How To Make Sugared Cranberries – This easy candied cranberries recipe adds a beautiful finish to so many holiday treats, sweets, and drinks! Don’t miss all our ideas for using them below!
It’s cranberry season!
I wait all year for fresh cranberries to pop up in grocery stores and it’s always such a rush when I can finally find them! While we always make a batch of cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving and bake at least 1-2 batches of muffins, quick bread, or cake, I’m always looking for more ways to use up these pretty little jewels.
So, what do you do with leftover cranberries? My first thought is always sugared cranberries. It turns these humble berries into sugar-coated gems that dress up just about anything, especially around the holidays!
Candied cranberries are a delightful way to add a little sparkle to all kinds of holiday desserts, dishes, and drinks. They’re a great garnish for decorating cakes, finishing mocktails, and adding a fun flourish to all sorts of sweets! You only need 3 ingredients (and no special skills!) to make them. Seriously.
Here’s what you need to make a batch of sugared cranberries…
This Easy Sugared Cranberries Recipe, At A Glance:
Here’s What You Need To Make Sugar-Coated Cranberries
It’s amazing just how gorgeous this cranberry recipe is with such simple ingredients! You just need:
- Fresh Cranberries. Only fresh cranberries will work for sugar coated cranberries! Frozen cranberries and dried cranberries will melt the sugar and turn mushy.
- Sugar. You’ll use some for the simple syrup and some white sugar for rolling. We use regular granulated sugar or cane sugar.
- Water. To help you make the simple syrup. This helps the sugar stick later!
- A Wire Rack + Baking Sheet. The trick for the best sugared cranberries! Letting the cranberries set and dry on a wire rack allows the air to circulate all the way around the candied cranberries so they dry evenly and thoroughly. A cookie sheet/baking sheet below catches spills for easy clean-up!
How To Make Sugared Cranberries, Step By Step:
- Wash & Dry The Cranberries. Sort through the cranberries and discard any wrinkled, bruised, or spoiled cranberries. Wash the rest of the cranberries in a colander and let them dry on a clean kitchen towel.
- Prep Your Pan. Place a wire cooling rack over a cookie sheet. This will allow the cranberries to dry and set with good air circulation, and the sheet pan will catch all the drips and spills! (If you want even easier clean-up, you can line the sheet pan with parchment paper.)
- Make The Simple Syrup. In a small or medium saucepan, combine sugar and water. Heat and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves completely. (No need to boil or simmer.) Cool to room temperature.
- Coat The Cranberries. Working in batches, add the cranberries to the sugar syrup and stir to coat well with the simple syrup mixture. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the coated cranberries to your prepared wire rack. Repeat until all cranberries are coated in the syrup. (You can save the rest of the syrup to use for mocktails, cocktails, or more cranberries another day!)
- Dry Until Tacky. Let the cranberries dry in a single layer on the cooling rack for at least 15-20 minutes. You want them tacky/sticky but not wet, or the sugar will just dissolve.
- Roll In Sugar. Place the rest of the sugar in a bowl and, working in batches, roll the cranberries in sugar. You can do this with a slotted spoon, a fork, or clean hands (the easiest). Transfer sugar covered cranberries back to the cooling rack to dry & repeat with all the remaining cranberries until they all have a sugar coating.
- Serve Or Store. Add to drinks, cakes, dessert plates and more, or store at room temperature up to 1 week. I recommend storing uncovered or lightly covered with some air circulation, rather than packaging them tightly in an airtight container.
Variations To Try:
- Vanilla. Use vanilla sugar for an extra sweet effect. (This is a great way to use up a vanilla bean pod, when you use the seeds for another recipe!)
- Orange. Add a little bit of orange zest or a strip of orange peel to the simple syrup to infuse it with orange. (Try to avoid the bitter white pith & just use the orange zest/peel) Let the mixture steep a bit before you strain it and add the cranberries.
- Rosemary. Or add a sprig of rosemary to the simple syrup! This is especially nice with savory serving options (like brie or charcuterie)
- Mint. Use leftover mint simple syrup to make sugared cranberries for a light, frosty taste.
Pretty Ways To Use Candied Cranberries:
Sugared cranberries are such a gorgeous garnish for all kinds of tasty treats on your holiday table, but some of our favorite ways to use them are:
- Drinks. Let the cranberries float in the drink (the sugar will add sweetness), or add a few to a cocktail pick or toothpick and tuck in as a beautiful garnish. We love them with our Citrus Orange Mocktails & Cranberry Lime Mocktails, but they’re great for your favorite holiday cocktails, too!
- Cakes Or Cupcakes. These sparkly little gems look so lovely as a border around a layer cake, sprinkled over dollops of whipped cream or swirls of frosting, or tucked onto cupcakes. Add a little sprig of rosemary, chocolate curls, cinnamon sticks, or some dried orange slices to complete the look!
- Cheesecake. Dress up a festive cheesecake with a tidy rim or generous pile of sugar cranberries. Pumpkin, pecan, New York-style, and white chocolate cheesecakes work nicely!
- Pies. Dollop slices of pie with whipped cream and sprinkle with a few candied cranberries. Add a pie crust cutout or a small sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg to complete the look.
- Orange Cranberry Cake. Add a few sugar-covered cranberries to the top of a cooled loaf of orange cranberry cake for a perfect garnish.
- A Charcuterie Board. A perfect addition and gorgeous pop of color to a holiday cheese board! Tuck them in between meats, cheeses, crackers, fruits, nuts, and veg. Plus, the sweetness and tartness are a lovely pair next to other cheese board faves.
- A Dessert Tray. Use as a filler around other desserts on a dessert tray. They look beautiful next to slices of cake, squares of brownies or blondies, and more.
- Appetizers. Add a pretty finish to lots of appetizer recipes, like baked brie, cranberry salsa, or a cheese ball. Even holiday cranberry sauce looks great garnished with sugar-covered cranberries!
- Cookie Plate. Scatter a few sparkling cranberries or gather some in a little dish or muffin cup to fill in the gaps in a holiday cookie box or cookie plate. It’s an easy way to add a little color!
PRO TIP: What Goes Well With Cranberries?
Cranberries are a classic pairing with fall and winter flavors, like pumpkin, sweet potato, ginger, spice cake, cinnamon, walnuts, pecans, dark chocolate, white chocolate, orange, lemon, lime, and gingerbread. These are great starting ideas for what goes well with cranberries! Use these flavors together in savory or sweet applications–drinks, appetizers, cakes, desserts, snacking, and more!
FAQ + Tips And Tricks For The BEst Sugared Cranberries
What’s The Best Way To Store Sugared Cranberries? They keep best uncovered or lightly covered at room temperature. This allows for air circulation and helps keep them dry.
How Long Do Sugared Cranberries Last? As a general rule, sugared cranberries will keep for about 1 week at room temperature. (Depending on how fresh your cranberries are and how humid your climate, they may start to wilt a bit after 4-5 days.)
Can You Use Frozen Cranberries For Sugared Cranberries? Sadly, no. When frozen cranberries thaw, they release too much liquid and turn soft and mushy. They dissolve the sugar and don’t hold their shape. Fresh cranberries are a must when making sugar covered cranberries!
Can You Freeze Sugared Cranberries? No. Storing sugar-coated cranberries in the refrigerator or freezer will cause the sugar to dissolve and the cranberries to soften.