Sparkling Cranberries

Around the holidays these pretty, sugared, sparkling cranberries are perfect. Tart and sweet, they glint and wink in the surrounding holiday lights, and lend a striking dash of red to the table.

Sparkling Cranberries

I've become convinced that these sparkling, sugared cranberries should be a part of every holiday spread. Sparkling cranberries glint and wink in the surrounding holiday lights, and lend a striking dash of red to the table. Another great thing is the way they effortlessly make the transition from savory course to sweet. So, for example, I've become fond of serving them as part of a cheese spread, but I imagine they'd be nice as the finishing touch on on a tart or clustered atop a crème brûlée or pudding of some sort.
Sparkling Cranberries Recipe

Sparkling Cranberries: What Type of Sugar?

Over the years I've discovered this detail is key. I've experimented with a range of sugars with varying degrees of success. Some work better than others. In the beginning, I wanted to make them with a maple sugar coating - but the cranberries looked like they had been dropped in dust. The same goes for raw cane sugar, coconut sugar, and Rapadura. I gave up trying to do a less refined sugar version. On the other end of the sugar spectrum, extra-fine grain sugar didn't work well either. The results were too clumpy. Essentially, the best way to get a good sparkling sugar crust on your cranberries is to first roll them in an slightly-chunky white sugar. The larger sugar grains retain structure despite the moisture from the simple syrup. Later in the process, toss them in regular, standard granulated sugar. The small grains of the granulated sugar cling to any spots that are still sticky from the simple syrup. 

Sparkling Cranberries

They are simple to make, but you need to do the first step the night before. I like to toss the cranberries in sugar the next morning, and off and on throughout the day so they have time to dry and crisp up.


There are endless ways to add layers of flavor to your sparkling cranberries.

  • Cardamom Sparkling Cranberries: In the comments Aimee mentioned, ”I made my simple syrup with cardamom sugar to give it even more of a holiday flavor.” This got me thinking, you could steep a few cardamom pods along with the water and sugar, and strain before proceeding with the rest of the recipe. And/or add a teaspoon of finely crushed cardamom to your sugar mixture before tossing with the cranberries.
  • Citrus Sparkling Cranberries: By introducing the zest of an orange or two to your simple syrup pot, you can infuse the simple syrup with notes of winter orange. Strain and proceed with the recipe.

Also, use the leftover simple syrup in holiday drinks and cocktails!

Sparkling Cranberries Recipe

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Sparkling Cranberries

4 from 34 votes

One of the keys here is allowing enough time for the cranberries to dry and crisp up as you're tossing them to coat with sugar throughout the day. For the simple syrup, use 2 cups of granulated sugar. For the sugar coating, I do a mix of medium-large sugar for the first coating, and then a second toss with regular granulated white sugar. You don't want a *huge* grain for that first toss, just something larger than standard sugar. You can sort of see the different grain sizes in the third photo in the main write-up. Have fun!

  • 2 cups cranberries, picked over
  • 2 cups water
  • 3+ cups sugar, mixed types (see headnotes)
  1. Place the cranberries in a medium glass bowl and set aside.
  2. Make a simple syrup by bringing the water and 2 cups of granulated sugar just to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Let the syrup cool for a couple minutes and then pour it over the cranberries. If the syrup is too hot the cranberries will burst, so be careful. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

  3. The next day, drain the cranberries and toss them, in batches, with larger grained sugar until they are well coated. I only use a scoop of sugar at a time, and small batches of cranberries, so the sugar doesn't get too damp. Place the coated cranberries on a baking sheet, in a single layer, to dry for a few hours.

  4. Do a second toss with the regular granulated sugar, this typically takes care of any sticky spots on the cranberries. Let dry another hour or so, or until the sugar coating is dry and crisp.


Makes 2 cups of sparkling cranberries.

Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Total Time
15 mins
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4 from 34 votes (27 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating


This has been a total hit for four (not sure in covid) years I’ve given them to people at my church. They are awesome. While we lost our hives in 2020 due to small hive beetles I still keep making these with the honey from our girls.

