Cranberry salsa with cream cheese. This eye-catching holiday appetizer is full of vibrant color and flavor. Zesty cranberry salsa is put over non-dairy cream cheese for a tangy mixture of sour and sweet. Vegan & gluten-free.
The cranberry love continues. Last week I shared a cranberry mimosa recipe. And this week I’m highlighting a classic Thanksgiving appetizer – cranberry salsa with cream cheese.
Fresh cranberry salsa
Cranberry salsa is made with fresh cranberries. Unlike orange cranberry sauce, it isn’t cooked.
Instead, whole cranberries are blitzed in a food processor with sugar, lime and orange juice, cilantro, onions, garlic, red bell peppers, and orange zest.
Then the cranberry salsa moves to the refrigerator. As it soaks in citrus juices and sugar, the cranberries soften & sweeten.
(You definitely don’t want to make cranberry salsa without some kind of sweetener. Cranberries are far too tart without it. It’s like eating rhubarb without sugar. Not recommended.)
After the cranberry salsa has had a chance to break down in the sugars, what remains is a vibrant and lively cranberry salsa.
Cranberry salsa can be used as a relish with your main Thanksgiving meal. It goes particularly nicely with a seitan roast.
It can also be used like a tomato salsa, on top of tacos. I like to serve it with my sweet potato black bean tacos.
They are prepared with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. The smoky heat of the peppers balances nicely with the tart sweetness of cranberry salsa.
Today I’m sharing another way to use fresh cranberry salsa – as an appetizer!
Cranberry salsa with cream cheese
Cranberry salsa with cream cheese is a classic Thanksgiving appetizer. The bold color of dark red cranberries stands out so beautifully against snowy white cream cheese.
Any remaining sourness in the cranberries is muted by the tang of cream cheese.
When I say cream cheese, obviously I’m talking about vegan cream cheese. There are loads of non-dairy cream cheeses to use these days.
Which vegan cream cheese to buy?
My favorite store-bought vegan cream cheeses are from Kite Hill, Trader Joe’s, and Go Veggie. I buy Trader Joe’s most often, because it’s inexpensive and lasts a long while.
Before TJ’s cream cheese was readily available, I always used Go Veggie. (That’s what I use in my recipe for vegan crab rangoon.)
I like the flavor of Kite Hill the best. But it is also the most expensive. And I have a hard time finishing it before it goes bad.
Although, in this case, you’ll likely be serving it in one day. So that won’t be an issue.
For the purposes of this appetizer, remember to get plain cream cheese. Something with chive or onion isn’t going to work here.
If you’d prefer to make homemade vegan cream cheese, I love the recipe in Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner. As I mentioned in my review, the recipe isn’t difficult. It just requires some pre-planning.
How to make cranberry salsa with cream cheese
Start by making the cranberry salsa. <— Get the full recipe details here.
Once it’s prepared, move the cranberry salsa to the refrigerator to soften and sweeten.
The cranberry salsa recipe makes about 2 cups. So that’s more than enough to put some on cream cheese, and to use some for other purposes. It all depends on how high you want to pile it.
Before putting the cranberry salsa onto your cream cheese, I recommend using a fine mesh sieve to drain the salsa. Otherwise, the extra liquid will pool at the bottom of the cream cheese.
Also, if your cream cheese itself has any liquid pooled on top of it, drain that too before putting it on a plate to serve.
Remove the non-dairy cream cheese from its container. Use a knife to smooth the cream cheese.
Then put the cranberry salsa on top of it. You can pour it across haphazardly.
Or you can use the back of a spoon and/or your hands to form it to the cream cheese like a ball.
Or if you’d prefer, you can prepare the crackers ahead of time for your guests.
Just smear vegan cream cheese onto crackers with a knife. Then finish with a dollop of cranberry salsa onto them one by one. Put them out on a serving tray.
Cranberry salsa with cream cheese (Vegan)
- Use a fine mesh sieve to drain cranberry salsa. (Too much excess liquid will make the cream cheese runny.)
- Move vegan cream cheese to a serving plate. Use a knife to smooth the cream cheese. Cover the cream cheese with cranberry salsa. You can loosely pile it on top of the cream cheese. Or use the back of a spoon and/or your hands to form the cranberry salsa around the cream cheese like a cheese ball.
- Top with optional garnish of a couple jalapeño pepper slices and/or cilantro leaf.
- Serve right away with crackers.
If you have any leftovers of the cranberry salsa with cream cheese, I recommend just stirring the cream cheese & cranberry salsa together. Put it in a covered container, and store it in the refrigerator.
It gets a beautiful pink color. And it works well as a spread on crackers or a Thanksgiving bagel.