With a crunchy, sugary coating on the outside and a soft sweet inside these easy Sugared Cranberries are made from just 3 simple ingredients. A little bit sweet and a little bit tart, they make a beautiful garnish for all of your holiday desserts, cocktails and mocktails, and holiday grazing boards. Bonus: you’ll end up with a lightly flavored cranberry simple syrup too!
Easy Candied Cranberries
Want an easy way to add some holiday cheer to nearly any drink or dessert? These easy sugared cranberries are the way to do it! With just fresh cranberries, granulated sugar, and water you can whip up these candied cranberries and keep them in the fridge for a few weeks, just pulling them out as needed.
While I originally made these as a beautiful garnish for my eggnog creme brulee recipe, I quickly realized that they also make a perfect garnish for many other holiday desserts, drinks, and even cheese platters. I also realized that there are many recipes for sugared cranberries out there that simply coat the cranberries in sugar, leaving you with the texture of a raw cranberry with a sugared coating.
This one is different because you actually soak the cranberries in the simple syrup, which candies the cranberry, leaving it soft with a sweet tart flavor. That extra step is what makes these sugared cranberries perfect for adding to your Christmas grazing boards for snacking too. Although I’ll even admit to snacking on these sweet and tart cranberries straight from the fridge.
As a bonus, in the process of making these cranberries you also make a lightly flavored cranberry simple syrup. In many cases, you can use the sugared cranberries and the cranberry simple syrup in the same dish. Like using the syrup to sweeten a holiday cocktails or cake then using the sugared cranberry as a garnish. It adds double the cranberry flavor and double the festive cheer for your holiday season.
What You’ll Need
You need just 3 ingredients to make these candied sugared cranberries!
- Fresh cranberries – Frozen cranberries will not work, neither will dried cranberries or canned cranberries. You need, whole fresh cranberries that are firm and unbroken.
- White granulated sugar – Sugar will be used to make the simple syrup and to coat the cranberries, giving them their crunchy sugar coating.
- Water – I like cold filtered water, but any drinking water will work.
Recommended Kitchen Tools
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- small saucepan
- measuring cups
- lidded storage container
- mesh strainer or sieve
- large mixing bowl
- rimmed sheet pan
- cooling rack (should fit inside the baking sheet)
How to Make Sugared Cranberries
There are just a few steps to making these sparkling sugared cranberries.
- Make the sugar syrup. In a medium saucepan combine the water and half of the sugar over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add in the cranberries, remove from the flame, and allow to cool for an hour.
- Chill. Transfer the cranberries and syrup to a sealable container and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
- Separate the cranberries from the cranberry syrup. I use a strainer to drain the cranberries, but you can also use a slotted spoon to remove the cranberries from the syrup. Don’t forget to save the syrup for other uses!
- Coat the cranberries with sugar. Combine with the remaining sugar with the sweetened cranberries. Stir gently to coat completely.
- Let the cranberries dry. Transfer cranberries to a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack. Arrange in a single layer and allow to dry, uncovered, in the fridge for an hour, until the sugar coating is crunchy.
- Store sugared cranberries uncovered, in the fridge. Best within 2 weeks.
Tips for Success
If this is your first time making this sugared cranberries recipe, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Use fresh cranberries. Fresh raw cranberries are essential when making candied cranberries. Thawed cranberries hold too much moisture and don’t retain their shape well enough when thawed.
- Remove from heat immediately after adding the cranberries. As soon as the cranberries are stirred into the syrup, be sure to remove it from the flame. If kept on the heat, the cranberries can burst open losing their shape.
- Chill uncovered. For the crunchy outside do not store in an airtight container. The moisture inside the cranberries will cause the sugar coating to soften. Instead the sugared cranberries should be left uncovered as they chill to keep the moisture level low.
With a recipe this simple it’s hard to imagine there are variations, but there are ways to make these sweet treats a little more complex and make this sugared cranberries recipe your own. Here are a few of my favorite suggestions:
- Add fresh herbs – fresh rosemary or thyme can be added to the syrup mixture to infuse more flavor into your cranberries.
- Add citrus flavors – lemon and orange both compliment cranberries very well. When making the syrup step swap in a tablespoons or two of juice for an equal part of the water. You can also blend orange or lemon zest to the sugar before coating the berries.
