Carrot Pineapple Jello Salad

A classic mid-century recipe, the carrot and pineapple jello salad remains a potluck favorite! Great as dessert or side dish, its crisp and refreshing flavors make it a perfect summer salad!

The Sunshine Salad is also known as Sunrise or Sunset Salad (depending on serving time?) and Golden Glow Salad. This vibrant blend of fruit and veggies suspended on a retro gelatin mold will add a nostalgic touch your table.

Ingredient details

You’ll only need a handful of kitchen staples to make the jellojoy’s Sunshine Salad. Also check out the many ideas for sweet and savory recipe variations that I list further below.

Gathered ingredients for carrot and pineapple congealed salad.
  • Orange jello, 3 ounces (1 4-serving box)
  • Canned crushed pineapple or pineapple tidbits, 8 ounces
  • Grated carrots (or coleslaw mix), 2 cups
  • Lemon juice or vinegar, 2 teaspoons
  • Pinch of salt

Plus boiling and cold water to dissolve the jello. That’s it!

This recipe is traditionally made with crushed pineapple, but this time I used pineapple tidbits because that’s what I had. It’s good both ways!

Use canned pineapple only for this recipe. Fresh pineapple contains an enzyme (bromelain) that stops gelatin from setting.

Reduced-sugar recipe: You can make this recipe lower in calorie and carbs. Just substitute the regular 3-ounce package of orange jello for the 0.3-ounce package of zero-sugar jello. All other ingredients and recipe directions remain unchanged.

Slice of carrot and pineapple orange jello salad.

How to make

Gather the ingredients, a heat-resistant bowl (you can serve the recipe right out of the bowl if not unmolding) and possibly a pretty jello mold that will fit 3-4 cups (or Bundt pan). Put some water to boil (you’ll need one cup). Let’s start!

Dissolving orange gelatin in boiling water.

1. In a heat-resistant bowl (or directly in a heat-resistant serving dish if not unmolding), dissolve the orange jello and a pinch of salt in 1 cup of boiling water, mixing well.

Adding pineapple and lemon juice.

2. Complete the cup of pineapple juice with the lemon juice and cold water, to make a whole cup of liquid. Add to the dissolved gelatin and mix.

Pouring orange jello into mold.

3. Transfer into a mold (if you wish to serve unmolded) or just refrigerate it in the serving dish until slightly thickened (to ensure the solids will stay suspended), about 20 minutes.

Folding grated carrots and pineapple tidbits into soft set orange gelatin.

4. Gently fold in grated carrots and pineapple tidbits. Spread evenly, around the mold. Refrigerate until fully set, preferably overnight or for at least 4 hours before unmolding.

Expert tips and FAQ

Quick setting jello

Here are a couple of tips to reduce the setting time:

  • Keep the can of pineapple refrigerated overnight before using.
  • Add ice to the pineapple and lemon juice to make one cup of liquid to mix into the dissolved jello (instead of cold water).

Easier directions

If you’d rather serve it in a casserole dish or straight from the mixing bowl instead of serving it as a unmolded salad, you can skip a step of the recipe preparation. Here’s the simplified version:

  1. Dissolve the jello powder in boiling water.
  2. Add all the other ingredients, mix well.
  3. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until firm.

Mixing the carrots and pineapple separately after the gelatin is soft-set guarantees that all fruit and vegetable pieces are uniformly suspended inside the jello. If serving out of a dish (especially if not a transparent one) it’s okay to skip this part.

How to unmold a congealed salad

  1. Carefully run a toothpick or the tip of a knife around the edges of the carrot jello mold, then gently pull it away from the edges with wet fingertips.
  2. Fill a large bowl with warm water (not hot). Dip the mold into the warm water for 10 seconds, making sure the water reaches close to the rim of the mold without spilling into the jello.
  3. Center a serving plate on top of the mold, holding them firmly together, and flip them over.
  4. Gently shake or tap the mold to help release the gelatin, then lift it to remove the mold.

If the Sunshine Salad doesn’t come out on the first try, dip the mold again in warm water and repeat the operation.

Sunshine jello carrot and pineapple congealed salad.

Recipe variations

This recipe has been enjoyed in American cuisine for several decades. Many families have their own set of favorite ingredients, often times passed down on grandma’s handwritten recipe cards.

Here are some ideas to change it up the way you like it and make it into a really special treat for your own family:

  • Change the jello flavor: This recipe is often made with lemon jello instead of orange. Pineapple and lime jello also work, but keep in mind that lime will make the Sunshine salad green. If doubling the recipe, you can use one box of each flavor.
  • Use different fruit or veggies: Substitute the pineapple for mandarin segments; add 1/4 cup of chopped maraschino cherries for dessert or chopped celery if serving as a side-salad.
  • Chopped nuts: Add about 1/3 cup of chopped pecans, walnuts or pistachios for a crunchy texture.
  • Raisins: If you like raisins, you can add some as well – about 1/4 cup.
  • Marshmallows: One cup of mini marshmallows mixed in makes this carrot and pineapple congealed salad extra-especial to be served as dessert.

