Classic Cranberry Salad

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This crunchy cranberry salad is a riff on the traditional Thanksgiving staple.

Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
4 hrs 55 mins
Servings:
12

A riff on the traditional cranberry sauces and salads that grace Southern tables every holiday season, our Test Kitchen's version of a classic cranberry salad is so good you'll want to whip up a batch all year long.

Not only is this cranberry salad delicious all on its own, but it tastes just as amazing over turkey or any other protein you might serve, like ham, pork chops, or even roast chicken.

Classic Cranberry Salad
Emily Laurae

Classic Cranberry Salad Ingredients

Fresh ingredients are key to making this easy recipe. In addition to cranberries, you'll need just six more ingredients to make a whopping 12 servings: light brown sugar, freshly squeezed orange juice, Bartlett pears, fresh pineapple, celery, and toasted pecans.

More: 35 Vintage Southern Salads You'll Find in Any Church Cookbook

The best cranberry salad recipes consist of ingredients that result in a well-balanced salad, and this version is no exception. The tartness of the cranberries—fresh or frozen work equally well—is mellowed by the use of brown sugar and sweet Bartlett pears, while sliced celery and toasted pecans give our Test Kitchen-approved recipe a surprising crunch.

Classic Cranberry Salad ingredients
Emily Laurae

The Best Cranberries for Cranberry Salad

While we always recommend using fresh ingredients for the best flavor, this colorful salad works just as well with frozen cranberries, which are easier to find around the holidays.

More: Why You Should Be Heating Up Your Cranberry Sauce

Only have dehydrated cranberries on hand? Steep them in some boiling water for 20 minutes. Then, strain the mixture, discarding the water. You'll be left with rehydrated cranberries that are much softer, plumper, and juicier.

How to Make a Classic Cranberry Salad

Seven ingredients and under 30 minutes of prep time are all you'll need to whip up a batch of our Test Kitchen-approved favorite cranberry salad.

Step 1. Boil the cranberries

Add the cranberries, brown sugar, and freshly-squeezed orange juice to a large pot. Stir often as the mixture comes to a boil over medium-high heat.

boiling cranberries for classic cranberry salad
Emily Laurae

Step 2. Simmer the cranberry mixture

Reduce to medium-low heat. Simmer for 15 minutes until thickened, and the cranberries start to pop. Remove from heat.

Step 3. Add in the fruits, celery, and nuts

Allow the saucepan to come to room temperature before adding in the pears, pineapple, celery, and toasted pecans. Transfer the cranberry salad to a serving bowl, and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Classic Cranberry Salad with ingredients
Emily Laurae

How to Serve Cranberry Salad

Prepping for a Thanksgiving or holiday dinner can certainly be overwhelming, which is why easy recipes like this cranberry salad should become a part of your cooking repertoire—they're full of flavor, serve a large crowd, and result in plenty of leftovers.

To take the stress out of all the holiday meal prep, you can make this cranberry salad in advance. It keeps well in the refrigerator for up to three days prior to serving.

Here are a few recipes that pair perfectly with our Classic Cranberry Salad:

Mushroom-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
Perfect Beef Tenderloin
Garlic Parmesan Green Beans
Peppercorn-Crusted Standing Rib Roast with Roasted Vegetables

How to Store Cranberry Salad

We love nothing more than the idea of making your Thanksgiving leftovers into something other than a sandwich, and these crunchy cranberry salad leftovers are the perfect example.

More: 5 Reasons to Swap Canned Cranberry Sauce for Homemade

A tablespoon or two is great over a bowl of vanilla ice cream for dessert or stirred into plain Greek yogurt for a slightly sweet breakfast the next day.

Classic Cranberry Salad
Emily Laurae

Tips for the Best Cranberry Salad

Chopped toasted pecans give this classic cranberry salad a Southern flair—after all, pecan is considered to be the South's signature nut. Add whole pecans to a lined baking sheet, and roast in the oven at 325°F for about 5 to 8 minutes until fragrant and lightly browned. Let the toasted pecans cool completely before chopping them in the food processor.

However, if you don't have any pecans on hand, you can easily swap them out for some walnuts.

Cranberries are often thought of only around Thanksgiving or Christmas, but you can make this recipe any time of year—serve it with a great protein, or eat it as a snack during the later fall and winter months.

Editorial contributions by Christabel Lobo.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (14 oz.)

  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar

  • ½ cup fresh orange juice (from 2 oranges)

  • 1 cup peeled and chopped Bartlett pears (about 2 small pears)

  • 1 cup chopped fresh pineapple (from 1 pineapple)

  • ½ cup thinly sliced celery (from 2 stalks)

  • ½ cup chopped toasted pecans

Directions

  1. Bring the cranberries, brown sugar, and orange juice to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries pop and mixture thickens, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

  2. Stir in the Bartlett pears, pineapple, celery, and pecans. Transfer to a serving bowl; cover and chill salad 4 to 24 hours.

    classic cranberry salad
    Emily Laurae/Southern Living

Tips

Make It Ahead: The cranberry salads can be made 3 days in advance. Cover and store in the refrigerator.

Updated by
Christabel Lobo
Christabel Lobo

Christabel Lobo is a freelance food writer and illustrator based between Washington, D.C., and India. She has contributed to Southern Living, Allrecipes, Zagat, OpenTable, EatingWell, Cooking Light, Insider, and more.

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