Cranberry Apple Orange Salad


Cranberry Apple Orange Salad is a perfect cool weather dish. It comes together quickly and the mild dressing freshens up the fruit. The dried cranberries added texture to this salad along with the nuts, making it a great mix of sweet and savory. Ready for another cranberry recipe? I hope so, because this Cranberry Apple Orange Salad with pecans is one that you won’t want to miss! It makes a big, beautiful, and tasty salad.

Best Cranberry Apple Salad

Cran­ber­ry Apple Sal­ad is one of two sal­ads that are so much a part of our family’s Thanks­giv­ing tra­di­tion, it is unthink­able not to serve them. This jew­el-tone love­ly has been on our hol­i­day table for more than 30 years. 

Tart cran­ber­ries, crisp fall apples, cel­ery, orange zest and pecans are set in a tangy rasp­ber­ry gelatin mix­ture that makes this sal­ad a per­fect com­ple­ment to turkey, ham or roast chicken. 

Cran­ber­ry Apple Sal­ad not only hits all the best fla­vor notes, but it’s also burst­ing with tex­ture. It has the mouth­feel of a chunky rel­ish and all the sweet-tart notes to cut through the creamy, fat­ty dish­es it’s served alongside.

It’s so easy to make and can be made even a day or two ahead. Once you and your fam­i­ly taste it, it will become one of your hol­i­day tra­di­tions, too.

The Ingredients

  • Fresh Cran­ber­ries (12 oz.) I grind these dry in my food proces­sor. If you are going to use a blender, put them in the blender pitch­er, cov­er with water and pulse to grind them. Then drain.
  • Apples : I use Hon­ey Crisp or Gala
  • Cel­ery: It sounds wrong, but trust me. It’s so good!
  • Chopped Pecans
  • Orange: 1 large one. You’ll use both the zest and the juice
  • Sug­ar
  • Rasp­ber­ry Gelatin: 2 (3 oz. boxes)

How to Make Cranberry Apple Salad

Grind the cran­ber­ries. You will want them to be about the size of real­ly coarse sand­ing sug­ar, which helps spreads the tart­ness through­out the sal­ad more evenly.

Peel and small dice the apples. Cut the cel­ery into thin slices. 

You can buy the pecans already chopped or chop pecan halves into pieces.

Zest the orange and set it aside. Juice the zest­ed orange and add just enough water to bring the juice to 2 cups.

In a medi­um (at least 2.5 quarts) bowl, mix the cran­ber­ries, apples, cel­ery, pecans and orange zest. Stir to dis­trib­ute every­thing evenly.

Heat the juice, sug­ar and water to boil­ing. Then add the rasp­ber­ry gelatin to the hot liq­uid and stir until the sug­ar and gelatin are dissolved.

Pour the gelatin mix­ture over the cran­ber­ry apple mix­ture and stir to coat all the ingredients. 

Refrig­er­ate until set. Once it is set, I usu­al­ly stir the sal­ad to redis­trib­ute any­thing that has float­ed to the top of the gelatin. There won’t be much, because the gelatin is fair­ly equal to the amount of oth­er ingre­di­ents, but gelatin should be bro­ken up and stirred through­out all the fruit. Cov­er the sal­ad with a lid or plas­tic wrap until ready to serve it. You can make it up to two days ahead.

Mama’s Cranberry Salad


I usually eat this with the main portion of my Thanksgiving meal, but as I double the recipe and make it from the time ripe cranberries appear in the stores until they no longer do, it serves very well for dessert too. And for breakfast and for a late-night snack, for that matter. This has been on every holiday table I can remember, and its origins are lost in time—I’m not sure if it was a grandmother’s recipe, or if Mama came up with it—but I can no more imagine Thanksgiving or Christmas without it than I can the one without turkey, and the other without ham!

Mama’s Cranberry Salad

  • PREP TIME8 hours
  • COOK TIME15 minutes
  • SERVES12, unless one of them’s me; in that case, 6
  • (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
  • large Granny Smith or other tart green apple
  • large orange
  • large Honey Crisp or other red apple
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • large (6-ounce) box raspberry jello
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar

In This Recipe

  1. Zest the orange, peel, and liquefy in the food processor.
  2. Chop all the other fruit in the food processor, and add to large bowl with orange and zest. Add nuts.
  3. Bring water and sugar to a boil until sugar dissolves completely. Remove from heat, let cool just a bit, and whisk in jello. Don’t be hating on the jello here; it’s not really noticeable, but helps things hold together. You could use unflavored gelatin and additional sugar if you wish.
  4. Pour jello over fruit, give a good stir, and refrigerate overnight.

