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How to Make Sugared Cranberries

You need just two ingredients to make these simple Sugared Cranberries! Use them to garnish drinks, serving platters, cakes, and more. 

photo of sugared cranberries on a white plate with a sprig of rosemary next to it

What Are Sugared Cranberries?

Sugared cranberries — also called candied cranberries, sugar-coated cranberries, or frosted cranberries — are fresh cranberries that have been coated in sugar. When made properly, they wind up looking like perfect little Christmas ornaments. 

They’re made with fresh cranberries that are coated in simple syrup (sugar water) and then rolled in sugar. Preparing sugar-coated cranberries takes some time, but the process is very easy. 

Learning how to candy cranberries is a useful skill to have around the holidays. Whether you need a simple yet impressive dessert or drink garnish, are craving a sweet-tart snack, or are searching for a unique hostess gift, this sugared cranberries recipe is sure to come in handy!  

What Do Sugared Cranberries Taste Like? 

As the name suggests, these lovely jewels are sweet, tart, and tangy. The fresh cranberries aren’t cooked, so they retain their incredible texture and freshness. 

However, fresh cranberries can be tough to eat plain since they’re so tart. The sugary coating adds texture and also cuts the tartness nicely. 

photo of tools needed in this recipe for frosted cranberries

Tools Needed to Make Sugar Coated Cranberries

Frosted cranberries require just two ingredients, but you’ll need a few specific kitchen tools to prepare the recipe. Here’s what you’ll want to have on hand: 

  • Medium Saucepan — I prefer making simple syrup on the stove. 
  • Measuring Cups — The best way to measure out liquids. 
  • Slotted Spoon — You’ll be tossing the cranberries in the simple syrup. A slotted spoon makes it easier to let the excess syrup drip off of the cranberries before removing them from the saucepan. 
  • Wire Rack — A must! The cranberries drip dry on the wire rack before being coated in sugar. Without a wire rack, the simple syrup will pool around the cranberries and take much longer to dry. 
  • Baking Sheet — Makes for a clean, flat surface on which the sugar-coated cranberries can dry. 
photo of ingredients needed to make sugar coated cranberries

Ingredients for Sugared Cranberries 

Making candied cranberries requires all of two ingredients (plus water!). It truly doesn’t get easier than this around the holidays! Let’s take a look at what goes into candying cranberries. 

  • Water — Tap water is just fine. 
  • Sugar — Granulated sugar works well for both the simple syrup and the sugar coating. See my notes below for more thoughts on which sugar to use. 
  • Fresh Cranberries — This recipe calls for 1.5 cups of cranberries, or half of a 12-oz. bag. Feel free to double the recipe if you have a lot of drinks, cakes, or serving platters to garnish. 

For the complete ingredient list and detailed instructions to make these candied cranberries, scroll to the bottom of this post for the FREE printable recipe card.

photo of granulated sugar in a white bowl with a spoon for use in this recipe for sugared cranberries

What’s the Best Type of Sugar to Use? 

For this recipe, I recommend using granulated or organic cane sugar. Granulated sugar is finer, whereas organic cane sugar has larger crystals. Both work equally well, it just depends on what you want your sugared cranberries to look like! 

Note that I have not tried brown sugar in this recipe. I suspect it isn’t ideal because it has a higher moisture content than granulated sugar. Brown sugar also has a richer caramel undertone, whereas granulated sugar has a neutral sweet flavor. 

Do NOT use powdered sugar (aka confectioners sugar) under any circumstances. It would not give the same crystalized appearance to the frosted cranberries. 

step by step photos showing how to make sugared cranberries

How to Sugar Cranberries

Sugaring cranberries is a straightforward process, but you need to exercise patience between each recipe step. The cranberries go through a couple drying phases and it’s important that you not disturb them or else the sugaring effect could be ruined. 

With that being said, here’s how to make sugared cranberries: 

  1. Make the simple syrup: In a medium saucepan, combine equal parts water and granulated sugar. Cook until the mixture is simmering and the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and cool to room temperature.
  2. Coat the cranberries: Measure the cranberries into the saucepan. Gently stir until the cranberries are completely coated. 
  3. Let the cranberries dry: Set a wire cooling rack over a baking sheet (this will collect the excess syrup rather than it oozing onto your countertops). Using a slotted spoon, remove the cranberries from the syrup and transfer them to the wire rack to drain. Let the cranberries drain until dry.
  4. Sugar the cranberries: Measure the remaining sugar into a shallow mixing bowl. Add a few cranberries at a time to the sugar and roll until completely coated. Transfer to another baking sheet and continue rolling until all of the cranberries are coated.

The above is simply a quick summary of this sparkling cranberries recipe. Check out the full recipe in the free printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for all the detailed instructions.

close up photo of a white plate with candied cranberries on it

Tips for Making the Candied Cranberries

  • Let the simple syrup cool completely — The cranberries should be added to the simple syrup only after it’s cooled to room temperature. Adding them to hot simple syrup may result in the cranberries cooking or bursting. 
  • Dry the cranberries thoroughly after rinsing them — Make sure the cranberries are completely dry before mixing them into the simple syrup. The syrup will cling to dry berries better than wet ones. 
  • Let the cranberries drip dry undisturbed — The simple syrup-coated cranberries need close to 45 minutes to drip dry on a wire rack. Don’t try to speed up the process in any way, otherwise the cranberries may not end up being evenly coated in a layer of sticky syrup. 
  • Roll a few cranberries at a time — Don’t dump all of the cranberries into the sugar to coat them. Sugar them in batches for best results. 
  • Reviving day-old frosted cranberries — After a day or two has passed, the candied cranberries may not look as pretty and frosted as the day you made them. If that’s the case, roll them in a little more sugar to revive them. 
  • Cook the cranberries after a few days — Candied cranberries don’t have a long shelf life (3 to 4 days maximum). Instead of throwing away leftovers, cook them for a few minutes in a saucepan over medium heat to create a shortcut cranberry sauce.  