I just pick through and make sure I don’t have really soft berries and do about 3/4 cup of honey warm, but not hot for a bag of berries. Our home honey gives such a boost, and anyone with access to the same will know what I mean.

I let the sit stirring, for an afternoon and then put them in the fridge in a strainer overnight over a bowel. I let the cold honey stick and move around to get a good thin coat on all.

Then just follow Heidi’s directions about the sugar for the most perfect holiday treat ever!

They were awesome when I did the first with simple syrup, but when I had my bee’s honey they just exploded into better. I really miss my girls (bees) and will be glad when fuss and bother means we can provide a home for them again.5 stars

martha bains

I’ve been making these annually since you first shared years ago. Many have asked for the recipe. Just made another batch yesterday. Thanks for the recipe and tradition!5 stars

Amy M

Thank so much for this recipe. I have never made Sparkling Cranberries before. And I boasted to my wife that I could make better sparkling cranberries than hers. I have a feeling she knew I was bluffing so she forced me to a bet that I was going to do an awful job. Well, luckily for me, I followed you instruction and it was delicious. She loved it. Though my wife refused to pay up the bet she lost. LOL. Still, thank you for this recipe, and Happy Holidays Heidi.5 stars


We lost both our beehives, but good, not commercial honey takes these to the next level. Something from a local beekeeper that actually tastes like something makes these amazing.

Add just little water to the honey and if they stick together they will come apart when you top them with organic cane sugar and roll them around. Then just do the recipe.

This simple recipe has made me the toast of friends, family, church and other groups. It’s also quick on hands time so you can wear a mask and let people know you did.

My current note for non-bubble people is, “Made with love, carefully washed hands, and a mask.”5 stars


I used honey from our hive in place of the simple syrup! (It’s a relatively light wildflower honey.) They were awesome and got rave reviews.


I make these every Christmas and serve them in a crystal bowl. They are festive and fantastic. When they are dry they have a nice sweet and sour taste and a good pop to them. They go pretty quickly so I make a double batch. Also, they are very festive in a glass of prosecco.5 stars

Piper J

Heidi: can you please offer advice about how best to store the cranberries after they’ve been sugared? We made a batch experimentally and while they are delicious, we could not eat them all up in the first day. I am unsure whether an airtight container at room temperature is ok; vs. refrigerating them. I love how the berries have crisped up after drying, and I don’t want them to lose that quality.5 stars


    Just leave them on the counter uncovered. They should stay dry and crisp for another day or so….Enjoy!

    Heidi Swanson

Save and reuse the simple syrup. After steeping the berries in the simple syrup, I saved it as a base for making a cocktail shrub, either more cranberries or blackberries, (both readily available in December on east coast). Sugared cranberries were good as well.4 stars


    Love this idea!

    Heidi Swanson

I make these every thanksgiving! I first soak them in maple syrup, then roll in regular sugar. We serve them on top of a cracker with a slice of brie cheese – delicious and simple appetizer.

Becky B

WOW. Another great recipe! Thank you.

Asa Akira

These cranberries look beautiful like a Christmas decoration!


Thank you for this recipe. I made my simple syrup with cardamom sugar to give it even more of a holiday flavor.


Fantastic, yet simple. Thanks for a new “favorite” to include in holiday fare……or to help guest feel special!


These are so beautiful- wish I had seen before Christmas dinner, but am bookmarking.

Deborah Dowd

I was all set to comment that I’m the only weirdo who didn’t like these. They do look lovely. But my cranberries didn’t taste good. Next thing I know, my daughter has consumed an entire cupful and wants to know how soon we can make more. Okay, I guess I am the only weirdo. In other news, this doesn’t work with blueberries (had a lot so I tried it with a few. blue mush.)


