Cranberry Syrup

How to make a lovely syrup for cocktails and desserts

Homemade cranberry syrup

The Spruce / Molly Watson

Cranberry syrup is beautiful (look! so red! so pretty!) and delicious (sweet! tart!). Plus, it's super-duper easy to make and keeps forever (well, at least for months when stored in the fridge).

To Make Cranberry Syrup

  1. Bring 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water just to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add about 1 cup of cranberries.
  2. Ideally, you will have cut the cranberries in half. It's a pain, to be sure, but it infuses the syrup quicker and with less chance of the cranberries breaking down and thickening the syrup in a way that isn't quite what you want here. That said, if you're willing to watch the syrup like a hawk, we give you leave to skip this step. 
  3. Stir the cranberries into the sugar syrup and cook, stirring frequently, until the cranberries darken a bit, showing they've taken up some of the syrup.
  4. For a thin, mix-into-drinks-and-sauces syrup, only cook the syrup 1 to 2 minutes, so the cranberries haven't broken down at all. Set a strainer or fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl. Remove the cranberries from the heat and drain them. 
  5. For a thicker syrup more conducive to pouring on pancakes or waffles, let the cranberries cook until they pop and start to break down, then let the syrup cool down to room temperature before you strain it. The resulting syrup with more cranberry-y, but also thicker and possibly with some lumpiness, which you'll either love or not love. 
  6. In any case, reserve the cranberries for another use (a salad is one option, alongside some roasted pork or duck is another; the cranberries will be barely cooked and still have a lot of their snappy texture and will be lightly sweetened from their time in the syrup).
  7. Transfer the cranberry syrup to jar with a screw-on lid or another air-tight container.

How to Use Cranberry Syrup

Cranberry syrup adds a sweet tang to anything to add it to. We like to use it in cocktails or make cranberry lemonade (It's a simple question of sweetening homemade lemonade with the cranberry syrup).

Cranberry syrup is also great for adding a bit of sweetness and color to homemade salad dressings, especially those tackling bitter greens (kale salad, we're looking at you!).