Ingredients

Tangerine Vs. Mandarin Orange: Quick Guide

4 Mins read

Clarifying the distinctions between tangerine vs. mandarin orange is crucial in the realm of citrus fruits. One could not blame themselves for confusing the two, as they appear similar. That being said, they would be similar in taste. But the two have subtle differences, making them more different than originally thought. In this article, we break down the key differences while also explaining what each one is so that you can know the difference the next time you decide to eat either. 

What Is a Tangerine?

tangerine
Tangerine

A tangerine is simply a citrus fruit that is orange and a part of the mandarin family. They originated in Southeast Asia and are now grown in many different places worldwide. Tangerines prefer a southern climate with hotter temperatures and moist soil. Also, the plant of this fruit prefers being more sheltered from prevailing winds. Some states known for growing them are California, Texas, and Florida, where the plants can even be grown indoors. The plants can tolerate some cooler temperatures but cannot thrive in colder climates.

Tangerines are often small, at least smaller than an orange, and can also tend to be less rounded than an orange. They have a sweeter taste profile than the standard orange, not offering as much tartness on the palette when eaten when compared to one. The peel of tangerine is thin, with very little pith to contribute to any bitter or acidic flavors. That being said, tangerines are tarter than some other orange varieties and can sometimes offer a tartness that is sought after. The overall flavor profile is sweet with some tartness but often much sweeter than a regular orange. 

What Is a Mandarin Orange?

mandarin orange
Mandarin Orange

The Mandarin citrus family includes mandarin oranges, which is technically what tangerines and clementines are. These citrus fruits are characterized by bright orange skin and a smaller shape than the standard orange. They are also much sweeter than an orange, especially depending on the variety you end up eating. This orange can be grown in tropical and subtropical climates. Their thin peel has little pith, making it easier to peel and enjoy. They are often enjoyed fresh in culinary preparations and can be popular as a canned product as well. 

The mandarin orange is the ancestor of the smaller orange group it represents. From this orange, other varieties have grown and become popular. The mandarin orange can come in seeded or seedless varieties, although the general population does prefer more seedless fruit in America. This fruit is rich in Vitamin C and is a great source of fiber and antioxidants. The whole fruit is usable, from the flesh to the skin, and that is why mandarin oranges are so beloved and consumed so much throughout the world. 

Tangerine Vs. Mandarin Orange

tangerine vs. mandarin orange
Tangerin Vs. Mandarin Orange

As you have read this guide, you may wonder about the major difference between the two citrus fruits. It is important to note that all tangerines are technically mandarins, but not all mandarins are tangerines. That being said, there are some key differences to help you decide which citrus fruit you are eating. The tangerine is often a brighter orange and slightly bigger than a mandarin. They will have a greater size and a more vibrant color, helping them stand out against the smaller mandarin orange. 

Regarding flavor, tangerines are often more tart than mandarin oranges, which can be another dead giveaway for which fruit you are eating. A tangerine will also have a slightly thinner skin than the mandarin orange overall. Tangerines have also grown more tolerable to cold weather climates, although not by much. Another factor that separates the two is that tangerines have a longer growing season. Since they can withstand colder temperatures, they can naturally produce more fruit longer during colder parts of the year.

Clementine Vs. Tangerine Vs. Mandarin Orange

clementines
Clementines

Out of these three, clementines are often the sweetest in flavor. They are, in fact, another type of mandarin orange but are generally sweeter and seedless. Compared to the mandarin orange and tangerine, they also have very thin skins and are the only ones out of the three without seeds. They are often smaller than the other two and have brighter skin. They are also more oval with a flat bottom, making them easier to identify when compared side by side to the two other fruits. 

If you were to rank sweetness, the sweetest is the clementine. Followed by the clementine would be the standard mandarin orange, and followed by that would be the slightly tart tangerine. Clementines are very popular due to their sweetness, so if you are looking for a sweet citrus snack, they are your best bet. But if you want some balance of tartness, especially in culinary applications, then tangerines are better. For a happy medium, a standard mandarin orange will do.

All three are delicious and offer great flavor and health benefits, so you should be sure to try them and compare them to find your favorite. These oranges are often sold in your local grocery store, and they can be found with relative ease. 

Choosing The Best One For You

In review, the tangerine and the mandarin orange are from the same family but do have some varying differences. The tangerine will be slightly more tart and have thinner skin. It will offer a more dynamic balance of sweet and acid and be used more for culinary applications or general eating. The mandarin orange is sweeter and used more in baking, but it also is a delicious fruit to enjoy on its own. Use the article above to decide which is best for you and what variety you want to try first!

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About author
Ray Delucci is a chef and content creator with over 10 years of experience in the restaurant industry. He has worked managing restaurants, in food manufacturing and food product development. He is also the creator of Line Cook Thoughts, a podcast and social media brand focused on sharing the thoughts of everyday cooks in the food world. He is currently located in the Greater Chicago Area.
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