Vibrant cranberry salsa is packed with cilantro, red bell pepper, onions, garlic, lime juice, orange zest, and orange juice. It really wakes up the palate on a meal of comfort foods. Vegan & gluten-free.
Thanksgiving is a time for celebrating the bounty of the harvest. And yet, so many of the foods that make up a holiday plate are beige.
Mashed potatoes, gravy, vegan stuffing, seitan roast…
It’s easy for a Thanksgiving meal to be a sea of brown.
Brown foods are delicious, sure. But it’s nice to have some vibrant color to break things up.
How to brighten up a holiday plate? Add a seasonal beauty to the meal by way of cranberries.
Fresh cranberry salsa
Fresh cranberry salsa is awash with bold color and flavor. It’s packed with tart cranberries, sugar, lime & orange juice, jalapeño pepper slices, bell peppers, onions, and garlic.
(Don’t try to make this cranberry salsa without sugar! Raw cranberries are mighty tart. Some sugar is required to balance them out. Without some sweetener, they are far too mouth puckering.)
How to use it
Cranberry salsa pairs beautifully with vegan holiday roasts, seitan, and vegan turkey.
You can also use this salsa as a Thanksgiving or Christmas appetizer, strewn over the top of non-dairy cream cheese.
(I do recommend draining the salsa before putting it onto the cream cheese, though. A puddle of pink cream cheese isn’t quite as eye catching.)
Get the full recipe for cranberry salsa with cream cheese.
And when you have “fall food fatigue,” cranberry salsa can also be used like any other kind of salsa on tacos.
It works best with tacos that have bold flavors, like sweet potato black bean tacos.
This taco recipe includes chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. The smokiness works particularly nicely with the tart/sweet combo of the cranberry salsa.
How to make fresh cranberry salsa
Buy a 7.5 ounce container of cranberries. This kind comes in a plastic clamshell, like blueberries.
Rinse the cranberries. Throw away any that seem shriveled or soft.
Then put the remaining cranberries & salsa ingredients into the food processor:
- Fresh or frozen cranberries
- Red bell pepper
- Lime juice
- Jalapeño slices
- Orange juice
- Orange zest
- Pinch of salt
Turn the food processor to low. Stop once or twice to scrape down the sides.
Once the ingredients are broken into small, even pieces, move the cranberry salsa to a covered container. Put it in the refrigerator.
Let is sit for about a day while the sugar and citrus juices do their magic.
After some time in the refrigerator, you’ll be greeted by a bright, zesty cranberry salsa.
Since the cranberries soften and sweeten with time, this is a good one to make a day or two before your get-together.
Cranberries are only available for a couple months of the year. So stock up now. And remember, that cranberries freeze well.
And don’t forget to set a few aside for a cranberry mimosa!
Cranberry salsa with orange juice
- 7.5 ounces whole fresh cranberries
- 2 Tablespoons yellow onion chopped small
- 2 Tablespoons red bell pepper chopped small
- 1 Tablespoon pickled jalapeño slices
- 1 small clove garlic minced
- 1 Tablespoon freshly-squeezed lime juice
- 1 Tablespoon freshly-squeezed orange juice
- Zest of 1/2 small to medium-sized orange
- 5 Tablespoons sugar
- Pinch salt
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
- In a food processor, briefly combine all of the ingredients until they are equal sizes with the ingredients fully incorporated, stopping to scrape down the sides if needed.
- Transfer to a glass container, cover, and let the flavors meld for a day. The cranberries will soften and become sweeter with time.
Originally posted December 2014. Content updated October 2019.