Difference between clementine, mandarin and tangerine.

Mandarin vs Clementine vs Tangerine vs Satsuma orange fruit

Mandarin orange is a popular sweet citrus fruit. It’s easy to peel and eat it as a snack.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, in 2017 the United States produced almost 1 million tons of tangerines, mandarins, clementines, and satsumas.

But what’s the difference? Is it the same citrus fruit?

Mandarin orange: the ancestor

It’s difficult to tell the difference between Mandarin, Clementine, Tangerine, and Satsuma because all belong to the citrus family.

Citrus family taxonomy is very complex.

What’s crossbreed?

In agriculture, producers try to keep the best properties between varieties. That’s a natural and ancient technic.

For instance, if a citrus tree can withstand diseases better than other trees, farmers prefer this variety.

Nowadays, cultivated citrus trees are crossbred from more than two citrus species.

This way we produce hybrids naturally. Crossbreed is the technic of selecting and combining the best varieties.

We want disease-tolerant, tasty, sweet, seedless, hot-tolerant, cold-tolerant, self-pollination, year-round fruit varieties.

Depending on the local demands, farmers have created tree varieties that are best-suited to the regional climate.

Clementine and mandarin are different citrus varieties

Citrus trees can easily be crossbred.

Most noteworthy citrus varieties can:

  • look identical, but have totally different ancestors,
  • look completely different, but be identical genetically.

Almost all modern commercial citrus trees are the product of the combination of three wild species. These are citrons, mandarins, and pomelos.

Popular hybrids of citrons are the lemons and limes.

Furthermore, pomelos are the ancestor of the grapefruit.

As you can guess, modern mandarin comes from the ancient mandarin orange variety.

Moreover, mandarin orange is the ancestor of clementine, tangerine, and satsuma.

Mandarin orange characteristics

Mandarin oranges come from ancient citrus species.

This means that all modern “mandarin” varieties originate from mandarin oranges.

It’s rather hard to find the difference between mandarin varieties.

For this reason, we usually refer to any small, easily peeled citrus, as mandarin.

Botanically it’s wrong. Every variety has a different name. But only professionals know about the different mandarin hybrids.

So, nowadays everything we call mandarin, it’s actually a hybrid.

Mandarin orange taste

Mandarin is sweeter and the less sour than an orange. Also, you can peel it much easier.

You can understand when a mandarin is ripe. It’s softer and heavier.

Let mandarins ripe, as they get sweeter. As mandarins ripen, the starch in them is broken down into fructose, making them sweeter.

Prefer to buy fruits in season, as they taste better. Just to know, mandarin grows from autumn to spring.

You can enjoy mandarin as a snack, as it’s easy to peel it. Furthermore, you can put mandarin in salads and desserts.

Clementine characteristics

Clementine is a citrus fruit hybrid. It comes from mandarin orange and sweet orange.

Seems like clementine is a hybrid from Algeria.

It gained popularity in the 19th century. Moreover, it is believed to have gained its name from the garden of the orphanage of Brother Clément Rodier.

Tangerine characteristics

Tangerine is also a hybrid of mandarin orange.

Seems like tangerine started as a mandarin variety that came from the city Tangier in Morocco.

Most noteworthy, tangerines and tangerine hybrids continue to be grown commercially in the US. 

Satsuma characteristics

Satsuma is a mandarin hybrid that comes from China.  

It is believed to be one of the sweetest mandarin varieties. Also, it’s seedless and easy-peeling.

People grow satsuma mandarins in cold areas.

Due to the fact that satsumas love cold, the colder it gets the sweeter they become.

As a disadvantage, satsuma mandarin is a very delicate fruit. It needs extra care during gathering and transportation.

Differences of nutrition value between tangerine and clementine

The USDA-Agricultural Research Service provides nutritional data for mandarin oranges. They provide data for the two most commercial mandarin varieties. The tangerines and clementines.

