Delicious Cranberry Salad Recipe For The Holidays

As we gather with loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s only right to have a dish that’s both delicious and festive. Look no further than my Cranberry Salad recipe – or as I like to call it, the Thanksgiving Pink Stuff.

This classic recipe has been a favorite in my family for years, and it’s not hard to see why. With its bright pink color and a perfect balance of sweetness and tartness, this Cranberry Salad will be the star of your Thanksgiving dinner table.

But don’t let the word “salad” fool you into thinking that this is a healthy option – this is one indulgent side dish. Loaded with sugar, cream cheese, and sour cream, this salad is truly decadent.

So if you’re looking for a dish that will make your taste buds dance and your guests happy, go ahead and try out my Cranberry Salad recipe. Trust me – you won’t be disappointed.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Cranberry Salad (A.k.a. Thanksgiving Pink Stuff)
Cranberry Salad (A.k.a. Thanksgiving Pink Stuff)

Are you searching for a unique and tasty dish to add to your Thanksgiving menu this year? Look no further than this Cranberry Salad, also lovingly referred to as “Thanksgiving Pink Stuff.”

This dish is a crowd-pleaser that will have your guests coming back for seconds (and maybe even thirds!). The combination of sweet and tart flavors from the cranberries, pineapple, and cherry jello meld together perfectly. And the addition of cream cheese and sour cream creates a creamy texture that perfectly balances out the crunch of the pecans.

But there’s more to love about this recipe than just its delicious taste. It’s also incredibly versatile – serve it as a side dish or as a dessert depending on your preference. And if you’re looking to reduce the calorie intake of your Thanksgiving dinner, simply substitute sugar-free jello and reduce the amount of sugar used.

One of my favorite things about this Cranberry Salad is how easy it is to prepare. With just a few simple steps and some refrigeration time, you’ll have a colorful and flavorful dish that will elevate any Thanksgiving meal.

So go ahead and give this recipe a try – your taste buds (and your guests) will thank you!

Ingredient List

 A bowl of holiday memories - Cranberry salad
A bowl of holiday memories – Cranberry salad

Here’s what you’ll need to make this delicious and easy cranberry salad recipe:

For the Cranberry Salad:

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 16oz can of whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 2 3oz boxes of raspberry or cherry Jello
  • 1 20oz can of crushed pineapple drained
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • Optional: marshmallows for topping

For the Cream Cheese Layer:

  • 8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream

Feel free to use fresh or frozen cranberries instead of canned sauce, and you can also add other fruits like sliced strawberries or grapes to enhance the flavor.

The Recipe How-To

 Bursting with the flavors of cranberries
Bursting with the flavors of cranberries

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Total time: 35 minutes


  • 1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 6-ounce box cherry jello
  • 1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 3 bananas, sliced
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Add the fresh cranberries and water to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the cranberries begin to pop, stirring occasionally.

  2. Add in the sugar, stir well to combine. Adjust heat to low and continue to cook until sugar completely dissolves.

  3. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.

  4. Stir in the cherry jello until fully dissolved.

  5. Drain the crushed pineapple and add it to the cranberry mixture, stirring well.

  6. Let mixture sit until it cools down, then add the sliced bananas and chopped pecans.

  7. Beat together the sour cream, cream cheese, and vanilla in a separate bowl. Add this mixture to the cooled cranberry mixture, stirring well to combine.

  8. Pour mixture into a large bowl or jello mold and chill in refrigerator for at least one hour, or until set.

  9. Once firm, garnish with additional chopped pecans or chopped fruit if desired.


  • You can substitute canned cranberry sauce or whole berry cranberry sauce for fresh cranberries if you prefer.
  • For a lighter version of this recipe, you can use light sour cream and reduced-fat cream cheese.
  • This salad can also be made ahead of time and kept refrigerated for up to three days before serving.

This sweet and zesty cranberry salad, aka Thanksgiving Pink Stuff is always served on our holiday table – no exceptions! I love this dish because it’s so versatile – it can be served as a salad or dessert depending on the occasion. The recipe is easy; it requires only a few ingredients but comes together to create one big delicious salad that everyone will enjoy!

To make this crowd-favorite recipe follow these simple steps below:

Substitutions and Variations

 All things pink aren't girly! This salad is the perfect proof
All things pink aren’t girly! This salad is the perfect proof

If you’re feeling adventurous, try some variations on this classic recipe. Instead of regular sugar, try using brown or raw sugar for a deeper, richer flavor. You could also add a tablespoon of vanilla extract for a touch of sweetness.

