Give Canned Cranberry Sauce A Crunchy Upgrade With This Simple Addition

Cranberry sauce may be as much a symbol of the holiday season as turkeys and trees, but a stroll down the canned fruit and vegetable aisle of your local grocery store will remind you that while the association is apt, this stuff is actually available all year long. Given how delicious it is, why relegate this sweet-tart culinary treat to only a handful of meals per year?

The truth is, cranberry sauce goes well with so many preparations, and can be utilized, transformed and doctored up in ways that make it work for your diverse dining needs. So if you plan to put cranberry sauce into regular rotation, you may want to consider some simple additions to keep things interesting. And one such way to plus-up your cran — whether the saucy kind, the more jiggly iteration, or even a homemade basic cranberry sauce recipe — is to call upon your favorite nuts. This crunchy spin makes for a major upgrade in both flavor and textural contrast categories.

Cranberry and nut combos

While cranberry sauce already brings so many delicious elements to any meal, one factor where it may fall flat for some is texture. And whether you're using it for turkey or mashed potatoes, sandwiching it with Brussels sprouts and goat cheese, or even baking it into banana bread, a little crunchy contrast is more than welcome.

When choosing nuts, you can really go for whatever strikes your fancy, but considering the qualities of different nuts, how they will complement or contrast with sweet-tart cranberry sauce, and what you're making for your finished dish can help you can select accordingly. Almonds and hazelnuts are quite crunchy, while cashews and walnuts are a bit softer, as are pecans. Some nuts, like walnuts, bring a touch of bitterness, which can be a nice balance to the cranberry, while others, like pine nuts, are a bit fatty and add a creaminess to your composition, while providing a counterpoint to the acidity in your fruity condiment. Toasting and salting your nuts will also add dimension to your cranberry sauce, as will opting for candied or spicy nuts that can add extra crunch and a kick, respectively.

Cranberry sauces dishes that will be great with a crunch

If you're thinking beyond the holiday table, there are plenty of creative ways to use a crunchified cranberry sauce. As a crostini appetizer, pair a dollop with some spreadable cheese (ricotta, cream cheese, or mascarpone work well) on toasted bread, and sprinkle crushed walnuts. Pastry pinwheels with brie and cranberry sauce beg for a little crunch, and toasted pecans answer the call. Use your cranberry sauce for tacos; it's perfect for smoky pulled pork or chicken — or even go veggie with roasted butternut squash — and top with some pumpkin seeds for a pop of texture.

You can even heat up your cranberry sauce for a whole new world of flavor, then spoon it over sweet potatoes with crunchy hazelnuts. Or turn canned cranberry sauce into your new favorite cheesecake topping, which will pair perfectly with some salted and toasted pecans.

If you're concerned about nut allergies, there are additional ways to add crunch. Try some granola, puffed rice, or even crushed pretzels. Go ahead and spread cranberry sauce on your burger instead of ketchup, and add that textural contrast with crispy fried onions. The bottom line is that no matter what time of year you're cooking with cranberry sauce, a crunch is always a welcome addition.