Large-eddy simulations of temporally evolving turbulent mixing layers have been carried out. The effect of the initial conditions and the size of the computational box on the turbulent statistics and structures is examined in detail. A series of calculations was initialized using two different realizations of a spatially developing turbulent boundary-layer with their free streams moving in opposite directions. Computations initialized with mean flow plus random perturbations with prescribed moments were also conducted. In all cases, the initial transitional stage, from boundary-layer turbulence or random noise to mixing-layer turbulence, was followed by a self-similar period. The self-similar periods, however, differed considerably: the growth rates and turbulence intensities showed differences, and were affected both by the initial condition and by the computational domain size. In all simulations the presence of quasi-two-dimensional spanwise rollers was clear, together with ‘braid’ regions with quasi-streamwise vortices. The development of these structures, however, was different: if strong rollers were formed early (as in the cases initialized by random noise), a well-organized pattern persisted throughout the self-similar period. The presence of boundary layer turbulence, on the other hand, inhibited the growth of the inviscid instability, and delayed the formation of the roller–braid patterns. Increasing the domain size tended to make the flow more three-dimensional.