Easy Cranberry-Orange-Apple-Walnut Relish

Refreshing and palate-pleasing, a bite of Easy Cranberry Orange Apple Walnut Relish is the divine soulmate to a bite of turkey. It’s also the perfect foil to so many of the *heavy* fat-laden dishes, that cause our heavily-laden Thanksgiving tables to groan under the weight thereof.

Easy Cranberry Orange Apple Walnut Relish is the easiest, quickest recipe you’ll make for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but it’s so delicious that it will become a family tradition.

An additional reason I adore this dish is because my Mommy made it, and “ah hay-elped “! (Shoutout to those old enough to remember that old Shake and Bake commercial.)   I remember helping her crank the handle of the food grinder/food mill that was braced around the edge of the table in our basement, and tucking the slices of apple and orange into the feed tube.

How Easy Is This Cranberry Relish?

First of all, all the ingredients are raw. So, clearly, that’s easy.

Secondly, and happily for ALL of us, somebody invented the food processor in between the time when I used to make it with my mom, and now. So this dish takes all of about 30 seconds to prepare, once your ingredients are prepped. So that should tell you how truly EASY it is.

 Is Cranberry Relish Really Better than Cranberry Sauce?

This is one of the recipes that nearly always sends at least one of my Thanksgiving guests over the moon to Happy Tongue Heaven.

It’s sweet, tart, fresh, juicy, and crisp. It makes your taste buds stand up, salute, and break into the Hallelujah chorus. With all the carb-heavy, butter-laden dishes we typically serve on our Thanksgiving menus, this dish provides a welcome palate cleanse, in between bites. And none of my guests one can believe how easy it is to make!

Mom didn’t leave me a written copy of it, so I had to go hunting for a recipe that would approximate what I remembered her making, and happily, I found something similar in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

I have altered their recipe somewhat by adding an apple, and reducing the sugar, to suit our taste. This year, I also toasted the walnuts, just to deepen their flavor a bit, and I like that change as well. (350º for about 8 to 10 minutes)

One Important Recipe Note: I make this EARLY in the week of Thanksgiving: usually on Monday. By that time, the vivid red color of the cranberries has penetrated all the apples and the oranges, and dish becomes a VIVID crimson! So it’s prettier than it was when you first made it, and all the flavors have a chance to mingle, and marry. 

So here it is, my easy-peasy, amazing cranberry relish. (Dedicated to my dear daughter, my sister-in-law Kim, and my friend Rich, who each would like to have their very own bowl, please.)

Please: pin this on Pinterest!

The Recipe for Easy Cranberry Orange Apple Walnut Relish

Yield: 12 servings

Easy Cranberry-Orange-Apple-Walnut Relish

Easy Cranberry Orange Apple Walnut Relish is the easiest, quickest recipe you'll make for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but it's so delicious that it will become a family tradition.Print

Easy Cranberry Orange Apple Walnut Relish is the easiest, quickest recipe you’ll make for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but it’s so delicious that it will become a family tradition.

Prep Time 15 minutes

Total Time 15 minutes


  • 4 cups of cranberries (about 1lb.)
  • 2 medium oranges, and their grated zest
  • 1 apple (like a Honeycrisp, or a Gala: something sweet and tart and crisp), peeled and sliced
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. toasted, and then chopped walnuts


  1. With a microplane zester, zest the outer peel off of two oranges. (Use the orange part only, not the bitter white of the pith underneath).
  2. Then peel and section the oranges. Put cranberries, orange sections, zest, and apple slices into food processor and pulse until mixture is finely chopped, but NOT puréed.
  3. Add most of sugar and taste, adding more sugar to suit your taste. Stir in walnuts and refrigerate.
  4. Serve cold.


If you make this the day before (or a few days before), the color will be an even more brilliant red, as the juices of the cranberries work their way into the apple and orange. I usually make this on Monday or Tuesday of Thanksgiving week (but then, I have to keep my daughter out of it all week, till Thursday). Prepare early at your own risk: it may be hard to stay out of it.

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