I made these but with cherries!
(I live in Australia and whilst quality fresh cranberries are scarce, beautiful ripe cherries are in abundance at the moment)
They worked out so well as a lovely snack whilst opening presents…I’ve been asked to make more for the new years party.
What a wonderfully Christmas-y snack. Thank you Heidi 🙂


I just made these and they are beautiful! I made them my mother-in-law’s house in Denver, Co, and think I probably could have let them dry a shorter time before coating with the regular sugar–they were already very dry and there wasn’t much opportunity for additional sticking of sugar. I am still learning about how to bake at 5280 feet and super-dry air. They are absolutely gorgeous and delicious, though. Thinking about wine pairings for our wine-and-appetizers soiree with the neighbors–maybe Prosecco?

Christine Whittinton

Tried your sparkling cranberries this past weekend and they were fantastic!!! Thank you so much for sharing the recipe. They looked beautiful and tasted delicious! Great with a cheese and crackers spread as someone suggested above.

Amy Kingman

Hi Heidi,
I’ve been following your blog for about a year now. I can’t say I often follow your recipes as written, but what makes this site so invaluable to me is the inspiration I get from your food choices and combinations and the amazing photography that accompanies it.
I made these cranberries for a wine party I hosted and people went absolutely crazy over them. They said pairing these with wine was perfect because it automatically made every wine taste just a tad sweeter and more fruity. I ate my fair share, as well, and they were fantastic… not to mention gorgeous. Thanks so much for the recipe!
HS: Glad they were such a hit Holland!


Merry Christmas! I usually read the comments before making your lovely recipes to get extra ideas. This time it was well worth it. Sparkling cranberries made w/ half organic cane sugar and brown sugar with a tsp. of cardamom. The jewels have a interesting Christmasy note with the spice and I will use the syrup for pancakes and waffles. Another thought would be simple syrup for gin, vodka type holiday type drinks! Thanks again Heidi for the best, healthiest innovative ideas for our Christmas dinner!!!


I made these to decorate a Christmas fruit platter and they are like jewels! I had only frozen berries but they plumped up in the syrup, look just like fresh.


The only problem with these is figuring out what to do with the syrup. I used a mixture of white and brown sugars and it is divine. Thanks!

Cindy @ Fix Me A Snack

Made these for company last night. They were a big hit.


I do these the same as all, but i save some to harden and i give them to my friend and she puts them in candels for me. It is so relaxing.


These are wonderful gems on the holiday table. I just made them. So easy, sweet tart and fun! Everyone’s eye will be drawn to them like magic! Thanks for such a lovely addition to my recipe box!

Donna L

this is a brilliant idea! they look absolutely gorgeous, and im sure they’re delicious as well!

charlotte s

Those look absolutely amazing!!! Can’t wait to try them!

Greg Kopp

So simple and so stunning. Brilliant idea.


Cranberries are my new fav! I like crasins! Yummy!

Tracy Couture

What a wonderful post and a beautiful photograph….I just made these and they are delicious…I can’t wait to serve them to my guests for the holidays…they are going to love them…Best, The Healthy Apple

The Healthy Apple

These look AMAZING! I have some fake ones from the craft store sitting around my house during the holidays- but these… THESE… are the real deal. I always want to eat the fakes ones, but these ones I actually can.
They are beautiful! Thanks for posting!

Savannah at Kitchen @ 9th and 9th

Oh yeah – any ideas for the sugar/orange syrup? It’s too tasty to just throw away.


I made these to take to a pot luck dinner today. (Also did some of the pan-fried chickpeas salad which is divine!) I followed one of the other commenters and subbed some orange juice (abt 1/2 cup) for some of the water and also some orange zest. Left the zest in big pieces and candied that, too. While mine aren’t as pretty as yours, they are pretty enough and very tasty. Thanks!


Just made them… they’re delicious and beautiful! Thank you for sharing!


I know that this is probably a repetitive comment since so many people have said it- Thank you for posting this (and many other!) recipes – these cranberries are delicious and beautiful. (It also helped that I had 10 pounds of cranberries in my fridge…)
Thank you!


These are very pretty, like little jewels. I wish I were as energetic a cook as you are Heidi!


