Such a fun way to use cranberries this time of year! A sweet and spicy cranberry dip on top of whipped cream cheese. Best of all, you can make the cranberry topping up to 5 days ahead.
A perfect holiday appetizer since it's a serious crowd pleaser, so festive-looking, and (maybe best of all) you can make the cranberry mixture ahead! Hello, quickly assembled and delicious snacks, we love you.
The Cranberry Topping
A sweet, spicy, slightly tart concoction featuring cranberries, jalapeño, green onion, cilantro, and cumin that will keep you coming back for more. It's like cranberry salsa meets hot pepper jelly.
I use my food processor to make all the chopping quick and easy. But definitely all of this can be chopped by hand.
You can use fresh or frozen cranberries here. I actually find it easiest to use frozen cranberries since they're easier to chop and less likely to be pureed in the food processor. Whichever one you have will work!
I do the cranberries and the greens separately in the food processor to prevent ending up with a cranberry smoothie.
The most important thing is to let the cranberry topping sit in the fridge for at least 8 hours prior to using. If you sample it right when it's freshly made it will be... not great. But something amazing happens when it sits in the fridge. The flavors meld, the sugar dissolves, the cranberries soften. Just look at this before and after!
This is a really flexible recipe, so feel free to adjust the jalapeño amount to your desired spice level, and the sugar to your desired sweetness. (But remember, you need a lot of sugar to balance out the tartness of cranberries!)
Cream cheese is a perfect soft texture and mild flavor for the bold topping. It can be as easy as taking a brick out of the fridge, unwrapping it, and pouring the cranberries over it. I like to whip mine with a splash of milk for maximum spreadability before topping. Either way is delicious!
If you want to branch out, brie or goat cheeses would also be so good!
The cranberry topping will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, and since it gets better the longer it sits, I say the earlier you can make it, the better!
It also freezes really well, so you can make a double batch, freeze half, and have extra ready for next time. Thaw it in the fridge for 1-2 days, depending on how much you have.
I wouldn't make it more than an hour or so ahead of when you plan to serve it. It will taste good for much longer than that, but the juice from the cranberries will start to spread and stain the cheese after it's been sitting for a bit.
What to eat this with
A few weeks ago, I learned that my eldest and I should not venture out to the grocery store unsupervised because we will buy far more crackers than is reasonable.
But here my $30-on-crackers trip is all your gain because I have tried this dip on everything and am thus able to give you an official ranking of its deliciousness on every cracker known to man.
My all-time favorite is a basic wheat entertainment cracker, followed by a seeded multigrain, followed by a crisp poppy+pepper cracker.
But there were no bad combinations! Eat it on crackers, tortilla chips, pretzel chips, or sandwiches. It's good everywhere!
Cranberry Jalapeno Dip with Whipped Cream Cheese
For the Cranberry Topping
- 1 (12 ounce) bag fresh OR frozen cranberries (see note)
- 4 green onions, roughly chopped
- 1-2 jalapeños, seeded and roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
- 1 cup sugar
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
For the Whipped Cream Cheese
- 2 (8 ounce) bricks cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup milk
For the Cranberry Topping
- Add the cranberries to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and pulse about 10 times, until roughly chopped. Scrape into a large bowl. Add the green onion, jalapeño, and cilantro to the food processor and pulse until roughly chopped, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Transfer to the bowl with the cranberries. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice, salt, and cumin. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, up to 5 days.
For the Cream Cheese
- Add the softened cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on high speed for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed and gradually adding the milk until your desired consistency has been achieved. Spread the cream cheese in an even layer in a pie dish, 9x9-inch baking dish, or a similarly-sized platter. Just before serving, pour off excess liquid from the cranberry mixture, and spoon over the cream cheese. Serve immediately with crackers, tortilla chips, or pretzel chips.
Adapted from Lindsey Maestas.