You can get dried cranberries all year long, but there are only a few precious months when bags of fresh cranberries appear in produce aisles. I can take or leave dried cranberries, but I can’t get enough of the fresh ones. There’s something magical in the way they pop and transform into a glossy, jammy, garnet-red mass when you boil them with sugar.
And then there’s the flavor. Cranberries have a bite, a tartness with a pinch of a tannic finish. They excel in salads, relishes, drinks, and sauces.
Luckily they’re super easy to freeze. Just throw the whole bag in the freezer as-is: a great reason to stock up on fresh cranberries when they’re around so you can extend their season for months to come.
Focaccia With Cranberries, Caramelized Onions, and Brie
Our editor Emma Christensen’s dad (who once ran a bakery) showed up at a family holiday dinner with a warm loaf of this focaccia. It’s a combo that’s easy to devour—salty and creamy brie, crunchy walnuts, tart cranberries, and savory-sweet caramelized onions. Watch out: this is an appetizer that will work its way to the main event.
Cranberry Orange Scones
Break away from dried cranberries in scones for something enticingly tart and fruity. Orange zest complements the cranberries’ flavor, and the scones themselves are tender, with an appealing exterior crust.
Cranberry Upside-Down Cake
This cake, a longtime reader favorite, is a refreshing change from pumpkin-based Thanksgiving desserts, but it’s lovely all fall and winter long. A brown sugar and butter topping goes in the bottom of the pan and mingles in the oven with cranberries and their juices to form that striking surface.
Cranberry Glazed Meatballs
You know those crockpot appetizer meatballs that are cooked in grape jelly and chili sauce? This is a fancied-up version with a glaze of cooked fresh cranberries lending a sweet and sour vibe to moist turkey meatballs.
Serve this striking sorbet at the end of a heavy meal for a memorable finale.
Cranberry Orange Nut Bread
I’m not quite a fruitcake person, but I adore this fruitcake-adjacent bread. It’s got orange zest, orange juice, chopped nuts, and fresh cranberries that make pretty pockets in the bread. When I make this, I double the cranberries to make it extra fruitcake-like.
Throw a handful of fresh cranberries in a pot of simmering applesauce and here’s what you get. Isn’t it pretty? For all the jokes about pork chops and applesauce, this makes an excellent accompaniment to a big, juicy, simply prepared pork chop.
Cranberry Walnut Baked Brie
If you wind up with extra cranberry sauce after Thanksgiving, freeze some so you can use it to make this crowd-pleasing appetizer for a holiday party. The recipe includes a sauce from scratch, just in case.
Aren’t these gorgeous? Brandied cranberries are like a cranberry sauce that you cook long enough to candy the cranberries. Try them as a topping for ham, or on a cheese board.
Pear and Cranberry Galette
I’ve made galettes with nothing but cranberries, and even for me as a cranberry fanatic the filling is a bit much. But mix them with pears and it’s a match made in heaven.
Cranberry Tangerine Shrub
For a complex N/A drink, make this tangy shrub, which is a concentrated, vinegar-laced syrup infused with cranberries. To serve, dilute with sparkling water or anything you like.
Gingersnap Pavlova With Cranberry Sauce
Pavlova is all about the contrast between the hyper-sweet, airy meringue and the fruity sauce. Traditionally raspberries star in the sauce for pavlova, but swapping in cranberries brings it to a whole new level.
Chocolate Cranberry Muffins
So many cookies and muffins embrace dried cranberries, but try these rich chocolate muffins that lean on fresh cranberries for what’s almost a photo negative of blueberry muffins.
Unlike cranberry sauce, which is cooked, cranberry relish tends to be made from raw cranberries that are ground or processed with aromatics and a little sugar. It keeps for about two weeks and only gets better as it sits, so if you’re planning for Thanksgiving this one’s worth making ahead.
Cranberry salsa is a lot like the relish above, but this one has heat to it from a fresh jalapeño. A big dollop is an intriguing addition to a bowl of turkey soup.
Leftover Turkey Tacos With Cranberry Salsa
Leftover turkey sandwiches are well and good, but here’s a quick lunch or dinner idea to put a new spin on the leftover turkey scene. Since turkey leftovers are often bland, the lively cranberry salsa lends a big boost.
Apple Cranberry Currant Crumble Pie
What a mouthful to say! Apple cranberry currant crumble pie is also a delightful mouthful to eat. Fresh cranberries and dried currants dot the filling of what’s otherwise essentially a Dutch apple pie.
Cranberry sauce is about the easiest thing you can make for Thanksgiving. A handful of ingredients and a quick simmer on the stove result in a sauce so alluring you can eat it straight from a spoon (well, if you’re me). The sauce set up as it cools, so make it ahead of the big meal.