Wow! Totally festive and beautiful, gotta try this.

Scott at Real Epicurean

I made these last night for Christmas gifts and ate ONLY 5 in the process. When I woke up this morning, I found that my family had eaten ALL OF THEM. This being said, I have a small criticism: they are too tasty!
I’m making another batch tonight, this time with a brown sugar simple syrup.


These look so sweet. I am going to give them a go with maple sugar.

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen)

One word …… STUNNING!


For a dinner party we threw last night, we topped homemade vanilla bean ice cream with these. So simple yet elegant. And the flavor and texture contrast was delightful.
I also put some on my oatmeal this morning – yum!


BEAUTIFUL ~ I always love your pictures and presentation. These pics seriously make me want to attempt to make sugared cranberries, but, I am not sure I’d know what to do with them all after that 😀 LOL.
Thanks for sharing – love it!


I’ve never tried to candy fruit (although I want to try orange rind soon), and I avoid sugar, but these photos are so wonderful to look at!


Beautiful photos. The cranberries sparkle like little jewels. I usually see sugar coated fruits like this made with raw egg whites which I loathe. This is a lovely alternative.

Erika from The Pastry Chef At Home

I am LOVING these sparkling, festive recipes! I love these as a healthier alternative to Christmas candy.
How long do you think these would last? (Assuming, probably falsely, that they’re not eaten up immediately)
Alex 🙂


BEAUTIFUL!! They look like sugar plums 🙂


Those are stunning! I love it! The recipe is simple yet it looks like it is not. I will like to give it a try. And also, thumbs up to your photos!

dining set

This look fantastic!


what a great idea. If I’d read this a few days ago. I had a load of cranberries and stewed them but this is genius and they would look real pretty on a tarte

The Curious Baker

Sometimes you read a recipe and just know that it is a must try.
This is one of the most creative and simple recipes for fresh cranberries I have ever seen.
The combination with cream cheese and nuts is perfect. I must try it.
I often use fresh cranberries when I make chutneys. Their tartness is perfect with the sweet and spicy flavors.

Debra Samuels

These are GORGEOUS and so festive!


Those are gorgeous! And I love how simple the recipe is. I will definitely give these a try.
I’ve been wanting post a note and say how much I enjoy your blog: your images are exceptionally beautiful and I really appreciate your respect for ingredients.


Wow – these look great! Tart and Sweet – all together! Perfect 🙂
How do you store them? Could you also pls tell me how long they last


These look fabulous! I always get so excited to see a new recipe posted!!
I was hoping you would be so kind elaborate on the cheese spread you paired with these cranberries. I’m very intrigued.
Thank you and keep up the great work!


Fantastic idea! I must use it for a cupcake recipe soon!!!


These are so beautiful. I have made sugar covered blueberries before but never cranberries. I will have to give it a try 🙂

Nutmeg Nanny

What a heavenly natural sweet for the season!


stunning and delicious! perfect for any holiday celebration and spread. I’m thinking of adding some crushed walnuts or pecans to it!


Oh, these are stunning, and I imagine they taste lovely, besides — sweet and tart, each bite a little different. Lovely to see a recipe for these that doesn’t use egg whites, i.e. that is completely edible! Thanks, Molly


How beautiful!
These will be topping my mini-cheesecakes this new year!

Faith Kramer

Ahhh, these are just perfect! I’ll definitely pair these with my Spiced Eggnog Cheesecake shots for a pretty holiday spread. Thank you!!!

Kimberly @ Poor Girl Eats Well

Beeyootiful!! Love these so much! 🙂


Absolutely beautiful!
I’ve made these several times using another recipe, but always had issues here and there with the sugar coating sticking completely. I cannot wait to make them with your recipe. Just what I’ve been looking for.

lisa @ dandysugar

This would be a BEAUTIFUL centerpiece!


Wow, these look gorgeous. And I have a bag of cranberries in my refrigerator. Can’t wait to make them!


