Cranberry poblano salsa DSC8878

Cranberry poblano salsa

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.

5 from 3 votes

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


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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5 from 3 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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  1. 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 🙂

  2. Lisa Fain says:

    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.

  3. chicken fried gourmet says:

    Its creamy, kinda like a melting ice cream consistency

  4. Lisa Fain says:

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

  5. 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.