Sugared Orange Cranberries

Tart cranberries soaked in an orange simple syrup and rolled in orange zest and sugar, what more could you want? These are effortless to make and an incredible treat to eat. They sort of burst in your mouth on the first chew. I say sorta because they aren’t like a Gusher, but they still have a little pop. Plus, you only need 3 ingredients! Orange, cranberries and sugar… and water if you want to count that.

Just interested in the recipe? Skip straight to it.
cranberry orange fall treat thanksgiving dessert sweet sugar easy snack

Can you see the little speckles of orange zest?

These things are addictive. The little burst in your mouth of sweet sweet sugar, perfumed orange and tart cranberry is euphoric. They have that perfect blend of tart and sweet that you could just munch on them for hours without it becoming cloyingly sweet. If you already love cranberries, what are you doing? Make the darn things already!

Now, sugared cranberries aren’t a new thing. They have been a fall treat for a few years now, but they are new to me. I just recently stumbled upon them while looking up fall recipes and I got very excited. See, everyone has a Thanksgiving favorite. Derek’s is my mother’s stuffing (recipe here), my dad’s is mashed potatoes, and mine is beautifully tart cranberries. I have always been a fan of tart and bitter things so when I stumbled upon this recipe I was very intrigued. But, when looking through all the recipes I couldn’t help but see how boring they were, just some cranberries soaked in simple syrup. I’m sure they are delicious in their little pool of sugar (what wouldn’t be?), but there are so many ways to amp cranberries up and make them especially binge-worthy. So that’s where the orange comes in.

The orange in this recipe just adds that little extra. It provides an extra dose of freshness, is a bit sweet, and perfumes the whole thing. The citrus element adds more depth of flavor and takes this from a simple treat to something more elevated. You gotta try it!

cranberry orange fall treat thanksgiving dessert sweet sugar easy snack

Now we all know orange and cranberry is delicious and a true classic, but there are more ways to spice it up. You could make this even more of a holiday classic by making a spiced version with a spiced simple syrup or just simply adding clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon into the sugar for rolling. Even just adding a bit of vanilla to the simple syrup would help put this treat over the top. Ooh! You could also do orange and spice, now that would really make this taste like fall!

If you are wondering what else you could do with these guys, well, just look at them! They are gorgeous and would be great for garnish on something like Thanksgiving dessert. You could also offer them as an appetizer, party treat, or give yourself a midnight snack (what, they’re a fruit, they’re healthy…right? right?).

Let’s get cooking!


Sugared Orange Cranberries

  • Servings: 12 oz of cranberries
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Tart cranberries soaked in orange simple syrup and rolled in sugar for a tart and sweet treat.


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 + 3/4 cup granulated white sugar, divided
  • 3 oranges, rind and zest used only, divided
  • 1 bag (12oz) whole cranberries


1. Start the simple syrup. In a medium saucepan combine the water, sugar, and the peel of two oranges (just rough big pieces, no need to break them up). Cook the sugar mixture on medium heat until all the sugar has dissolved and begins to simmer, stir frequently. Let the mixture simmer for 3-5 minutes to really get all of the orange flavor and oils out. When the simple syrup has finished simmering, remove it from the heat and let sit for 5-7 minutes.

2. Prepare the cranberries. While the simple syrup is cooling, rinse the cranberries under cool water and sift through them to pick out any bad ones (any with bruising, are soft or gushy, or have large indented/soft spots).

3. Soak the cranberries. Once the simple syrup has cooled slightly (too hot and the cranberries will pop and burst), remove the large chunks of orange rind from the simple syrup. Pour the simple syrup and the cranberries into a bowl, and stir. Cover the cranberries with a paper towel or lid. Every once in a while stir or swirl the cranberries around. Leave the cranberries to sit out for at least an hour and up to 8. The longer you let them sit the softer and juicier they will become.

4. Dry the cranberries. Once you have let the cranberries sit for a while, remove them from the bowl with a slotted spoon and place them onto a rimmed sheet pan to dry for 15 minutes. They are dry enough when they are sticky and feel solid to the touch rather than wet (the side they sat on may still be wet, don’t worry about it).

5. Make the orange zest sugar. While the cranberries dry, make the orange zest sugar by combining the zest from one orange and 3/4 cup sugar in the blender or food processor (you can do this by hand but it will form clumps more readily from the wet zest). Once well mixed, put the sugar into a medium-sized bowl. If using a blender or food processor, please actually zest the orange. The food processor won’t break down the rind into small enough pieces for this application and it could overwhelm the sugar with too much moisture.

6. Coat cranberries and dry. When the orange zest sugar is made and the cranberries are dry, begin to coat the cranberries in the sugar in batches. I placed a handful or so (but used a spoon since they are sticky) into the bowl and moved the bowl around to coat the cranberries (could stir with a spoon to coat as well). Once they are well coated, remove the cranberries from the sugar and place into a bowl or onto another sheet pan, repeat with the remaining cranberries. Let the cranberries dry for 30 minutes (you can eat them right away but they form a soft sugared shell if you wait).

7. Enjoy! Once the cranberries have set, start popping them like candy!

8. Storing and Leftovers. Store the cranberries in an airtight container with a small bowl of rice or food-safe silica packet to absorb the extra moisture. Eat within two days of making (if they even last that long).

You can save the cranberry and orange simple syrup and orange zest sugar for cocktails (I have one coming out this Tuesday to use these leftovers). The orange rind from the simple syrup is also yummy to nibble on, kinda like a candied orange peel.

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