Mandarins, Tangerines, Clementines: What’s the Difference?

By: Pittman & Davis | On: | Category: Fruit Information

It’s round and orange, but is it an orange? Color aside (fun fact: the color was named for the fruit, not the fruit for the color, but that’s another story), oranges have a distinctive tangy-sweet flavor that can’t be mistaken for anything else. In some varieties it may be sweeter, in others a bit tangier, but it’s there in all it’s smaller-sized cousins, including the Tangerine, Clementine, Satsuma and Mandarin.

But how do these miniature, orange-like fruits differ from one another? Are they different from one another? Before you buy oranges online, you should know. Here’s a guide to the three most popular:

Mandarin: The Mother Fruit!

Before we had oranges and tangerines, we had Mandarins – in fact, Mandarins are one of the original citrus species that, through breeding or natural hybridization, serves as the ancestor of many hybrid citrus cultivars.

Compared to Florida, California, or Texas Navel Oranges, Mandarins are smaller, with thinner, looser skins. The Mandarin is one of three original citrus fruits (including the Citron and Pomelo) that lead to all other citrus fruits – in fact, Texas Navels, Valencias (a summer orange), Blood Oranges and all other standard Oranges are thought to have originated with a Mandarin/Pomelo hybrid.

Mandarins originated in China. The orange color of a Mandarin Orange tends to be deeper or richer than a standard Orange, and the shape is a bit squashier due to the looseness of the skin. The segments are easy to separate, and the flesh has seeds. The fruit is used fresh in many dishes including salads, desserts and entrees, and the juice is used in making orange juice concentrate.

In the US, Mandarins are often marketed as Tangerines, and Tangerines are often marketed as Mandarins. The fact is, though, that while all Tangerines are Mandarins, not all Mandarins are Tangerines.


Tangerines are technically Mandarins – specifically, they are a variety of Mandarin (like Satsumas are a variety of Mandarin).

Like Mandarins, Tangerines are smaller and sweeter than standard oranges from Texas or elsewhere, but they’re larger and more tart than standard Mandarin oranges. Their skins are darker than a Mandarin’s, too, with a distinctly reddish cast to the orange hue.

The Tangerine came to the US through Morocco’s Port of Tangier, which is where they’re name comes from. They have fewer seeds than other Mandarin varieties, making them the most popular of type of Mandarin available. They also have a longer growing season than other Mandarin varieties.


The smallest of all the orange varieties is the Clementine. While Tangerines are a type of Mandarin, Clementines are a hybrid of a Mandarin and a sweet orange (like the Texas Navel). They’re skins are dark orange in color, but smoother and glossier than that of a Tangerine.

Clementines have grown in popularity as an on-the-go snack, and no wonder – they’re seedless, easy to peel, and satisfying to the sweet tooth. These qualities also make them ideal for a child’s lunchbox, along with the fact that they’re lower in acid than other oranges and so very sweet while remaining a very refreshing snack.

Which Fruit is Best?

Which Mandarin is best? They’re all amazing! Apart from being delicious and easy snacks, they’re super-good for you, too.

There are many benefits of eating Mandarins, Tangerines and Clementines. They’re small and easy to peel, making them great for snacking and in lunchboxes and salads. This in turn makes them an easy and delicious way to add certain nutrients to your diet.

When totting up he nutritional benefits of Mandarin varieties, Vitamin C comes to most people’s minds first, as this little fruit contains 44% of the daily-recommended value. They’re also high in Vitamin A, and are excellent sources of fiber, folate and potassium. So if you’re in need of a grab a Mandarin – with lots of nutrition and a great taste, they’re an awesome way to tide you over between meals!

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