how to make sugar covered cranberries

Sugar Covered Cranberries / The Clever Carrot

The first time I made these, I vowed never to do it again.

Sticky, clumpy, and time-consuming. That’s all I have to say. When a recipe is this frustrating, a second attempt rarely comes to fruition as my patience can be that of a toddler. I can be quite stubborn too (hmm… also like a toddler) so I obviously had to make them again. Here’s how to do it, the easy way:

Start 1 day in advance. The berries need to steep in a warm sugar syrup to make them less sour. Soak overnight, like so…

Sugar Covered Cranberries / The Clever Carrot

Drain in a colander and reserve the liquid. The leftover syrup can be used to sweeten cocktails. Don’t throw it away!

Cranberry Sugar Syrup / The Clever Carrot

Pour the berries back into a bowl and pat dry with paper towels. They should feel tacky, but not wet. In my previous attempt, I let the cranberries drip dry on a wire rack. I later realized that using paper towels was a lot quicker.

Time to get rolling (literally!)

Sugar Covered Cranberries / The Clever Carrot

Now here’s the critical part- you need to work in batches. Toss 3-4 berries at a time with a little sugar, and jiggle them around in a bowl to coat. Do not be tempted to dump everything in at once or else the sugar will clump. If this happens, just change it out and start again. Also, choose a sugar that is chunky in texture so that you can see it sparkle. Organic cane sugar or Turbinado is a good choice. You can find them in most supermarkets or in health food stores.

Let the berries dry for a couple of hours on a wire rack. They are ready when the sugar is slightly firm, like a crust.

Sugar Covered Cranberries / The Clever Carrot

Sugar Covered Cranberries / The Clever Carrot

And that’s it! Now you have beautiful, sugar covered cranberries.

These festive little baubles are tart and sweet, and make a great snappy sound when you pop them in your mouth. If you plan ahead and give yourself some extra time, they’re not difficult to make either. Try them scattered onto a cheese plate or as a beautiful topping for desserts. They’re incredibly sparkly and will look great on any holiday table!

*This recipe was tested with fresh cranberries only. 

how to make sugar covered cranberries
Serves: 2 cups
Sugar Syrup
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 c. fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 c. Organic cane sugar or Turbinado for rolling
  1. To make the sugar syrup, bring the sugar and water to a gentle simmer. Use a whisk to help break up the crystals. Do not boil. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, rinse your cranberries discarding any bruised or damaged ones. You want firm berries. Pour them into a bowl.
  3. Add the warm sugar syrup to the bowl. If the syrup is too hot, the cranberries will burst. Test a small batch if need be.
  4. The cranberries will naturally float to the surface so cover them with a plate to keep them submerged. Once completely cool, cover the bowl (and plate) with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge overnight.
  5. To make the cranberries, drain them in a colander reserving the syrup. You will not need the syrup in this recipe, however you can save it to sweeten cocktails.
  6. Transfer the berries to a large shallow bowl lined with paper towels. Pat dry to absorb all of the liquid. You want the cranberries to feel tacky, but not wet.
  7. In a small bowl, add about 2 tablespoons of either organic cane sugar or Turbinado. Add only 3-4 berries and jiggle them around in the bowl to coat. Make sure not to overcrowd the bowl as the sugar will get wet and clump. If this happens, just change it out and start again.
  8. Transfer the berries to a wire rack and allow to dry for a couple of hours, minimum of 2. They are ready when the sugar is slightly firm, forming a crust.
*Store on a wire rack in a cool, dry place. Keep them uncovered, or slightly tented with foil for about 2-3 days. Do not store in an airtight container as they will become soggy.


    • Emilie says

      Hi Merryl! Thanks! They’re so sparkly and festive, they look great just sitting in a plain old bowl. You don’t have to do anything to them :)

  1. says

    I wanted to add some sugared cranberries to a dessert recently but didn’t have time to wait overnight so I cooked them in sugar syrup for maybe 3 minutes; as soon as I heard the first one pop I removed them from the heat. From there steps are similar but I have to say I was totally unprepared for how much I loved them. I’m tempted to do the overnight maceration to see if there is a difference but mine were sugar crisp on the outside and semi-soft on the inside; I could have eaten the whole batch by hand!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Barbara, welcome!
      I like your method of cooking the berries directly in the sugar syrup. Sounds like you caught them at the right time too. Were they sweet on the inside as well?
      Compared to the overnight maceration method,one difference I’m sure of would be the texture on the inside. Mine were not semi soft. They were crisp, and made this snappy sound when you ate them (if that makes any sense…). The flavor was tart, but coupled with the sugar on the outside it was quite nice. Your’s might have been sweeter too.
      Hope this helps! If you have any other questions, please let me know. Thanks for stopping by :)

  2. Shelsy says

    Thank you for posting this. I made these last week and they turned out amazing! So simple yet the results are impressive. I was wondering if this same technique could be done with other berries (blueberries???)? I plan on making these again soon!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Shelsy!
      That is so great to hear! I’m sure your cranberries looked wonderful :)

      As far as sugar covered blueberries go, I’ve never done it myself. You could test it out by using the same method as the cranberries, minus soaking them in the sugar syrup (blueberry skin is a lot thinner and it might become soggy). Maybe make a small batch of syrup, quickly dip the berries, and then dry right away with paper towels. Roll in sugar. I think that might be your best bet! You would probably have to make the blueberries on the same day that your are going to serve them, to prevent sogginess.

      If you end up experimenting with this, please let me know how it turns out! Good luck :)

  3. Penny says

    Making these to go with winter white cosmos for the signature drink at an upcoming wedding. I volunteered to make the cranberries, so fingers crossed that I can make them look as beautiful as yours! Thank you for sharing the recipe!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Penny! Sounds fantastic! You know, although these cranberries are very easy to make I would suggest giving them a test run before the big day. You never know what can happen! Perhaps divined the recipe in half to experiment. If you have any questions let me know! Have fun. :)

  4. Dimo says

    Hi!!! I want to add sugared cranberries to my wedding cake for decoration only & yours look beautiful! Since I will need mine to remain firm, would you recommend your soaking method? Or should I just toss the berries in the syrup, dry them and roll them out?

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