Funny… I was just playing with whole cranberries this morning over my hot cereal… was wondering if you had any good uses…
I like coincidences. 😉
Always great stuff, Heidi.

Tom Marsh

thank you! i love the tips about the different kinds of sugar and I’m considering bree’s suggested addition of cardamom…

twilight at morningside

Hi – first off, love your recipes, esp the simple cauliflower saute and chocolate cake.
Secondly, the cranberries in sugar are an old holiday tradition in Estonia. I remember eating those every winter when growing up. We dip them in beaten egg whites, then roll them in powdered sugar, leave them to dry until the icing hardens and voila – cranberry candy.
Happy holidays!

Puhvis Kukk

Okay, I had to read all the comments to make sure these were edible 🙂 Can’ wait to make them – thanks for such a perfect winter recipe.

Jill P

I am definitely making these for my new years party – what a perfect (easy, cheap) centerpiece! thank you!


We do this, but we use 1 tsp of Cardamon to 2 cups of sugar on our cranberries, I think the Cardamon really adds something extra. I love them!
HS: I LOVE this idea! Thanks Bree. I’ve have to give this a try.


What an ingenious idea! Those are possibly more festive than gingerbread men, which is saying quite a lot. I can’t wait to try this!


I have made these for the past few years and they are always a big hit. The recipe I know is a bit different – you use corn syrup, just roll them in your fingers with the syrup (yes, very sticky!) then drop in a bowl of sugar to coat. One hand for sticky, one hand for rolling.
And to answer previous questions, they can last a good long time. I still have a dish from over a week ago on my counter. It depends on the humidity – they do respond so I put them in the fridge if needed. Eventually they go “off” (slightly vinegary).
They are fabulous for just tossing onto any dish – main course or dessert – for a festive garnish, or in a bowl with spiced nuts!


These are absolutely gorgeous! What a pretty sparkling idea.


The cranberries are gorgeous and I’m sure they taste fabulous. I’m already envisioning a multitude of uses.

Andrea @ Fork Fingers Chopsticks

I love making sugared cranberries! Such a tasty and diffferent treat. A welcome break from all the pies and cookies!


Great way to use that extra bag of cranberries I bought at the store last week! Although, I’m afraid these might be a tad too easy to snack on constantly!!

heather @ chiknpastry

Stunning and simple! I can totally see how you have to go regular sugar here. It’s too bad but, heck, it’s that time of year for sure 🙂

Michelle @ Find Your Balance

Genius! What a great idea for a winter cheese plate!


Thanks for the Sparkling Cranberries recipe. I am going to do this for Christmas day. I also love mixing cooked cranberries with finely chopped pecans and cream cheese to stuff celery bites and to stuff jumbo black olives. Something about the combination of cranberries, pecan, and cream cheese really makes great spread and raw veggie and olive stuffing. My family always asks for this every holiday .


These are beautiful and they look delicious! I can’t wait to try these!


My Goodness Heidi! These look incredible. I just want to pop on my mouth! YUM!

Weekly Bite

Oh those are just beautiful!!!

Simply Life

My daughter (now 12 years old) has made these every Christmas since she was 7!
We store them in the refrigerator. They are cold and crunchy sweet on the outside and explode with tartness when you bite them.
I’m thinking of adding them to a salad with blue cheese and walnuts…….
We will try your sugar variation this year!


What a beautiful addition to a holiday table! My mind is racing with all the possibilities. Great tips about the right sugars to use.

cookin' Canuck

Those are so beautiful and intriguing, I can’t wait to try them!


Wow. I’ve got to try these, they look beautiful. Amazing photography as usual.
Thanks for the idea!


These are beautiful! I am going to make them for our holiday party. I wonder how sweet they are. i think I might have a batch of overly tart cranberries. I wonder if this amount of sugar sweetens them up enough to eat alone. Either way, I am making them for my party table! Thank you.