If you’re not a fan of bananas or pecans, feel free to leave them out or substitute them with other fruits and nuts. Diced apples or pears would add a crisp texture, while sliced almonds or walnuts would provide a subtle crunch.

For a lower calorie option, consider using a sugar substitute instead of traditional sugar. You could also replace the sour cream with Greek yogurt or almond milk to lighten up the recipe a bit.

If you’re looking for something different to serve at your Thanksgiving dinner, consider mixing things up with some alternative cranberry recipes. Try making cranberry surprise or cranberry fluff salad by combining canned cranberry sauce and marshmallow with whipped cream or Cool Whip.

And if you really want to get fancy, try creating your own jello mold by mixing together cherry jello and crushed pineapple with cream cheese and cottage cheese. The possibilities are endless!

Serving and Pairing

 Thanksgiving Pink Stuff that is too good to pass up
Thanksgiving Pink Stuff that is too good to pass up

Ah, the sweet satisfaction of looking at a perfectly prepared dish on the table. And in this case, it’s the humble cranberry salad, aka Thanksgiving Pink Stuff.

This dish doesn’t need much of an introduction. It’s become a staple in Thanksgiving dinners and for good reason. The creaminess of the sour cream and cream cheese balance out the tartness of the cranberries and pineapple, giving it an irresistible flavor that leaves you wanting more.

But what do you pair it with? Fear not, my dear foodie. This salad can be paired with a variety of dishes.

Firstly, let’s talk turkey. I mean, it is Thanksgiving after all. The juicy and flavorful turkey pairs perfectly with the creamy texture of the cranberry salad. It complements each other so well that it’s almost like they were meant to be together!

If you’re looking for something lighter and fresher, pair it with a green salad or roasted vegetables like Brussels sprouts or green beans. These veggies will balance out the richness of the cranberry salad.

Now let’s talk about its versatility. This dish can easily be enjoyed on its own as a light dessert or fruit salad after your meal. Adding some marshmallows to give it a different touch would make it resemble a Jello Marshmallow Salad.

And if you’re feeling adventurous, try serving it as a topping for pancakes or waffles in place of syrup – trust me on this one!

In short, there are no wrong ways to serve this dish. Whether you choose to pair it with turkey, veggies or serve it as dessert, the Cranberry Salad (a.k.a. Thanksgiving Pink Stuff) is sure to add flavor and color to your table.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 Sweet, tart, creamy - this salad has it all!
Sweet, tart, creamy – this salad has it all!

Preparing dishes for a party can be stressful, but when it comes to this Cranberry Salad recipe, there’s no need to worry. One of the best things about this salad is that it can be made ahead of time, making it the ultimate addition to your Thanksgiving dinner menu.

To make-ahead, complete the whole recipe and refrigerate until ready to serve. You can keep it in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The flavors will have a chance to blend and set nicely in the refrigerator. So you can just sit back and relax while you spend time with your guests.

When it comes time to serve, give the salad a good stir before serving as some of the ingredients may have settled at the bottom over time. If you find that the salad has thinned out or lost its consistency during storage, just add few extra spoonfuls of sour cream to thicken it up again.

If you happen to have leftovers of the Cranberry Salad, they can easily be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for several days. But keep in mind that bananas turn brown quickly after slicing, so they may not look as appealing in leftovers.

For those who love serving cold salads on hot summer days, this Cranberry Salad works perfectly well as a refreshing dessert any time of year. If you intend on taking leftovers outside or for picnics, just pack it in a cooler with ice packs to keep it fresh and delicious.

Lastly, if handling multiple dishes is too much stress close to mealtime, you will love knowing I got your back on this one. This dish can be reheated as needed in seconds in the microwave oven without losing its texture or taste. So go ahead: make and store it ahead, reheat when needed, and save your precious time spent sweating in the kitchen.

Tips for Perfect Results

 The perfect addition to any Thanksgiving table
The perfect addition to any Thanksgiving table

When it comes to making cranberry salad, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you achieve the best possible results. Here are some of my top tips for making the perfect cranberry salad every time:

1. Use fresh cranberries: Although frozen cranberries are a convenient alternative, they tend to contain more water, which can affect the texture of your salad. Opt for using fresh cranberries if possible!

2. Chill your ingredients: Before starting your recipe, make sure your ingredients are chilled. Especially the Jello mix otherwise, it might set too quickly and unevenly.

