Sparkling Cranberries

Around the holidays these pretty, sugared, sparkling cranberries are perfect. Tart and sweet, they glint and wink in the surrounding holiday lights, and lend a striking dash of red to the table.

Sparkling Cranberries

I've become convinced that these sparkling, sugared cranberries should be a part of every holiday spread. Sparkling cranberries glint and wink in the surrounding holiday lights, and lend a striking dash of red to the table. Another great thing is the way they effortlessly make the transition from savory course to sweet. So, for example, I've become fond of serving them as part of a cheese spread, but I imagine they'd be nice as the finishing touch on on a tart or clustered atop a crème brûlée or pudding of some sort.
Sparkling Cranberries Recipe

Sparkling Cranberries: What Type of Sugar?

Over the years I've discovered this detail is key. I've experimented with a range of sugars with varying degrees of success. Some work better than others. In the beginning, I wanted to make them with a maple sugar coating - but the cranberries looked like they had been dropped in dust. The same goes for raw cane sugar, coconut sugar, and Rapadura. I gave up trying to do a less refined sugar version. On the other end of the sugar spectrum, extra-fine grain sugar didn't work well either. The results were too clumpy. Essentially, the best way to get a good sparkling sugar crust on your cranberries is to first roll them in an slightly-chunky white sugar. The larger sugar grains retain structure despite the moisture from the simple syrup. Later in the process, toss them in regular, standard granulated sugar. The small grains of the granulated sugar cling to any spots that are still sticky from the simple syrup. 

Sparkling Cranberries

They are simple to make, but you need to do the first step the night before. I like to toss the cranberries in sugar the next morning, and off and on throughout the day so they have time to dry and crisp up.


There are endless ways to add layers of flavor to your sparkling cranberries.

  • Cardamom Sparkling Cranberries: In the comments Aimee mentioned, ”I made my simple syrup with cardamom sugar to give it even more of a holiday flavor.” This got me thinking, you could steep a few cardamom pods along with the water and sugar, and strain before proceeding with the rest of the recipe. And/or add a teaspoon of finely crushed cardamom to your sugar mixture before tossing with the cranberries.
  • Citrus Sparkling Cranberries: By introducing the zest of an orange or two to your simple syrup pot, you can infuse the simple syrup with notes of winter orange. Strain and proceed with the recipe.

Also, use the leftover simple syrup in holiday drinks and cocktails!

Sparkling Cranberries Recipe

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Sparkling Cranberries

4 from 34 votes

One of the keys here is allowing enough time for the cranberries to dry and crisp up as you're tossing them to coat with sugar throughout the day. For the simple syrup, use 2 cups of granulated sugar. For the sugar coating, I do a mix of medium-large sugar for the first coating, and then a second toss with regular granulated white sugar. You don't want a *huge* grain for that first toss, just something larger than standard sugar. You can sort of see the different grain sizes in the third photo in the main write-up. Have fun!

  • 2 cups cranberries, picked over
  • 2 cups water
  • 3+ cups sugar, mixed types (see headnotes)
  1. Place the cranberries in a medium glass bowl and set aside.
  2. Make a simple syrup by bringing the water and 2 cups of granulated sugar just to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Let the syrup cool for a couple minutes and then pour it over the cranberries. If the syrup is too hot the cranberries will burst, so be careful. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

  3. The next day, drain the cranberries and toss them, in batches, with larger grained sugar until they are well coated. I only use a scoop of sugar at a time, and small batches of cranberries, so the sugar doesn't get too damp. Place the coated cranberries on a baking sheet, in a single layer, to dry for a few hours.

  4. Do a second toss with the regular granulated sugar, this typically takes care of any sticky spots on the cranberries. Let dry another hour or so, or until the sugar coating is dry and crisp.


Makes 2 cups of sparkling cranberries.

Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Total Time
15 mins
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Recipe Rating


they look delicious! cant wait to eat some.


I'm confused... are the cranberries essentially raw but covered in sugar? HS: Pretty much.


they look so cute!


Sparkling indeed. I can certainly see these topping off a winter pudding - they would contrast with custards beautifully.

Daily Spud

I love cranberries! These gorgeous little red jewels are highly unappreciated! I moved to Brasil almost 2 yrs. ago and unfortunately they are not to be found anywhere! I miss them sorely, esp. around the holidays (I made your "spice-kissed pumpkin pie" to cheer myself up this past Thanksgiving, it was delish). I am definitely keeping this recipe around for that one day when I move back to the States.


Is the raw cane sugar you referred to in your trial version sucanat or something else? Maple and cranberry does sound super delicious...maybe the "dusty" look would make them appealing to toddlers? :) HS: The kids seem to love these, which kind of surprised me because of the tartness of the cranberries....All of those sucanat-ish sweeteners make for unattractive cranberries. Wish it weren't so, but...


Oh my! This is destiny for me as I have 25 lbs of cranberries sitting in my freezer. I'll bet you can all guess where I live. (Hint...think of a Tea Party)


I was surprised to see this post today, since I've never seen these except when I made them a few years ago! I just put them in a bowl on the food table and people ate them like snacks. Very pretty too!


i do these but i toss them in maple syrup and then put them in the fridge over night - they get a nice crisp candy-like coating on them and BURST with cranberry juice when you bite down on them. always a hit!


These look so festive and as you said perfect with a cheese spread!

Cooking Foodie

What a nice holiday treat. I do something similar for sugar and spice pecans using egg whites as a binder. Addictive! Pounds will be gained.

tom | tall clover farm

For the first toss, do you think I could give some demerara sugar a whirl in the blender/food processor to break it down a little bit smaller, but still have that great taste/texture? HS: Hard to say, I think it would probably scratch and beat up the grains, and wouldn't be as sparkly.


Wow! I'll take one of these on top of my ice cream in lieu of a maraschino cherry any day.


Heidi, you've captured winter cranberries so precisely! The frosted ice crystals surrounding each berry give the appearance of freshly picked berries on a very cold and frosty winter day. This is a beautiful ornament to give holiday dishes that extra festive Christmas flair! Thanks for sharing!

Christine @ Fresh Local and Best

These look gorgeous!


I've been making these for Thanksgiving and serving them with pumpkin pie. The combination of flavors is wonderful.


Eating cranberries is a new experience for me beside a cranberry sauce. How would you eat them as part of a cheese spread? Sprinkle them on top of a cheese and cracker. I really want to try to make this for my in laws, but I don't want to show up not knowing how to eat it!


So pretty! Do these need to be refrigerated after they're done? How long do you think they'd last, assuming they're not scooped up and inhaled within minutes of serving? HS: Keep them at room temp, and we always eat them the day of. But you might have luck storing them in a dry, air-tight container overnight...


I have made these in the past to go with my Yule Log cake. I add some orange zest and a tiny bit of orange juice in the simple sugar. Delicious!

rebekah jones

I'm making these ASAP!


Hi Susan, humidity definitely impacts them. That said, this current batch is great two days later. Completely dry and crisp.

Heidi Swanson

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