A quick and easy Sugared Cranberries recipe for your holiday entertaining. The perfect sweet-tart, sparkling garnish for desserts, cocktails, and cheese boards!

Christmas ornaments and sugared cranberries

Sugared Cranberries for the Holidays

I’m SO EXCITED to fiiiiiiinally share this super easy recipe for Sugared Cranberries with you! This has been on my “to share” list since my first year of blogging (over ten years ago!). Please accept my apology for taking so long!

The tart cranberries are coated with a lightly crunchy, sugary coating. This coating not only tames the tartness, but also adds an amazing texture to these little treats. When you bite down on the cranberries, they practically pop in your mouth. They are so much fun!

Make a batch of these to add a little sparkle to your favorite holiday desserts – such as Cranberry Christmas Cake (one of my very favorite Christmas desserts, a recipe from my aunt Donna), Gingerbread Brownies, and Cream Cheese Pound Cake (a family favorite from my sister Jessica).

Add them to all your cheese boards this season. The candied cranberries are not only pretty, but they’re also a sweet-tart contrast to all the savory flavors of the cheeses, meats, nuts, and crackers.

And just imagine the festivity that a cocktail pick skewered with these beauties would add to a holiday cranberry cocktail. Cheers!

close-up of sugared cranberries in a bowl

Why I Like This Sugared Cranberries Recipe Best

Sugared cranberries, or candied cranberries as some people like to call them, first caught my attention in a recipe featured in Cooking Light magazine many years ago.

I still have that torn-out page from their December 2003 edition tucked in my saved recipes pile, with a pretty picture of the cranberries nestled into festive holiday tins.

I felt that their recipe could benefit from a couple improvements, however… Here are the reasons why I think my recipe is the best!

  1. My recipe is quick and easy. Cooking Light’s instructions have you refrigerating the cranberries overnight in simple syrup before coating them in sugar – and I’ve found the overnight step to be completely unnecessary. I say, “Simplify!”
  2. I use a medium-sized grain of sugar. Another change that I’ve made is with the sugar coating. Their recipe uses a superfine sugar. With a little sugar-coating experiment in our own kitchen, I’ve found that I much prefer a white sanding sugar, which has a medium-sized grain. This gives a little more “crunch” factor when biting the cranberries, plus this sugar has a bit more sparkle to it. The holidays deserve all the sparkle we can muster…especially this year!! #2020goaway
fresh cranberries, granulated sugar, sanding sugar, and water

Ingredients for this Recipe

This ingredients list is a short one. You’ll only need three items, plus water. Super simple!

  • granulated sugar
  • water
  • fresh cranberries
  • white sanding sugar for best texture and appearance (or substitute granulated sugar)
fresh cranberries in simple syrup

How to Make Sugared Cranberries

With a short ingredients list and easy instructions, there’s no reason you shouldn’t make at least a couple batches of sugared cranberries during the holidays. Here’s how I make this recipe!

1. Soak the cranberries in a simple syrup: First, heat granulated sugar and water in a saucepan until sugar dissolves. Next, remove saucepan from heat and add cranberries, stirring gently to coat. Then, transfer cranberries to a wire rack to dry for 30 minutes.

cranberries coated in simple syrup, rolled in sanding sugar in a small bowl

2. Coat the cranberries in sugar: Add cranberries, a few at a time, to a small bowl of white sanding sugar. Use a spoon to roll the cranberries around, to completely coat them with sugar.

sugared cranberries drying on a cooling rack

3. Let sugared cranberries dry: Remove sugared cranberries to a wire rack to dry for 1 hour.

That’s it!

sugared cranberries, Christmas ornaments, and a comfy cream blanket
candied cranberries in a white bowl

