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Sugared cranberries are a beautiful garnish to just about any holiday dessert. Because cranberries are one of few fruits in season during the winter months, I like to capitalize on using them as a garnish. Wow your guests with these beautiful wintery treats!
What Are Sugared Cranberries?
A little sweet, a bit tart, and deliciously crunchy, sugared cranberries are slightly cooked and rolled in sugar. Also called candied cranberries or sparkling cranberries. They will add a beautiful pop of color and taste to your cheese boards, dessert spreads, and holiday decor.
The basic recipe calls for making a simple syrup then allowing the cranberries to soak in the liquid. Some people do this soaking overnight, but you can just stir them in the liquid for a few minutes. Because they soak while it’s hot they will cook just slightly, softening them and lessening the tartness they have when eaten raw.
Then they are rolled in sugar which sticks to the syrup coat creating the most delightful looking snack.
How to Serve Sugared Cranberries
I usually serve them in a bowl or ramekin so that the sugar doesn’t get on any other items nearby. But if you’re adding them to a dessert board, a little extra sugar never hurt anyone!
Remember that these are still cranberries, they are tart and are often the only acidic item in a Thanksgiving spread. Serve them sparingly and with very rich flavors like brie cheese, creamy frosting, cheesecake, or sweeter fruits like oranges, persimmons, and pears.
These cranberries also make cute decor! String them together (think like a popcorn strand) and add them to any holiday garland, wreath, or table top display. Just don’t leave them for too long, since they may start to get mushy or rotten.
A Breakdown of Different Types of Sugar
Different sugars have slightly different tastes, textures, and uses. Using the wrong sugar in this recipe will probably result in not-so-sparkly cranberries. Fail!
- Standard granulated sugar. Also known as regular sugar. This is the best kind of sugar to coat your cranberries in. You can find (or make) vanilla sugar, which is granulated sugar with added vanilla flavor. Pro tip: vanilla sugar will add a nice depth of flavor to this garnish.
- Superfine sugar. Also called caster sugar. This has smaller granules than regular sugar and is not good for sugared cranberries. It is intended to dissolve, so it won’t show up on your cranberries at all.
- Coarse sugar. Larger than granulated sugar, it might not be best for sugared cranberries but could be a secondary option in a pinch. While coase sugar is too big to be used alone here (it won’t adequately coat your berries) you could roll your berries in granulated sugar then give them a dip in coarse sugar for a secondary texture. Think of using it in the same way you would coarse salt—like a small sprinkle on soft pretzels.
- Decorating sugar. Also called sanding sugar. This is a great secondary addition to your sparkling cranberries. It’s similar to coarse sugar and should be used only sparingly for the cranberries (see note above). It’s often used for cookie decorating. It’s likely more shiny and clear than plain coarse sugar. King Arthur even has a sparkling sugar!
- Confectioners sugar. Also called powdered sugar. This is not the type of sugar you want in this recipe. It will dissolve into the syrup and get goopy. Reserve this sugar for icing on your gingerbread house!
- Brown sugar. Delicious though it may be, it is not for this project. Brown sugar is less refined than granulated sugar and is brown because it still retains some, or a lot of molasses. You probably don’t want dirty looking cranberries.
- Turbinado, Muscovado, and Demerara sugars. These are all various versions of unrefined or semi-refined sugars. They are all brown in color and while delicious, not great for this recipe.
How To Make Sugared Cranberries Video
Tips to Get Really Sparkly Cranberries
It’s best to make sugared cranberries in advance. I often soak mine in the syrup mixture the evening before I’m going to serve them and then roll them in sugar the day-of. Though you certainly don’t have to make it that far in advance… you can soak them in the hot syrup for only a few minutes. However, the minimum for drying on a wire rack is an hour before rolling them in the sugar.
Make more than you’ll need. These are so pretty they’ll look great as decor and you can bag up any that don’t make it to the serving tray and send them home as gifts! Plus they are quite tart still so a few are enough for a serving.
As mentioned above, if you want to do a bit more research on the most sparkling sugars, they are definitely out there. Using a mix of granulated sugar and really clear coarse sugar might look cool. Test out what works best for you!
Show Me Your Sparkling Cranberries
Hope this recipe inspires you to make some festive spreads. Nothing makes me happier than seeing you create beautiful boards from my tips. If you make a spread inspired by this post, please tag me at @ainttoooproudtomeg so I can see and share!
And, If you liked this board recipe, please rate, review and tell me what you paired your sparkling cranberries with!
- 1 (12 oz.) Bag of fresh cranberries
- 2 cups Sugar, divided
- Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved (around 2-3 minutes).
- Turn heat off and wait a few minutes. Then stir in cranberries until well coated, careful not to leave them in too long. The skin will pop off if they get too hot.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer cranberries to a wire rack and let dry for at least 1 hour.
- Working in batches, roll cranberries in remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar until well coated; let dry for at least 1 hour.