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This 5-minute recipe for cranberry salsa is an unexpected fusion of tangy, sweet, and spicy flavors. It’s just fancy enough that it will be a conversation piece on your appetizer table, especially because of its bright and vibrant red color.

Cranberry salsa adds a little twist to traditional salsa recipes, blending together fresh cranberries, jalapenos, onion, lime, and honey, all served over cool cream cheese, perfect for dipping and spreading.

Cranberry salsa poured over cream cheese with a Snowman knife scooping the dip out onto chips

This salsa is ideal for holiday gatherings, but no one would judge you if you whipped it up for an afternoon snack! Serve with tortilla chips or crackers for a satisfying snack you’ll be craving long after cranberry season is over.

If you’re a salsa lover (like me!), you can also try your hand at making fermented salsa verde, and even learn how to can it for gifts or for use all year long.

Why Make This Unique Salsa

  • I know it’s easy to pour salsa out of a jar, but making it from scratch is so much better. The fresh flavors of homemade salsa are hard to beat, and this spicy cranberry version will wow even the toughest critic at your holiday table.
  • It only takes 5-minutes! Seriously, you just measure your ingredients into your food processor, pulse, and voila! A complete appetizer done. You can check that off your dinner party list.
  • Plus the fresh flavors of this salsa are really unexpected. The sweet, savory, and spicy all mingle with the tartness of the cranberries and it gets you right in the taste buds! And it’s served over cream cheese, so really, does it get any better?

Cranberry Salsa Ingredients

ingredients to make cranberry salsa

To make this flavorful cranberry salsa recipe, you’ll need:

  • Fresh cranberries – Give the cranberries a light squeeze to make sure they feel firm and not squishy or shriveled. If you can see the berries, check for a dark red color without discoloration. 
  • Sugar and honey – To add moisture and sweetness.
  • Jalapeno – This is optional. Leave it out if you want to omit the spicy taste.
  • Cilantro – Fresh cilantro will be bright green and it won’t feel soft or look wilted.
  • Onion – Any yellow or white onion will work!
  • Lime – To make both zest and juice.
  • Green onions – These are optional for a garnish.
  • Cream cheese – You’ll need to let this soften before serving. Whipped cream cheese or spreadable cream cheese will also work for this recipe.

What if I can not find fresh cranberries?

It is possible to use frozen cranberries instead of fresh ones, but the texture and taste may differ. Here’s how:

Using frozen cranberries: Frozen cranberries taste wonderful, but like all frozen fruit, they can add excess moisture to your recipe. Let your berries thaw, and then pat any excess juice up with paper towels. Also, pulse the berries separately. Don’t pulse them for long! They’ll break apart quickly. Strain the pulsed berries really well and even dab them gently with more paper towels to remove excess water. Then, go ahead and follow the remaining steps of the recipe and mix it all together in a bowl.

📝 Note: You can find the full recipe with ingredients and measurements in the recipe card located at the bottom of this post.

How to Make Cranberry Salsa with Cream Cheese – Step-By-Step

  1. Pulse everything together for a few seconds, just long enough for everything to incorporate. Continue until the cranberries are finely chopped and the texture is consistent.
  2. Pour the salsa into a serving bowl or container and cover tightly. Place it in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight) so the flavors meld together. 
  3. 30 minutes before serving, remove the cream cheese from the fridge and place it on a serving dish. When you’re ready to serve, pour the salsa over the cream cheese. Sprinkle some chopped green onion on top and serve with your choice of accompaniments.

Gina’s Tips and Helpful Hints

  • For a smoother texture, you can pulse the ingredients even longer in the food processor until it turns into more of a sauce if you’d like.
  • Taste the salsa before refrigerating it so you can adjust the flavors. If you need to add more salt, lime, or jalapeno, now is the time!

How do I zest a lime?

Don’t skip zesting a fresh lime and squeezing the juice from it. It really makes a difference compared to using bottled lime juice. Zesting and juicing limes is not difficult, but if you’ve never done it, let me tell you how.

You’ll need a grater or a zester. If you have a long handheld zester, I think it’s easiest, but your stand-up grater should also have a very fine grater side for things like fresh parmesan cheese and zesting fresh fruit.

