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!
Table of Contents
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!
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.Print
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.)
- 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.
- 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 salad. Salad will be thick, but light and fluffy.
- 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