Condiments Side dish

Cranberry poblano salsa

Cranberry poblano salsa | Homesick Texan

Cranberry sauce for many means this: a tubular, red, gelatinous substance that slithers out of a can, shiny ridges included free of charge. You’d think with so many people interested in fresh, local foods that it would be a relic from the past, a candidate for the museum of regrettable edibles. But I know it’s still a popular holiday item because this time of year you see stacks of this canned product on prominent display at grocery stores, Whole Foods included. Why? Why? Why?

I grew up thinking this was the only way to prepare cranberries and it scared me (much like marshmallows on sweet potatoes). I always said, “No thanks,” and loaded up on more stuffing instead. Which is a shame, because nothing complements turkey and cornbread stuffing better than the tang of cranberries—it’s the trinity of Thanksgiving flavor.

Cranberry poblano salsa | Homesick Texan

What changed my mind (and my palate)? A recipe I found in Bon Appetit many years ago. It mixes cooked cranberries with poblanos, cilantro, orange juice and pecans creating a spicy, sweet, and tart salsa that’s terrific with turkey, but also plays well with pork, tamales, or even tortilla chips. And while I know now that there’s a whole world of things you can do with cranberries, I still always return to this salsa—my first cranberry love, if you will.

Cranberry poblano salsa | Homesick Texan
5 from 1 vote

Cranberry poblano salsa

Servings 8
Author Lisa Fain


  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 poblano chili
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus more if needed
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 12 ounces cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange peel
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Salt


  1. Roast the bell pepper and Poblano chile under the broiler until blackened, about 5 minutes per side. Place the peppers in a paper sack or plastic food-storage bag, close it tight and let the chiles steam for 20 minutes. After the chiles have steamed, remove from the bag and rub off the skin. Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles and dice.

  2. Meanwhile, place the sugar, orange juice, water, and cranberries into a large saucepan and toss until the sugar is evenly distributed over the cranberries. While occasionally stirring, cook the cranberries over medium-low heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste and if the cranberries are way too tart for your liking, stir in more sugar, a tablespoon at a time.

  3. Once the peppers are ready, stir them into the cranberry salsa along wit the orange peel, pecans, cilantro, cayenne, and salt. Taste and adjust seasonings. Can serve either warm or chilled. This can be made ahead and will keep 4 days in the refrigerator.

  1. I do enjoy the canned cranberry but this year I making a recipe from Bon Appetit that uses red onion jam, frozen cranberries and dried sour cherries. I try to cook a different cranberry recipe every year. My mother makes a cranberry dessert every year that seems to change every time she makes it, she calls it purple delight and either you love it or hate it- no in betweens. I need to find that recipe.

  2. Chicken Fried Gourmet–Red onions and dried cherries–what an interesting combination. Everything’s red! What’s purple delight taste like? Is it cakey or creamy?

  3. I do enjoy the cranberry log, I have to admit. However, my sister makes a cranberry sauce with red wine, cinnamon sticks, and orange peel that is just the most amazing cranberry sauce I’ve ever had, so I have to say I like hers the best. 🙂

    While I’m here…I bought a can of Rotel tomatoes & chilies last week. I’m not sure what I’m going to use it in but it’s there, lurking, in my cabinet.

  4. Adam–I’ve never had cranberry sauce with wine, but it sounds divine. Elise at Simply Recipes posted a recipe about a month ago that I’m eager to try. And let me know what you end up doing with your Rotel tomatoes!

  5. I simply make the recipe on the cranberry bag. Simple and tasty. I made double and eat the leftovers on toast the whole month of December.

    I don’t understand what the excuse about cranberry sauce is – it takes like 10 minutes! And those ridges…shudder… my lovely brother-in-law REFUSED to eat my cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving last year and DEMANDED the can be supplied.

  6. While growing up, the first time I recall the can being served with all the ridges intact (why doesn’t anyone mash it up so it’s more like a sauce, less like a jelly?), I remember asking “What’s that?” and my mom told me it was cranberry sauce. No one touched it. I think we’d bought 2 cans and the 2nd can was served the next year, again, no one touched it. I think that was the last year they bothered. But growing up in an Asian household, I think it was purchased mostly to try to assimilate/be “normal”? because you know, on television, no one ever had rice as a side dish for Thanksgiving. Now that all the children are older, our Thanksgivings veer more towards the traditional American fare, but no cranberry sauce (canned or otherwise) is present. This year should be interesting, as someone else is hosting… 😉

    PS The first time I saw cranberry sauce made on TV was… I think the host of The Man Show made it and it looked so freaking easy, I was ready to try it. But I don’t like hot/cooked fruits generally so I have passed time and again- hey maybe that canned stuff is why!- but I keep reading orange goes amazingly well with cranberry? We’ll see, I guess 🙂

  7. Suburban Housefrau–I know–it’s almost easier to make homemade sauce than sliding that stuff out of a can.

    Yvo–That’s an amusing image, your family looking at the bowl of canned cranberry sauce and saying “Um, no thank you. Where’s the rice?” I can’t blame y’all for passing on the dish!

