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 2 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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  1. masdevallia says:

    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.

  2. Janet English says:

    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.

  3. Anonymous says:

    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……………

  4. purpletexan says:

    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.

  5. HZ in DFW says:

    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!