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Mandarin Orange Salad | 5‑Ingredient Simple

Mandarin Orange Salad

Man­darin Orange Sal­ad is a cool, citrus‑y and refresh­ing addi­tion to the menu at any spe­cial gath­er­ing. But, it is espe­cial­ly fan­tas­tic with all the savory Thanks­giv­ing fare. The sal­ad only requires 5‑ingredients and is a three-decade-plus tra­di­tion on our fam­i­ly Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas menus.

Man­darin Orange Sal­ad is creamy, cool and lus­cious, but it’s also loaded with palate-pleas­ing tex­ture, too. This sim­ple side dish is stud­ded with lit­tle tapi­o­ca pearls and sweet-tart man­darin seg­ments. It’s a lighter, sweet and refresh­ing treat along­side heav­ier hol­i­day dishes.

This recipe is one of my most often request­ed for fam­i­ly get-togeth­ers, potlucks or pic­nics. And, the mere sug­ges­tion of try­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent for the hol­i­days is high trea­son! 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. 

Man­darin Orange Sal­ad needs time to set. It’s best to make it at least 4–6 hours before you plan to serve it. Which means it’s a great time-sav­ing make ahead, too. This yum­my orange sal­ad can be made up to 2 days in advance with great success. 

I hope it can become one of your family’s favorite hol­i­day tra­di­tions, too. Enjoy!

The Ingredients

pudding mix, gelatin powder and mandarin segments

Orange Gelatin: Brand does­n’t real­ly mat­ter for mak­ing Man­darin Orange Salad. 

Vanil­la Cook and Serve Pud­ding Mix: 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.

*Tapi­o­ca Cook and Serve Pud­ding Mix: This is the one ingre­di­ent that may hang you up, right now. 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 pud­ding mix 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. For this time of year, I stock up. 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]

Jell‑o is the only brand I have found that makes tapi­o­ca pud­ding mix. Pud­ding mix is impor­tant. This recipe does not work with plain tapi­o­ca pearls. Man­darin Orange Sal­ad relies on the ingre­di­ents in the dry mix­es to com­bine with the altered liq­uid amounts to prop­er­ly set.

Orig­i­nal Cool Whip: (or a non-dairy whipped top­ping of your choice) “Lite” ver­sions don’t achieve the same creamy results as the orig­i­nal versions.

Man­darin Orange seg­ments: Drain the liq­uid from the can, before adding the orange seg­ments to the salad.


How to Make Mandarin Orange Salad

Com­bine the gelatin, vanil­la pud­ding mix and tapi­o­ca pud­ding mix 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!

Mandarin Orange Salad

The 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 for our fam­i­ly gath­er­ings of 15 to 20 people. 

Enjoy friends! I hope you have a fun and blessed Thanks­giv­ing, filled with deli­cious food, lots of laugh­ter and the peo­ple you love most.

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Mandarin Orange Salad

Mandarin Orange Salad

  • Author: Glen­da Embree
  • Total Time: 15 min­utes
  • Yield: 46 serv­ings 1x


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 salad/ side dish.


  • 1 (3 oz) box orange gelatin
  • 1 (3 oz) box vanil­la pud­ding mix (cook & serve, NOT instant)
  • 1 (3 oz) box tapi­o­ca pud­ding mix (IMPORTANT: Plain pearl tapi­o­ca will NOT work. It must be cook & serve tapi­o­ca pud­ding mix and the only brand I have ever seen is Jell‑O.)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (11 oz) can man­darin orange seg­ments, 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.)


  1. Com­bine the gelatin, vanil­la pud­ding mix and tapi­o­ca pud­ding mix with the water in a medi­um sauce pan.
  2. Cook the mix­ture over medi­um heat, stir­ring fre­quent­ly to pre­vent stick­ing and scorching.
  3. Cook until the mix­ture boils and thickens.
  4. Pour the thick­ened gelatin mix­ture into a con­tain­er to cool and leave on the counter to come to room tem­per­a­ture before refrigerating. 
  5. When cooled to room tem­per­a­ture, cov­er the gelatin mix­ture and refrig­er­ate until com­plete­ly set.
  6. 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 sal­ad.  Sal­ad will be thick, but light and fluffy.
  7. Refrig­er­ate until ready to serve.


This 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.

  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 10
  • Cat­e­go­ry: Sal­ads, Side Dishes
  • Method: Stove­top and Fridge
  • Cui­sine: Amer­i­can

Key­words: orange, man­darin, sal­ad, side dish

Mandarin Orange Salad

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