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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
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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.

Mandarin Orange Salad

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


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5 from 28 reviews

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

Description

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.


Ingredients

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.)

Instructions

  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.

Notes

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

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About Glenda

I believe cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be complicated and that YOU can do it. My simple recipes, tutorials, and cooking tips will help you get weeknight dinners on the table with less stress. Forget takeout or the drive-thru. Let me show you how to make homemade easy. Read more...

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