DIY: No-Sugar Added Mandarin Oranges

As far as I’m concerned there is just one good thing about winter in the great white* north: Citrus Season.

Sure, modern conveniences being what they are, we can buy citrus just about any time. And certainly, flown and floated in from exotic locals every month of the year, our decidedly seasonal approach to them — to anything, really — seems almost archaic; especially given that there is no local season whatsoever. But I’m convinced the best quality comes from the nearest possible source and since winter is the citrus season in most of the nearest locales to us, winter is the time I choose to put them by.

And by “them”, I mean “Mandarin Oranges.” Because while I’m sure I could really delve into the preserving of citrus altogether, putting by key limes, and grapefruits, and navel oranges, and meyer lemons by the caseload, there is just one citrusy treat that our family really enjoys with any voracity year round. And by “our family” I mean “The Small Humans” who would be utterly delighted to eat a case of Mandarin Oranges a day should I let them.

I don’t.

But I also realize there could be worse things for them to be hell bent on consuming in mass quantities, and at some point in their lives there probably will be, so while I have their attention and a modicum of control I try to appease their appetites as much as possible. Which is usually to the tune of a couple dozen pounds of oranges per year.

This year, since I’m gettin’ all food-y (not to be confused with foodie) on you anyway, I thought I’d share the process.

Citrus fruits are among the simplest things to preserve, and turn out wonderfully — at least Mandarins do — so I’d highly recommend giving it a try this winter if you’re so inclined. You don’t even need a canner to do small batches, just a large stock pot will do. Anything big enough to hold a few packed mason jars and enough water to cover them.

While this recipe calls for no-sugar added, Mandarins can be packed in a sugar syrup solution, too. And while I’ve written for the canning of pint jars you can preserve citrus in any size jar you’d like. The natural acidity of the fruits make them prime candidates for home preserving in just about any capacity. Just be sure to adjust your amounts for the size jars you intend to use and the number of those jars your canner can hold. Ready?


No-Sugar Added Mandarin Oranges for Canning


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  • 1 pound Mandarin Oranges for Each Pint Desired
  • ½ - ¾ Cup Water for Each Pint Desired
  1. First, get your canner and jars ready. This isn't going to take long, so you want to be prepared to process the jars in short order.
  2. To do this, put your clean, empty jars in your canner, fill and just cover with water, and put on a burner over medium-high heat. Layer your new lids in a pan and just cover with water. Set on a burner, but don't start heating them just yet. Do the same with another stock pot of plain water. You'll use this to cover the oranges when we pack the jars, but you don't need to start heating it just yet.
  3. First, peel your mandarins (or other citrus fruits), paying special attention to removing as much of the white pith as possible. The pith can be bitter and the texture is not good after canning so while you don't have to remove it all perfectly, get rid of as much of it as you can.
  4. Set peeled oranges aside in a large bowl, dividing them into sections as you do. You can can the oranges whole but more sections will fit into each jar if they're divided.
  5. When you're just about done peeling turn your burner under your lids on low and the burner under your pot of water on high.
  6. By this time the jars and water in the canner should be hot. Remove jars from canner and begin packing oranges, pressing them lightly to make sure they're packed tightly and no large air pockets remain.
  7. When your water for covering the oranges begins to boil carefully ladle it over packed oranges, filling jars to generous half inch of headspace.
  8. Remove warmed rings from water, quickly wipe dry with a clean paper towels and set on top of jars, making sure jar rims are also clean and dry. Apply lids to fingertip tight.
  9. Carefully place jars in canner, making sure they're covered by two inches of water. Bring entire setup to a rolling boil and process for 10 minutes. Once done, remove jars and allow to cool completely before checking seal and removing rings. Store in a cool dark place.


*Last year it was hardly white up here, and this year isn’t looking all too much whiter. It’s cold though, so there’s that.

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14 thoughts on “DIY: No-Sugar Added Mandarin Oranges

  1. I always thought these little citrus fruits were just Mandarin oranges … even though I’ve been corrected into calling them Clementines. I look forward to them appearing in the grocery stores every winter. (Like you, it’s one of the few things I like about the season.)

    It never occurred to me to can them, even though the store-bought, canned Mandarin oranges have always been one of my favorite treats. My daughter, especially loved them when she was growing up. Her name is Mandilyn … so, of course, we called them Mandilyn oranges 🙂

    1. They are mandarin oranges. There are different varieties of mandarins. Clementine being one of those varieties.

  2. I’m the founder/moderator for Punk Domestics (, a community site for those of use obsessed with, er, interested in DIY food. It’s sort of like Tastespotting, but specific to the niche. I’d love for you to submit this to the site. (We’re featuring mandarins today.) Also, your canned beans post would be most welcome. Good stuff!

  3. This looks like a winner for my mom’s abundance of tangerines–can you tell me about how much sugar you would add if you wanted to can them in a light syrup?

    1. Hi Brittany, a light syrup would be 2 1/4 cups sugar with 5 1/4 cups water. That mixture should yield about 6 1/2 cups of light syrup. Happy Canning!

  4. How did the oranges turn out? I’ve seen a lot of comments that oranges canned like this end up super bitter!

  5. We eat oranges every single day when clementines are in season. They are on supersale right now at my local Sprouts, so I plan to go and get about 12 pounds (4 bags) then half-pint them into easier serving sizes (I like to make things difficult). I’m not sure yet where I’m going to store them, but I am thinking some new shelves in the hall closet will be in our future, since I’m sure the hot Texas garage is not a good idea.

  6. Just opened my first jar from this winter, and they turned out too sour for our tastes. Next season, I’ll definitely add a little sweetener.

    1. Bummer! You can always add sweetener as you’re eating them, just like many people do by sprinkling sugar over fresh grapefruit. There is so much “hidden” sugar in food, if you don’t specifically seek out no-sugar added foods you’re sure to be consuming a lot of it and it can be quite an adjustment for the taste buds when you stop. Best of luck!

  7. Hi! I just canned seven pints last night! They sure are gorgeous in the jars! Thanks for the recipe, I can’t wait to try them after they’ve sat for a few days. =)

  8. I canned some these over the weekend and have a couple of questions. I canned them in segments and used an extra light syrup. But when we opened a jar to try, they were extremely bitter. What can be done to prevent this? My kids love these and they won’t eat the ones I did because of the bitterness.

    1. Michelle — Did you leave too much pith on them, maybe? The white parts are very bitter, so if you don’t get enough of it off that will affect the taste. As will the ripeness of the fruit; if they are under-ripe they will be more bitter. Beyond that, taste is very subjective. Do you normally buy the syrup type in the store? Those are very sweet and anything less is probably going to taste bitter if that’s what they’re used to. I’ve always bought my kids the no-sugar added types so they don’t mind them without sugar added in the home canned type either, but they’re certainly not sweet.

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