Mandarin Orange Jello Salad

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I once found out that Mandarin Orange Jello Salad was popular for church potlucks — and I first thought, “why?” I mean, what exactly is appealing here? Perhaps the fact that it’s both a fruit and a salad? But also jello? I would just stick to berry salads or spinach salads. But then I realized how many people had come to enjoy this dish. Why not try it again and see if my views had changed? And, as it turns out, they did.

MANDARIN ORANGE JELLO SALAD

Mandarin orange Jello salad is a sweet treat made with mandarin oranges, pineapple, Jello gelatin, Cool Whip, and plenty of mini marshmallows! It has a creamy, mousse-like consistency and a flavor that is reminiscent of an orange Dreamsicle. If you’re looking for an easy after-dinner dessert, this chilled mandarin orange Jello salad is just what you need!

MANDARIN ORANGE JELLO SALAD WITH COOL WHIP

Mandarin orange jello salad is one of my favorite summertime desserts! The bright citrus flavor and cool, creamy texture are always so refreshing when I’m craving something sweet.

I make my orange Jello salad without cottage cheese, but I do add mini marshmallows and whipped cream. Imagine, a creamy Dreamsicle that you’d eat with a spoon!

Square image of mandarin orange jello salad in a bowl with marshmallows.
A cool bowl of creamy mandarin orange Jello salad is always a welcome treat on a hot day!
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🥘 INGREDIENTS

This recipe only calls for a few common and inexpensive ingredients. I prefer the regular Jello orange flavor, but you can opt for sugar-free Jello for a slightly less sweet taste.

Photo displaying ingredients needed for mandarin orange jello salad.
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  • Orange Gelatin – 1 6-ounce package of orange Jello or any brand of gelatin.
  • Cool Whip – 1 8-ounce tub.
  • Canned Mandarin Oranges – 16 ounces, drained.
  • Crushed Pineapple – 20 ounces, drained.
  • Mini Marshmallows – 1 ½ cups.

*Be sure to see the recipe card below for ingredients, amounts & instructions!*

🔪 HOW TO MAKE MANDARIN ORANGE JELLO SALAD

The steps to this recipe are simple! You’ll only need to gather your ingredients, mix in a large bowl, and chill to set.

Process photo 1 showing ingredients in a bowl.
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  1. Thaw. Set your Cool Whip out at room temperature to thaw for about 15 minutes before combining the salad ingredients.
  2. Combine. In a large mixing bowl combine the softened 8 ounce tub container of Cool Whip, 6 ounces dry orange Jello gelatin powder, 16 ounces drained mandarin oranges, 20 ounces drained crushed pineapple, and 1 ½ cups mini marshmallows. Mix until well combined (there will still be some grainy texture from the powdered Jello).
  3. Chill. Cover the mandarin orange Jello salad with cling film and place it in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  4. Serve. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Stir before serving.

This recipe makes 8 servings but could very easily be stretched to 12 if served with other sides or desserts. A fresh fruit salad or Orange Crush soda cupcakes would be great choices that are suitable for summer get togethers. Enjoy!

💭 ANGELA’S TIPS & RECIPE NOTES

  • Make sure to plan ahead because chilling the Jello salad is essential.
  • The mini marshmallows can be folded in last, just before chilling if desired.
  • Storing: Keep mandarin orange Jello salad covered in the refrigerator and enjoy within 4 days.

MANDARIN ORANGE JELLO SALAD (WITHOUT COTTAGE CHEESE)

This light and fluffy Mandarin Orange Jello Salad has a sweet creamsicle flavor and can be made in 5 minutes. It’s made with only 5 ingredients, but without cottage cheese. This side salad can be served as a sweet side dish or even a dessert.

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS

Sweet gelatin salads, also know as fluff salads are a staple when entertaining a crowd. Whether you’re planning a huge backyard gathering, prepping for a potluck, or entertaining friends this delicious side dish is made in 5 minutes.

MANDARIN ORANGE JELLO SALAD

Initially considered a side dish this jello salad can be served as a dessert too. It makes a delicious pairing with heavy main dishes such as pulled pork, ribs, or even turkey.

