Cranberry recipes for Thanksgiving have long been a tradition in most American households. Despite that fact, many dishes of cranberries continue to sit on the table untouched when the holiday dinner ends.
Rather than just putting out a can of cranberries this year, make them into a special dish your family will love. From traditional cranberries to unique new renditions, there are many ways to make this dish the new Thanksgiving favorite.
Why Cranberries on Thanksgiving?
Americans eat cranberries on Thanksgiving because it has been a tradition for centuries even before settlers arrived on the continent. Besides grapes and blueberries, cranberries are the only fruit that is native to North America and is able to survive some of the harsh winter conditions on the continent.
While it can’t be said for sure that Native Americans brought cranberries to the first Thanksgiving, cranberries were regularly eaten by most of the tribes. In the modern day, they are known as a symbol of the harvest, which is what Thanksgiving is celebrating.
25 Best Cranberry Recipes for Thanksgiving
1. Lower Sugar Cranberry Sauce
Traditional cranberry sauce in a can has a lot of sugar. Even if you may your own version, you are likely going to add quite a bit of sugar to make it sweet. Cut back on your sugar consumption by making this lower sugar variation from Lively Table instead.
2. Cranberry Orange Moscow Mule
For those who would rather not waste cranberries that no one in your family will eat, consider keeping with tradition by having cranberries in a drink instead. A tasty Cranberry Orange Moscow Mule recipe is easy to make and even easier to drink.
3. Detox Cranberry Smoothie
If you are serving your Thanksgiving dinner as a brunch, then this cranberry smoothie recipe from Nutrition in the Kitch is a must. Made from frozen cranberries, pears, hemp seeds, collagen, ginger, cinnamon, orange juice, and almond milk, this smoothie will give you all the energy you need to get Thanksgiving dinner on the table.
4. Cranberry Roasted Turkey Legs
For smaller families that perhaps don’t want to bake a full turkey, make these cranberry-roasted turkey legs from Life Family Fun. You’ll cook the turkey legs with the cranberries and some oranges to result in sweet and tangy meat that falls right off the bone.
5. Easy Cranberry Brie Crostini
Cranberry sauce doesn’t just go on turkey. When you’ve made too much, use the extra to make these cranberry brie crostinis from Lively Table. They’re sweet, salty, and savory all at once and you’ll definitely want to eat more than one.
6. Cranberry Salad
Fans of Pistachio salad will adore this variation from The Cagle Diaries which is made with cranberries. It’s so good that your kids, who swear they hate cranberries, will love it as well. Beware, that this “salad” is mostly sugar and should probably be served for dessert.
7. Cranberry Daiquiri
Making this cranberry daiquiri is another way to enjoy a delicious serving of cranberries without needing to serve them with the turkey. Simply heat water and sugar with mint, then mix with rum and juice, refrigerate, and serve.
8. Warm Pesto Cranberry and Potato Salad
You are probably already making a potato salad to serve at your holiday feast, so why not add some cranberries to it to make it more festive? Just follow this recipe from Nutrition in the Kitch to enjoy this modern version of a traditional dish.
9. Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Bread
Cranberry orange oatmeal bread can be served as an appetizer, with coffee, or even as a less sweet dessert. Find the recipe on Lively Table and follow the directions to make your own delicious loaf for Thanksgiving.
10. Hot Cranberry Apple Cider
When you’ve already made your cranberry sauce but find yourself with cranberries left over, make them into cider following this instant pot recipe from The Endless Meal. It’s quick, easy, and fun to serve as an after-dinner drink.
11. White Bean Cranberry Hummus
Turn your cranberries into an appetizer with this white bean cranberry hummus recipe that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. It just takes 10 minute to prepare and is the perfect holiday appetizer to set out with veggies while the turkey cooks.
12. Cranberry Lemon Loaf Pound Cake
Whether you need something to serve your guests while they wait for the turkey, or want a healthier dessert for after the meal, this cranberry lemon loaf pound cake from Nutrition in the Kitch is a must. It’s made in a crock pot and is both dairy-free and gluten-free, so it can be eaten on any diet.
13. Shortbread Cranberry Cookies
Cranberries are versatile enough that they can even be served as dessert. Follow this recipe to make some delicious cranberry shortbread cookies your family will devour this coming holiday season.
14. White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies
Made from scratch, these white chocolate cranberry cookies from Lively Table are one of the best cranberry recipes for thanksgiving. All you have to do is mix the ingredients, allow the dough to rest, scoop them onto a tray, bake, and serve.
