How To Dry And Use Mandarin Orange Peels

I’ll happily throw all my locavore principles under a bus to get at a box of mandarin oranges. Maybe it’s nostalgia. Growing up, Christmas-time meant a box printed with exotic looking Chinese characters, and filled with loose-skinned, paper-wrapped oranges that were sweeter and juicier than any occidental citrus could be.
So when mandarin season rolls around, I can’t say no. We brought a 5-pound box into the house yesterday and have less than a pound left now. Obviously, I’m not the only one who likes these little oranges.
How To Dry and Use Mandarin Orange Peels
All that mandarin eating adds up to a lot of peels. Luckily, you can do a lot with the peels to get some extra milage from your purchase. As you would expect, pesticide, herbicide and fungicide residues are highest on the peel of oranges, so try to go organic and wash your fruit.

To keep enjoying that mandarin flavor for months, I dry the peels. Peel off any stickers, scrape away any excess white pith from the peel – with thin-skinned mandarins I don’t bother – and lay the peels in a single layer on a cooling rack. Let them dry for several days. If you live someplace extra humid (ahem, Seattle) you can throw the peels into a dehydrator or toss them into a very low oven. When the peels are shatteringly crisp, they’re done!

Mandarin peels dry in a few days

Once dry, the peels can be kept in hunks or ground. Grind batches of dried peels in a food processor – I can’t imagine any other way to get the job done – and be prepared for a bit of noise. Larger pieces can be added directly to braises, soups or broths, or dropped into the cooking liquid for rice, beans or other grains. Used judiciously they add a nice background flavor without overpowering.

Add orange peel and broth to subtly flavor rice.

Orange pairs well with many herbs. Rosemary is a fantastic flavor-companion, and any cooking situation in which you’d add rosemary you can probably throw a little dried mandarin peel in as well.

Orange-rosemary braised lamb shanks are fantastic in the dark days of winter, a loaf of whole wheat rosemary-orange no-knead bread would be killer, or whip up an orange-rosemary spice rub to enhance just about anything – game, poultry, pork, mushrooms, sweet potatoes or squash would all be excellent flavored this way.


Boar Tenderloin with Rosemary-Mandarin Orange Spice Rub
In the pan
On the plate
Want more proof as to the versatility of a good mandarin spice rub? No problem:
Sockeye Salmon with Rosemary-Mandarin Orange Spice Rub
When you add fish to a hot pan, press gently to ensure the entire surface of the fish gets nicely caramelized.
Flip once (only once!) and finish cooking skin-side down.
Served here with chanterelles, cooked in the same pan and also seasoned with Rosemary-Mandarin Orange Spice Rub.
Fennel is another good match for orange, and a fennel-mandarin rub would give you a fantastic flavoring for white fish, tuna, shellfish, salmon, pork, chicken or pretty much anything involving tomatoes. Seafood stew with tomato, fennel and orange? Oh, be still my beating heart.
Rosemary-Mandarin Orange Spice Rub (Psst…in a cute jar, this would make a great Christmas gift!)

This is just like the rosemary salt from back in March, but with mandarin peel. To make a fennel rub, just substitute 1/4 cup sweet fennel seeds for the rosemary. Chefs are into iteration. We love adaptable!

