Impress your guests this holiday season with a mouthwatering cranberry relish. Bursting with a tangy-sweet flavor, this vibrant side is the perfect accompaniment to elevate any dish on your dinner table.
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If you want to surprise your guests with an unexpectedly delicious side dish, try this sweet and tangy cranberry relish recipe. If I’m not making my homemade cranberry sauce during the holidays, this is the next best alternative. It’s made with five ingredients and ready in 10 minutes or less!
The process is easy: grab a bag of fresh cranberries, a ripe orange, and a few seasonings. Chop them down until it’s finely minced. Let the relish marinate to infuse all of the ingredients together. The recipe is great to prepare in advance! Serve it with a juicy roasted turkey, a dip for crostini, or as an appetizer with cheese.
- Cranberries: Use 12 ounces of fresh cranberries. Frozen can be used and should not be defrosted before processing.
- Sweetener: Granulated sugar adds a clean sweetness to the dish.
- Citrus: Select a large orange. The zest and juice will add a nice citrus flavor to the relish. If you don’t feel like grating the citrus, just use a paring knife to slice off the orange peel but not the white pith, then add it to the food processor.
- Seasoning: Salt enhances the flavor of the tart cranberries, citrus, and sugar. Ground cinnamon elevates the sweet flavor and adds a baked aroma.
Prepare the cranberries
Discard any bruised or crushed berries to prevent introducing spoilage organisms into the relish. Raw cranberries must be thoroughly rinsed with cold water to remove any dirt and debris during processing. Since the relish will not be cooked, washing is crucial.
A food processor is the best tool for making fresh cranberry orange relish. The large blade quickly chops down the fruit into tiny pieces. A countertop blender can be used, but it would be best to work in batches so the berries don’t get pureed.
Make the relish
Add the washed cranberries, sugar, orange zest, ¼ cup of orange juice, salt, and cinnamon to the food processor. Pulse the mixture until the berries are finely chopped. Although you can serve it immediately, it’s best to let the ingredients marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
This duration gives the sugar time to dissolve, then season the flesh of the cranberries. The final result yields a more balanced, sweet, and tangy flavor. Do not leave the relish out longer than 2 hours at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate to prolong the freshness.
The great thing about cranberry relish is it’s easy to add different flavors and texture. Try these delicious variations:
- Fruit: To add dimension, add tart granny smith, Fuji, or Honeycrisp apples. Add one to the food processor and chop along with the cranberries. Crisp pears like Barlett are great for fall flavors. Stir in pomegranate arils for a burst of juicy flavor.
- Sweetener: Instead of sugar, add brown sugar for a molasses note. Honey or maple syrup can be used, but start with ⅓ cup, then increase to taste. Add dried cranberries to enhance the sweetness.
- Citrus: Instead of orange, add lemon or lime for a more tart taste.
- Heat: Fresh jalapenos or serrano peppers can add a spicy kick. Start with one pepper, and add more for a hotter taste. Some cayenne or chipotle powder will add a lingering heat.
- Spices: Besides cinnamon, add ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, or cardamom. Try my pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice for a seasonal blend.
- Herbs: Fresh mint, tarragon, rosemary, thyme, or basil will add herbaceous flavors.
- Nuts and Seeds: Add crunch with chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds, or pepitas.
- Slow cooker turkey breast
- Creamy mashed potatoes
- Green bean casserole
- Mashed sweet potatoes
- Make a leftover turkey salad sandwich
Frequently asked questions
Cranberry sauce is fresh cranberries simmered with a liquid and sugar until the berries pop, giving a thickened jam-like consistency. Cranberry relish is made with raw cranberries, sugar, and juice, then chopped into tiny pieces.
Fresh fruit like apples or pears are an excellent addition. Dried fruit like cranberries will add a more concentrated berry flavor and sweeter taste. Chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds also add a crunch to the relish.
The relish stores well for up to one week in the refrigerator for the freshest taste. Freeze for up to 1 month. It tastes better the longer it marinates as the sweet and tangy juices infuse into the flesh of the berries. The relish won’t be as crisp as when made and served the same day. It will have a slightly softer texture due to the acids in the citrus.
Using frozen cranberries instead of fresh
Frozen cranberries can be used instead of fresh to make the relish. It’s best to process frozen berries, so they hold their structure when chopping. If defrosted, the cell walls will burst, creating a mushy consistency. The fruit will defrost as it marinates and release more moisture than fresh berries.
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- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- ¼ cup orange juice
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- Prepare the Cranberries – Add the cranberries to a colander and wash with cool running water. Gently shake to drain off excess moisture.
- Make the Relish – In a food processor, add the cranberries, sugar, orange zest, orange juice, salt, and cinnamon. Pulse until the berries break down into smaller pieces. Do not puree! Taste and add more sugar if desired.
- To Serve – Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Serve chilled.
- Recipe Yield: About 2 cups
- Serving Size: ¼ cup
- Storing: Refrigerate in an air-tight container for up to 7 days. Freeze for up to 1 month, defrost before using.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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