Push firmly, but not too hard, and just grate away at the green part of the lime peel, allowing it to fall onto a clean plate until you have your desired amount. Try not to grate too long in any one spot as the white pith won’t taste very good.

Cranberry salsa portable cream cheese with green onions and jalapenos chopped on top. Cranberry sauce scooped up onto taco chips

What to Serve with Cranberry Salsa

This recipe for cranberry salsa with cream cheese is definitely meant for dipping and spreading. I like to serve mine with hearty tortilla chips for scooping up the cream cheese. You can also use fresh-cut French bread medallions, gram crackers, Ritz crackers, mini naan pieces of bread, pita chips, or your favorite crackers.

Recipe Variations

If you’re not a spicy food fan, just leave out the jalapeno. It will still taste delicious! 

If you want a sweeter flavor, you can add a tablespoon of freshly squeezed orange juice or replace the lime juice altogether. Chop up some very fine pieces of sweet apple if you want, or even some pomegranate seeds.

And, you can add a bit of fresh mint or basil (or both) for even more fresh flavor.

How to Store Leftovers

Fridge: Anytime you’re serving an appetizer that’s meant for dipping at a party, I’d encourage you to consider how long it’s been sitting out and how many hands have been dipping into it! If you feel like it’s worth saving, you can absolutely keep your leftovers. Pour the salsa into a separate container as the cream cheese if possible. Store them both in airtight containers for up to a week.

Freeze: Cranberry salsa can be frozen for up to three months in a freezer-safe container. Try to put it in as small of a container as possible to protect it from freezer burn. Thaw it in the fridge before serving and stir well to restore texture, but keep in mind it might be a bit softer than it originally was. If you used frozen berries, you may want to try to eat this salsa up without freezing it, as it likely won’t thaw well at all.

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Cranberry salsa poured over cream cheese on a plate with chopped green onions jalapenos and cilantro on the side chips near the plate with cranberry salsa on top of them
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5-Minute Cranberry Salsa with Cream Cheese

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
This sweet and savory 5-minute cranberry salsa is served over soft cream cheese for an irresistibly creamy treat that’s perfect for a holiday appetizer or easy Saturday night treat.

Note: Be sure to read through the recipe’s post for tips and details about this recipe.

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Ingredients
 

  • 12 oz cranberries, fresh, raw
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and coarsely chopped (keep seeds for extra spice if desired)
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, rough chopped- stems are good to add
  • 1/4 cup onion, yellow or white rough chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • green onions, diced green and white part for garnish
  • 16 oz cream cheese, 2 blocks, softened to room temperature

Instructions
 

  • Wash the fresh cranberries and remove any overripe or mushy berries.
    12 oz cranberries
  • Place the washed cranberries into your food processor.
  • Wash and and ruff chop cilantro. Chop onion and jalapenos. Remove jalapeno seeds if you want a milder salsa. Zest lime and then squeeze for fresh lime juice. Add to the food processor with the cranberries.
    1/3 cup cilantro, 1/4 cup onion, 1 teaspoon lime zest, 3 tablespoons lime juice, 1 jalapeno
  • Add sugar, honey, salt, and coriander to the food processor.
    1/2 cup granulated sugar, ¼ cup honey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • Pulse the ingredients for a few seconds to incorporate them. Continue pulsing until the cranberries are finely chopped, and the ingredients reach a consistent texture.
  • Transfer the salsa to a container and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. This allows the flavors to meld and enhances the taste.
  • When ready to serve, place the room-temperature blocks of cream cheese on a serving dish.
  • Pour the chilled cranberry salsa over the cream cheese blocks.
    16 oz cream cheese
  • Garnish with green onions.
    green onions
  • Serve the cranberry salsa with chips or crackers.

Notes

Tips
  • For a smoother texture, you can pulse the ingredients even longer in the food processor until it turns into more of a sauce if you’d like.
  • Taste the salsa before refrigerating it so you can adjust the flavors. If you need to add more sugar, lime, or jalapeno, now is the time!
Cuisine: American
Course: Appitizer
Author: Gina Dickson

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