If your dish calls for these berries and you do not have any, you can use a substitute for cranberry instead. Read on as we discuss what your best options are.
Whether you’re a seasoned chef or an aspiring home cook, you can surely enjoy your culinary creations with alternative ingredients.
Cranberries or Vaccinium oxycoccos are small, round, red berries. They belong to the Ericaceae family, also known as the heath family.
This plant family is where bilberry, lingonberry, and blueberry also belong.
Cranberries are native to North America. They have smooth and glossy skins.
What makes them interesting is that they have four air chambers inside.
These pockets of air are the reason why fresh cranberries float in water.
Regarding taste, these berries have a tart and slightly sour flavor.
Because of this flavor, cranberries are rarely eaten raw. People most commonly cook and sweeten these berries before eating them.
These berries are widely used in both sweet and savory dishes.
They are most popular for their use in cranberry sauce for holiday meals.
You’ll also find cranberry juice, jams, jellies, and muffins. Additionally, these berries can make salads, sauces, and meat glazes taste better.
In North America, these berries are available in grocery stores and supermarkets during the peak harvest season, which runs from September to December.
Frozen cranberries, cranberry juice, and dried berries are available the whole year worldwide.
If you do not like how cranberry tastes or you don’t have them available on hand, there is no need to worry.
Here is a list of the best cranberry substitutes for your next dish.
The top alternative for fresh cranberries is frozen cranberries. They are perfect when these berries are off their season, and you crave them.
The great thing about freezing cranberries is that the process preserves their taste.
That said, a frozen cranberry will taste exactly like a fresh one once you thaw them. In that case, they also pair well with sweet and savory flavors.
Before use, take the frozen berries out of the freezer. Let them sit on the counter to thaw, and use them in all recipes that call for fresh cranberries.
Dried cranberries can also replace fresh berries in some recipes.
Understandably, dried cranberries do not share the same taste and texture as fresh ones. After all, they do not have any remaining juice.
They will work in bread recipes, salads, and spreads.
These dried berries are available off-season, so they’re pretty accessible.
If you’re making jelly or sauces, skip this option. There are better substitutes for cranberry in these recipes than dried ones.
If you’re all about getting the authentic cranberry flavor, cranberry juice can give that to you.
However, due to the difference in form, it will not work for all recipes that call for these berries.
Cranberry juice is best when you’re making cranberry jelly or sauce. You may have to use pectin, cornstarch, or another thickening agent to get a better texture, though.
Make sure to get pure cranberry juice without sugar and preservatives. If your juice lacks cranberry’s distinct tart flavor, add a splash of lemon juice to fix it.
Another excellent alternative to cranberries is cranberry sauce.
It is a good option because you can find it in most stores, either in cans or jars.
The sauce usually contains the fruit, water, and sugar.
Cranberry sauce is generally served with meat, but as a substitute for cranberries, this will work great in pie fillings and pancake toppings.
Feel free to adjust the consistency of canned cranberry sauce to fit your recipe.
Thin it out with cranberry juice, or thicken it with cornstarch. You may also add some lemon juice for extra tartness.
Cranberry jam is basically similar to cranberry sauce, but it is thicker. Plus, it contains much more sugar, resulting in a dessert-like flavor.
Some cranberry jams also may include other fruits like apples and oranges.
Despite these extra ingredients, this fruit jam can replace cranberries in sweet recipes. Use it in making a sweet sauce, a decadent dessert, or a delicious baked good.
Because cranberry jam already contains a lot of sugar, you must reduce the amount of the other sweet ingredients in your recipe. Doing so will help you achieve a more balanced flavor profile.
Even when they are sweeter, raspberries are a great option for a cranberry substitute.
They have a similar fruity taste that can enhance the flavor of your desserts and sweet baked goods.
Aside from being sweeter, it is also worth noting that raspberries are softer than cranberries.
They easily lose their shape when you bake them, so they’re best for dishes that need mashed cranberries.
If you cannot find fresh raspberries, use raspberry jam as a cranberry replacement. You might have to reduce the sugar and other sweet ingredients in your recipe.
Another great swap for cranberry is red currant.
Red currants have a similar hue as cranberry, so your dishes will look the same.
