The perfect sweet and savory appetizer recipe, cranberry jalapeno dip is just a little bit spicy but a whole lot of delicious. Bright and colorful, perfect for the holiday season. This party dip can be made ahead of time, takes less than 10 minutes, and requires no cooking!
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We all have a go-to party appetizer. In the past mine has always been my favorite goat cheese and beet bites, last year it was bacon-wrapped brussels sprouts, and now it is this cranberry jalapeno cream cheese dip.
📖Why This Recipe Works
The best holiday appetizer recipes are colorful, easy to make, and crowd-pleasing. This recipe has gorgeous colors, it screams holiday party. But what it is not, is a cranberry jalapeno salsa. It is a creamy dip with just a hint of spice, no lime juice, and no cilantro.
- Cream cheese tones down the tartness of the cranberries and any excess heat from the jalapeno. The sour cream adds tang without being overly acidic.
But you will notice that my recipe has ⅓ of the sugar as other recipes. Not because it is meant to be healthy, but because when the liquid is drained, most of the sugar is drained with it.
This recipe adds back a bit of that liquid to thin the dip. Making it smooth, creamy, and delicious. And not too sweet! Plus no wasted sugar.
This recipe is gluten-free and vegetarian as written.
Fresh Cranberries are the star of the show. You can use frozen cranberries if they are uncooked. But do not use canned cranberries or any type of cranberry sauce in this recipe.
Jalapeno Peppers- I recommend at least one but I like to have a second on hand just in case it needs to be spiced up a bit.
Cream Cheese- You can use regular or reduced fat. Gluten-Free? Check out my post on gluten-free Philadelphia Cream Cheese Options.
Green Onions (aka scallions)- Us the green and white parts in the dip and save the green tops for garnishing the top of the dip. You can substitute sweet onion or red onion but don't use more than ¼ cup.
Sour Cream- You can substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream.
See the recipe card for exact quantities.
⏲️How to Make Cranberry Jalapeno Dip
Before you start, be sure your cream cheese is softened.
Don't worry, you don't have to chop anything by hand. Everything is going to be done in a food processor.
Step 1- Chop
Add whole cranberries to the bowl of a food processor. Add one jalapeno, be sure to cut off the top, and remove the seeds.
Also add the trimmed green onions, salt, sugar, and lemon juice. You are going to pulse it until it is finely chopped like in the picture below. This will take at least 30 pulses.
Set a mesh sieve or other strainer over a small bowl. Pour the contents of the food processor into the strainer. Let it strain while you whip the cream cheese.
If you don't have a strainer, let it sit until you need it. And use a slotted spoon to transfer it.
Step 2- Whip the Cream Cheese
Place the softened cream cheese and sour cream in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer beat on high until light and fluffy. This will take 1 to 2 minutes.
Step 3- Mix
Here is where my recipe takes a left turn. My recipe testers were very vocal. They did not like all the cranberry mixture mixed into the whipped cream cheese. The feedback was that it was too pink, and you couldn't tell what it was.
They also didn't like spreading the cream cheese on a pie plate and simply dumping the cranberry mixture on top. They felt the cream cheese was too plain and too thick. Plus, it couldn't be made in advance because the cream cheese didn't stay soft.
My solution got 100% approval from the testers. Add back a bit or all of the liquid to the cream cheese mixture. The consensus was at least half the liquid to ensure it was thin enough the next day.
Add in half of the chopped cranberries. Stir well. Taste for heat and add more minced jalapeno if needed.
Step 4- Serve
Add the cranberry cream cheese to your serving dish. Spoon the remaining cranberries on top of the cream cheese and garnish with sliced jalapeno, parsley, or sliced green onion.
🥗What to Serve with Cranberry Jalapeno Dip
For veggies, I recommend broccoli florets and celery. You can serve this dip with gluten-free crackers, tortilla chips, toasted bread, or pita chips.
The leftover dip is great on bagels the next morning.
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tips
- You can buy whipped cream cheese to save time, but it will be about double the price.
- When making ahead of time, if your cream cheese gets too stiff allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
A food processor is highly recommended for this recipe. You can chop by hand it will take a bit of time. You can also use a food mill or a mini chopper, but you will need to work in batches.
🌡️Make Ahead and Storage
This recipe can be made one day in advance. Store the cream cheese mixture and drained cranberries in separate airtight containers. Keep the fridge and assemble it just before serving.
Cover leftovers with plastic wrap and store them in the fridge. It will last up to 5 days but will thin over time.
More Cranberry Recipes
💬Frequently Asked Questions
No, I do not recommend freezing cranberry jalapeno cream cheese ship.
If you got it too thin, the best way to thicken the cream cheese dip is to add more softened cream cheese.
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Cranberry Jalapeno Dip
- 12 ounces cranberries fresh and whole
- 1 jalapeno cut in half and deseeded
- 4 green onions whites and light green parts
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened
- 2 tablespoons sour cream optional but recommended
- In a food processor, add the cranberries, jalapeno, green onions, lemon juice, sugar, and salt. Pulse until chopped.12 ounces cranberries, 1 jalapeno, 4 green onions, ⅓ cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt
- Strain the cranberry mixture, reserving the juice.
- In a mixing bowl add the softened cream cheese and sour cream. Beat with a hand mixer (or stand mixer) until whipped and fluffy. About two minutes.8 ounces cream cheese, 2 tablespoons sour cream
- Add in the reserved juice until you get your desired thickness. Start with 1 tablespoon. Stir in ⅓ to ½ of the cranberry mixture. Mix well.
- Spoon into your serving dish. Top with the remaining cranberry jalapeno mix. Garnish with extra green onion, jalapeno, or parsley. Serve with crackers, pretzels, or fresh vegetables.
- Sour cream will thin out the dip slightly but it adds less acidic tang than lemon juice.
- For a sweeter dip add all the reserved liquid, much of the sugar is filtered out.
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