FAQ’s and Tips About Sugared Cranberries

  • How do sugared cranberries taste? They are tart AND sweet, all at the same time. And they have an amazing pop when you bite them!
  • Can I double the recipe? Yes! This is one of those recipes that is very easily halved, doubled, or even tripled.
  • Why is the sugar not sticking to the cranberries? Humidity can effect the drying time. When humidity is up, the simple syrup will not dry as fast – and then you’ll want to let the cranberries dry for nearly an hour before rolling them in the sanding sugar. When the air is dry, the simple syrup will dry faster – so only let the cranberries dry for 15 to 30 minutes prior to rolling them in sanding sugar.
  • Can I save the cranberry simple syrup? Yes again! Reserve the pretty pink-tinged simple syrup that’s now lightly flavored with cranberry. Use it to sweeten cocktails and teas.
  • How long do sugared cranberries last? If creating these for a special gathering, I recommend making them earlier on the day you will be using them. They will definitely last for a few days, but they’re at their very best on the day you make them. If they show signs of weeping, roll them around in a bit more sugar.
  • How to store sugared cranberries? Store at cool room temperature, uncovered, to use within two days. Or place them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for three to four days.
a plate of cheese, crackers, and nuts, plus candied cranberries

How to Serve

Sugared cranberries go well with both sweet and savory. And they’re pretty darn awesome all on their own – just pop them in your mouth!

Just look at that festive plate of nibbles above. The sweet-tart cranberries are EXCELLENT with a cheese board or appetizer buffet!

butter cream sauce being spooned over a piece of cranberry cake

I mentioned a few dessert recipes at the beginning of this post that would go very well with sugared cranberries.

One of them was this Christmas Cranberry Cake, a special family recipe from my aunt Donna. Add a few sparkly, sugar-crusted cranberries to the top of each piece of cake for a beautiful, fun presentation!

a champagne flute filled with a cranberry cocktail, garnished with a swizzle stick of sugared cranberries

Also, be sure to have some sugared cranberries around for dramatic cocktail garnishment!

Skewer a few berries and then add to a glass of champagne or prosecco mixed with cranberry juice. These sugared cranberries would also go well with a Cranberry Gin and Tonic, one of my favorite holiday cocktails!

Like this recipe? Save it to Pinterest!

Pinterest image for sugared cranberries
sugared cranberries in a bowl, plus a Christmas ornament

Sugared Cranberries

Yield: 2 cups
prep time: 10 minutes
cook time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours
total time: 2 hours 15 minutes
A quick and easy recipe for your holiday entertaining. The perfect sweet-tart, sparkling garnish for desserts, cocktails, and cheese boards!
5 Stars (1 Review)
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Ingredients

Instructions

  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine granulated sugar and water. Stir until sugar dissolves. Do not boil.
  • Remove saucepan from heat and add cranberries, stirring gently several times to coat all cranberries completely.
  • With a slotted spoon, transfer cranberries to a wire rack that is set on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Separate the cranberries so they aren’t touching each other. Let cranberries dry for 15 to 60 minutes (see note on air humidity below). Reserve leftover syrup if desired – it’s great for sweetening teas and cocktails.
  • Place sanding sugar in a small bowl. Then add cranberries (they will be sticky), a few at a time, to the sanding sugar. Use a small spoon to roll the cranberries around in the sugar until completely coated. Remove sugared cranberries to a clean wire rack to dry for 1 hour.

Notes

If creating these for a special gathering, I recommend making them earlier on the day you will be using them. They will definitely last for a few days, but they’re at their very best on the day you make them. If they show signs of weeping, roll them around in a bit more sugar.
Humidity can effect the drying time. When humidity is up, the simple syrup will not dry as fast – and then you’ll want to let the cranberries dry for nearly an hour before rolling them in the sanding sugar. When the air is dry, the simple syrup will dry faster – so only let the cranberries dry for 15 to 30 minutes prior to rolling them in sanding sugar.
Store at cool room temperature, uncovered, if using within 2 days. Otherwise in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
Reserve the simple syrup and use to sweeten teas and cocktails.
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine, December 2003 edition.

Nutrition Information:

Serving: 1 Calories: 690kcal Carbohydrates: 179g Protein: 1g Sodium: 10mg Fiber: 8g Sugar: 162g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Spoonacular. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your own favorite calculator.
Did you make this recipe?Please leave a comment below. And share a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #afarmgirlsdabbles or tag @farmgirlsdabble!
sugared cranberries in a bowl, plus a Christmas ornament

Photos by Molly from Yes to Yolks.