This versatile and festive cranberry Jello salad recipe is full of flavour and texture. Serve it as a side, in place of cranberry sauce, or even as a dessert!
We’ve been eating a lot of food that’s a bit more suitable for Christmas Dinner or Thanksgiving dinner, than for the random August evening we had them, LOL.
Food blogging is fun like that!
I love the bright flavors that tart cranberries can bring to a dish, whether alone or in combination with the other flavors I tend to pair the berries with.
In getting ready for Canadian Thanksgiving last week, we decided to have some fun and develop our own version of cranberry Jello salad.
Yep, despite having spent 12 years living in the midwest - AND having dated a Mormon at one point - I didn’t have ANY Jello salad recipes!
Time to change that, I figure!
Fresh Cranberry Jello Salad
SO, we designed this easy cranberry salad recipe from the ground up, to our own tastes.
Rather than use canned cranberry sauce, I used fresh cranberries.
We considered using canned mandarin oranges, but decided to use fresh orange zest and juice instead.
We did include crushed pineapple, as the texture of a cranberry pineapple Jello salad sounded fun.
Added some nuts and apples for texture, and boom - a fun, festive side dish, perfect for the holiday season.
Not so far as the holiday meal aspect goes, but the “side dish”. Its versatility makes it a bit ... confusing.
Traditionally, this kind of cranberry pineapple salad is served as a delicious side dish, along with traditional Thanksgiving sides.
My first time making it, I used it as kind of a cranberry relish - a condiment, in place of cranberry sauce.
Spoon it into a bowl and top with some whipped cream?
That’s a DESSERT.
Anyway, whatever place this Jello cranberry salad may take on your menu, it’s the perfect addition to the holiday table!
This recipe uses some pretty simple ingredients, and you should be able to find them in any grocery store. I do have a few notes on some of them, though:
Unlike many recipes out there - which tend to use whole cranberry sauce and/or cranberry juice - I use fresh, whole cranberries.
I just love the fresh taste of actual berries, without all the processing in the canned sauce.
I generally only make this in the fall/winter - when cranberries are widely available - so I look for any excuse to use them!
Frozen cranberries also work - just thaw them before chopping.
If you want to use a can of cranberry sauce, go ahead - just leave out the additional sugar that the recipe calls for, and use the whole berry cranberry sauce.
Personally, I like to lean in on the Cranberry, and use Cranberry Jello instead of raspberry gelatin.
It can be hard to find in Canada - I had to order from American Amazon - so feel free to use Raspberry or Cherry if you can’t find it.
Pro tip: I call for 2 small boxes, as I’ve only seen the cranberry Jello in the small size.
If you’re using a flavor that comes in the large boxes, you’d use 1 large box.
Fresh pineapple contains bromelain, which is a enzyme that breaks down protein strands.
That’s not just random trivia - it’s an explanation as to why you can’t use fresh pineapple in Jello.
When it comes to canned pineapple - or canned pineapple juice - it’s been heated to a point that deactivates the bromelain.
Anyway, I use crushed pineapple. You’re going to measure out the cup, and drain it - but save the juice, as it’s also used.
An Orange and an Apple
I use an orange for both the orange zest and the orange juice. You can use whatever variety you like, I’ll generally use a Navel orange or Valencia orange.
As for the apple, I usually go for a tart or sweet-tart variety. It’s Mutsu season here (and I’m OBSESSED), so that’s what I use.
Granny Smith is another great option - you can peel them or not, your choice.
Rounding out this recipe, you will need:
... I just don’t really have anything to say about these ingredients!
Aside from the basics - a pot, mixing bowl, measuring implements, etc... you’ll need something to set it in and - generally - a serving platter to serve it on.
As far as a Jello mold goes, I like to use a silicone bundt pan.
Silicone works well as a gelatin mold, as it’s easier to loosen - or even peel back - from the Jello, than a hard plastic mold is.
If you don’t want to mess around with molding and unmolding it, you can just let it set up in a casserole dish. An 8 x 8 square dish works well.
If you use a mold and it doesn’t unmold right, you can do 1 of two things:
1. Heat it up just enough to melt it, try again.
2. Chop up the cranberry Jello salad, serve it in a serving bowl or small trifle dish instead.
How to Make Cranberry Jello Salad
The full recipe is in the recipe card at the end of this post, here is a pictorial walk through.
