December 1, 2023

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12 of the Best Ways to Use Up Leftover Cranberry Sauce

12 of the Best Ways to Use Up Leftover Cranberry Sauce

Photo: Brent Hofacker (Shutterstock)

It would almost be too easy to forget about Thanksgiving and move on to December’s festivities—if it weren’t for that bowl of cranberry sauce that keeps getting moved around in the fridge. It’s great with turkey, but after the last bits have been devoured, the crimson sauce seems to be an outcast. There is absolutely no reason November’s beloved gelatinous condiment should be destined for the trash can, though. It’s basically a tangy, sweet fruit compote, a near cousin to the jar of always-fashionable raspberry jam or grape jelly sitting inches away from it. Revive your leftover cranberry sauce in any of these 12 delicious ways.

Sticky-sweet meatball glaze

Photo:  Tatiana Volgutova (Shutterstock)

Photo: Tatiana Volgutova (Shutterstock)

If you didn’t already know that meatballs are divine when drenched in a grape jelly sauce, you’ve been under a boring meatball-rock this whole time. Good news for your cranberry sauce: The grape jelly method can be used with any jelly or jam you happen to have on hand. Sweet, savory, and just a tiny bit tart, cranberry glazed meatballs are an excellent nosh. For the ultimate snackable bite, make your meatballs in any fashion you prefer, but give them a final simmer in cranberry sauce.

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Thumbprint cookies

Photo:  Sky Motion (Shutterstock)

Photo: Sky Motion (Shutterstock)

I don’t like to reveal all of my cookie secrets, but you’re important to me, so: Cranberry sauce makes an excellent thumbprint cookie center. It’s mind-boggling that thumbprints aren’t required to be made with cranberry sauce. The flavor profile is well-balanced against the buttery cookie, and the natural thickening pectin present in cranberries makes for a filling that holds its shape when it bakes, as opposed to running off the edges of the cookie. Use a great cookie dough recipe and shape the thumbprints. Use a teaspoon to add a tiny mound in the center of each divot and bake as usual.

Cranberry sandwich cookies

Photo:  Ground Picture (Shutterstock)

Photo: Ground Picture (Shutterstock)

Similarly to thumbprint cookies, leftover cranberry sauce works wonderfully in sandwich cookies, too. In this case, the sauce is applied after the baking is over. In fact, you don’t even have to bake—just use packaged cookies. Like all sandwich cookies, they’re better if you make them in advance. Flip a cookie over and dollop a small spoonful of sauce in the center; you’ll need enough to cover the middle with a ring of space around the edge. Top this with the flat side of a second cookie and press gently until the sauce reaches the outer edge. Do this to all of the cookies and let them rest on a cookie sheet in a single layer (don’t stack them yet), for about two hours. If you stack them or try to eat them you’ll notice that the cookies start to slide apart and the jam will burp out—the rest time allows the moisture of the jelly to seep into the cookies, allowing the cookies to soften and the jam to stiffen.

Stir into muffins

Photo:  natashamam (Shutterstock)

Photo: natashamam (Shutterstock)

The cranberry muffin is one of my favorite fruit muffins, but, sadly, I never see them in bakeries. We must take matters into our own hands. Luckily, we’re one step ahead with leftover cranberry sauce. Make a plain muffin recipe, or use a blueberry muffin recipe and switch up the fruit. For every two cups of plain batter, mix in one third of a cup of cranberry sauce, and bake as usual. You’ll have a delicious, lovely, pink-hued muffin to bite into.

Cranberry sauce coffee cake

Cranberry Sauce Coffee Cake – Don’t Toss your Thanksgiving leftovers! Easy and Delicious Crumb Cake

If you’re trying to use up a couple cups of leftover cranberry sauce in one fell swoop, opt for a towering coffee cake with a thick cranberry swirl in the center. Make a coffee cake batter and spread half of the mixture into a baking dish. Spoon up to two cups of the crimson leftovers on the batter and spread it out evenly. Top this with the second half of the batter and cover the whole thing with a heavy layer of crumbs. Bake as usual. This video includes a recipe at the beginning you can follow along with.

