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Fresh Cranberry Salsa (& Appetizer!)

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This fresh Cranberry salsa recipe is a fresh, easy holiday appetizer–perfect for holiday parties! Don’t miss a fun appetizer idea + more ways to serve it below.

a white bowl of fresh cranberry salsa

I didn’t really give cranberries a lot of credit when I was little.

These days, I have a much better appreciation for this sweet-tart little fall berry. From classics like homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving, to yummy Apple Cranberry Crumble Pie, to light fluffy Orange Cranberry Muffins, mocktails, and more, I’m a BIG fan of cranberries as an adult!

That’s especially true around the holiday season! And if you need a quick appetizer for Thanksgiving dinner or your Christmas party, this fresh cranberry salsa recipe is here to deliver. It’s made in minutes with a few simple ingredients and makes a great addition to your holiday spread. It’s the perfect combination of sweet, tangy, spicy, and savory–yum!

Here’s what you’ll need to get started on this amazing holiday appetizer…

ingredients for cranberry salsa

Simple Ingredients For Cranberry Salsa:

My festive cranberry salsa recipe is made from a handful of really simple, fresh ingredients and takes only about 5-10 minutes to put together, tops. Here’s what I put in mine:

  • FRESH CRANBERRIES. Our key ingredient! Cranberry season is here and this is a GREAT way to use up a bag of fresh cranberries from the grocery store. They’re naturally pretty tart on their own, so we’re going to temper them with the rest of our ingredients, like…
  • A LITTLE ONION. The onion is the first way we turn this sweet-tart cranberry mixture into salsa. I don’t *love* lots of raw onion, so I keep the amount pretty small–about 1/4 cup. You can absolutely use less or more, depending on your taste, or swap it out for green onions instead.
  • CILANTRO. Yes, please! Fresh cilantro really makes this salsa fantastic. Such a pretty pop of color and fresh flavor.
  • JALAPEÑO. I keep my cranberry salsa pretty mild, so I start with about 1 Tbsp. of jalapeno peppers. If the jalapeño pepper isn’t too spicy, I go on up to 2 Tbsp. Like more heat? Feel free to add more!
  • LIME JUICE. Lime and cranberry are a perfect natural pairing. The lime juice does double duty here by adding lots of bright flavor and by helping to break down and soften the cranberries a bit.
  • HONEY OR AGAVE. It seems silly to put honey or agave in salsa, but fresh cranberries are so mouth-puckering tart that you’ll be glad you did. The sweetness with the lime juice and cranberries is so lovely, and the natural sugars help break down the cranberries even more and creates lots of yummy juice for scooping up.
  • A LITTLE SALT. The salt really pulls out the flavor in both the savory and sweet elements of this cranberry jalapeño salsa. Don’t forget it!

Tools Of The Trade:

I recommend a food processor for making this salsa. Technically you can make this without a food processor, though it’ll take a LOT more chopping and dicing. I love our food processor! It’s under $100 and has lasted for about 10 years.

fresh cranberry salsa and cream cheese appetizer
dipping crackers into cranberry salsa cream cheese appetizer

Turn It Into An Easy Appetizer!

My grandma used to serve this cranberry salsa cream cheese appetizer in the fall and winter at get-togethers and holiday parties. It makes a delightful Thanksgiving appetizer or holiday appetizer for parties throughout the season.

  • Mix Up The Salsa As Directed. It comes together quickly!
  • Chill For 1-2 Hours To Let The Flavors Develop. The salsa gets juicier after a couple of hours in the fridge. It’s worth the wait!
  • Plate Cream Cheese (or Vegan Cream Cheese) on a plate, dish, or platter. I keep the block of cream cheese whole for the best presentation, though you can whip it and spread it out like hummus, if you prefer.
  • Spoon Cranberry Salsa Over Cream Cheese. I do this right before serving for best results.
  • Serve With Crackers or Chips for dipping. Choose salty tortilla chips or Ritz crackers. We like Schar Entertainment Crackers for a gluten-free cracker option, but feel free to use your favorite crackers!

That’s it! It’s such a great make-ahead recipe that comes together quickly. Perfect when you’re short on time during a busy holiday season!

dipping tortilla chips in cranberry salsa

More ways To Serve Cranberry Salsa

Beyond spooning it on top of a block of cream cheese, there are lots of delicious ways to enjoy this delicious cranberry salsa. Some of my favorites:

