Tangerines and mandarins are similar fruits, and often mistaken for the same thing. They both are part of the orange family; however, a tangerine actually is a subgroup of the mandarin. Both fruits are relatively small, round and a shade of orange in color.


All tangerines are considered mandarins and the tangerine is the most common type of mandarin orange available. Mandarin oranges, including tangerines, are relatively easy to peel and have very thin rinds. Most mandarins also have seeds, although this varies depending on where the oranges grew. Some varieties of mandarins have many seeds, while others are virtually seedless.


One main difference between a tangerine and mandarin is the color of the skin. A mandarin is a lighter color of orange, while a tangerine is darker and may look reddish-orange. Other differences lie in their origins, taste and size. Most people do have a difficult time telling these two varieties of oranges apart, however.


Like oranges, tangerines (Citrus reticulata) are a citrus fruit, although they are smaller in size. Tangerines are winter fruits, and are harvested normally from November through January. They originated in Europe and have been passed to the western world. They are known to have a tart flavor, although some varieties, such as the Sunburst tangerine, are much sweeter. Tangerines usually are eaten plain, as a snack, or juiced and added to drinks.


Mandarins are a Chinese fruit originating in Southeast Asia. They are known for their sweet taste and the ease in removing their peels. Mandarin oranges also are well known for being available year round, sold in cans. Like the tangerine, they also are member of the Citrus reticulata family. Mandarins can be eaten plain or added to fruit salads, but rarely are juiced.