Fresh Cranberry Salsa (+a fun appetizer idea!) – Cranberry salsa is the perfect holiday appetizer! It’s always a hit at parties. Check out all the fun ways to serve it below! (Paleo or Vegan)
I didn’t really give cranberries a lot of credit when I was little.
I don’t exactly know *why,* other than we really only had cranberries at Thanksgiving, and usually I was so excited about the other options that I didn’t save plate space for cranberry anything. You live, you learn, eh?
These days, I have a much better appreciation for this sweet-tart little fall berry. We make a gorgeous homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving (that I also spoon over oatmeal or chia pudding), and I love baking batches of these light fluffy Orange Cranberry Muffins.
This Fresh Cranberry Salsa is another delicious option for cranberry season. It’s a delicious savory-sweet salsa that works beautifully on its own, or turned into a fun party appetizer. I’ll show you how to make it and all the yummy ways to enjoy it. Let’s go!
HERE’S WHAT GOES INTO CRANBERRY SALSA:
My cranberry salsa recipe is made from a handful of really simple, straightforward ingredients and takes only about 5-10 minutes to put together, tops. Here’s what I put in mine:
FRESH CRANBERRIES. Cranberry season is here and this is a GREAT way to use up a bag of fresh cranberries. 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.
CILANTRO. Yes, please! Cilantro really makes this cranberry salsa fantastic. Such a pretty pop of color and fresh flavor.
JALAPENO. I keep my cranberry salsa pretty mild, so I start with about 1 Tbsp. of jalapeño. If the jalapeño 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 and is pretty critical–try not to forget it!
HOW TO SERVE CRANBERRY SALSA:
WITH CHIPS. Maybe the easiest way to enjoy cranberry salsa is 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!)
WITH SMOKED TURKEY. If you’ve ever tried smoking a turkey, you know the delicious smokey 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 fixin’s, then garnish with a spoonful of this cranberry salsa!
ON GRILLED CHICKEN. Cranberry salsa is delicious spooned over grilled or pan-cooked chicken. (Especially with a honey-lime marinade!)
OVER CREAM CHEESE AS AN APPETIZER. My grandma used to serve this in the fall and winter at get-togethers. Spoon cranberry salsa over cream cheese (or vegan cream cheese!) and enjoy with crackers. It always went fast when she served it, and friends who have tried it totally agree!
(*We use Miyokos or Kite Hill vegan cream cheese and Glutino or Schar gluten free crackers for a GFDF version!)
FAQ + TIPS FOR THIS CRANBERRY SALSA:
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.
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.
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!
TOOLS OF THE TRADE. 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.
LOVE THIS CRANBERRY SALSA? YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:
- Paleo or Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes (Dairy Free + Vegan + Whole30 options)
- Easy Mushroom Gravy (Dairy free + paleo + Whole30 + vegan options)
- Orange Cranberry Sauce (Paleo or Vegan)
- Green Beans with Balsamic Pepper Relish (GF + Paleo + Vegan)
HELPFUL FOR THIS RECIPE: