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Fruit for Dessert: Heavenly Ambrosia (Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Vegan)

January 1st, 2009 · 12 Comments

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I just ate a little bowl of ambrosia while I was sitting in a steamy hot bath.  It was decadent.

Between Halloween and Christmas, my husband and I took part in the dessert slide of doom.  You may know what I’m talking about—a slippery slope from dessert as an occasional treat to dessert nearly every day to dessert every day to dessert plus a little piece of something sweet earlier every day.  At that point, eating sweet things, craving sweet things, is reflexive, not even very enjoyable. (It’s easy to do if you’re baking a lot for the holidays—a cookie here, a pinch of cake there. . . .)  Ouch—it’s not healthy to be eating all that sugar, fat, and processed flour.  By last weekend, when we unpacked our scale, I’d gained three pounds, which was a sign it was time to nip it in the bud and get back to healthier eating.

So Saturday, December 27th, we packed up our leftover Christmas candy and put it in an unused freezer at someone else’s house.  We committed to eating a non-fruit-based dessert only once a week for a while. I spent some time researching fruit-based desserts on Sunday, and while many of the ones I found were far too reliant on sugar and flour (and eggs and dairy that I can’t eat, of course), I did find a few good, simple ideas that were in line with what I was thinking—like broiled grapefruit with raspberry jam on it and baked apples with toasted nuts and a touch of brown sugar.  Of course, plain, fresh fruit—by itself—can be the satisfying little sweet thing I need, especially fruit that’s in season and locally grown. (The apples from our CSA? Crispy, crunchy, sweet, and heavenly.)  And I thoroughly enjoy sulfur-free, organic dried fruit, especially dried figs, dried plums/prunes, and dried apricot slices.  A couple of bites of any of those treats, and as long as I’m not expecting a chocolate cookie and I’m keeping my eye on my long-term self-care, I’m satisfied. (It also helps that I’m making Karina’s recently posted vegan Mexican Chocolate Cake for our holiday celebration with my husband’s parents tomorrow night.  By not loading up on chocolate all week, I’m terrifically looking forward to a few bites of that cake. And I’d rather have that as my dessert treat this week than anything sitting around here!)

Since we were eating at home for New Year’s Eve before going to the symphony, I wanted to make a special fruit-based dessert for us to have with our celebratory meal.  I settled on developing a truly heavenly version of ambrosia—if it’s going to be called the food of the gods, it better be something special.

Heavenly Ambrosia
Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan)
Serves 6-10 with 1/3- to 1/2-cup servings

When I put a bite of marshmallow and nut with whipped coconut cream in my mouth today, I closed my eyes and thought, “It tastes like a sweet little cloud”—a great foil for the sourness in the citrus fruit.

Note: You have to refrigerate your can of coconut cream for at least six hours, so make sure you do that in advance.

2-3 clementine oranges, peeled and sliced into small segments
2 blood oranges, peeled and sliced into small segments
2 c. vanilla marshmallows—either use miniature or chop into small pieces with a sharp knife
~1.5 cups fresh (only fresh!) pineapple, chopped into half-bite pieces
1 c. grated coconut, sweetened or unsweetened according to your palate
1 c. roasted, salted pecan pieces
1/2 c. seedless grapes

Cream from one well-chilled can of coconut milk (don’t use light)—see directions
1-2 T. sugar (unnecessary if you use sweetened coconut and coconut milk yogurt—the yogurt is sweet)
6 oz. (one container) of plain or vanilla coconut milk yogurt (or another kind of yogurt)

1/2 c. grated coconut for topping (optional)

Refrigerate the can of coconut milk for at least six hours. (I like to leave one in the fridge at all times for when I decide to make a recipe with whipped coconut cream.)

Put a metal mixing bowl and your beaters in the freezer to chill for at least 20 minutes.

Prep the fruit and marshmallows.  Combine the fruit, nuts, marshmallows, and grated coconut in a large bowl, and place the bowl in the refrigerator.

Remove your mixer pieces from the freezer, and put your mixer together. Open one can of coconut milk.  Scoop out the thick layer of coconut cream that’s formed in the top half of the jar, and put it in your mixer. (Discard the remaining coconut water, or reserve it for another use.)  Add sugar to the mixer, if using.  Whip at high speed until the cream is light and fluffy—if your mixer is cold and your cream is cold, you should be able to form soft peaks.  Add the coconut milk yogurt, and whip for 15 seconds more.

Gently fold the whipped coconut cream mixture into the bowl of fruit.  Refrigerate two or more hours before serving.

If desired:  to top the dessert in individual bowls, toast 1/2 c. shredded coconut in a skillet on medium-low heat until most of it has turned light brown. Sprinkle a tablespoon of toasted coconut on each serving.

Tags: dessert · vegetarian · winter

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Maggie // Jan 1, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    This sounds delicious. I love fruit for dessert.

  • 2 Vegetation // Jan 2, 2009 at 1:53 am

    Mmmm that looks so good!

  • 3 Nancy // Jan 2, 2009 at 6:38 am

    Question: Where do you get vegan marshmallows? And Comment: I understand that fresh is usually better, but “fresh” pineapple is not easy to come by here in northern Maine in January!

  • 4 sally // Jan 2, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Nancy, Sweet & Sara makes vegan marshmallows, though they aren’t soy-free: http://www.sweetandsara.com/

  • 5 sally // Jan 2, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Oh, and I understand that fresh pineapple is a splurge or can be hard to find, but I think canned pineapple pales so far in comparison that it’s not worth eating. Frozen, maybe?

  • 6 Mary Frances // Jan 3, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    I had never “gotten” the concept of Ambrosia until I saw your picture and read the recipe. I have to have this!!!

  • 7 Alisa // Jan 5, 2009 at 9:39 am

    I have never had Ambrosia, but just reading through the recipe made me extremely hungry!

  • 8 Hannah Celeste // Jan 13, 2009 at 11:25 pm


    Sounds awesome. I inadvertently made something similar today. Kinda…sorta. Maybe not nearly as exciting.

    I chopped up blood oranges, ruby red grapefruit, added golden raisins and a light dressing made from lemon juice and hazelnut-flavored agave (Madhava makes it), then topped it with a tropical-flavored Rachel’s yogurt (could use soy or coconut yogurt like you did. I am not sure whether I am dairy allergic or not), and then sprinkled with pecan pieces. It wasn’t bad, but I think I’d prefer yours…


  • 9 Jennie // May 2, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    There is no need to buy marshmallows when you can make your own fabulous vegan marshmallows at home.
    The breakthough ingredient to making vegan marshmallows is you need a fluffy mixture into which you beat the jell mixture. Soy protein isolate is what the commercial vegan marshmallow makers use for the fluffy stuff.
    See my recipe at;


  • 10 sally // May 29, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Great idea . . . for those people who can tolerate soy. I couldn’t eat the marshmallows with the soy protein isolate.

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  • 11 Liza // Jun 3, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Other than make it yourself, is there a brand of vegan, soy-free marshmallows. As a commenter pointed out above Sara and Sweet is vegan, but not soy-free.

  • 12 Au Pair » 30 Blogs with Winning Christmas Desserts // Dec 18, 2012 at 5:38 am

    […] Fruit for Dessert: Heavenly Ambrosia (Dairy-free, Soy-free, Vegan) […]

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