7 Recipes That Prove Cranberries are the Real MVP of Thanksgiving

Cranberry Brie Pastry Tarts

Half Baked Harvest

Cranberries are a superfood and have a number of health benefits, but on Thanksgiving day, they play second string to the real stars like mashed potatoes, turkey, and pie. To be honest, until recently, I didn’t have much culinary use for the little red fruit. I’d buy a can, scoop the gelatinous contents into a bowl and half-heartedly add it to the holiday spread. I did it mostly out of tradition, not because I loved the dish itself. 

Then, last year, I was introduced to this life-changing cranberry sauce, made with fresh cranberries, orange zest, and port wine. It’s bursting with flavor, only takes 30 minutes to pull together, and can be made as far as two weeks in advance. I’ve also, somewhat jokingly, been told I won’t be welcomed back to Friendsgiving without it. Don’t believe it’s that good? Since it was first shared back in 2002, the recipe has been reviewed by more than 2,000 people and maintains a five-star rating. 

That recipe opened my eyes to other possibilities and I discovered that cranberries are rather versatile (some people even put them in their gravy!). Make the most of this under-dog ingredient with time-tested, crowd-pleasing recipes, and you're sure to win some bragging rights.

01 of 07

Cranberry Sauce (With a Secret Ingredient)

I know I just finished convincing you to try the port-based cranberry sauce, but I wanted to include this recipe as well because not everyone has port wine on hand (I only buy it once a year for the sauce). This version, from the blog Sally’s Baking Addiction, also calls for whole cranberries and orange zest, but in place of the port, uses orange juice, brown sugar, and—the now-not-so-secret ingredient—vanilla extract. It’s a hit on its own, but you can also try it with blueberries, ginger or cinnamon.

02 of 07

Cranberry Salsa

My family rarely eats breakfast on the big day because we want to save room, not just for the main event, but also for the cheeseboard and array of dips that proceed it. This year, I plan to make this keto-friendly cranberry salsa by Brilliantly Keto that combines jalapeno, lime, green onions, cilantro, and cumin. It can be served over cream cheese, stuffed inside meat or—as the author points out—eaten with a spoon. It’s that good.

03 of 07

Cranberry Pecan Goat Cheese Sweet Potato Bites

These bite-sized morsels from the Recipe Runner are perfect for tiding guests over as you wait for the turkey to come out of the oven. Plus, they’re gluten-free, which makes them a tasty option for anyone with dietary restrictions. 

04 of 07

Cranberry Margaritas

You know what all those appetizers go well with? Margaritas. Specifically cranberry margaritas. Thanks to Gimme Some Oven, this cocktail is my go-to for holiday soirees and I often get asked to share the recipe. Just this morning, a friend texted me to say, “Time to dust off that cranberry marg recipe.” It's that memorable!

Make a big batch and serve it in a punch bowl with a few lime slices and fresh cranberries bobbing on the surface.

05 of 07

Honey Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Feta

This side dish is a refreshingly simple—and healthy—addition to any smorgasbord. Balance out the sweetness of the honey and butternut squash with the tarty taste of fresh cranberries. If you want to embrace your sweet tooth, opt for dried cranberries instead. 

06 of 07

Roasted Apple Cranberry Stuffing

What I love about this stuffing is that you really get a lot of bang for your buck. It hails from the archive of Budget Bytes, a blog that breaks down the cost of each ingredient, line by line. This flavorful dish will cost you a whopping $5.86. 

07 of 07

Cranberry Blueberry Pie

I love the idea of introducing a pie flavor that people may never have tried before, like this cranberry blueberry pie from Completely Delicious. Who knows? It might even become a new favorite. There’s also this version with a snickerdoodle crust and a no-bake cranberry cheesecake because, on Thanksgiving, there’s no such thing as too many desserts.

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  1. Zhao S, Liu H, Gu L. American cranberries and health benefits - an evolving story of 25 years [published online ahead of print, 2018 Jan 9]. J Sci Food Agric. 2018;10.1002/jsfa.8882. doi:10.1002/jsfa.8882

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