I grew up eating this Lemon Mandarin Orange Jello Salad at almost every single Thanksgiving, and now I make it every year for my own kids!
What is Jello Salad?
Jello salad (also called gelatin salad, jelly salad, congealed salad, or molded salad) is a salad made with flavored gelatin, fruit, and sometimes grated carrots or, more rarely, other vegetables. Other ingredients may include cottage cheese, cream cheese, marshmallows, nuts, or pretzels.
My favorite part of this Jello fruit salad is the lemon topping, which is just a lemon pudding mixture. My second favorite part of this Jello recipe is the little mandarin oranges floating around. Our kids love mandarin oranges, so this orange Jello salad is now one of their favorite recipes as well.
I’m curious, how many of you grew up with Jello on your dinner table or at holiday meals?
Lemon Mandarin Orange Jello Salad Ingredients
Unlike most Thanksgiving desserts, this Jello fruit salad recipe requires very few ingredients to make. Here’s what you’ll need to make this mandarin orange salad:
- Orange Jello
- Boiling water
- Frozen orange juice concentrate
- Mandarin oranges
- Instant lemon pudding mix
- Cool Whip
How to Make Jello Salad
This mandarin orange Jello salad couldn’t be easier to make! It takes quite a while for the salad to set, but the hands on prep work is minimal. Here’s how to make Jello salad:
- Mix the boiling water with the orange Jello in a 9×13-inch pan.
- Add the frozen orange juice concentrate and drained mandarin oranges. Stir to combine.
- Let chill in the fridge until set.
- Near the end of the chill time, combine pudding and milk and mix until thick.
- Stir the Cool Whip into the pudding, then spread it evenly atop the set orange Jello salad.
- Garnish with more mandarin oranges, then place back into the fridge to set.
Is Jello Salad a Dessert or a Side?
Do you think of Jello recipes as desserts or salads? Whenever it is served with whipped cream and marshmallows, it is a dessert. If it is served with tons of fruit added, it can be called a “fruit salad.” Yes, I realize this mandarin orange Jello salad should probably be a dessert, but my family always served it as a side dish when I was little so I serve it as a side today as well.
Can I Add More Fruit to the Jello Salad?
Of course! If there’s a specific fruit you grew up eating in your Jello salad, you’re welcome to include it. Just make sure to drain any canned fruits before adding them to the mandarin orange Jello salad.
Can I Make This Jello Salad Sugar-Free?
If you can find sugar-free versions of the lemon instant pudding and orange Jello mix, then yes, you can definitely make this Jello salad sugar-free if desired. Note that sugar-free pudding and Jello mixes typically tend to be smaller than the regular versions, so you may need to buy multiple packs to make enough Jello salad to fill a 9×13-inch baking dish.
Can I Prep Jello Salad in Advance?
Absolutely! This Jello fruit salad is a great make-ahead Thanksgiving recipe. You can assemble the salad up to a day in advance. Place plastic wrap on top and refrigerate it until ready to serve.
Tips for Making Lemon Mandarin Orange Jello Salad
It’s so important that you remember to use instant pudding powder and not the cook and serve kind. It won’t set up the same, so make sure you buy the correct box.
Also, you want to use mandarin oranges packed in water and not the kind packed in syrup. Mandarin oranges packed in syrup would make this Jello salad recipe far too sweet.
If you don’t have Cool Whip where you live, you can use another whipped topping or make a batch of homemade whipped cream if needed. Homemade whipped cream will deflate quicker than Cool Whip, but otherwise it’ll work just fine.
More Easy Thanksgiving Side Dishes:
- Southern Grape Salad with Pecans
- Instant Pot Southern Macaroni and Cheese
- Strawberry Fluff Fruit Dip
- The Best Mashed Potatoes
- Southern English Pea Salad
- Roasted Root Vegetable Side Dish
- The Best Deviled Eggs
- Sweet Potato Casserole
- …All of our Thanksgiving Recipes!
Lemon Mandarin Orange Jello Salad
- 1 6 ounce Box Orange Jello
- 3 Cups Boiling Water
- 6 ounces Dole Frozen Orange Juice Concentrate (half of a 12 oz can)
- 1 1/2 11-ounce Cans Dole Mandarin Oranges almost completely drained and divided
- 1 3.4 ounce Box Instant lemon pudding
- 1 Cup Milk
- 8 ounces Cool Whip
- Mix the boiling water with the jello in a 9x13-inch pan until all of the granules are dissolved.
- Add the frozen concentrate and 1 can mandarin oranges with whatever juice is remaining and stir to combine.
- Place in the fridge until set, about 3 hours.
- In a bowl, combine pudding and milk until thick.
- Fold in the whipped topping and spread on the jello salad.
- Place remaining oranges on top as garnish and chill for about 20-30 minutes until set.