Cookies ‘N Fudge Salad is a throwback to the days a little bit of fruit made something a “salad”. If the St. Casimir Catholic Church is anything like the churches I grew up in, this sort of so-sweet-it-hurts “salads” were a fixture of potlucks and multi-family get-togethers. In some dusty corner of my brain I remember paper plates filled with lasagna and baked beans and some sort of creamy fruit salad, and it never would have occurred to me that one of those things didn’t quite belong. These still show up occasionally at church get-togethers from the old-timers, but they’ve been mostly replaced by fresh fruit plates. When I served this as a ‘side dish’ with dinner I got concerned looks from my children. I explained that it was a salad but they weren’t having it.
What the St. Casimir Catholic Church’s cookbook calls Cookies ‘N Fudge Salad appears to be a variant of a regional American dish that’s usually just called Cookie Salad. Minnesotans usually claim it as their own, but it seems to be more broadly associated with Midwestern United States. I did a basic public records search to try and find out if the woman who submitted the recipe had any Minnesota collection, but no such luck. Mrs. H was a farmer and lived her entire life within an hour’s drive from Krakow. (She was also, apparently, a Lutheran.)
The standout ingredient that distinguishes Cookie Salad from other creamy fruit salads is, um, cookies, but quite specifically crumbled Keebler Fudge Stripe cookies (although any brand will do). The ‘fudge’ on striped fudge cookies is dark and not-too-sweet, which pairs better than it ought to with the citrus in the salad. The crumbled cookie bits add a little bit of crunch.
Unless you’ve got nostalgia for Cookie Salad I’d never recommend making this. I actually really enjoy the flavor profile, with the buttery shortbread and citrus and dark chocolate, but I reached my sugar limit just licking the spoon. I’m admittedly losing my sweet tooth as I get older, but even my sugar junky kids could only deal with this in small doses. I understand the allure for a potluck – it is quick and easy and portable and feeds an army, but the fun and different flavor profile just gets buried in all the sugar. One of these days I’ll come up with a way to fix it, but I’ll need at least another week to recover from sweetness overload.
My adapted recipe below cuts the original recipe in half, and it still makes a dozen servings or so. I found that the sour in the buttermilk cuts a little bit of sweetness, although not nearly enough to bring it down to earth. I also found that I got best results when I let the pineapple drain for 10-15 minutes to get rid of as much liquid as possible. This helps keeps the cookies crunchy longer.
- cookie pieces should be about the size of an M&M, and it's okay if there are a few large chunks in the mix.
- Drain crushed pineapple well, pressing out any excess juices. Drain mandarin oranges.
- In a large bowl, whisk together pudding and milk. Fold in drained fruit, cookies, and Cool Whip. Stir gently taking care not to break up the oranges. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.
The cookies will stay crunchy-ish for about a day. It will still taste good for a few days after that, but be prepared for a soggy cereal texture.