When citrus fruits are in season and the produce department is bursting with various types, it’s easy to get confused about the different varieties.
They each have their own characteristics, so if you’re looking for a specific flavor, texture, or peel, it’s worth knowing which is which.
This article explains the key differences and similarities between two popular types of citrus fruits — tangerines and clementines.
Tangerines and clementines are both hybrids of the small-sized mandarin. They’re the second largest cultivated group of citrus fruit after sweet oranges, which include larger sized varieties like navel and blood oranges (1).
They share many of the same characteristics as other mandarins, such as a smaller size compared with navel oranges, few to no seeds, a sweet flavor, and a thin, soft skin that’s very easy to peel (
Tangerines and clementines have a similar appearance, so it’s easy to get them confused or think they’re one and the same.
Tangerines (Citrus tangerina) are thought to be native to Southeast Asia (
They’re named because they were exported by traveling through the port of Tangier in Morocco.
In the United States, tangerines are often called mandarins. However, while all tangerines are mandarins, not all mandarins are tangerines.
Grown in warm weather climates across the globe, tangerines are a bit more cold-weather tolerant, compared with larger varieties of sweet oranges. You can find them in stores from November through April.
They’re sweeter than navel oranges but still a bit tart. Tangerines also have a darker reddish-orange, soft, pebbly skin that’s easy to peel.
The clementine (Citrus clementina) is another variety of mandarin. Like the tangerine, it’s a sweet, easy to peel citrus fruit (
You can distinguish it from a tangerine by its slightly smaller size, brighter orange color, and smoother, shinier skin. It’s also even easier to peel than a tangerine because the skin is thinner.
Clementines tend to be slightly more oval in shape than tangerines, with a flat spot on the top and bottom.
You often find them sold in packages and labeled as “Halos” or “Cuties.” However, these are marketing names, not varieties.
Just like tangerines, clementines are more cold tolerant than larger orange varieties, and they, too, are available from November through April (
Tangerines and clementines are two varieties of mandarins. They’re both prized for their sweet flavor and soft, easy to peel skins. Of the two, clementines are sweeter and easiest to peel.
Because they’re so closely related, it’s no surprise that tangerines and clementines have a very similar nutritional profile. As with other citrus fruits, both provide carbs but minimal amounts of protein and fats.
|Protein||1 gram||1 gram|
|Fat||less than 1 gram||less than 1 gram|
|Carbs||10 grams||9 grams|
|Fiber||1 gram||1 gram|
|Vitamin C||20 mg, 34% of the Daily Value (DV)||36 mg, 60% of the DV|
Vitamin C is also needed for many other functions throughout your body, including producing collagen to strengthen skin, joints, and bones, and for iron metabolism (6).
While both fruits are good sources of vitamin C, if you want the most bang for your buck, choose a clementine over a tangerine. Eating two of them will supply more than a full day’s worth of vitamin C (
These are orange and yellow pigments in plants that act as vitamin A precursors, which means they’re converted into vitamin A in your body. They also act as antioxidants and protect cells and DNA from oxidative damage (
The major carotenoid in mandarin oranges is beta-cryptoxanthin. Additionally, there are small amounts of both alpha- and beta-carotene. You get more carotenoids if you eat the whole fruit rather than drinking the juice from mandarins (
Tangerines and clementines provide nearly identical amounts of calories, macronutrients, and fiber. Both also supply provitamin A carotenoid compounds, but clementines have significantly more vitamin C.
You might choose to eat them for your taste buds, but adding more tangerines and clementines to your diet may also provide important health benefits for your entire body.
Research on beta-cryptoxanthin, which is concentrated in both fruits, indicates that it’s more easily absorbed in your body than other carotene compounds, including beta-carotene (9).
As a vitamin A precursor, beta-cryptoxanthin helps boost vitamin A levels even more than the other carotene compounds. Vitamin A is essential for healthy immune function, vision, and cell development and growth (9,
Both tangerines and clementines are rich in health-promoting phytocompounds called flavonoids. Two that have been well researched are naringin and hesperidin (
Studies have found that these flavonoids extracted from citrus fruits have the ability to reduce inflammation markers in the body, improve blood flow through the arteries, increase bone density, and reduce asthma risk (
Eating either or both fruits can help boost your vitamin A levels and provide a healthy dose of flavonoids and soluble fiber to support heart, digestive tract, and bone health.
The easiest way to get your fill of tangerines and clementines is to pack one, or a few, and eat them as a snack. They travel well, don’t require refrigeration, and their soft, easy to peel skins make them a great choice for adults and children alike.
Both are also equally delicious in a salad. Toss the segments with fresh greens, some toasted almonds, sunflower seeds, and goat cheese for a blend of sweet and savory flavors.
If you’re lucky enough to grow either variety and have more than you can eat, juice them. Although you won’t get the fiber or quite as much of the beta-cryptoxanthin, you’ll enjoy a healthy dose of vitamin C and flavonoids.
The outer peel and spongy white pith just under the peel of both fruits are not commonly eaten, but they can be. Just make sure you wash the outside well before eating the peel.
Additionally, try drying the peels and adding a piece when you steep a cup of tea. It adds a subtle orange flavor and aroma.
The white pith, located just under the peel, is where you find much of the pectin. It can be used to make jams or jellies (11).
To make tangerine or clementine marmalade:
- Cut 3 whole pieces of either fruit into very thin slices and then coarsely chop them.
- Place the fruit in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons (45 mL) of water and 1/2 cup (32 grams) sugar.
- Simmer the mixture for 30–40 minutes or until the fruit is soft and it starts to darken a bit.
- When it thickens, pour the marmalade into a jar and refrigerate.
As it cools, the natural pectin will help thicken the cooked fruit and form jam.
One important tip that applies to both fruits is to use them quickly. Because of their soft peels, they’re more perishable compared with larger oranges.
Mandarins may begin to develop off-flavors in as little as 3 weeks after harvest, and more significantly after 6 weeks, so it’s best to eat them quickly after you buy them. You can extend their freshness for a week or two if you refrigerate them (
Both fruits are delicious and easy to eat as a snack or added to a salad. Rather than tossing the peels, try drying some to use in tea or with spices. If you have more than you can eat, you can juice them or make marmalade.
Tangerines and clementines are closely related members of the mandarin family.
These small citrus fruits are packed with compounds that may help reduce your risk of heart disease, strengthen your bones, and keep your digestive tract in tip-top condition.
Clementines are slightly smaller, sweeter, and easier to peel than tangerines, but both are a sweet and healthy treat.
Enjoy them all winter long as an easy to peel snack, tossed into a salad, or for a special treat, make homemade marmalade.