Creamy cranberry butter

Photo:  MrWinn (Shutterstock)

Photo: MrWinn (Shutterstock)

What balances out the cheek-tingling zing of cranberry? Tasty fat, of course. If you thought the strawberry butter at your favorite brunch spot was fabulous, you’re going to be completely infatuated with cranberry butter. Transforming leftover cranberry sauce into a buttery slather is as simple as the name suggests. Bring both ingredients to room temperature so the butter can be easily stirred, and mix them together. You can do this by hand if you want to keep the integrity of the berries; use an electric mixer for a big batch; or put it in a blender if you’d like a fine mixture. Use roughly one stick of salted butter for a quarter cup of sauce. Spread this on anything from toast to chicken and waffles.

Add it to oatmeal

Photo:  Elena Veselova (Shutterstock)

Photo: Elena Veselova (Shutterstock)

Oatmeal is a bizarre, bland porridge, and I hate that I’m drawn to it despite myself. It’s precisely because it lacks flavor that you can mix most things you like straight into it. Cranberry sauce is perfect as an oatmeal mix-in. Mix in a couple tablespoons per serving, hot off of the stove, or add it to your preparation for overnight oats. Sprinkle something crunchy on top, like chopped nuts or coconut flakes, just before you eat it, to provide a welcome textural contrast.

Make a PB&CJ

Photo:  Brent Hofacker (Shutterstock)

Photo: Brent Hofacker (Shutterstock)

When you say it out loud–peanut butter and cranberry jelly sandwich– it sounds a little strange, but when you think about it, everything falls into place. You wouldn’t hesitate to smear a strawberry compote onto that same sandwich, so give cranberry sauce a chance. It’s sweet and a smidge tart, full of ripe fruit flavors, and the consistency is ideal—thick yet spreadable, and not runny at all. There’s no issue on which one will work better; both homemade and canned have a place on this sandwich.

Cake frosting and filling

Photo:  Ruth Black (Shutterstock)

Photo: Ruth Black (Shutterstock)

Cranberry frosting makes for a seamless transition from Thanksgiving dinner to the first holiday party the following weekend. The color is great, the flavor is festive, and it’s versatile enough to match well with most cake flavors. Mixing jams and compotes into frostings is a simple business. Make a buttercream frosting as usual and stir in about two tablespoons of sauce for every cup of frosting. Use room temperature cranberry sauce to ensure the buttercream doesn’t stiffen up and “break” as you mix.

Cranberry sauce cocktails

Photo:  Oleksandra Naumenko (Shutterstock)

Photo: Oleksandra Naumenko (Shutterstock)

You can consider yourself the master mixologist of your household once you start exploring cranberry sauce in your libations. Depending on the size of the drink, you’ll add roughly one tablespoon of sauce per serving. For leftovers of the jellied variety, try this recipe for a festive happy hour at home.

Sweet and savory grilled cheese

Photo:  Kolpakova Svetlana (Shutterstock)

Photo: Kolpakova Svetlana (Shutterstock)

For a quick and easy snack, add a schmear of cranberry sauce to your grilled cheese. Cranberry sauce complements the strong, tangy flavor of goat cheese, or mild, soft cheeses where the berry doesn’t need to compete. Try munster, havarti, or raclette as your meltable cheese. If you’re not interested in turning on the stove, keep things cold with a bagel and cream cheese with a swipe of cranberry sauce.

Zippy cranberry mustard

Photo:  Chamille White (Shutterstock)

Photo: Chamille White (Shutterstock)

When leftover cranberry sauce starts getting too sweet for your liking, it’s time to take it in the other direction. Make a fiery cranberry mustard to spin the flavor profile toward the savory end. Use this simple sauce to complement everything from a cheese board to roasted meats. Cranberry mustard also makes for a delicious marinade. Rub chicken in this sauce and roast it to create a flavorful outer layer.

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