There's no need to resort to the sauce when you find yourself with a bag full of fresh cranberries to get rid of. When you're tired of the tart, ruby-colored dab beside your reheated turkey-stuffing leftovers, know you have options. Transformative options.
Besides their vibrant jewel-toned color and a taste that can make your mouth pucker, cranberries have other attributes worth appreciating. These favorite winter berries were recognized by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a nutrient-dense fruit, according to the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association. An 8-ounce glass of cranberry juice cocktail contains 137 percent of your daily dietary needs for vitamin C. They're high in antioxidants, dietary fiber, and can help protect you from bacterial urinary tract infections and gingivitis.
Mmmm. Now that we've stirred up your appetite with those lovely images, let's get down to cranberry history. For an estimated 12,000 years, the Wampanoag people across southeastern Massachusetts ate this fruit fresh and dried, in dishes such as nasampe (grits) and pemmican (mixed with dried meat and fat), according to the Cape Cod association.
Europeans settling in New England in the 16th and 17th centuries recognized cranberries as similar to the fruit that grew in southern England's bogs and low-lying Netherlands. The English called the fruit “craneberries” because the flower resembled the head of a Sandhill crane. By 1871, we had enough cranberry growers to form an association in the United States. Now, U.S. farmers harvest about 40,000 acres of cranberries each year.
So don't think of cranberries for just the sauce we make for Thanksgiving and Christmas. When balanced with other layers of flavor, these berries contribute an awakening astringency to baked goods, desserts, meats, poultry, salads, grains, and cocktails. Let's give this gem room to shine.
These 11 dishes celebrate the diverse mingling abilities of cranberries:
1. Cranberry-Orange Quick Bread
This is my favorite way to use up leftover cranberries. Sometimes you even have an extra orange too after making cranberry sauce. So zest it and get baking. You can make these into muffins instead of a loaf for quicker baking. Get our Cranberry-Orange Quick Bread recipe.
2. Pecan Chicken with Cranberry Goat Cheese Sauce
This combination sounds so dreamy, it might become a regular on the weeknight dinner repertoire, during the holidays, at least. And it only takes 30 minutes to make. Get the recipe.
3. Cranberry Shortbread Bars with Almond Streusel
Chewy, sweet, nutty, and a little crunchy: It's a tart-sweet treat you're gonna love. Get our Cranberry Shortbread Bars recipe.
4. White Chocolate-Cranberry Bark
No time to make dessert or a treat, no problem. This recipe requires three ingredients and takes about 10 minutes to make. The hardest part may be candied orange peel. Get our White Chocolate-Cranberry Bark recipe.
5. Stuffed Prosciutto Meatballs with Cranberry Glaze
Salty, sweet, savory, tangy: This is the ultimate appetizer. That cranberry glaze makes this like no other meatball you've had before. Get the recipe.
6. Cranberry-Apple Shrub
Drinking vinegar gets its tart-sweetness from cranberries, apples, and brown sugar. Mix this with other cocktails for a well-rounded taste. Get our Cranberry-Apple Shrub recipe.
7. Apple, Cranberry, and Cherry Galette
Here's a way to use up that leftover cranberry sauce. Make a freeform tart with cognac-soaked cherries. Get our Apple, Cranberry, and Cherry Galette recipe.
8. Cranberry Ice Cream with White Chocolate Chunks
Creamy, tart, and filled with white chocolate sweetness, this ice cream is a cool holiday treat as sweet as the first snow. Get the recipe.
9. Wild Rice, Cranberry, Kale Pilaf
A mix of hearty grains and bitter kale is sweetened by tart cranberries. It's enough to be a great lunch to bring to work. It's a good dinner side dish too. Get the recipe.
10. Cranberry Culprit
Here's another way to use up your cranberry sauce. Mix some up with bourbon, almond liqueur, gingerale and a lime wedge and you've got a cool drink. Get our Cranberry Culprit recipe.
11. Cranberry Salsa
You can add all sorts of fruit to salsa and it works — pineapple, mango, blueberries — so why not cranberries? It's great with salty tortilla chips, as well as chicken or fish. Get the recipe.
For other holiday dinners, potlucks, and cocktail party ideas, check out our Christmas recipe page.
Amy Sowder is a NYC-based food and fitness writer as well as the assistant editor for Chowhound. She loves cheesy things, especially toasties and puns. She's trying to like mushrooms. Her running habit is the excuse for her never-ending ice cream pursuits. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.