    Homemade is nothing like the canned stuff, so you should give it a try. It’s good cold, too, it doesn’t have to be hot.

  8. Its creamy, kinda like a melting ice cream consistency

  9. Chicken Fried Gourmet–That sounds delish–please post the recipe if you find it!

  10. Hehe, oops. I kind of wasn’t clear, re-reading my comment: we always had rice on the table. I think one year (or multiple?) (it’s so fuzzy…) we had fried rice with Chinese sausage as the stuffing. I grew up HATING rice because it was ALWAYS THERE. Hahahaha.

  11. i don’t serve cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, instead i will incorporate dried cranberries in the stuffing. like yvo, i grew up in asia, and thanksgiving feast is always something new, even getting familiar with turkey (except deli slices :)) is only getting to us recently. to tell you the truth, i’d rather eat rice 😀

  12. (inflightsnack was formerly known as east meets midwest)

    okay – i grew up with a mother who made homemade cranberry sauce, and i hated the real parts of the cranberries (mainly the skins that were easily detectible) and envied my friends sitting around their table slicing that smooth gelatinous cylinder… so, as with wonder bread, ham salad (a Pittsburgh thing) and mushy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (love to see that grape jelly soaked into the top of wonderbead) I have a soft spot for those ridges. not to say that I don’t appreciate the real thing – but it’s like a jelly donut. So nasty, yet you can’t look, or keep your fingers away.

  13. That jiggly tube freaks me out. Take a big wooden spoon to it, would dya?

  14. Hello, I just found your blog randomly. I’m also a homesick Texan, though living in Switzerland. I thought you might like to read my post…it’s very similar to your description of yourself. I have one called “Upside Down Chili Pie” and another “Someone send me an Enchilada”

    I feel for you–hope you get a big can of refried in your stocking this year!

  15. Yuck on the canned stuff. I just made some sauce on the stove: 12 oz. cranberries, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup orange juice, pinch of salt, zest of one orange. So much prettier than those scary ridges.

  16. I make a lovely cranberry sauce with fresh berries, pearl onions, orange juice, garlic, balsamic vinegar and a little wine. Your recipe sounds wonderful too.

    But I’ll tell you what, nothing says home for the holidays to me like the canned stuff, with all the ridges and indentations of the can itself and the priceless squelching sound it makes when you shake it out into a serving dish. Part of the power of food for me is its ability to evoke memory, to carry me back instantly to a place I’d almost forgotten. Viva the canned cranberry sauce — it’s a part of who I am and I buy a can every year. (Am I disqualified as a foodie now? Pity.)

  17. Yvo–Ahh…I see!

    Eliza–Dried cranberries in the stuffing sounds perfect!

    Inflightsnack–I don’t know what you’re talking about–I think jelly doughnuts are beautiful!

    County Clerk–Here you are, sliced sauce

    Jessica–Thanks for stopping by! I love the title, “Someone send me an enchilada.” I can completely relate!

    Knitopia–I agree!

    Christine–I don’t think liking the canned stuff will take away your foodie credentials, especially after reading the poetic explanation of your affection.

  18. I have to confess a fondness for the cranberry log. It was always one of the parts of thanksgiving dinner I liked forward to as a child. Probably because it was such a big sugar shot. That stuff is as sweet as a dessert.

    I will further confess that I was even a little disappointed this year when the person who had told me that she was going to bring the canned stuff because it was all her children would eat arrived instead with basic, homemade cranberry sauce. Apparently she’d decided it was time for her children to break their canned cranberry sauce habit.

  19. Julie–I don’t like the log, but that sounds mighty cruel–trying to break her kids’ canned cranberry habit! I hope they weren’t too tramautized.

  20. The cranberry salsa sounds really great. We eat a different version (cranberries, cilantro, jalepeno’s, lime juice, green onions) but will have to try bon apetit version this year!

  21. I started making my own cranberry sauce last year. It was so good, I made several batches. I never knew you could just throw things into a pot for 15 minutes and have such a superior sauce.

    I use: apple juice or cider, honey, orange zest, cloves, cinnamon, candied ginger, and the freshest, plumpest berries I can find. Now that I’ve done this a few times I feel comfortable experimenting.

    Some ideas I’ve had: orange juice instead of apple, brown sugar instead of honey, and adding powdered ginger.

    NOTE: When making this, don’t cover the pot. The steam condenses to water which thins out the sauce to a consistency that is weaker than most people like cranberry sauce to be.

