Sugared Cranberries as Garnish for Cocktails, Dessert & More

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Simple and fun to make, these sugared cranberries make a gorgeous garnish for sweet and savory dishes. They also make an eye-catching garnish for cocktails. Every December, I discover a new way to use them to delight and surprise my holiday guests.

Why you’re going to love my candy-coated cranberry recipe

I’m not sure what’s better, the look of these dusted berries, gleaming ruby fruits coated with sugar “snow,” or the sexy crunch they make when you pop them in your mouth. Once rolled in sugar and then dried, these sugared cranberries develop a thin and crunchy candy shell. But the berries retain their bright, jewel-tone hue and soft flesh underneath the candy coating.

But what’s probably best of all is that this seasonal garnish takes just two ingredients. That’s right, all you need are fresh cranberries and sugar.

How to make this recipe

Making my sugared cranberries recipe is a two-step process. First, you make a simple syrup with sugar and water. (Simple syrup is a 50-50 mixture of sugar and water that’s brought to a boil and then simmered over medium-low heat.) You’ll sort and wash your cranberries and soak them in the sugar syrup. You must use fresh, not frozen cranberries for this recipe. Keep in mind that the berries need to soak for at least four hours.

Then you drain the cranberries and let them dry out for at least an hour before rolling them in granulated sugar. The effect makes the fruit look like a frosted cranberry, as though each berry was dusted with snow.

You can store the cranberries in an air-tight container for about 4-5 days. If they start to feel soft or weepy, just roll them in additional sugar before using the fruits as a garnish or snack.

The process of making sugar-rolled cranberries couldn’t be easier but it does take time to soak and drain the berries, so map out your timing before you start.

Notes on equipment

In addition to a saucepan and a storage container, you need one important piece of equipment to make sugar-coated cranberries, a rack where they can dry. But a normal cooling rack won’t work. The mesh has to be fine enough that the cranberries can’t fall through. I actually use a mesh air fryer basket over a baking sheet, which catches the drips. (The one I use is just like this tray.)

sugared cranberries pinnable graphic

Uses for this candied cranberries recipe

If you were ever wondering how to garnish cocktails for the holidays, this is your answer! But this cranberry recipe shouldn’t be limited to cocktails.

The sugar-coated cranberries work as a brightly-colored garnish even for savory dishes like roast turkey, chicken or duck, spiced lamb or roast pork loin. And these gorgeous, sugar-coated berries are among my favorite winter dessert garnish ideas. Use them to add seasonal color to bundt cake, spice cake or even chocolate pudding. You could even serve this cranberry cobbler with a scoop of ice cream garnished with sugared cranberries.

Your only limit is your own imagination.

Why these sugar-coated berries make an (almost) healthy snack

Although these candied cranberries are great as a cocktail garnish, I just like snacking on a bowl of these glistening crimson gems. Since cranberries are loaded with antioxidants, this sweetened cranberry snack is fairly healthy. Yes, they’re coated in sugar, but fresh cranberries are a source of fiber and are remarkably rich in vitamin C.

Try this recipe for a Massaged Kale Salad with Cranberries and Persimmons

Some fun facts about fresh cranberries

Because I spend time on Cape Cod every summer, I am familiar with seeing cranberries grow and flourish. But did you know that there are different varieties of cranberries suited to different uses? And there are even different ways of harvesting cranberries!

Because they’re grown in bogs you might think these scarlet fruits come from soggy plants in swampy conditions. But in actuality, cranberries grow on dry ground, on little, trailing plants – sort of like strawberries. Because cranberries have pockets of air under their skin, they will float if their growing area, or bog, is flooded.

However, there are a number of varieties of cranberries that are dry-harvested, without flooding. I find that the cranberries that are dry-harvested have a more intense flavor. My recipe for Sugared Cranberries works best with dry harvested fruit if you can get your hands on some. But don’t worry if you can’t! The recipe is also delicious and equally beautiful with the bag of cranberries you find in the produce aisle of your local grocery store.

They’re aphrodisiac

This site is all about the use of foods for romantic occasions. And this cranberry candy has more to offer than just a romantic red hue. Cranberries are actually considered aphrodisiacs. They are linked with both heart health and sexual health. Here’s some more information on all the reasons you should eat more cranberries.

RELATED: Don’t miss this Cranberry and Persimmon Salsa recipe

Sugared Cranberries

Sugared Cranberries

Print Recipe

A cocktail or garnish, these sweet, crunchy cranberry treats dress up dishes and drinks. 

Course Garnish

Cuisine American

Prep Time 5 minutes

Cook Time 10 minutes

Total Time 6 hours 40 minutes


  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar divided
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup cranberries


  • Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, about 1-2 minutes.

  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for an additional 4-5 minutes to make a simple syrup.

  • Remove the syrup from the heat and add the cranberries, stirring to coat all fruit.

  • Rest the berries in syrup for 5 minutes then transfer to a storage container. Soak the berries in the container at room temperature for a minimum of 4 hours.

  • After the cranberries have soaked for at least four hours, strain to remove the syrup and transfer the berries to a wire rack to dry for at least 1 hour. (You can save any leftover cranberry syrup to flavor Holiday cocktails

  • Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar to a bowl and roll the cranberries in the sugar. Transfer the sugared berries to parchment paper to dry. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for 4-5 days.


To freshen up the berries when they’re a few days old, roll them in additional granulated sugar. 
This recipe doubles easily. 
Sugared Cranberries as Garnish for Cocktails, Dessert & More 1
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