They are also as juicy as cranberries, making them a perfect ingredient for dishes where you’d typically use cranberries.
Regarding taste, though, red currants are like sugary versions of cranberries. They are sweet, but they also have a similar tart flavor.
Red currants are slightly smaller than cranberries. For this reason, you may need more of them to replace an equal amount of cranberries.
Lingonberries also make a great swap for cranberries. Both these berries come from the same family, so they share many similar characteristics.
Lingonberries taste sweet and tart, so using them won’t cause a shift in the flavor of your recipes. Plus, they look the same, so the substitution will be seamless.
Note that lingonberries are softer and juicier than cranberries. Be extra careful when handling them so you won’t crush them in the process.
Lingonberries can be difficult to find in stores, especially if you live where they aren’t native. If you need a quick and accessible alternative, there are better options than these.
One fruit that looks much like cranberry is the tart cherry. Unlike regular sweet cherries, tart cherries have a distinct sour flavor that brings their taste closer to cranberries.
Because of these characteristics, these cherries are among the best replacements for cranberries.
You can use them in the same way as cranberries. Add them to pies, or make jams and sauces from these fruits.
They especially pair well with soft cheese, so these cherries are perfect if your recipe also calls for goat or brie cheese.
Cherries are significantly bigger than cranberries. While the size doesn’t matter when making jellies, dessert fillings, and sauces, you may need to cut them into smaller pieces for recipes that need whole cranberries.
One unconventional swap for cranberry that you may not immediately think of is apricot.
Apricots do not look anything like cranberries. If anything, they look the opposite as they’re big and yellow-orange.
However, their flesh is soft, sweet, and slightly tart, making them ideal ingredients for pies, jams, sauces, and jellies.
They also pair surprisingly well with the same foods that taste great with cranberries. That said, they are decent options if you’re okay with a change in the appearance of your dish.
To get the best texture out of apricots, it is best if you stew them first. Remember that apricots taste is naturally sweet, so you are better off reducing the amount of sugar and other sweeteners in your recipe.
Choosing among the options above can be overwhelming, but we’re here to help. Here are some factors you need to consider when making a swap.
If you want to maintain the cranberry flavor in your recipe, use cranberry-based products. The berries are their main ingredient, so you will get the same taste. For a slightly sweeter alternative, red currants are a good option, too.
The red hue of cranberries is one of the reasons why many people love them. They give dishes an appetizing color that impacts the overall appeal of the recipe.
If you like your dish to stay the same color, choose among lingonberries, red currants, and cherries. On the other hand, if color is not that significant to you, you can use apricots instead.
Softer berries like lingonberries and raspberries are best for recipes that call for crushed cranberries. Regarding recipes like jams, sauces, and jellies, you are better off with liquid alternatives like cranberry juice or cranberry sauce.
Other dried fruits, like currants, raspberries, and cherries, are top choices for a cranberry swap in a salad. Their comparable tartness and sweetness provide a delightful burst of flavor to your dish. Their chewy texture creates a satisfying contrast among the salad’s ingredients.
Yes, Craisins and dried cranberries are essentially the same thing. Craisins is actually a brand name for Ocean Spray’s dried and sweetened cranberries. Note that Ocean Spray holds the registered trademark for Craisins. That said, you cannot make your own dried version of the fruit and pass them off as Craisins.
The lingonberry is a berry that is very similar to cranberry. It belongs to the same plant family, after all. Like cranberries, lingonberries are small, red, tart, and sweet. Both berries are good ingredients for jams, sauces, and delectable desserts. Due to these similarities, you can use lingonberries and cranberries interchangeably in most recipes.
When you need a substitute for cranberry, there are many good options. You can use frozen cranberries, which taste like fresh ones. Dried cranberries work for some recipes, like bread and salads. Cranberry juice offers an authentic flavor. However, due to its consistency, you might need thickening agents. Cranberry sauce and jam are quick, easy, and accessible alternatives for fresh fruit in sweet dishes.
Raspberries are perfect swaps for mashed cranberries. Red currants, lingonberries, and tart cherries share a similar sweet and sour taste, making them decent options as well. Apricots are much different from cranberries but work well in pies and jams. Overall, these options let you enjoy your recipes even without fresh cranberries. Pick your favorite and cook away!