Made with a refreshing honey citrus dressing and fresh produce, this mandarin orange salad is a filling recipe full of vitamins, nutrients, protein, and flavor! Serve it on its own for a light lunch or dinner or as a side with all your favorite main dishes.
This time of year, I’m usually busy in the kitchen whipping up all the comfort foods like pumpkin pasta, creamy stovetop white chicken chili, and, of course, sweet treats like soft & chunky gluten free chocolate chip pumpkin oatmeal cookies! While I love all the cozy recipes, sometimes I just need something a little on the lighter side, and this mandarin orange salad is one of my go-to options!
Made with fresh, seasonal produce and a tangy homemade dressing, it’s bursting with flavor and loaded with different tastes and textures. On its own, it’s a super filling vegetarian option for a satisfying meal. Or, you can easily spruce it up with the addition of your favorite protein! No matter what you’re in the mood for, this mandarin salad always hits the spot.
- Vegetarian and gluten free
- Made in minutes
- Great for meal prep
- Created with seasonal ingredients for a budget-friendly recipe
Ingredients and Substitutions
For the honey citrus dressing
- Olive oil - Forms the base of the dressing. Feel free to swap it out for avocado oil instead.
- Red wine vinegar - Adds a subtle tang to balance out the sweetness of the dressing. Do not use apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar instead. Red wine vinegar is the only option that will yield the flavor we’re looking to achieve.
- Honey - Provides just a touch of sweetness. Agave syrup would work, too.
- Orange juice - Use pure, unsweetened orange juice to enhance the citrus flavor, helping the dressing blend with the flavor of the mandarin salad.
- Sea salt - Enhances the rest of the ingredients.
- Ginger - Opt for freshly grated ginger instead of ginger powder for a strong, bright, slightly tangy flavor.
For the mandarin salad
- Spring mix - A bed of spring mix or lettuce blend of your choice forms the base of this mandarin orange salad.
- Mandarin oranges - Mandarin oranges or clementines provide a tangy taste and pop of color for a tasty seasonal salad. Use fresh oranges if possible, or look for cans without added sugar.
- Slivered almonds - Provide a satisfying crunch and add a boost of healthy fats to keep you full. If preferred, you can easily swap them out for any other nuts or seeds of choice to fit your allergy needs.
- Cranberries - Used to add even more nutrients along with extra sweetness.
- Red onion - Include a nice tangy taste and crunch.
- Parmesan cheese - A sprinkle of thinly sliced Parmesan finishes the salad with a hint of savory, saltiness you’ll love.
When are mandarin oranges in season?
Mandarin oranges are best around November and December and through the springtime. Look for oranges that are brightly colored, free from dark spots or bruises, are on the heavy side, and give slightly when squeezed but are not too soft.
Mandarin orange vs Clemintine
Mandarin oranges are a specific type of orange. Clementines fall into the mandarin orange category and are always seedless.
I find clementines to be the best type of mandarin orange for a salad like this due to their sweetness and small size.
How to Make a Mandarin Orange Salad
Recipes don’t get any easier than this! You’ll need a jar with a lid or a bowl and spoon for the dressing along with a large mixing bowl, knife, and salad utensils to prepare and toss together all of the ingredients.
Step 1: Prepare the dressing. Add all of the ingredients to a jar or cup. Shake or stir until all of the ingredients are well incorporated and smooth, and set the dressing aside.
Step 2: Assemble the salad. To begin, add the spring mix to a large bowl. Then, peel the oranges, and sprinkle them on top along with the almonds, cranberries, and red onions.
Pour the dressing on top, and toss the ingredients until it is well distributed. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top, and enjoy!
- This salad is best with a leafy salad blend like spring mix, arugula, or spinach. The almonds and red onions provide a nice crunch, and the oranges have a nice juicy flavor to them that pairs well with leafy greens.
- Taste the dressing before you toss it with the salad to make sure it’s up to your liking. For instance, if it needs more citrus, add a splash of orange juice. If it needs a little more salt then add another pinch. If you prefer a sweeter dressing add another spoonful of honey.
- If serving the salad to a crowd, reserve a little bit of each mix-in, and sprinkle them over the top of the salad before serving. This allows people to see what’s in the salad and is best for presentation purposes.
Making the salad ahead of time
If you want to make the salad ahead of time simply add all of the salad ingredients to a salad bowl except for the dressing and the mandarin oranges. Then, cover the salad bowl with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. Before serving add the oranges, and toss well with the dressing.
If you expect to have leftover salad, I recommend keeping the dressing on the side. That way the lettuce and the mix-ins stay dry and fresh and keep longer in the fridge. The salad will keep for up to two days in the fridge without dressing. When ready to enjoy, spoon the salad into individual bowls and drizzle the dressing over top.
For more side dishes, check out my:
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Mandarin Orange Salad
For the honey citrus dressing:
- ¼ cup olive oil - or avocado oil
- 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoon honey - or agave
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ginger
For the salad:
- 6 cups spring mix - or lettuce blend of choice
- 8 - 10 mandarin oranges - aka clementines, or 2 15 oz cans
- 1/ cup slivered almonds
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup red onion slices
- 1 cup parmesan cheese - thinly sliced
- In a jar or cup, mix together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, honey, orange juice, sea salt, and ginger. You can do this with a spoon or if you have a lid to your cup, shake vigorously to mix. Set aside while you assemble the salad.
- Add the spring mix to a large salad bowl. Peel the mandarin oranges and sprinkle them on top of the salad along with the slivered almonds, cranberries, and red onions.
- Pour the honey citrus dressing over the salad and toss well with salad utensils to distribute the dressing.
- Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the salad and gently toss before serving.