This version is made without cottage cheese and only contains 5 ingredients that you fold together.

Similar to pistachio pudding salad this side is light and highly addictive making it a great option for a traditional addition to any holiday meal. Often these sweet salads are prepared during the summer, but the brilliant orange color and delicious taste make this a great option for Thanksgiving too.

WHAT GOES INTO THIS RECIPE

Orange Jello salad ingredients in bowls.
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  • Mandarin Oranges: for this recipe I recommend using cannded mandarin oranges that you’ll drain before adding. You could use fresh oranges, but it will take you a good bit longer to prepare the dish.
  • Orange Jello: I prefer to use the regular orange jello, but you can also use sugar-free jello for a slightly less sweet and sugary version.

INGREDIENT SWAPS

  • Crushed Pineapple: the crushed pineapple takes the place of cottage cheese in this recipe. If you’d prefer a super smooth orange flavor then swap the pineapple for cottage cheese.
  • Cool Whip: you can prepare a homemade version of stabilized whipped cream or you can use heavy whipping cream to make a traditional whipped cream. Using Cool Whip is simple, but if you’d like a richer flavor then try making your own whiped cream.

RECIPE VARIATIONS

You can use this exact recipe and make just a few swaps to get a different variation if you’d like.

  • Peach Jello Salad: you can use fresh chopped peaches or you can use canned peached and drain them. Then use peach jello instead of orange.
  • Fruit Cocktail Jello Salad: swap the orange jello for tropical fusion jello or island pineapple jello and use fruit cocktail (drained) instead of mandarin oranges. I recommend adding some shredded coconut to this version.
  • Cherry Jello Salad: instead of using orange jello use cherry jello and mix in fresh pitted cherries or marachino cherries (drained) instead of the oranges.

STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS

This recipe takes only 5 minutes to prepare and you can make it just before you plan on serving it and serve it at room temperature, or you can place it in the fridge to chill overnight for a chilled and firmer texture.

Orange jello salad process steps 1 and 2.
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  • Scoop the Cool Whip into a large bowl and sprinkle the orange jello mix directly on top. Fold the two ingredients together until the jello is fully mixed in and doesn look as grainy.
  • Drain the crushed pineapple and mandarin oranges well so no water or syrup remain then add them to the jello mixture. Gently fold them in.
Orange jello salad process step 3.
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  • Add the marshmallows to the mixture and again gently fold them into the salad.
  • If possible chill the salad in the fridge for a minium of 1 hour and up to 4. This is not necessary, but creates a chilled and firmer salad texture.

RECIPE NOTES AND TIPS

  • For a nice chilled texture allow the salad to set in the fridge for 4 hours before serving it. This is optional, but I recommend it for optimum taste.
  • To get the fluffiest salad use a spatula to fold all the ingredients together. This keeps the Cool Whip from falling flat when you mix it.
  • Make sure to drain the pineapple and oranges well so that no water or syrup remains. Any excess water or liquid will eventually separate from the salad. If this happens don’t worry though! You can easily give the salad a good stir to mix it all back together.
  • Try adding some shredded coconut for added sweetness.

EQUIPMENT NEEDED

  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Rubber Spatula
  • Air-tight Storage Container
Orange jello salad in a glass jar topped with whipped cream and an orange wedge.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS FOR MAKING MANDARIN ORANGE JELLO SALAD

Can I make orange jello salad with vanilla pudding?

Yes! Using vanilla pudding will slightly change the texture of this recipe and require a couple more steps. I suggest using this recipe for strawberry jello fluff and swapping the strawberries for mandarin oranges and the strawberry jello for orange jello.

Can I make it ahead?

Yes, you can make this recipe ahead, and I recommend making it the night before. If you let this salad chill in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours it will create a firmer texture.

Can I use sugar-free jello?

Sure. This will make the recipe a tad less sweet, but it will still be delicious and it’s a very small change.

Mandarin Orange Salad | Easy 5‑Ingredient Orange Jello Sala

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. 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. 

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

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. 

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.

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. 

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.

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)

  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
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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. 

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