A delicious and classic Thanksgiving side-dish/salad — frog eye salad with some healthier ingredient swaps!
As a kid I was freaked out by frog eye salad. I still remember the first time my mom made it. She was draining the tiniest pasta I’d ever seen and after asking what it was, I had to know what dish that tiny pasta was going in. Frog eye salad. FROG WHAT?! I could not get over the name. Even after she continued to reassure my siblings and I that this salad had NO frog parts (let alone their eyes) and that it was just a silly name I still couldn’t eat the salad.
I was like 6 at the time. No convincing on my mom’s part could eliminate my fear that somehow the little pasta was in actuality real live (or, er, dead?) frog eyes.
I had no idea what I was missing out on until years later I got to try it again and actually ate it. And now I finally understand why my mom wasn’t super upset that we didn’t like her salad — more for her!! 🙂
Despite the slightly creepy name, this salad is one of the most unique pasta salads. It’s a sweet salad with canned fruit — mandarine oranges and crushed pineapple. I add in a can of fruit cocktail too because that’s how mom did the salad (and I love the occasional bite of cherry).
Frog eye salad is not known for being very healthy — I mean, it has miniature marshmallows in it, sooooo you know it’s not going to be great for you right?! I’d say it’s almost more dessert than salad, but if it can pass for being called a salad and I can eat in on a dinner plate then I’m all over that! Who’s with me on this one??
However, I did make a few easy swaps to make this salad just a little bit healthier. My favorite healthier swap is the new product called Truwhip. It’s basically Cool Whip but a much healthier product that’s 100% natural. This post isn’t sponsored by them I’m just really excited about the product! My friend Katie from Clarks Condensed told me about it a couple of months ago and I’ve been hooked ever since! Anyways 1 container of that goes into this salad. Another healthier swap is to use coconut sugar (and a lot less sugar than most recipes call for.) If you don’t have coconut sugar or don’t want to use it, white sugar will work just fine. But if you do have coconut sugar and enjoy it, it’s awesome in this salad! Plus it adds a tiny hint of coconut flavor which is a great addition to the sweetness.
And one final tip to make this salad a little healthier — make sure that your canned fruit is canned in 100% juice instead of in a sugary syrup. Most canned pineapple is in 100% juice, but usually fruit cocktails are in heavy syrups. It’s not hard to find fruit cocktail canned in fruit juice or water, but just something to be aware of when you do your grocery shopping. A few times I’ve been in a hurry and grabbed a can that is loaded with a sugary syrup. I pretend to be super disappointed at this point. Which, secretly, I’m like, oh well, my canned fruit just became DESSERT!
Oh yeah and that pasta ^^^?? Not the traditional pasta in frog eye salad, but I totally fell in love with the little star shape! And it works the same in this salad as the traditional acini di pepe pasta. So, whatever you can find at your grocery store or like best will work. The little star pasta is called “Pastina.”
Plus, the stars instead of the tiny dots of pasta? It makes this frog eye salad a little less “frog-like” and just that much more enticing. Or less scary. Whichever. 🙂
Frog Eye Salad (Healthier Version)
- 1 cup acini di pepe pasta OR pastina pasta
- 1 can (20 ounces) pineapple tidbits
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon white flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup coconut sugar or white sugar
- 3/4 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 cans (15 ounces each) mandarine oranges
- 1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) fruit cocktail
- 1 container Truwhip or an alternative whipped topping equivalent to ~3 cups
- Optional: 1/3 cup miniature colored marshmallows, 1/2 cup shredded coconut
Prepare the pasta according to package directions to cook it al dente. Drain and rinse the pasta in very cold water. Place in a large bowl in the fridge.
Drain out the pineapple tidbits to get 1 cup pineapple juice. (Use more juice from the crushed pineapple if needed)
Pour that juice into a medium sized pot over medium heat. Whisk in the egg and then slowly add in the flour whisking constantly. Whisk in the salt and coconut sugar.
Cook over medium heat until the mixture has thickened. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool. Add in the lemon juice. Pour over the pasta and return the bowl to the fridge until both the pasta and the pineapple juice mixture are completely chilled.
Meanwhile, open the cans and drain the mandarin oranges, the crushed pineapple, pineapple tidbits, and the fruit cocktail (for an even healthier dish make sure these fruits are canned with 100% juice or water not a sugary syrup). Make sure both are VERY well drained or your salad will be watery.
Add the drained fruit into the cooled pasta mixture and gently stir together.
Gently fold in the truwhip until all the ingredients are well combined.
Cover and refrigerate overnight or until very well chilled (6-8 hours).
If desired, stir in colored marshmallows and shredded coconut right before serving.
Cook time refers to chilling time
Here are some more delicious recipes to add to your Thanksgiving menu: