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. They 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 Recipesparkling_cranberries2.jpg

What Type of Sugar?

This is key, and I've experimented with a range of sugars here. 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. So I gave up trying to do a less refined sugar version. Take note, extra-fine grain sugar didn't work well either - clumpy. Essentially, the best way to get a good sparkling sugar crust on your cranberries is to first roll them in an slightly-chunky organic sugar (something like this), and later toss them in regular granulated sugar. The small grains of the granulated sugar cling to any spots that are still sticky from the simple syrup.
Sparkling Cranberries Recipe

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. Enjoy, and happiest holidays!

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Sparkling Cranberries

4 from 34 votes

For the simple syrup, raw cane sugar or real brown sugar lends a nice molasses flavor to the cranberries, but regular granulated sugar (or a blend of brown/white) will work.

  • 2 cups cranberries, picked over
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar, plus more for coating (see head notes)
  • More sugar for coating: I do a mix of medium-grained organic 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, smaller than most turbinado sugars. You can sort of see the different grain sizes in the third photo in the main write-up.
  1. Place the cranberries in a medium glass bowl and set aside.
  2. Make a simple syrup by bringing the water and 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 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 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.


Makes 2 cups of sparkling cranberries.

Prep Time
10 mins
Total Time
10 mins
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Post Your Comment


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


Heidi, 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 .


Do these need to be served pretty much immediately? After they dry out, does the sparkly sugar "disappear" after a while? I'm wondering because I'd love to make them way ahead of time.


These are so pretty. I am thinking they would be awesome on creme brûlée. What other fruits can you do this to?


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.


WOW. Another great recipe! Would these keep, to be given as holiday gifts? Or would the sugar crystals melt or stick together? ~~~Hoping~~~~~

Susan Owen

    Hi Susan, humidity definitely impacts them. That said, this current batch is great two days later. Completely dry and crisp.

    Heidi Swanson

Heidi, This is amazing color to pop a salad or topping off a bowl of hot oatmeal in the morning! cheers!


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

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

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