15. Canned Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry sauce is so easy to make, you may find yourself with tons left over. Follow the canning techniques outlined by Wholefully to create canned cranberry sauce your family can enjoy year-round.
16. Sugared Cranberries
Lovers of simplicity should make this recipe from A Nerd Cooks. It only requires sugar, cranberries, water, and about 10 minutes of your time and you will have an addicting snack that is also a beautiful holiday centerpiece.
17. Cranberry Whiskey Smash
After the Thanksgiving feast is over, make a round of these cranberry whiskey smashes to allow all the adults to unwind and digest. They require only 5 minutes of preparation and use the same ingredients you have on hand to make a traditional cranberry sauce.
18. White Chocolate Cranberry Bliss Balls
White chocolate and cranberry go together and this recipe from Lively Table proves it. While these sweet balls can be served as a dessert for the holidays, we also find them as a tasty snack to take on the go.
19. Cranberry Whipped Cream
Cranberries go surprisingly well with pumpkin pie, which is why you should make this cranberry whipped cream by Butter and Bliss. You just need cranberries, heavy cream, powdered sugar, vanilla, gelatin, and some lemon juice.
20. Cranberry Apple Salad
There is always space for a green salad on the Thanksgiving table. Try this recipe from On My Kid’s Plate to make a cranberry apple salad that will complement everything else that you are serving.
21. Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Cookies
If you’d rather skip the hassle of pie this year, these cranberry pistachio shortbread cookies from Lively Table are a must. While they do take over an hour and a half to make, you can easily scale the recipe to make your time worth it.
22. Apple and Cranberry Pie
While cranberries aren’t that nice to have in a pie all on their own, they go well with apples and can be used to make this tasty pie from Noshing with the Nolands. With only 7 ingredients total, this is the easiest pie-from-scratch recipe you will find all season.
23. Healthy Pumpkin Balls with Pecans and Cranberries
Other than cranberries, pumpkin and pecans are two other favorite holiday foods. Mix them all together in this tasty snack from Lively Table that can be served as you cook or as an after-dinner dessert.
24. Dried Cranberry Sauce
Don’t panic if you can’t find fresh cranberries, as there is a variation of the traditional sauce that can be made with dry ones. Grab this recipe from The Cagle Diaries to make a dried cranberry sauce that is so good your guests won’t even know the difference.
25. Toasted Cranberry Brie Turkey Sandwich
One of the best parts of Thanksgiving is getting to enjoy all the leftovers. Grab the leftover turkey and cranberries from the fridge and add it to bread with some brie cheese to make this recipe from Lively Table.
How to Make Traditional Cranberry Sauce for Thanksgiving
- Fresh cranberries
- Pomegranate juice (or orange juice works as well)
Step 1: Heat Juice
In a saucepan over medium heat, pour the juice. Add in the sugar and stir until it is dissolved.
Step 2: Add Cranberries
Add the fresh cranberries and stir for about 10 minutes.
Step 3: Remove from the Heat
Once the berries begin to pop, remove the pan from the heat. Pour the sauce into a bowl and allow it to cool before serving.
Tips for Making Cranberry Recipes for Thanksgiving
- Add spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice to increase the flavor of the sauce.
- Consider adding pears or apples to make a mixed cranberry jam.
- For a thicker sauce, you can cook it a little longer than 10 minutes, but the sauce will thicken as it stands as well.
- White or brown sugar can be used interchangeably, and the sugar content can be reduced to make a tangier sauce
Cranberry Recipes for Thanksgiving FAQ
Are Raw Cranberries Safe to Eat?
Raw cranberries are safe to eat, but many people choose not to because of how bitter and sharp cranberries are when they are raw. If you eat too many raw cranberries in one sitting, however, you could get an upset stomach.
Why is Cranberry Good with Turkey?
Cranberry is good with turkey because it adds taste and texture. Turkey is a neutral meat that doesn’t have a strong flavor. It can also be a bit dry when served on its own. Cranberry sauce adds both flavor and much-needed moisture to turkey meat.
How Do You Store Cranberry Recipes?
Cranberry recipes are best stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Because they are made of fruit, unless they are canned and preserved, they should be consumed within 5 days of when they were made.
Whether you want to keep with tradition or serve something that compliments your turkey, cranberry recipes for Thanksgiving are always a good idea to have on your holiday menu. Pick a newer recipe, or perhaps stick with the traditional one, and either way, you will enjoy your cranberries. Don’t forget to store any leftovers in a container in the fridge for consumption with your leftover turkey.
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