We are rapidly descending into party season. There are Halloween parties, then Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving, Christmas parties, and then finally New Year’s Eve parties. It’s like boom-boom-boom-boom! So I thought I’d get started with some party food ammo for you. This Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip is probably the easiest no-brainer holiday appetizer. Bring it to any party you’re going to, and it will get eaten.
I’ve even got a few variations on this simple theme for you below, so you can take your pick and make it your own!
Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip Holiday Appetizer
See this recipe in my Easy Thanksgiving Dinner for Beginners meal plan.
What’s in Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip?
It’s so simple. So, so simple. Just cream cheese, homemade cranberry sauce (cranberries, sugar, water, salt), and green onion. And I implore you not to skip the green onion. That savory onion flavor really rounds out the dip!
What to Serve with Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip
It’s that combo of savory, sweet, tart, and salty that makes this super simple dish so irresistible! Because this Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip is both savory and sweet, it pairs equally well with salty crackers and sweet apple slices. It might even be good to add a few slices of sharp cheddar to that platter, to make a little cracker, apple, cheddar, and cranberry stack!
Can I Make This Ahead?
Absolutely! The cranberry sauce keeps very well in the refrigerator, so you can make that up to two days ahead. Then just assemble the dip before the party and you’re good to go.
Can I Use Canned Cranberry Sauce?
Technically you can, but I find canned sauces to have much more muted flavor, and they can even sometimes taste a bit metallic. Homemade cranberry sauce literally takes less than ten minutes to make, so for best results I suggest making it fresh.
Variations on the Theme
As I mentioned in the intro, this Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip has several options. Here are my favorites:
- Add jalapeño to make it like a cross between pepper jelly and cranberry sauce (this is the option pictured below)
- Make a classic cranberry sauce (with or without orange) and add crushed pecans or walnuts on top of the dip
- Use a different cheese. Cream cheese is the budget option, but you can also make this dip with chevre (goat cheese) or even baked brie.
Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip
- 6 oz. fresh cranberries ($1.25)
- 1/4 cup sugar ($0.08)
- 1/2 cup water ($0.00)
- 1 jalapeño (optional) ($0.15)
- 1/8 tsp salt ($0.02)
- 8 oz. cream cheese ($0.79)
- 3 green onions, sliced ($0.33)
- 1 box crackers (for serving) (2.95)
- 1 apple (for serving) ($0.33)
- Rinse the cranberries then add them to a small sauce pot with the sugar, water, and salt.
- If using a jalapeño, remove the stem, slice it lengthwise, scrape out the seeds (or leave some in if you like it extra spicy), then finely dice the pepper. Add the diced pepper to the sauce pot.
- Stir the pot to combine, place a lid on top, and place it over medium-high heat. Allow the pot to come to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, give it a good stir, turn the heat down to medium-low, and let it simmer without a lid for 5 minutes.
- After simmering for 5 minutes, the cranberries should have all burst open and created a thick sauce. Turn the heat off and transfer the sauce to the refrigerator to cool.
- Place the cream cheese on a small plate or in a shallow bowl. Use the back of a spoon to create an indentation along the center of the block of cream cheese.
- Pour the cooled cranberry sauce over the cream cheese, then top with sliced green onion. Serve with crackers and apple slices.
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Scroll down for the step by step photos!
How to Make Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip – Step by Step Photos
If you’re using a jalapeño, slice off the stem, then slice the pepper lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds, or leave some in if you like your cranberry sauce extra spicy. Finely dice the pepper.
Add 6 oz. cranberries (that’s half of the standard 12 oz. bag), 1/4 cup sugar, the diced jalapeño (optional), 1/8 tsp salt, and 1/2 cup water to a small sauce pot. Stir to combine, place a lid on top, then place the pot over medium-high heat.
Allow the pot to come up to a boil. Once boiling, give it a quick stir again, turn the heat down to medium-low, and let it simmer without a lid for about 5 minutes. After five minutes all of the cranberries should have burst and the sauce thickened (if not, just let it simmer for a couple minutes more, it doesn’t take long). Turn the heat off, then transfer the sauce to the refrigerator to cool.
When you’re ready to plate up your Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip for the party, place an 8 oz. block of cream cheese on a plate or shallow bowl (something that will catch the cranberry sauce runoff). Use the back of a spoon to make an indentation along the top of the cream cheese, so that some of the sauce stays on top.
Then spoon the cranberry sauce on top of the cream cheese.
Top the Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip with sliced green onions, and surround the dish with an assortment of crackers and apple slices.
And enjoy your party!!