Make Ahead

Mama's Cranberry Salad

November  6, 2010
22 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Prep time 8 hours
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 12, unless one of them's me; in that case, 6
Author Notes

I usually eat this with the main portion of my Thanksgiving meal, but as I double the recipe and make it from the time ripe cranberries appear in the stores until they no longer do, it serves very well for dessert too. And for breakfast and for a late-night snack, for that matter. This has been on every holiday table I can remember, and its origins are lost in time—I'm not sure if it was a grandmother's recipe, or if Mama came up with it—but I can no more imagine Thanksgiving or Christmas without it than I can the one without turkey, and the other without ham!

Helpful tools for this recipe:
- Cuisinart Elemental Food Processor
- Food52 x Dansk Kobenstyle Saucepan & Butter Warmer
- Feast Serving Bowl by Yotam Ottolenghi


Test Kitchen Notes

In 2017 and 2018, our traffic numbers show us that this cranberry salad was the most visited recipe page in the month of November.

Featured in: Our Most Popular Thanksgiving Recipe for 2 Years Running. —Eric Kim

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Mama's Cranberry Salad
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 large Granny Smith or other tart green apple
  • 1 large orange
  • 1 large Honey Crisp or other red apple
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 large (6-ounce) box raspberry jello
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  1. Zest the orange, peel, and liquefy in the food processor.
  2. Chop all the other fruit in the food processor, and add to large bowl with orange and zest. Add nuts.
  3. Bring water and sugar to a boil until sugar dissolves completely. Remove from heat, let cool just a bit, and whisk in jello. Don't be hating on the jello here; it's not really noticeable, but helps things hold together. You could use unflavored gelatin and additional sugar if you wish.
  4. Pour jello over fruit, give a good stir, and refrigerate overnight.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Cheryl Bruner
    Cheryl Bruner
  • Miss_Karen
  • monkeymom
  • dymnyno
  • Kayb
I'm a business professional who learned to cook early on, and have expanded my tastes and my skills as I've traveled and been exposed to new cuisines and new dishes. I love fresh vegetables, any kind of protein on the grill, and breakfasts that involve fried eggs with runny yolks. My recipes tend toward the simple and the Southern, with bits of Asia or the Mediterranean or Mexico thrown in here and there. And a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a float in the lake, as pictured, is a pretty fine lunch!

25 Reviews

Christy December 9, 2023
I made this cranberry salad for the first time and took it to, two different Christmas parties and it was the hit of the party both times. I will definitely -definitely be making it again. Absolutely love it
JLTen November 24, 2023
I wanted to try something new this Thanksgiving that sounded homey, easy, and vintage. I landed on this and am so glad I did, I loved it. I was asked for the recipe, so I sent them the link to keep the recipe and story going! The only thing I would change, if anything, is the amount of added sugar. I am someone who usually reduces the amount of sugar in baked goods by 1/4 - 1/3 though. I will be making this every Thanksgiving and Christmas from now on. Thank you for sharing this recipie!
Jerre November 23, 2022
My mother's recipe for the cranberry salad was identical to this one. I was trying to make this for Thanksgiving this year and I had forgotten to the amounts needed for each thing. I couldn't believe that it was here! Thank you so much.
Sharona November 20, 2022
I would like to make this recipe since I love cranberry salad and thanksgiving is just around the corner. My son is diabetic and tries to watch carbs. I need nutrition information for this recipe.
l W. January 2, 2021
Make this for every Thanksgiving and Christmas, using the following changes: Use 3 oranges, 3 apples, and 1 can pineapple (either crushed or tidbits). Use the juice from the pineapple to make the water used to cool down the jello (I follow the directions on the jello box for water used to cook and cool the jello). If you can find it, cranberry jello is my first choice.
HOLLY January 1, 2020
I just noticed your note about how many portions it serves and it made me laugh. I have made this twice since having it at Thanksgiving and have probably eaten 90% of it. I'm a huge cranberry fan and a secret jello fan, and I LOVE it. Thanks for sharing.
Geema December 21, 2019
I made this at Thanksgiving and I must say it was a hit! Many have asked for the recipe and I thought I had lost it. It is now pinned to my favorites. I, too, was hesitant about not cooking the cranberries but I thought I would (for once) follow the recipe exactly. I am not a fan of jello either like some have said, but it makes this perfect. I have tried MANY cranberry salad recipes over the years and this one got the most compliments.
Kayb December 21, 2019
That makes me smile. I think it would make Mama smile, too. Merry Christmas to all you and yours!
Lala November 27, 2019

It's not about not wanting to use Jello because of any other reason than the fact that gelatin is made entirely from animal bones, skin and hooves. Do you even know this? It's really gross. This is why I am "hating on it."
Eric K. November 27, 2019
I get it. I wonder if there's a way to replace it with agar agar or some plant-based alternative.

Anyone try this?
Shutsu12 January 25, 2020
Not made from hooves, but yeah it’s still a little gross
Cheryl B. November 24, 2019
Question: How far in advance can you make this and keep in the fridge, and does it freeze well?
Margery A. March 30, 2020
i just pulled some from the freezer that I made last November. It was as good or better than the original. This year I will triple the recipe, so i will have more all year long!
Roxanne H. November 23, 2019
Question-so you don’t cook the cranberries? I made one last year but I had to cook them.
Kayb November 24, 2019
No. No need to cook them.
Miss_Karen November 21, 2019
I make something similar that I use in one of my cookie recipes. I zest the orange.( colored part only) then I cut the oranges into a few pieces. Remove the pith (bitter white part) like you are peeling it. Then grind the oranges & cranberries into small pieces. Stir in the other stuff.
liz S. November 21, 2019
Fy family's tradition has fresh cranberries cooked with a small amount of sugar, canned crushed pineapple & juice, chopped celery and chopped walnuts, and is made with plain gelatin, set up in a wet mold. Beautiful and delicious, every year.
Toni November 26, 2019
Do you use 1 pack of cranberry and 1 small or lg jello
monkeymom November 6, 2010
I love this! Our version has mayonnaise, I know sounds gross, and canned cranberries. I like the idea of using fresh instead. I also MUST have this every Thanksgiving.
Eric K. November 27, 2019

Makes sense; in line w/ all those fruit-mayo salads. Ambrosia, etc.
dymnyno November 6, 2010
My mother made a very similar recipe...I am glad that you posted yours because I have long lost hers....I remember how delicious it is!
Kayb November 6, 2010
My girls and I will go to the refrigerator and get a bowl of this like you'd go get ice cream....I love it!
Donna F. November 23, 2019
Aunt Doris made this every year. My favorite
Paul November 24, 2019
Mom made this on the holidays, included grapes. we also froze the cranberries getting a better grind in either the grinder or later the food processor.
Eric K. November 27, 2019
Grapes sound yummy.