  • 2, 5″ long sprigs fresh or dried rosemary, stripped from the stem
  • 3-4 large pieces dried mandarin orange peel
  • 1/4 cup kosher or coarse sea salt (it will be fine ground by the time you are through with it)
  • 1-2 tbsp. whole black peppercorns, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a mini-food processor, Cuisinart, etc. I use the chopper attachment to my stick blender. Blend until the orange peel, rosemary and peppercorns are chopped into itty bitty pieces.
Just throw it all in there. It’ll be fine.
Still way too chunky, but maybe nice for a potpourri?
Perfect! Use for sprinkling on anything that needs fantastic flavor.
If you want to go sweet instead of savory, ground peel can be added to baked goods like cakesbiscotti or orange cheesecake. If a recipe calls for fresh peel, just use 1/4 – 1/2 the quantity of dried peel, depending on how orangey you like things.
As long as you’re making biscotti, you might as well drop a piece of peel into your favorite tea – now you’ve got the orange version. A cup of Mandarin Earl Grey and a chocolate mandarin biscotti? If you can get the kids to leave you alone for ten minutes, that’s a mini vacation in a cup and on a saucer.
If you get your hands on some of those thicker-skinned mandarins instead of the ultra-thin skinned varieties that seem more common now, and if you’re feeling really festive, you could candy the peels instead of drying them. If you do that, you’re just a few steps away from a totally homemade fruitcake!

Endless options – what do you do with your citrus peels?


  1. says

    oh you clever woman! What a good way to reduce food waste!

    like you, we always had mandarins at Christmas time… it's taken some of that beauty away though having them available year round now. That being said, i'll only have one when i go home for christmas. yay christmas!

  2. Anonymous says

    Who knew you could do all those interesting things with the peels. My uses for citrus peels in general seem boring, but here it is:

    1. Compost.
    2. Put a bunch down the garbage disposal and run it to freshen it up.
    3. Cut the bigger pieces with a cookie cutter, add a hole, dehydrate, add string, you have an ornament. Optionally punch more holes and add cloves before drying.

    I love it when everything can be used and there is little or no waste.

    brenda from arkansas

  3. says

    We also love mandarins, and had used the peels to make a cleaner… just soaked them in vinegar until the essential oils are released! The recipe was for lemon peel, but we had so many mandarins & they smelled so nice!

  4. Pamina says

    Yeah! Our tree is loaded with ripening manderins right now. Looking forward to trying this as I also hate to waste anything.

  5. says

    I hadn't thought of saving the peels! I also run them through the garbage disposal to make it smell nice, but I am eating so many of them lately that I have too many for that purpose!

    In a similar vein, I recently saw a recipe for mandarin orange dust. You veeeeeeeery thinly slice whole mandarin oranges, then dehydrate them in the oven on low, and then grind them to powder! I will have to try both methods and compare. I bet the powdered peel would add a heck of a flavor punch of mandarin orange curd! (Throw in a vanilla bean and then you have Dreamsicle curd!)

  6. says

    Oh, I am right there with you with the Satsumas! So good and the peels are just as yummy. I ended up making candy with our saved peels, but I really love your suggestion!

  7. Cindy says

    I had no idea!! thank you Erica, I will refer to this post in the near future, when my old mandarine tree is bowing at the branches. I have to date, only used them as a fire starter….works a charm ever time. Ok, so today I’ve realised that I pay way too much for my local brew at home coffee! but I’ve found (thanks to you!) that my mandarine tree (aka: the giving tree) has so much more to offer. Thank you, I love your blog. and I’m planning to plant some coffee soon

  8. says

    Wow, thanks for sharing this. I live near the coast and the humidity is way high. My peels always end up getting lot of black fungus like thing and I end up throwing most of it away. Now that you tell me I can put it in the oven I am super thrilled.This way I can get instant peel ready.
    I tried air drying them all these years!!

  9. greg says

    I have saved peals in ziplock bags in my freazer to add to stews and braises not sure why i never thought to just dry them and save space in my already crowded jenga freezer. Thanks

  10. Erin M says

    Hi Erica…good to have you back!!!
    I made this rub last Christmas. We LOVE it. I would cut back on the salt a little bit, but that is the cool thing about this recipe. You can play with it.
    Thank you.

  11. TheTunaFairy says

    I dice my peels before I dry them (in a dehydrator, due to other issues here) so I have easy sizes to store and use. The diced pieces go into a coffee grinder easily to make into citrus powder as needed. I have a coffee grinder just for herbs etc, I dislike coffee and would not want to get the flavor in my herbs, YMMV :D

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