My elementary soccer career was short-lived. As soon as I realized that soccer involved physical contact, I was not so thrilled on continuing to the next year. Although I don't really miss the actual playing of soccer, the halftime orange slices we were given to snack on is another story. Nothing made running around in the sun worthwhile like those individual slices of oranges. But every once in a while, the team parents mixed it up with tangerines. My little mind always wondered what the difference between tangerines vs oranges was, and I'm finally getting around to finding out. 


juice, citrus, tangerine, orange
Amelia Hitchens

The origins of oranges are mostly unknown, but they are thought to have originated in either India or China. They were brought to the Mediterranean by Italian traders around 1450 and were quickly adopted because Europeans valued citrus fruit for their medicinal purposes. The Spaniards later brought the orange to the US and its popularity spread from there. Tangerines (or mandarins) originated in Southeast Asia and North Africa. This duel origin explains their two names. They are called tangerines because of their roots in Tangier, and Mandarins because of their Southeast Asian origins. 

Tangerines vs Oranges

juice, citrus, tangerine, sweet
Robin Chohan

The main difference between tangerines and oranges is their size. Tangerines are much smaller than oranges. In addition, the fruit inside tangerines is much sweeter than that of oranges. Oranges are more acidic because of their larger size, and the skin of oranges is also much thicker and harder to peel. Tangerines usually have a thin, shiny skin that can easily be peeled off. 

How to Spot the Difference

juice, citrus, sweet, tangerine, lemon, grapefruit
Marlee Goldman

If you're at the grocery store and you can't tell the oranges and tangerines apart, go through this mental test. Can you easily fit it in your hand? Does it have a shiny skin? Does the sign under them say tangerine? If you answer yes to all these questions, it's probably a tangerine. 

Tangerines and oranges are both delicious snacks and their differences aren't worth worrying too much about. But knowledge is power, and I can one day tell other kids during their soccer match the difference between their favorite snacks.