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Mandarin Orange Salad | Easy 5‑Ingredient Orange Jello Salad

Man­darin Orange Sal­ad is a cool, citrus‑y and refresh­ing addi­tion to the menu at any spe­cial gath­er­ing. The deli­cious man­darin orange jel­lo sal­ad only requires 5‑ingredients.

Mandarin Orange Salad in a clear glass bowl on a wooden table next to a blue floral print cloth napkin
Post may con­tain affil­i­ate links. See my Affil­i­ate Disclosure.

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. 

pudding mix, gelatin powder and mandarin segments

The Ingredients

  • Orange Gelatin: Brand does­n’t real­ly mat­ter for mak­ing this Man­darin Orange Sal­ad recipe. 
  • Vanil­la Cook and Serve Pud­ding: 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 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.)
  • 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 Oranges (canned): Drain the liq­uid from the can, before adding the orange seg­ments to the orange jel­lo salad.
  • Water
Mandarin Orange Salad

What is Tapioca Pudding Mix

box of Jello- 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. 

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 be able to prop­er­ly set.

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 Man­go Sago. It’s anoth­er deli­cious way to enjoy tapioca.

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?

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.

hands holding a whisk and whipping homemade whipped cream in a bowl
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)

  1. Com­bine the orange jel­lo mix, vanil­la pud­ding pow­der and tapi­o­ca pud­ding pow­der 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. It will depend on your stove and heat set­ting, but I’m guess­ing 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Pour the thick­ened gelatin mix­ture into a con­tain­er to cool. 
  5. When cooled to room tem­per­a­ture, refrig­er­ate until com­plete­ly set.
  6. Stir in the Cool Whip and the drained man­darin orange seg­ments. Stir until thor­ough­ly inte­grat­ed into the salad.
  7. The sal­ad will light­en in col­or and will have a lus­cious tex­ture that is thick, but light and fluffy.
  8. Refrig­er­ate until ready to serve. So easy! Man­darin Orange Sal­ad is an instant hit, no mat­ter where you serve it!
Mandarin Orange Salad

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

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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 orange jel­lo sal­ad with man­darin oranges.  One of my most sim­ple and deli­cious recipes for a gathering.


Units Scale
  • 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.)


  1. Com­bine the orange jel­lo mix, vanil­la pud­ding pack­age con­tents and tapi­o­ca pud­ding pack­age con­tents 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 man­darin orange sal­ad.  The jel­lo sal­ad will be thick, but light and fluffy.
  7. 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

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50 thoughts on “Mandarin Orange Salad | Easy 5‑Ingredient Orange Jello Salad”

  1. 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!


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