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You can’t beat creamy, cool and luscious for a show-stopping crowd-pleaser.
Mandarin Orange Salad is loaded with palate-pleasing texture, too. This simple mandarin orange jello salad is studded with little tapioca pearls and sweet-tart mandarin oranges. It’s a lighter, sweet and refreshing treat alongside heavier dishes.
Delicious recipes abound at special gatherings, but I’ve never taken this particular orange jello salad anywhere that I wasn’t asked for the recipe. It’s a three-decade tradition at all our special family celebrations. This simple, fluffy, mandarin orange jello salad is loved by young and old, alike. No jello salad with mandarin oranges has ever been more beloved.
And, the mere suggestion of trying a different jello salad for the holidays is high treason at our house! lol It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving or Christmas if this scrumptious citrus salad wasn’t on the table. To say it’s always a hit is an understatement.
It’s no surprise, then, that our favorite citrus salad recipe is one of my most often requested recipes by friends and relatives planning for their own family get-togethers, potlucks or picnics.
Time Saving Make Ahead Recipe
This easy Mandarin Orange Salad recipe needs time to set, as does any jello salad. It’s best to make it at least 4-6 hours before you plan to serve it. And overnight is ideal. This lets all the delicious flavors meld and lets the jello salad consistency be perfectly set and yet fluffy.
For you, that means it’s a great time-saving make ahead dish, too. Your focus can be on your guests and not the kitchen during your special get-together. This yummy orange fluff can be made up to 2 days in advance with great success.
Brand doesn’t really matter for making this Mandarin Orange Salad recipe. Orange Gelatin:
: Cook and Serve is the important thing about this ingredient. Instant pudding doesn’t let the salad set as well. And again, I find that brand is not really important. Vanilla Cook and Serve Pudding
There’s NO substitute for this. It is not the same as tapioca pearls and for this particular mandarin orange jello salad, nothing else will do. (See Info Below.) Tapioca Cook and Serve Pudding
(or a non-dairy whipped topping of your choice) “Lite” versions don’t achieve the same creamy results as the original versions. Original Cool Whip:
(canned): Drain the liquid from the can, before adding the orange segments to the orange jello salad. Mandarin Oranges
What is Tapioca Pudding Mix
Jell-O is the only brand I have found that makes a powdered mix for tapioca pudding. For this delicious orange jello salad recipe, it really is important.
Mandarin Orange Salad relies on the ingredients in the dry mixes to combine with the altered liquid amounts to be able to properly set. This recipe does not work with plain tapioca pearls.
Looking for a recipe that does use pearl tapioca? You’re gonna love Gail’s recipe over at Teak and Thyme for a delicious dessert called
. It’s another delicious way to enjoy tapioca. Mango Sago
Where to Buy It
This is the one ingredient that may hang you up, right now, since COVID. But, it’s really critical to this yummy citrus salad. I never used to have problems finding it. However, with all the shipping difficulties, lately, our local Walmart stopped stocking it in-store, a year ago.
Happily, I have discovered it is still available from them, but in a different way. When I place a grocery pick-up order at Walmart, I still add the tapioca to the cart. Even though I won’t be able to pick it up with my other groceries that day, it’s shipped to my doorsteps in only two days. I always stock up when I buy it.
So, if you don’t find it at your local market, you can try Walmart online. Optionally, you can
order it from *Amazon. [affiliate link]
What are Mandarin Oranges?
Mandarins oranges are native to southeast Asia and the ancient ancestor of ALL other oranges. It blew my mind when I discovered that. You can read more about the mandarin family tree at
. US Citrus
Mandarin oranges are one of the smallest fruits in the orange family. They are more sweet than plain oranges. Mandarins oranges also have a loose-fitting rind that is easy to peel.
There are several different varieties of mandarin oranges. Clementines, satsumas and even tangerines are all mandarins.
For the purposes of my Orange Jello Salad recipe, we used canned mandarin oranges. You could peel fresh mandarins and try those if you prefer.
FAQ About Using Cool Whip
Can I substitute homemade whipped cream for the Cool Whip?
No. Cool Whip is really the only alternative in this recipe. Homemade whipped cream is delicious as a topping to be added at the last minute. But, it breaks down after a very short period of time, losing it’s fluffiness and becomes liquid in this jello salad with mandarin oranges.
Can I use Lite Cool Whip instead of the Original Cool Whip?
Sure. In my opinion the texture is more loose and not as fluffy, but it does work. I definitely recommend the Original Cool Whip or Extra Creamy Cool Whip for best results, however.
Can I Use a Store Brand Non-Dairy Whipped Topping instead of Cool Whip?
Yes. I have successfully substituted store brands for Cool Whip on several occasions.
How to Make Mandarin Orange Salad (Orange Fluff)
Combine the orange jello mix, vanilla pudding powder and tapioca pudding powder with the water in a medium sauce pan.
Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking and scorching.
Cook until the mixture boils and thickens. It will depend on your stove and heat setting, but I’m guessing 4 to 5 minutes.
Pour the thickened gelatin mixture into a container to cool.
When cooled to room temperature, refrigerate until completely set.
Stir in the Cool Whip and the drained mandarin orange segments. Stir until thoroughly integrated into the salad.
The salad will lighten in color and will have a luscious texture that is thick, but light and fluffy.
