Mama's Cranberry Salad Recipe on Food52 (2024)

Make Ahead

by: Kayb



22 Ratings

  • Prep time 8 hours
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 12, unless one of them's me; in that case, 6

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Author Notes

I usually eat this with the main portion of my Thanksgiving meal, but as I double the recipe and make it from the time ripe cranberries appear in the stores until they no longer do, it serves very well for dessert too. And for breakfast and for a late-night snack, for that matter. This has been on every holiday table I can remember, and its origins are lost in time—I'm not sure if it was a grandmother's recipe, or if Mama came up with it—but I can no more imagine Thanksgiving or Christmas without it than I can the one without turkey, and the other without ham!

Helpful tools for this recipe:
- Cuisinart Elemental Food Processor
- Feast Serving Bowl by Yotam Ottolenghi


Test Kitchen Notes

In 2017 and 2018, our traffic numbers show us that this cranberry salad was the most visited recipe page in the month of November.

Featured in: Our Most Popular Thanksgiving Recipe for 2 Years Running. —Eric Kim

  • Test Kitchen-Approved

What You'll Need

Watch This Recipe

Mama's CranberrySalad

  • 1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 large Granny Smith or other tart green apple
  • 1 large orange
  • 1 large Honey Crisp or other red apple
  • 1 cupchopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 large (6-ounce) box raspberry jello
  • 2 cupswater
  • 1 cupsugar
  1. Zest the orange, peel, and liquefy in the food processor.
  2. Chop all the other fruit in the food processor, and add to large bowl with orange and zest. Add nuts.
  3. Bring water and sugar to a boil until sugar dissolves completely. Remove from heat, let cool just a bit, and whisk in jello. Don't be hating on the jello here; it's not really noticeable, but helps things hold together. You could use unflavored gelatin and additional sugar if you wish.
  4. Pour jello over fruit, give a good stir, and refrigerate overnight.


  • Salad
  • Eastern European
  • Cranberry
  • Make Ahead
  • Serves a Crowd
  • Christmas
  • Winter
  • Thanksgiving
  • Fall
  • Vegetarian
  • Dessert
Contest Entries
  • Your Best Non-Pie Thanksgiving Dessert

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Cheryl Bruner

  • Miss_Karen

  • monkeymom

  • dymnyno

  • Kayb

I'm a business professional who learned to cook early on, and have expanded my tastes and my skills as I've traveled and been exposed to new cuisines and new dishes. I love fresh vegetables, any kind of protein on the grill, and breakfasts that involve fried eggs with runny yolks. My recipes tend toward the simple and the Southern, with bits of Asia or the Mediterranean or Mexico thrown in here and there. And a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a float in the lake, as pictured, is a pretty fine lunch!

Popular on Food52

25 Reviews

Christy December 9, 2023

I made this cranberry salad for the first time and took it to, two different Christmas parties and it was the hit of the party both times. I will definitely -definitely be making it again. Absolutely love it

JLTen November 24, 2023

I wanted to try something new this Thanksgiving that sounded homey, easy, and vintage. I landed on this and am so glad I did, I loved it. I was asked for the recipe, so I sent them the link to keep the recipe and story going! The only thing I would change, if anything, is the amount of added sugar. I am someone who usually reduces the amount of sugar in baked goods by 1/4 - 1/3 though. I will be making this every Thanksgiving and Christmas from now on. Thank you for sharing this recipie!

Jerre November 23, 2022

My mother's recipe for the cranberry salad was identical to this one. I was trying to make this for Thanksgiving this year and I had forgotten to the amounts needed for each thing. I couldn't believe that it was here! Thank you so much.

Sharona November 20, 2022

I would like to make this recipe since I love cranberry salad and thanksgiving is just around the corner. My son is diabetic and tries to watch carbs. I need nutrition information for this recipe.

l W. January 2, 2021

Make this for every Thanksgiving and Christmas, using the following changes: Use 3 oranges, 3 apples, and 1 can pineapple (either crushed or tidbits). Use the juice from the pineapple to make the water used to cool down the jello (I follow the directions on the jello box for water used to cook and cool the jello). If you can find it, cranberry jello is my first choice.

HOLLY January 1, 2020

I just noticed your note about how many portions it serves and it made me laugh. I have made this twice since having it at Thanksgiving and have probably eaten 90% of it. I'm a huge cranberry fan and a secret jello fan, and I LOVE it. Thanks for sharing.

Geema December 21, 2019

I made this at Thanksgiving and I must say it was a hit! Many have asked for the recipe and I thought I had lost it. It is now pinned to my favorites. I, too, was hesitant about not cooking the cranberries but I thought I would (for once) follow the recipe exactly. I am not a fan of jello either like some have said, but it makes this perfect. I have tried MANY cranberry salad recipes over the years and this one got the most compliments.

Kayb December 21, 2019

That makes me smile. I think it would make Mama smile, too. Merry Christmas to all you and yours!

Lala November 27, 2019

It's not about not wanting to use Jello because of any other reason than the fact that gelatin is made entirely from animal bones, skin and hooves. Do you even know this? It's really gross. This is why I am "hating on it."

Eric K. November 27, 2019

I get it. I wonder if there's a way to replace it with agar agar or some plant-based alternative.

Anyone try this?

Shutsu12 January 25, 2020

Not made from hooves, but yeah it’s still a little gross

Cheryl B. November 24, 2019

Question: How far in advance can you make this and keep in the fridge, and does it freeze well?

Margery A. March 30, 2020

i just pulled some from the freezer that I made last November. It was as good or better than the original. This year I will triple the recipe, so i will have more all year long!

Roxanne H. November 23, 2019

Question-so you don’t cook the cranberries? I made one last year but I had to cook them.