Serving ideas

The sunshine salad can be enjoyed either as a dessert or a refreshing side-salad, so you can choose your toppings and garnishes accordingly.

Whipped cream: Top the gelatin salad with about one cup of whipped cream or Cool Whip, or about 1-2 tablespoons over each serving.

Bed of vegetables: Serve the slices over lettuce leaves, baby spinach, shredded white cabbage or thinly sliced red bell peppers.

Shredded cheese: If you like salty and sweet, you might enjoy this. Try about half a cup of grated sharp cheddar, either mixed in with the carrots and pineapple or sprinkled on top before serving.

Mayonnaise: Serve the sunshine salad topped with a simple sweetened mayo dressing, just whisk together 5 tablespoons of mayo, 3 tablespoons of milk and 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Storage

This recipe is best kept covered in the fridge for up to one week until it’s time for serving, but it will keep well for a few hours at room temperature on a buffet.

This carrot and pineapple salad is not freezer friendly. Like most gelatin-based dishes, freezing might cause the formation of ice crystals which compromises it’s delicate texture.

The original Sunshine salad

The Sunshine Jello became a staple in many American households and community gatherings during the mid-to-late 20th century.

The carrot gelatin salad recipe first appeared in a cookbook in the 1963 print of the Joys of Jell-O as Sunset Salad.

I slightly adapted the recipe from the original ingredients (which I listed below). I use less salt, and prefer orange gelatin than lemon.

I disagree with the use of pineapple juice straight from the can without measuring it. It’s not too much work to round up the cup with water to standardize the recipe for consistent results.

Sunset salad page of Joys of Jello cookbook.
Page from Joys of Jell-O

Here is the original ingredient list for the vintage Sunset salad from the Joys of Jell-O cookbook:

  • 1 package (3 oz.) Jell-O Lemon or Orange-Pineapple Gelatin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 can (8 3/4 oz.) crushed pineapple or pineapple tidbits
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup coarsely grated carrots
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans (optional)

This old-fashioned congealed salad also made an appearance in the American kitchen bible, the Joy of Cooking. A slightly different version by the name Golden Glow Gelatin Salad was published in the Sixth edition of Joy of Cooking in 1975.

Even nowadays, vegetable jello salads are in vogue. You can still find the Sunshine salad recipe in the Section M – Salads, Sub-section Jellied Salads of The Index Of Recipes of the Armed Forces Recipe Service!

The Army’s recipe for Golden Glow Salad of course makes a very large amount at 100 servings, and it’s beautifully served cut in squares over fresh lettuce leaves.


Sunshine jello carrot and pineapple congealed salad.
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5 from 6 votes

Sunshine Salad (Carrot Pineapple Jello Salad)

This mid-century jello salad remains a potluck and Easter favorite: refreshing and tangy with crisp carrots and pineapple, it's great as a light dessert or a fresh palate cleanser after a hearty meal!
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time0 minutes
Chill Time4 hours
Total Time4 hours 5 minutes
Course: Dessert, Salad
Cuisine: Southern
Servings: 6
Calories: 86kcal
Author: Pris Frank

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces orange gelatin 1 4-serving box
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 8 ounces canned pineapple tidbits or crushed pineapple (drain juice and reserve in a cup)
  • 1 cup grated carrots or coleslaw mix
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar
  • 1 pinch salt

Instructions

  • In a large heat-resistant bowl (or directly in a heat-resistant serving dish if not unmolding), dissolve the orange jello and a pinch of salt in 1 cup of boiling water, mixing well.
  • Complete the cup of pineapple juice with the lemon juice and cold water, to make a whole cup of liquid. Add to the dissolved gelatin and mix.
  • Transfer into a mold (if you wish to serve unmolded) or just refrigerate it in the serving dish until slightly thickened (to ensure the solids will stay suspended), about 20 minutes.
  • Gently fold in grated carrots and pineapple. Distribute evenly, pushing to the corners of the mold. Refrigerate until fully set, preferably overnight or for at least 4 hours before unmolding.

Notes

Recipe as written makes 3 cups, you can use a 3-4 cup mold or distribute in 6 glasses after adding the carrots and pineapple for individual serving side-salads.
Make sure to used canned pineapple, NOT FRESH as fresh pineapple prevents jello from setting (it will remain liquid).
Other jello flavors: This recipe is often made with lemon jello instead of orange. Pineapple and lime jello also work, but keep in mind that lime will make the Sunshine salad green. If doubling the recipe, you can use one box of each flavor.
Reduced-sugar recipe: Use sugar-free jello (the 0.3-ounce package) instead of the regular 3-ounce package which contains sugar.
This recipe is best kept refrigerated up until it’s time for serving, but it will keep well for a few hours outside the fridge on a buffet.

Nutrition

Calories: 86kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 0.1g | Saturated Fat: 0.01g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.04g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Sodium: 88mg | Potassium: 119mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 3634IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 14mg | Iron: 0.2mg

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5 from 6 votes (5 ratings without comment)

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