Just 100 grams of mandarin oranges provide us with:

TangerineClementineDaily Value %
Energy53 kcal47 kcal
Calcium, Ca 37mg30mg3%
Iron, Fe 0.15mg0.14mg2%
Magnesium, Mg 12mg10mg3%
Phosphorus, P 20mg21mg3%
Potassium, K 166mg177mg6%
Vitamin C 26.7mg48.8mg65%
Niacin 376mcg636mcg4%
Vitamin B6 78mcg75mcg5%
Choline, total 10.2mcg14mg6%
Vitamin A, RAE 34mcgNo Data4%
Lutein + zeaxanthin 138mcgNo Data

As you can see:

  • Calories. Both clementine and tangerine mandarins are low in calories. About 85% is water.
  • Sugars. Their calories come mainly from sugars. They are about 10% of sugars.
  • Fibers. As all whole-foods, mandarin oranges contain dietary fibers. Prefer to consume the whole mandarin. Avoid mandarin juice. Whole clementines and tangerines won’t spike blood sugar, due to fiber content. Contrary to mandarin juice.
  • Minerals. Clementine and tangerine contain traces of many minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
  • Vitamin C. Last but not least, clementine and tangerine oranges are rich in vitamin C. As all citrus fruits, they can help you easily consume the Daily Value of vitamin C.

Health Benefits of mandarin, clementine & tangerine

All mandarin varieties, such as clementine, tangerine, or satsuma are a good source of vitamin C. Everyone ones the importance of vitamin C in our health.

Vitamin C and skin health

Vitamin C helps in the production of collagen hydroxylases. Seems like vitamin C has an important role in the maintenance of skin health. We should consume adequate amounts of this powerful vitamin throughout our lifespan.

Additionally, vitamin C regulates the collagen and elastin balance in the skin.

Moreover, vitamin C and vitamin E protect our skin against the harmful UV irradiation. For this reason, you better eat more vitamin C-rich foods during sunny days.

Next time you’ll go to the beach don’t forget to take with you some mandarins…

Many studies have tried to find the mechanism of the prevention of skin aging through vitamin C. Decreased wrinkle depth and high collagen content have been associated with high vitamin C intake.

Furthermore, vitamin C has linked to effective wound and scar healing.

Vitamin C for iron absorption

All mandarin varieties are rich in vitamin C. Studies have shown that vitamin C can significantly increase iron absorption.

Vitamin C and the common cold

Is vitamin C the ultimate weapon against the common cold?

Surely, vitamin C is beneficial. It can reduce the duration of colds. Maybe vitamin C can reduce the severity of symptoms as well.

Above all, vitamin C may be more useful for people exposed to brief periods of severe physical exercise.

As vitamin C supplements are cheap, people prefer them. It’s just the easiest solution…

But is it the best one?

Maybe a better strategy is to consume more vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables before the flu season. Mandarin varieties, such as clementine, satsuma, and tangerine are all rich in vitamin C. Not only they have great health benefits, but they also taste amazing.

Vitamin C for recovery

The health benefits of vitamin C are due to its potent antioxidant properties.

This means that vitamin C can fight effectively harmful free radicals. Free radicals are produced by the normal metabolic function of the body.

After an extreme workout or a demanding race, our bodies are full of free radicals. Vitamin C can put away these damaging free radicals. Hence it protects us against oxidative damage (1).

This mechanism is important when you want fast recovery. Recovery is everything for athletes. The faster you recover, the faster you can train again.

Maybe it’s a good practice to eat many fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C throughout the day.

So, clementines, satsumas, and tangerines are perfect for providing you this extra vitamin C you need.

Also, you can put mandarins in your green smoothie. Prefer them ripe. They are sweeter.

A diet high in antioxidants, such as vitamin C, may help you recover from muscle soreness faster.

Vitamin C and cancer

Most noteworthy, vitamin C can benefit cancer patients due to:

  • increased survival,
  • improved well-being,
  • reduced pain.

How? Because vitamin C has potent anti-inflammatory properties.

Additionally, as vitamin C fights free radicals and oxidation, it can also prevent DNA mutation.

The DNA mutation is a major contributor to the age-related development of cancer. Due to these reasons, vitamin C may be considered as a potential anti-cancer mechanism.

Similarly, vitamin C may also function as a cancer cell killer. It seems like it has a pro-oxidant capacity. 


  1. Effects of Vitamin C on health: a review of evidence