  22. As a foreigner, the whole Thanksgiving thing seemed a bit odd to me (as I didn’t eat turkey to begin with! not to mention the funky boxed stuffings I frequently saw).

    After meeting my husband family my whole perspective changed. His parents(american) would fly in to the US and spend hours and days prepping!

    This year I was watching Iron chef. They had a Thanksgiving battle with an asian flair.

    One of the chefs made a cranberry sauce recipe that I am hoping to attempt tomorrow.

    I dont have the measurements but I followed as mucha s I could about the recipe:

    Fresh cranberries
    Jalepeno’s (for a bite) approx 2
    Maple Syrup
    Orange Juice
    approx 2 table spoons cinnamon (ground)
    vanilla beans

    They then proceeded by serving this drizzled over a crostini with goat cheese and seared duck liver. It looked so good. It is ofcourse compatible with turkey.

    Don’t the ingrediants sound lovely? If I ever perfect it, I will make sure to pass it on to you.

    Happy holidays!

    I’ll be in Conroe, Texas for Thanksgiving. Don’t be too homesick.

  23. Anonymous

    I have searched in vain for a good cranberry recipe, tried many, and finally had to admit to myself that I love the jellied cranberry right out of the tin can! My to-be-son-in-law's grandmother made a cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving that involves oranges, pecans, and fresh cranberries processed in the blender and it is great, but I still like the tin can. I am going to try your cranberry salsa this Thanksgiving, but I am also going to have the old standby just in case……………

  24. purpletexan

    No way to the "Log"

    Lisa you have brought back so many memories of days past.

    Sadly I haven't been home for Thanksgiving since my maternal grandmother passed away but I'll be back in Fort Worth this year!!

    My aunt and I would fight every year for the left-overs of Grandmother's "Cranberry salad". It was a salad consisting of halved fresh cranberries, celery, walnuts, marshmellows and a very simple and light sauce.

    Grandmother probably never wrote down the recipe but I'm calling my aunt Cerena right now to see if she got the recipe before her mother passed away.

    Sweet yet tart, the perfect balance with roasted turkey and grandad's untraditional ham.

  25. HZ in DFW

    I think I have a recipe that sounds like the cranberry dish Chicken Fried Gourmet mentioned. It accompanies my family's Thanksgiving and Christmas meals almost every year.

    The recipe is from the Holiday Cookbook: Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers (1970). My mom's notes in the cookbook increase the measurements to make two 9×13 pans of frozen goodness. I've used her measurements below, but you could cut it in half to make just one pan.

    Frozen Cranberry Salad

    3 8oz pkg. cream cheese, softened
    8 Tbsp salad dressing
    8 Tbsp sugar
    60 oz canned pineapple tidbits, drained
    4 cups chopped pecans
    4 1lb cans whole cranberry sauce
    4 cups whipping cream, whipped

    Blend cream cheese and salad dressing (in a HUGE bowl); add sugar, pineapple and pecans. Blend; add cranberries. Fold cream into cheese mixture; freeze. May be kept for weeks in freezer.

    Mrs. Bessie D. Haynes, Scott Co. Jr. H.S.
    Georgetown, Kentucky

    The first year my husband joined my family for Christmas he was given the task of making this and was so thoroughly grossed out by the inclusion of salad dressing in a sweet dish, that he christened it spamberry salad and refused to eat it. Just leaves more for the rest of us!

  26. I had never had the cranberry log until I was ten years old. My mom has always made this ridiculous cranberry sauce that consists of three things: 2-3 lbs of cranberries, 1 cup of brandy, and 1 cup of sugar. Mix it all together and bake at 350F for an hour. Die of happiness.

    It's also excellent over vanilla ice cream, and even over pancakes.

  27. For my cranberry sauce i just use berries, sugar and water, but i also serve the canned stuff as well for those that don't like the berries…either tastes great on turkey sandwiches …and in fruit smoothies. I cant wait to try your cranberry salsa recipe! Thanks, Victoria Rains

  28. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I think I have made the best cranberry sauce of all time. I roasted both poblano and a jalapeno….and did use toasted pecans instead of hazelnuts. I had to slap myself to stop eating this with a spoon to save enough for the family tomorrow. This recipe is so dang good. I love a recipe that starts out sweet and then reminds your palate that there is heat in there as well. This fills the bill. I'm thinking heavenly smoked turkey sammichs with this magic sauce on Friday. Thank you ma'am.

  29. Kristen Nelson

    This is *JUST* what I needed but wasn’t looking for. Thanksgiving this year is turkey tacos. I had planned on my standard cranberry sauce, but your salsa will be even better.

    Thank you so much for the recipe. And I’m going to say that having friends who are excited for Thanksgiving turkey tacos is something to give sincere thanks for.

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