10 Clever Ways To Use Cranberries

10 Clever Ways to Use Cranberries

If your cranberry cravings are limited to a little sauce on top of the Thanksgiving turkey, it's time to revisit the kitchen with some new inspiration. Cranberries are a prime choice for creative culinary use year-round.

You can purchase fresh berries in the fall and winter months. As a Massachusetts resident — a state that ranks second in the nation for cranberry production — I love that they are one of the few locally grown fresh fruits available during those months. But don't limit your cranberry-filled cooking to October through December. Be sure to pick up a few extra packages to freeze so that you can pull them out later.

Balance Breakfast Quinoa

Cranberries with quinoa? You betcha. Simply sauté the slightly sour cranberries with a sweet apple and stir in a pinch of brown sugar and cinnamon. Mix with cooked quinoa and there you have a warm, filling breakfast that's a treat on a cold morning.

Click here to see a Coconut Cranberry Overnight Oats recipe.

Complement Chocolate Dessert

Fresh cranberries add a tart surprise to chocolate desserts, especially a rich chocolate cake. Simply slice some fresh cranberries into the batter before cooking. Once the cake has cooled, top with sweet buttercream frosting to balance out the tartness of whole dish. Dried cranberries also make a sweet addition to chocolate desserts as well; add them to a double chocolate chip cookie or a chocolate bark. Lastly, try making chocolate-covered fresh cranberries (because who says strawberries should get all the attention?).

Click here to see a Chocolate-Cranberry Coconut Macaroons recipe.

Craft a Unique Cocktail

Think outside of the cranberry vodka box and get creative. This "Harvest Mule" cocktail was crafted for us by Tenzin Samdo, mixologist at Tavern Road in Boston. It features saffron-infused Privateer Silver Rum, GrandTen Cranberry liqueur, Ocean Spray cranberry juice, lime, and ginger beer.

Click here for a Cranberry Caipirinha recipe.

Create a Cranberry Aïoli

A traditional aïoli is a sauce or spread made of garlic, egg yolk, and olive oil. But there are boundless variations that can be made with additional flavorings of your choice. Try creating a makeshift aïoli by simply combining a little mayo with leftover cranberry sauce. Use it to top your turkey sandwiches, turkey burgers, or fish cakes (shown here).

Click here to read "What to Do With Leftover Cranberry Sauce."

Fill Homemade Pasta

I grew up in an Italian family and I'm also a runner — so pasta is considered an essential part of my life. This cranberry tortellini over butternut squash purée could be one of my favorite pasta dishes ever. If you make your own fresh ravioli or tortellini, try it at home yourself by adding cranberries to the ricotta filling. Depending on your preference for sweet flavors, you could either cook down fresh berries to mix in or you could add dried cranberries.

Click here for 15 cranberry recipes that think outside the sauce.

Get (Grilled) Cheesy

When you taste a cranberry grilled cheese, you'll be asking yourself how it's possible that you've lived this long without one. Rich, salty Cheddar with tart cranberries on that buttery bread is heaven in your mouth. Slice some cranberries into your next grilled cheese, and be prepared to be amazed.

Click here to see a Grilled Brie, Apple, and Cranberry Sandwich recipe.

Liven-up a Crostini

Crusty homemade bread is brought to life when you top it with salty Cheddar and a sweet cranberry sauce or jam. Freeze your extra homemade cranberry sauce after Thanksgiving, and pull it out to make these adorable appetizers for your holiday parties.

Stuff Other Fruit

Baked apples and pears are lovely winter desserts, and their fragrant aromas during the cooking process lend a lovely smell to your home. Combine fresh or dried cranberries with a little brown sugar and your choice of nuts (pecans and walnuts are some favorites) to fill the apple or pear. Bake in the oven until tender, and then dig in.

Click here for a Walnut, Ginger, and Cranberry-Stuffed Crock-Pot Apples recipe.

Sweeten a Salad

By now, I'm sure almost everyone has had a salad topped with dried cranberries, and for good reason. The dried fruit adds extra texture and sweetness to those slightly bitter leafy greens. For your best salad results, use a flavorful green (like kale, spring mix, or arugula) with the sweet dried cranberries and a tangy cheese (like gorgonzola). A citrus vinaigrette pairs well to dress the salad.

Click here for a Spinach Cranberry Salad recipe.

Top Proteins

Everyone knows that turkey pairs well with cranberries, but so does chicken and duck! You can make a simple cranberry syrup to drizzle on these proteins (think a smoky duck appetizer or a chicken meatball). Reduce cranberries down in a pot using one part water, one part sugar, and two parts cranberries. Simmer for 20 minutes then strain it and save the syrup. Bonus: This syrup is multipurpose; you can also use it as a mixer for drinks!

Click here for a Slow Cooker Cranberry Citrus Meatballs recipe.