use other pudding flavors, such as cheesecake, instead of vanilla.