This is amazing color to pop a salad or topping off a bowl of hot oatmeal in the


Visions of sparkling cranberries will now dance in my head..
(have you ever actually tried to sugar plums? Gee – this is the first time I have given the phrase deep thought).
Thank you for your always beautiful images. It’s such a pleasure to find this in the morning RSS feed.
Happy Holidays,

Michaela at The Gardener's Eden

I can’t wait to try these! Ibet they have the perfect balance of sweet and tart! The color is fabulous!


These are so cute! I can’t wait to try them.


So pretty! My sister has vetoed decorating our apartment for Christmas (we won’t be spending Christmas here) so I am consoling myself by putting Not-Quite-Christmas-Decorations about the place: pine cones and sprigs of greenery and cheery poinsettias….and as much festive food as I can make. These look ideal for my purposes!


These festive cranberries are simply gorgeous, Heidi!


Oh dear, I think those would be a massive hit at my house!!

christie @ honoring health

they look delicious! cant wait to eat some.


I’m confused… are the cranberries essentially raw but covered in sugar?
HS: Pretty much.


they look so cute!


Sparkling indeed. I can certainly see these topping off a winter pudding – they would contrast with custards beautifully.

Daily Spud

I love cranberries! These gorgeous little red jewels are highly unappreciated! I moved to Brasil almost 2 yrs. ago and unfortunately they are not to be found anywhere! I miss them sorely, esp. around the holidays (I made your “spice-kissed pumpkin pie” to cheer myself up this past Thanksgiving, it was delish). I am definitely keeping this recipe around for that one day when I move back to the States.


Is the raw cane sugar you referred to in your trial version sucanat or something else?
Maple and cranberry does sound super delicious…maybe the “dusty” look would make them appealing to toddlers? 🙂
HS: The kids seem to love these, which kind of surprised me because of the tartness of the cranberries….All of those sucanat-ish sweeteners make for unattractive cranberries. Wish it weren’t so, but…


Oh my! This is destiny for me as I have 25 lbs of cranberries sitting in my freezer. I’ll bet you can all guess where I live. (Hint…think of a Tea Party)


I was surprised to see this post today, since I’ve never seen these except when I made them a few years ago! I just put them in a bowl on the food table and people ate them like snacks. Very pretty too!


i do these but i toss them in maple syrup and then put them in the fridge over night – they get a nice crisp candy-like coating on them and BURST with cranberry juice when you bite down on them. always a hit!


These look so festive and as you said perfect with a cheese spread!

Cooking Foodie

What a nice holiday treat. I do something similar for sugar and spice pecans using egg whites as a binder.
Addictive! Pounds will be gained.

tom | tall clover farm

For the first toss, do you think I could give some demerara sugar a whirl in the blender/food processor to break it down a little bit smaller, but still have that great taste/texture?
HS: Hard to say, I think it would probably scratch and beat up the grains, and wouldn’t be as sparkly.


Wow! I’ll take one of these on top of my ice cream in lieu of a maraschino cherry any day.


Heidi, you’ve captured winter cranberries so precisely! The frosted ice crystals surrounding each berry give the appearance of freshly picked berries on a very cold and frosty winter day. This is a beautiful ornament to give holiday dishes that extra festive Christmas flair! Thanks for sharing!

Christine @ Fresh Local and Best

These look gorgeous!


I’ve been making these for Thanksgiving and serving them with pumpkin pie. The combination of flavors is wonderful.


Eating cranberries is a new experience for me beside a cranberry sauce. How would you eat them as part of a cheese spread? Sprinkle them on top of a cheese and cracker. I really want to try to make this for my in laws, but I don’t want to show up not knowing how to eat it!


So pretty! Do these need to be refrigerated after they’re done? How long do you think they’d last, assuming they’re not scooped up and inhaled within minutes of serving?
HS: Keep them at room temp, and we always eat them the day of. But you might have luck storing them in a dry, air-tight container overnight…


I have made these in the past to go with my Yule Log cake. I add some orange zest and a tiny bit of orange juice in the simple sugar. Delicious!

rebekah jones

I’m making these ASAP!


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