With all the turkey consumed between Thanksgiving and New Year, the world needs a condiment that breaks from the same old cranberry sauce-tradition! This recipe – a mildly hot, reasonably tart, crunchy-creamy blend – was born of a lucky experiment with my dear friend Laureen Hill. Last Thanksgiving, we got an early start on cocktail hour, so when the time came to make the cranberry sauce, neither of us had the presence of mind (quite literally!) to write anything down. All I remember is that I loved the result. This year, I set out to document what I recollected of our steps – and here’s where I ended up. As I said, the sauce is piquant. But not everyone likes “hot” and “tart” – believe it or not 🙂 – so feel free to tinker with the amount of sugar and jalapeño pepper.

One Saucy Sauce!
One Saucy Sauce! Photo by Julia M. Usher

Yield: About 3 1/2 cups salsa

Prep Talk: I like to make this recipe through Step 1 at least one day prior to serving; the extra time in the fridge allows the lime and jalapeño peppers to come into their own!

Salsa Again, A Little Closer
Salsa Again, A Little Closer Photo by Julia M. Usher


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • About 3/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 24 ounces whole fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tablespoon finely grated lime zest (about 1 lime)
  • Juice of 1 lime, strained
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 tablespoons finely chopped, seeded jalapeño pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Pinch of table salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
  • 3 tablespoons fresh pomegranate seeds, for crunch and sparkle (optional)
  • A few cilantro sprigs and extra pomegranate seeds, for garnish


1 | Stew the cranberries. Heat the oil in a deep (4- to 5-quart) non-reactive pan over low to medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened and lightly browned. Stir in the cranberries and water. Increase the heat to medium to medium-high, and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil a few minutes, or until the cranberries start to pop; then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the water has mostly evaporated and the mixture is thick and creamy, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the cranberries from scorching on the bottom of the pan.

In the last few minutes of cooking, stir in the lime zest and juice, jalapeño pepper, and sugar. Cook until the sugar has completely dissolved.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the salt to taste. Cool the mixture to room temperature; then cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to heighten and meld.

2 | Add the finishing touches. Just before serving, stir in the chopped cilantro and pomegranate seeds, as desired. The latter add noticeable crunch to an otherwise smooth sauce – which I love! But if a textured cranberry sauce isn’t your thing, feel free to omit the seeds. Garnish the top with cilantro sprigs and more seeds (again, as desired); then grab yourself some turkey and slather the sauce on thick!