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How to Make Sugared Cranberries

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Sugared cranberries are an easy and festive holiday treat! Use as a garnish, add to cheese boards, or enjoy the sweet-tart snack as is!

angled view of sugared cranberries piled in a martini glass with a white tile background

Darlings. I’m so excited to share this recipe for sugared cranberries with you! If you’ve never had them before, you’re in for such a treat. This is one of the easiest ways to enjoy fresh cranberries that isn’t cranberry sauce.

What are sugared cranberries?

They’re just that. Fresh cranberries soaked in simple syrup and then tossed in granulated sugar so they sparkle!

The sugar gives the cranberries a lovely frosted look. Their sparkling appearance is probably why the cranberries are so popular. Well, the first reason. We eat with the eyes first, my dears.

The cranberries also have a really fabulous flavor. Because fresh cranberries are so tart, the sugar coating simply balances their flavor. Fresh sugared cranberries are one of my favorite holiday treats.

How can I use them?

They’re loaded with antioxidants… just enjoy!

Kidding, kind of. When I make this recipe, we put out a little bowl and each enjoy a few. The rest typically go into one of the following applications.

First, the cranberries are a beautiful decoration! Just like fresh cranberries can be used as vase filler, so can sugared cranberries. BUT, there’s a caveat.

Fresh cranberries will look lovely for a few days at room temperature. Sugar-coated cranberries don’t have that kind of shelf life. The sugar will start to weep and fall off in 2-3 days. So only place the cranberries in the vase the day of your event.

a few scattered cranberries on a white surface - some coated, some uncoated

Second, use as edible decorations for cakes and cupcakes! Even simply iced desserts look stunning with a few sugared cranberries sprinkled on top. Or just add a few to the serving platter!

Check out my eggnog cake recipe to see these in action. The rosemary trick I used on that cake is pretty nifty too.

Finally, at least as far as how I’ve used them, is on snack boards! We have a cheese and charcuterie or snack board meal at least 2-3 times a month year-round.

If you’ve watched my ultimate cheese board tutorial video you’ll see how these candied cranberries are a perfect fit! They add flavor, texture, and a pop of color to keep things visually interesting. And so, cranberries in some form are a fixture on our cheese boards from Thanksgiving to New Year’s – basically, as long as I can find them in stores.

How to make sugared cranberries

Simplicity is beautiful, darlings, and this recipe is simple! The only thing you need is a bit of time. It’s not a lot of time, but the cranberries need about an hour to dry after their simple syrup bath.

You start by making the simple syrup. Simple syrup is a 1:1 ratio combination of water and granulated sugar. Heat in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar has dissolved.

Plan for 15-20 minutes of cooling time before adding your cranberries. You don’t want to cook the cranberries. They should stay nice and crisp!

fresh cranberries coated in simple syrup on a spoon

Time-saving tip: If you’re really short on time, you can use premade simple syrup.

Soak your cranberries for 10 minutes then transfer them to a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet. Store the simple syrup in the refrigerator and use in lemonade or to sweeten tea, coffee, or cocktails. Let the cranberries dry for 1 hour.

If you want to speed up the process a bit, set a gridded baking sheet over the parchment. Increased air circulation cuts drying time by almost half in my experience.

fresh cranberries on a grid drying rack

Once the cranberries feel tacky and not wet, roll them in sugar and you’re set! In my experience, the standard granulated sugar purchased at the store is perfect. That’s what I use because it’s what I typically have.

For a more rustic look, you can use a more coarse sugar. That looks lovely if you have a “farmhouse Christmas” vibe going. Super-fine ground sugar – not powdered – gives a more frosted look.

A few recipe notes

If you’d like get creative with the flavors, add something to your simple syrup! Make the simple syrup with a few strips of orange or lemon zest to infuse a bit of citrus flavor. Cinnamon sticks also work nicely and the combination is very unexpected and warming.

If you have flavored sugar – like vanilla sugar or maple sugar – you can use it here! The added flavor will be subtle, cranberries are pretty potent, but it’s noticeable.

Store the cranberries in an airtight container lined with a piece of paper towel for 4-5 days in the refrigerator. If the sugar starts to fall off, give the cranberries another quick toss in fresh sugar and they’ll be good as new!

top view of the sugared cranberries in a glass on a white table

I hope you love this recipe, darlings! I can’t wait to see how you use the cranberries in your holiday spreads!

angled view of sugared cranberries piled in a martini glass with a white tile background

Sugared Cranberries

Yield: 3 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Drying Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Sugared cranberries are an easy and festive holiday treat! Use as a garnish, add to cheese boards, or enjoy the sweet-tart snack as is!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups fresh cranberries, washed and dried
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar, divided

Instructions

  1. Combine the water and 1 cup of the granulated sugar in a medium saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and set aside 10-15 minutes to cool (see notes).
  2. Soak the cranberries in the mostly-cool simple syrup for 10 minutes. While the cranberries are soaking, place a gridded wire cooling rack over a piece of parchment paper or baking sheet (see notes).
  3. Strain the simple syrup into a container and place your cranberries on your prepared drying surface. Cover the simple syrup and refrigerate for another use.
  4. Allow the cranberries to dry for 30-60 minutes until they are tacky and no longer wet.
  5. Place the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a shallow bowl.
  6. Working in batches, roll the cranberries in the sugar until well coated. Try one or two and congratulate yourself on being a culinary genius.
  7. Store your sugared cranberries in a paper-towel-lined airtight container in the refrigerator. They'll stay fresh for up to 3 days. After that, the sugar might start to fall off. Give the cranberries a quick toss with some additional sugar to re-coat. Enjoy within a week!

Notes

  • The simple syrup doesn't have to be room temperature to add your cranberries, but you don't want it to be so hot it starts to cook your cranberries. As an alternative, you can use store-bought simple syrup. You just need enough to cover the cranberries and make sure they absorb just enough syrup to dry to a tacky state. That way, the sugar will stick!
  • If you don't have a gridded cooling rack, and your regular cooling racks are too wide for the cranberries, just dry them on parchment. It might take a few minutes longer, but it's not a big deal.
  • This recipe makes quite a bit! If you don't want to make as many, scale to fit your needs! You need half the amount of simple syrup for 2 cups of cranberries or less.

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