  • WITH CHIPS. Just like traditional salsa, this cranberry salsa is delicious with tortilla chips! The salty chips are a delicious pairing that’s so good with the sweetness and tang of the salsa. (Siete makes some great grain-free tortilla chips if you’re paleo!) Or, you can make our baked tortilla chips!
  • WITH SMOKED TURKEY. If you’ve ever tried smoking a turkey, you know the delicious smoky flavors pair really well with savory options. This could be a fun savory twist instead of traditional cranberry sauce!
  • WITH TACOS OR NACHOS. Put your Thanksgiving turkey leftovers (or a rotisserie chicken or black beans!) to a fun, creative use and mix them with a little taco seasoning. Spoon over chips for nachos or into tortillas for tacos with your favorite toppings, then garnish with a spoonful of this yummy salsa!
  • ON GRILLED CHICKEN. Cranberry salsa is delicious spooned over grilled or pan-cooked chicken. (Especially with a honey-lime marinade!)
  • WITH BAKED BRIE. Or, spoon this salsa over warm baked brie and serve with tortilla chips. The gooey cheese is AMAZING with this cranberry jalapeño salsa!
cranberry salsa served on cream cheese with crackers

FAQ + Tips For The Best Cranberry salsa

PRO TIP: MAKE IT A LITTLE AHEAD OF TIME IF YOU CAN. The lime juice, salt, and honey/agave work together on the cranberries to soften them and bring out all their natural juiciness, which makes for extra fantastic salsa. If you can, make your cranberry salsa at least an hour or two ahead of time to allow the flavor to develop and the salsa to get more juicy.

CAN I USE FROZEN CRANBERRIES FOR CRANBERRY SALSA? Yes, though the cranberries will be a bit softer and juicier at the get-go. I’d recommend thawing the cranberries before adding them to the food processor.

HOW LONG WILL CRANBERRY SALSA KEEP? About 4-5 days in the fridge. I cover mine or put it in an airtight container and the flavor continues to develop over time. So good!

dipping crackers into cranberry salsa cream cheese appetizer

⭐ Don’t forget to leave a star rating and comment below when you make our Cranberry Salsa recipe. I can’t wait to hear how it goes!

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cranberry salsa served on cream cheese with crackers

Fresh Cranberry Salsa (+Appetizer!)

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5 from 1 review

  • Author: Emily Dixon, One Lovely Life
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: About 2 cups salsa 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free


This cranberry salsa is the perfect holiday appetizer. It’s always a hit at parties!



For Cranberry Salsa:

  • 1 (12-ounce) package of fresh cranberries (about 3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup finely minced red onion
  • 1/31/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
  • 12 Tablespoons finely minced jalapeño (start with 1 Tbsp.)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

For Cream Cheese Appetizer:

  • 1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese (use 2 blocks for a large group!)
  • Your favorite crackers*


For Cranberry Salsa:

  1. Break Up The Cranberries. To start, place cranberries into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to break the cranberries down a bit, but don’t puree them. (I recommend 15-20 short pulses.)
  2. Add Remaining Ingredients. Add onion, 1/3 cup cilantro, 1 Tablespoon minced jalapeño, lime juice, honey/agave, and salt.
  3. Pulse To Combine. Then, pulse a few times (don’t puree!) to combine everything and break it down. (You’ll only need 5-10 short pulses.) Stir to combine thoroughly.
  4. Taste & Adjust. Add more cilantro, salt, honey/agave, or jalapeño, as desired. (Remember that the flavors will intensify and develop as the salsa chills in the fridge.)
  5. Chill, If Possible. For best results, transfer the salsa to an airtight container and chill in the fridge at least 1-2 hours. The salsa will get softer, more juicy, and more flavorful.
  6. Serve & Store. Enjoy right away on its own, or turn it into an appetizer. Salsa will keep in the fridge 4–5 days.

For Cranberry Salsa Cream Cheese Appetizer:

  1. Plate Cream Cheese. When the salsa is done, unwrap a block of cream cheese and place it on a platter or plate. (I keep the block of cream cheese whole for easy scooping, though you can whip it and spread it out like hummus, if you prefer.)
  2. Spoon Cranberry Salsa Over Cream Cheese. Then, spoon some of the salsa over the cream cheese. (You won’t use all of the salsa. For large crowds, you can use 2 blocks of cream cheese)
  3. Serve With Crackers or Chips. You can scoop the salsa and cream cheese together onto your cracker like a dip!


*CRACKERS: We like Schar Entertainment Crackers for a gluten-free option. They taste like gluten-free Ritz crackers! If you’re not gluten-free, Ritz crackers and Wheat Thins work well!


  • With tortilla chips or crackers as a dip
  • Over grilled or cooked chicken
  • In tacos or over nachos
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Method: No-Cook
  • Cuisine: American

Originally published November 2019. Fully updated Oct 2023.


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  1. I have a group of girlfriends, plus my Mom and her friends and we all use this as our killer recipe in the pocket when attending Thanksgiving and Holiday events. Always a hit! I set it out with cream cheese on crackers as an appie as well as a salsa when I serve salmon. Yummy!!!!

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