Kayb November 24, 2019

No. No need to cook them.

Miss_Karen November 21, 2019

I make something similar that I use in one of my cookie recipes. I zest the orange.( colored part only) then I cut the oranges into a few pieces. Remove the pith (bitter white part) like you are peeling it. Then grind the oranges & cranberries into small pieces. Stir in the other stuff.

liz S. November 21, 2019

Fy family's tradition has fresh cranberries cooked with a small amount of sugar, canned crushed pineapple & juice, chopped celery and chopped walnuts, and is made with plain gelatin, set up in a wet mold. Beautiful and delicious, every year.

Toni November 26, 2019

Do you use 1 pack of cranberry and 1 small or lg jello

monkeymom November 6, 2010

I love this! Our version has mayonnaise, I know sounds gross, and canned cranberries. I like the idea of using fresh instead. I also MUST have this every Thanksgiving.

Eric K. November 27, 2019


Makes sense; in line w/ all those fruit-mayo salads. Ambrosia, etc.

dymnyno November 6, 2010

My mother made a very similar recipe...I am glad that you posted yours because I have long lost hers....I remember how delicious it is!

Kayb November 6, 2010

My girls and I will go to the refrigerator and get a bowl of this like you'd go get ice cream....I love it!

Donna F. November 23, 2019

Aunt Doris made this every year. My favorite

Paul November 24, 2019

Mom made this on the holidays, included grapes. we also froze the cranberries getting a better grind in either the grinder or later the food processor.

Eric K. November 27, 2019

Grapes sound yummy.

Mama's Cranberry Salad Recipe on Food52 (2024)


Why is my cranberry salad runny? ›

Mistake #2: Your Cranberry Sauce Is Too Runny

But what if you've been cooking it forever and it's still not right? You may have added too much liquid to the cranberries. In addition to pectin, cranberries contain water, which means you only need to add a splash of liquid to get the cooking going.

What is cranberry salad made of? ›

Fresh produce: From the produce section, you'll need fresh cranberries, an orange, and fresh celery. Sugar: A cup of white sugar sweetens this cranberry Jell-O salad. Walnuts: Walnuts lend nutty flavor and welcome crunch. Canned pineapple: A drained can of crushed pineapple adds sweet, fruity flavor.

How to snack on cranberries? ›

Start by chopping the cranberries into small pieces and mix them with diced apples, chopped nuts, and a touch of honey or maple syrup for sweetness. The combination of tart cranberries and sweet fruits creates a delightful contrast of flavors that is perfect for a light and healthy snack or side dish.

How do I stop my salad from being watery? ›

Before you pack your salad away, fluff up your salad and pull any of these out. Store your clean, dry salad in an airtight plastic container lined with paper towel. The paper towel will absorb any excess water, and the airtight container will keep the salad from wilting.

How do you fix a watery salad? ›

If neither more tuna, potatoes, nor eggs solves the problem, it's time to consider mixing in super dry, starchy ingredients. To soak up liquids like a sponge, pantry staples like pasta or even croutons are complete game-changers that will restore a soggy salad.

Why should cranberries not be eaten raw? ›

Is it safe to eat cranberries raw? Cranberries are generally considered safe whether they are cooked or raw. However, because of their notoriously bitter, sharp taste, most people prefer not to eat them raw or unsweetened. This bitterness is due to the high tannin content of cranberries.

Is cranberry actually good for you? ›

Cranberries provide a good source of various vitamins and antioxidants. Historically, Native Americans used cranberries as a treatment for bladder and kidney diseases, while early settlers from England used them to treat poor appetite, stomach complaints, blood disorders, and scurvy.

Why do they put cranberries in water? ›

Wet Harvesting

Cranberries have pockets of air inside the fruit. Because of this, cranberries float in water, and thus, the bogs can be flooded to aid in removal of fruit from the vines. Water reels, nicknamed “egg-beaters” are used to stir up the water in the bogs.

How many cranberries should I eat a day? ›

HOW MUCH CRANBERRIES TO EAT DAILY? Studies confirming the health-promoting properties of cranberries have typically used doses of 100-300 g of fresh cranberries, equivalent to 7-10 g of dried cranberries, and 100-150 ml of 100% cranberry juice.

How do you make cranberries taste better? ›

Some people like adding raisins or currants, or even blueberries for added sweetness. You can also add holiday spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice. If adding spices, start with a pinch of each and add more to your taste.

Can dogs have cranberries? ›

Both fresh and dried cranberries are safe to feed to dogs in small quantities. Whether your dog will like this tart treat is another question. Either way, moderation is important when feeding cranberries to dogs, as with any treat, as too many can lead to an upset stomach.

What to do if my cranberry sauce is too runny? ›

Try reducing the sauce down even further so more of the liquid cooks off and the mixture thickens. If that doesn't work, add a thickener like gelatin, pectin or a cornstarch slurry (cornstarch whisked into juice or water). Let the sauce cool before refrigerating to completely set.

Why is my salad watery? ›

Another sneaky moisture-inducing culprit that can ruin a salad is the roasted or cooked ingredients you toss into the mix. When roasting a tray of vegetables like sweet potatoes and asparagus or grilling a batch of chicken, you'll want to ensure they're completely cooled before combining them with the leafy greens.

Is cranberry sauce supposed to be runny? ›

Cranberries are naturally rich in pectin, so they gel easily under the right conditions. The ingredient proportions and cooking time determine whether you end up with a sauce that's too runny, a sauce that's perfectly thickened, or a gel that's firm enough to cut with a knife.

Will my cranberry sauce thicken in the fridge? ›

Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools. To store, let cool completely, then transfer to a resealable container and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.

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