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Cranberry Substitute – 7 Tart Ideas To Save The Sauce

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If Thanksgiving is right around the corner and you find yourself without a cranberry in sight, you might think you’re in trouble. But you’re not, because there are a few cranberry substitutes, some easily available in some areas, and some you might have to look for carefully.

Sure, nothing beats fresh, tart cranberries but when you’ve got none on hand, you have to make do. So we’re going to help you out with a few cranberry substitutes, and we think they work pretty well.

cranberry substitute

Best cranberry substitute

The best cranberry substitutes are frozen or dried cranberries, cranberry juice, red currants, lingonberries, tart cherries, tart green apples, and blueberries. Some of these will get you a fruity flavor, like the apples and cherries.

Some will get you that tart, cranberry-like flavor such as red currants or lingonberries. It’s up to your preferences and how true you want to stay to the original flavor. Also what you can find, because if you live in a tropical area you might have to resort to apples or blueberries.

Of course, these substitutes can be used even if you’re not making a Thanksgiving cranberry sauce. Cranberries add a nice tartness to any dark meat in any setting, you might be making duck breast and looking for a nice fruit to go with it. Now let’s take a look at the substitutes.

Read also: Raisin Substitutes 

Frozen or dried cranberry

There’s no shame in using frozen or dried cranberries. If it’s all you’ve got, it’s all you’ve got. Both frozen and dried work well for flavor, butt here will be a change in texture, depending on what you’re making.

If you need the cranberries whole and fresh, the frozen ones will be soft while the dried ones will be a little tough. Still, you can easily bake with both. Just be sure to drain the frozen ones after thawing and rehydrate the dried ones.

In case you’re making a sauce, you can just use these as you would regular, fresh cranberries. The frozen ones will leave more water, and you may need to add more water for the dried ones. But the flavor will be the same.

Cranberry juice

In case you can’t find dried or frozen cranberries, you can also use cranberry juice. Be sure the juice is 100% cranberry, and has no added flavors or sweeteners.

If you need to make a jelly or cream, then this works. If you need to make a cranberry sauce, you can use another berry and add some cranberry juice to the sauce to bring tartness and he required flavor.

You could also just simmer and thicken the cranberry juice and use it as-is. You’d need cornstarch to thicken it a little, but you’d get a real cranberry flavor.

Red currants

Red currants are not cranberries, despite many folks confusing them (including us until a few weeks ago). Red currants are smaller, and belong to the Ribes genus, just like gooseberries. When ripe red currants are tart and a little sweet. They’re in season around the same time as cranberries.

These, like cranberries, are tart and ooze a delicious red juice that could pass for cranberry sauce.


Lingonberries are a third type of red berry, separate from red currants and actually a sort of cousin to cranberries. Where red currants are Ribes, cranberries are of the Vaccinium genus. So are lingonberries, except they’re a slightly different species from cranberries.


In flavor they’re very similar so can be easily substituted in a cranberry sauce.


You know who else is part of the Vacinnium genus ? That’s right, blueberries are also cousins of cranberries. In a pinch, these can work too. Their color will get very dark once cooked, but they work amazingly well with any dark meat.

Tart or sour cherries

You could also use sour cherries, in any form you find them. They’re tart like cranberries, and not very sweet, like cranberries. They’re maybe less acidic but will work great in place of cranberries. Especially if you need fresh fruit to bake with.

Tart green apples

You final option are tart green apples. They’re definitely fruity, yes, but they’re tart and can work very well with turkey. You can make an interesting combo and add some cranberry juice to the green apples, and make your sauce like that.

Taste the sauce before adding any thing else. Depending on the apples, the sauce might be just sweet enough.

Add some lemon juice for tartness

If you feel like the above options simply aren’t tart enough, go heavy with the lemon juice. If you’ve already added cranberry juice and it’s not enough, add some lemon juice and it should lift and sour the whole thing. Try not to add too much lemon oil or zest while doing this, you’ll get a very lemony flavor.

All that being said, you can always simply swap the cranberry with any other berry you like. It might provide an interesting twist on the classic version, who knows ?

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