- Add a hint of warming spices – spices like ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon work really well with cranberries. Combine a tablespoon of one (or a blend of all of them) to the sugar before coating the berries.
- Add a hint of vanilla – Instead of rolling the cranberries in standard granulated sugar, coat them in vanilla sugar. You can scrape the seeds from a vanilla bean into the sugar and mix it in thoroughly or, if you plan in advance, you can let the vanilla bean pod sit in the sugar for a few months to infuse the flavor into the sugar. (I’ll admit, I’ve only ever done it the “quick” way.)
Sugared cranberries are one of my favorite ways to add a little sparkle to your holiday celebrations. One of the first times I made them was as a garnish for my favorite holiday dessert: Eggnog Creme Brulee. It added a perfect little pop of something tart and made me realize just how many ways I can serve these little gems.
You can add them to cheesecake or pumpkin pie, use them as a garnish on a gingerbread cake or decoration for a gingerbread house. Try adding them to a cookie tray or a holiday cheese and charcuterie board for a party snack.
For even more fun, serve these cranberries as a garnish with your favorite seasonal cocktails and mocktails. Use the cranberry syrup to sweeten up your holiday drinks and use the sugared cranberries to garnish.
One of my favorite ways to serve these sugar coated cranberries is a twist on a French 75. In a champagne glass combine 3 ounce champagne, 1 ounce gin, and 1 ounce cranberry simple syrup with a row of cranberries on top.
How to Use Leftover Cranberry Simple Syrup
After you strain the cranberries, you’ll be left with a beautiful, lightly flavored cranberry simple syrup, which is a liquid sugar that is often used as a sweetener in cocktails. It can also be used in non-alcoholic drinks, like teas and mocktails, or desserts like poke cakes.
This cranberry syrup will not only sweeten your drinks but add hint of cranberry flavor as well. It would go well in any type of Christmas punch or holiday cocktail. Simply replace the simple syrup in the recipe with this cranberry version.
How to Store
These sugared cranberries can be stored at room temp, but for the longest shelf life, I store them uncovered in the fridge. The cold dry location helps maintain their crunchy exterior as long as possible. Sugared cranberries last about 2 weeks in the fridge, but they taste the best in the first week.
The cranberry syrup should also be stored in the fridge, but in an airtight container. A mason jar works, but old dressing bottles (properly cleaned of course) work just as well.
One thing to note is that if you don’t plan to use it in the next 3 – 5 days, you should boil it to extend the shelf life. Just bring it to a boil for 2-3 minutes, allow to cool, and transfer to a clean glass container where it will last for 2-3 weeks in the fridge. For extra safe storage, go ahead and sterilize the glass jar in boiling water before adding the syrup to it.
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- 12 ounces cranberries
- 2 cups white sugar, divided
- 1 1/2 cups water
- In a small saucepan combine together the 1 1/2 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar. Heat over medium flame until sugar melts.
- Add 12 oz of cranberries, cover, remove from flame and allow to cool completely, about one hour.
- Transfer cranberries and syrup into a sealable container and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
- Strain the cranberries from the syrup, reserving the syrup separately.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the remaining 1 cup of sugar along with the strained cranberries. Stir gently to coat all of the cranberries with sugar.
- Transfer cranberries to a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack. Arrange in a single layer and allow to dry, uncovered, in the fridge for an hour. Cranberries should be firm with a crunchy sugar coating.
1. These cranberries can be made in advance. They will last a couple weeks in the fridge.
2. In order to maintain their crunchy coating, cranberries should be stored in the fridge uncovered.
3. The leftover syrup is a very light tasting cranberry simple syrup. It can be repurposed for cocktails, cranberry mimosas, homemade sodas, etc. To extend the shelf life I bring it to a boil for 2 - 3 minutes, allow it to cool, then transfer it to a glass jar.
4. The leftover sugar will have a lovely pink shade to it, but it won't take on a noticeable flavor from the cranberries. Allow it to dry completely and repurpose it for decorating holiday cookies or other baked goods.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1/2 oz
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 71Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 1gSugar: 17gProtein: 0g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix and is for general information purposes only. For the most accurate information, calculate using your select brands and exact measurements.
For the step by step version of this recipe, check out the How to Make Sugared Cranberries Story.
Recipes to Serve with Candied Cranberries
- Eggnog Crème Brûlée
- Homemade Cinnamon Twists
- Easy Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust
- Holiday Grazing Board