Refrigerate until ready to serve. So easy! Mandarin Orange Salad is an instant hit, no matter where you serve it!
Scaling the Orange Jello Salad Recipe
In writing this recipe card, I scaled it to 4-6 servings. I have become accustomed to cooking for 7-15 people over the years and often forget that that isn’t necessarily “normal” for the general public. Now, that it is just David and I at home, most of the time, it’s still been a bit of a struggle to cook for anything but a crowd. lol I’m trying to be better.
So, click the 2x or 3x in the recipe card to show the measurements for more servings. For me personally, I always make the 3x batch of Mandarin Orange Jello Salad for our family gatherings of 15 to 20 people.
Passing On A Family Recipe Tradition
I hope my family’s Orange Jello Salad recipe can become one of your family’s favorite holiday and family dinner traditions, too. And I hope you keep this easy orange jello salad recipe at the front of your recipe collection. I feel sure you’ll be asked for it over and over, again.
Enjoy friends! I hope you have a fun and blessed Thanksgiving, filled with delicious food, lots of laughter and the people you love most.
The Recipe Print
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Creamy, citrus-y and studded with tender, sweet pearls of tapioca, Mandarin Orange Salad is a light, refreshing and luscious family tradition on our holiday tables, as well as at summer gatherings. It’s a fantastic make-ahead orange jello salad with mandarin oranges. One of my most simple and delicious recipes for a gathering.
1 (3 oz) box orange jello mix
1 (3 oz) box vanilla pudding (cook & serve, NOT instant pudding)
1 (3 oz) box tapioca pudding powder (IMPORTANT: Plain pearl tapioca will NOT work. It must be cook & serve powdered tapioca mix and the only brand I have ever seen is Jell-O.)
2 cups water
1 (11 oz) can mandarin oranges, drained
1 cup non-dairy whipped topping (I have never tried homemade whipped cream in this salad, but my suspicion is that it would not hold up in this recipe, changing the texture dramatically.)
Combine the orange jello mix, vanilla pudding package contents and tapioca pudding package contents with the water in a medium sauce pan.
Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking and scorching.
Cook until the mixture boils and thickens.
Pour the thickened gelatin mixture into a container to cool and leave on the counter to come to room temperature before refrigerating. When cooled to room temperature,
cover the gelatin mixture and refrigerate until completely set. After the gelatin is firmly set (minimum of 4 to 6 hours),
stir in the non-dairy whipped topping and mandarin oranges. Stir until thoroughly integrated into the mandarin orange salad. The jello salad will be thick, but light and fluffy.
Refrigerate Mandarin Orange Jello Salad until ready to serve.
This orange jello salad will need to be made at least 4 to 6 hours ahead. Mandarin Orange Salad can also be made up to 36 hours ahead to save time on the day of a big get-together.
If preferred, you could peel fresh mandarins and use those, or even chopped fresh orange pieces. If you do choose to use fresh, I recommend you
cut them into supremes.
Prep Time: 5 min Cook Time: 10 Category: Salads, Side Dishes Method: Stovetop and Fridge Cuisine: American
Keywords: orange, mandarin, salad, side dish
52 thoughts on “Mandarin Orange Salad | Easy 5-Ingredient Orange Jello Salad”
This has become my latest favorite to take to any family gathering any time of the year. It’s so easy and every last bite gets eaten!
Lisa, I’m so happy everyone loves it! Thanks so much for taking the time to stop and let me know.
This recipe has become my go-to recipe for family gatherings and I now keep the ingredients on hand so I can have it ready to go without much planning on my part. I love your recipes!
Lisa, you’ve made my day! Thanks so much! I am thrilled that the recipe is serving you well and that your family loves it.
My kids love this one! A classic.
Nothing makes me happier than seeing them when they realize I’ve made it for dinner! The smiles and “ooohs!” make my day!
My daughter made this yesterday and the entire family enjoyed it. Love that it was simple enough for my daughter to make and great for a side or dessert
MacKenzie, I’m so glad you all enjoyed it! And how cool is it that your daughter gets involved in the kitchen? I love it!
This has become one of our favorite recipes. Thanks for sharing.
You’re welcome, Paula! It’s one of our family favorites, too.
Delicious and so easy to make! Love that I can keep almost all the ingredients on-hand in the pantry for whenever temptation strikes!
Molly, I do the same thing. We make it often enough that I always have everything on hand. So happy that you’re enjoying it!
This reminds me of something my mom made when I was a child that I just loved. Thank you for the recipe and the lovely memory!
Genevieve, you’re so welcome! I’m happy you enjoyed it!
This was so cooling, refreshing and made such a nice sweet treat! Will make again!
Yay! I’m glad you are liking the recipe, Kris.
This Mandarin Orange Salad recipe brings back so many great memories! My mom would make a salad like this for us growing up and we used to devour it. Your dessert recipe was so easy to make and a huge hit at the potluck dinner that I recently attended.
Sherry, I’m glad it was well received at your potluck. And isn’t it wonderful the good memories a recipe can bring back? Happy you’re enjoying it!
Love this salad during the summer
It’s a family reunion staple! Thanks, Paula!
This was so easy to make and so delicious!
So glad you love it, Kim! It’s a family favorite at my house, too.