Additional FAQs

Does This Recipe Work with Frozen Cranberries? 

Because cranberries don’t soften or release juices after being frozen, you should be fine to use frozen cranberries to make sugared cranberries. I recommend bringing the frozen cranberries to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe, though. 

Can the Cranberries Be Flavored? 

Yes. You’ll want to add any flavoring agents to the simple syrup mixture when bringing the water to a simmer. Then, let them steep as the mixture cools

Try flavoring the simple syrup with one or more of the following: 

  • Fresh Rosemary Sprigs
  • Orange Peel or Orange Zest
  • Dried Orange Slices
  • Vanilla Bean
  • Small Piece of Fresh Ginger
  • Dried Whole Spices (like Whole Cloves, Allspice Berries, Cinnamon Sticks, and Star Anise)

Can I Make These Boozy?

Yes! Replace the ½ cup of water called for in the simple syrup recipe with one of the following: 

  • Grand Marnier
  • Cranberry Liqueur
  • Chai or other Spiced Liqueur 
  • Bourbon or Whiskey

NOTE: Don’t serve boozy candied cranberries to anyone under 21, those who don’t consume alcohol, or pregnant persons.

What Should I Do With the Leftover Syrup?

You may wind up with some leftover simple syrup after preparing the frosted cranberries. Don’t toss it! Simple syrup lasts for a long time and can be used: 

overhead photo of sugared cranberries on a white plate on a grey table

Ways to Use Sugared Cranberries

These homemade sugar-coated cranberries have so many festive uses! Use sugared cranberries:  

As a drink garnish 

As a garnish for holiday breakfasts

As a dessert garnish 

As a snack or appetizer

  • Snack on them plain
  • Add them to charcuterie boards 
  • Serve them at a Cheese Tasting

As a serving platter garnish 

How to Store Sugared Cranberries 

Once the cranberries have dried completely, store them in an airtight container at room temperature. 

How Long Will They Last? 

If stored properly, they will last up to 3 days. You may notice the sugar coating becoming a little moist. If that happens, re-roll the berries in sugar before serving. If they begin to soften, cook them on the stove to make cranberry sauce! 

Do Sugared Cranberries Need to Be Refrigerated?

Nope! The sugar acts as a preservative so they’ll be fine to sit on your counter for 2 to 3 days (but no longer than that!). 

Can the Cranberries Be Frozen? 

No, I do not recommend it. The sugar dissolves once they thaw and they will not look like the photos.

Try These Sugared Cranberries!

Next time you’re looking for a holiday drink or dessert garnish, give these sugared cranberries a try! Did you think they were easy to prepare? Leave a comment below and give it a review for others to see what you thought of this sugared cranberry recipe.

On Instagram? Share your photo and tag me with @goodlifeeats and #goodlifeeatsrecipes. I’d love to see your photo of this great recipe!

photo of fresh cranberries in a white bowl next to a bowl of sugar

Even More Fresh Cranberry Recipes: 

This Cranberry Orange Walnut Relish is so easy to make and will definitely become a staple at your Thanksgiving table.

Roasted Cranberry Salsa is a tasty, colorful holiday recipe for gifting and serving at parties. Roasted fresh cranberries pair perfectly with the traditional elements of salsa – jalapeño, cilantro, onion, and lime.

Cranberry Orange Maple Syrup is simple to make and tastes delicious on top of homemade waffles for a special treat!

Cranberry Pomegranate Walnut Bars are the perfect wintery recipe to add to your Christmas Baking list. A crumb crust is layered with sweet and tart cranberries and topped with a crunchy and crumbly walnut topping.

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sugared cranberries on a white plate

Sugared Cranberries

Yield: 1.5 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Drying Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

You need just two ingredients to make these simple Sugared Cranberries! Use them to garnish drinks, serving platters, cakes, and more. 


  • 1 1/2 cups Sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups Fresh Cranberries
  • 1/2 cup Water


Making the Simple Syrup

  1. In a medium sized saucepan, combine 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.
  2. Set the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until the mixture is simmering and the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and cool the simple syrup to room temperature.

Coating the Cranberries with Simple Syrup

  1. After the simple syrup has cooled completely, measure the cranberries into the saucepan.
  2. Gently stir until the cranberries are completely coated. 
  3. Then, set a wire cooling rack over a baking sheet.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cranberries from the syrup and transfer them to the wire rack to drain.
  5. Let the cranberries drain for 30-45 minutes, or until dry.

Sugaring the Cranberries

  1. Measure the remaining 1 cup of sugar into a shallow mixing bowl.
  2. Add a few cranberries at a time to the sugar and roll until completely coated.
  3. Transfer to a large plate or another baking sheet and continue rolling until all of the cranberries are coated.

To Store

  1. Let the sugared cranberries dry completely before storing. Store sugared cranberries in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2-3 days. If the cranberries start to soften, discard or cook them in a recipe.


Leftover simple syrup may be discarded or saved to use in other recipes. Transfer to an airtight container, such as a jar, and refrigerate until use.

Did you make this recipe?

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For the step-by-step version of this recipe, check out the How to Make How to Make Sugared Cranberries Story.

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