3. Fully dissolve Jell-o gelatin mix: Mix in one packet of Jello mix at a time per instructions on the box and stir thoroughly until it has completely dissolved into the boiling water. The powder needs to be entirely dissolved so that it does not make grains.

4. Let chill time: Once you’ve mixed the Jell-o mix and let it boil in water, let it cool to room temperature before adding any other ingredients for your salad.

5. Use a food processor to chop cranberries: Using a food processor when chopping cranberries is more efficient than using a knife or blender, as it provides evenly sized pieces, instead of crushing them which might happen with manual means

6. Do not overmix: It’s best to use a spatula and gently fold in the whipped cream until you get an even mixture without overmixing so as to keep its creamy essence intact.

7. Keep it flavorful: With so many variations of sugars available today, try experimenting with different types such as white sugar vs brown sugar adding depth or course maple syrup enhancing the tartness.

8. Serve chilled – chilling your cranberry salad will allow all its ingredients, especially cream cheese and whipped cream, to stick together firmly giving you the most heavenly creamy experience ever!

Follow these tips for a perfect creamy cranberry salad that will impress all your guests during Thanksgiving!


Now that we’ve made it to the FAQ section, let me address some common questions you may have about this delightful Cranberry Salad recipe. Whether this is your first time making a cranberry salad or you’ve been making Pink Stuff for years, I hope these answers will help you achieve perfect results every time.

What is the pink stuff people eat on Thanksgiving?

This recipe has been a longstanding tradition in my family, passed down from a cherished friend in the 1950s. It has become a beloved staple during Thanksgiving dinner, regardless of who takes on the role of chef.

How did cranberry sauce become a Thanksgiving staple?

Back in the late 17th century, people found cranberries too tart for their liking, so they turned to natural sweeteners like maple and honey to balance out the sourness. This was particularly practiced by Native Americans and pilgrims. Eventually, the tart fruit gained popularity as a key ingredient in cranberry sauce, commonly served with turkey and other meats.

What is the cranberry sauce for on Thanksgiving?

As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us start thinking about the necessary side dishes that will complement the turkey. One of these side dishes, cranberry sauce, is highly valued for its tanginess that perfectly balances the richness of the meal.

Why do we eat cranberries with turkey?

During the 1500s, cranberries held a significant role in culinary culture and were found in abundance. Historians speculate that cranberries may have been a part of the first Thanksgiving meal shared by the pilgrims and American Indians.

Bottom Line


Next time you’re planning a Thanksgiving dinner, I hope you consider adding this Cranberry Salad (a.k.a. Thanksgiving Pink Stuff) Recipe to your menu. Not only is it delicious, but it’s also incredibly easy to make and can be personalized to your liking with substitutions and variations. Plus, it’s a fun and unique addition to any holiday table.

So, let’s ditch the canned cranberry sauce and try something new and exciting this year. Your taste buds (and guests) will thank you. And who knows, this recipe may just become a new holiday tradition for you and your loved ones.

Go ahead, give it a try. You won’t regret it.

Happy cooking and happy holidays!

Cranberry Salad (A.k.a. Thanksgiving Pink Stuff)

Cranberry Salad (A.k.a. Thanksgiving Pink Stuff) Recipe

My mother got this recipe from a dear family friend in the 1950's. No matter who in our family is making Thanksgiving dinner, you can bet this dish will be served. Note: the times indicated do not include refrigeration time. Cranberries from Wisconsin make this a Midwest U.S. regional recipe. (Also, I first enjoyed it in Missour - another fine Midwestern state).
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Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Calories 182.1 kcal


  • 2 cups cranberries
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 large bananas, chopped
  • 28 ounces fruit cocktail in light syrup, drained
  • 1 pint whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 tablespoons sugar


  • The day before serving, cook cranberries in water over low heat until soft.
  • Add sugar and mash.
  • Add chopped nuts.
  • Stir, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • About 4 hours before serving, add the fruit cocktail.
  • Just before serving, whip cream, add sugar and vanilla and whip until soft peaks form.
  • Add bananas to fruit mixture.
  • Gently fold whipped cream into fruit mixture until well blended.
  • Serve immediately.
  • Note: You can use Cool Whip instead of whipping the cream, but the flavor is so much better with the real thing!

Your Own Notes


Serving: 100gCalories: 182.1kcalCarbohydrates: 22.5gProtein: 1.2gFat: 10.7gSaturated Fat: 4.9gCholesterol: 27.2mgSodium: 10mgFiber: 1.6gSugar: 18.7g
Keyword < 30 Mins, For Large Groups, Fruit, Low Protein, Thanksgiving
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