Rinse and pick through the cranberries, removing any that are under ripe or blemished.
Transfer cranberries to a food processor, along with the sugar and salt.
Blitz until chopped into pieces that are about ¼ the size of the whole cranberries, or slightly smaller.
Zest the orange, placing the zest in a medium pot. Juice the orange into a measuring up.
Drain the crushed pineapple, collecting the orange juice in the same measuring cup as the orange juice.
Add hot water to the measuring cup to bring it up to 1 ½ cups total liquid, pour into the pot.
Transfer chopped cranberries and sugar to the pot. Stir well, bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn heat down and simmer for 2 minutes.
Once 2 minutes are up, remove from heat and add Jello powder, stirring until completely dissolved - there should be no visible granules on the spoon or pot.
Pour into a large bowl, along with the cold water. Stir well and set aside.
Peel and chop the apple. Add chopped apple, drained pineapple, and pecans to the Jello mixture, stirring well to combine.
Cover with plastic wrap (or a lid, if your bowl has one). Chill for 60 minutes, or until it starts to thicken a little bit.
Note: This can take up to a couple of hours.
Spray a Jello mold with cooking spray.
My Jello mold was a bit wobbly, so I set it inside a similarly sized bowl, to give it a bit of stability. I find it gives me the best results to do so.
Pour thickened Jello mixture into the mold, then chill for several hours until set.
Shortly before serving, peel back the edge of the mold - if applicable - and place the serving plate on top, upside down.
Flip the plate and mold over - holding them together - and carefully unmold the salad right onto the serving plate.
You can either cut slices of this salad, or spoon it out.
If serving it as a dessert, it’s excellent with a creamy topping - try Cool Whip, spray whipped cream, or homemade whipped cream.
Cover leftovers with plastic wrap - or transfer to an airtight container - and store in the fridge for up to 5 days or so.
More Gluten-Free Holiday Recipes!
Looking for something festive - for the whole family? Here are some great gluten-free recipes perfect for your holiday table!
Gluten-Free Candy Cane Cookies
Gluten Free Fruitcake
Gluten-Free Fruitcake Cookies
Gluten Free Gingerbread Cookies
Gluten-Free Maple Pumpkin Pie
Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Mini Doughnuts
Gluten-Free Paska [Easter Bread]
Gluten Free Sauerkraut Buns [Pyrizhky]
Gluten-Free Stuffing Recipe
Honey Roasted Carrots & Parsnips
Pumpkin Cheese Ball - Classier Version
Pumpkin Cheese Ball - Trashier Version
Sweet Potato Souffle
Need holiday foods that are gluten free AND low carb? Here are a few more ideas, from my low carb blog:
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Cranberry Jello Salad
- Jello Mold
- 12 oz Fresh cranberries
- ½ cup Granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
- 1 Large orange
- 1 cup Crushed pineapple
- 2 small boxes Cranberry flavoured Jello can use Raspberry or Cherry
- 2 cups Cold water
- 1 Tart apple
- ½-1 cup Chopped pecans
- Rinse and pick through the cranberries, removing any that are under ripe or blemished.
- Transfer cranberries to a food processor, along with the sugar and salt.
- Blitz until chopped into pieces that are about ¼ the size of the whole cranberries, or slightly smaller.
- Zest the orange, placing the zest in a medium pot. Juice the orange into a measuring up.
- Drain the crushed pineapple, collecting the juice in the same measuring cup as the orange juice.
- Add hot water to the measuring cup to bring it up to 1 ½ cups total liquid, pour into the pot.
- Transfer chopped cranberries and sugar to the pot. Stir well, bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn heat down and simmer for 2 minutes.
- Once 2 minutes are up, remove from heat and add Jello powder, stirring until completely dissolved - there should be no visible granules on the spoon or pot.
- Pour into a large bowl, along with the cold water. Stir well and set aside.
- Peel and chop the apple. Add chopped apple, drained pineapple, and pecans to the Jello mixture, stirring well to combine. Chill for 60 minutes, or until it starts to thicken.
- Spray a Jello mold with pan spray. Pour thickened Jello mixture into the mold, then chill for several hours until set.