How To Add A Spicy Kick To Your Canned Cranberries

Canned cranberries aren't the most glamorous of sides, nor are they particularly beloved. Nevertheless, they're a dish that frequently appears on dinner tables during festive feasts. Jellied or whole, canned cranberries do serve a purpose, adding acidity and sweetness to cut through the savory decadence of an abundant meal. Yet, more often than not, they leave something to be desired. Luckily, they can be revamped with the help of one or two fiery additions.

Peppery spice blends, zesty sauces, and flame-kissed condiments are all great contenders to be paired with canned cranberries. Depending on your threshold for spice, you might want to first consider exploring milder mix-ins such as freshly cracked black pepper, tangy barbecue sauce, or a medley of warm spices like cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. Otherwise, you could take things a step further and add ingredients that impart a momentary zing. Think: grated ginger, wasabi paste, mustard powder, or a dollop of horseradish.

Seeking the most extreme levels of heat? Opt for potent sources of spice that are made to linger on the palate. Any number of hot sauces or minced chili varieties provide a great jumping off point. You can also work with ingredients that offer another facet of flavor and texture, along with a side of fire. For instance, a touch of sambal, pinch of togarashi, or drizzle of crunchy, chili crisp can all set canned cranberries ablaze in unique ways.

Combining sweet with heat makes sense — that is, when done correctly

The purpose of adding spice to canned cranberries is twofold. Since the side dish is so cloyingly sweet, introducing an element of heat neutralizes this saccharine quality to create balance. Likewise, working with piquant ingredients can give canned cranberries an increasingly varied and complex flavor profile, making them all the more appealing. However, this is only true when spice is added properly.

Remember that the goal isn't to overwhelm the cranberries, but rather enhance them. Consequently, we recommend using spicy ingredients sparingly. A spoonful of seasoning or drizzle of sauce will be enough to temper sweetness and deliver a pleasant kick of flaming hot goodness in the process. That said, feel free to adjust the amount of heat to your liking.

As for how to incorporate zesty ingredients, sauces and seasonings can be directly mixed into whole berry-style sauce. Jellied cranberries, on the other hand, require a bit more effort. While oils and powdered spice blends can be used as a garnish, pastes and condiments might need to be reworked into a sauce before they can be drizzled over sliced cranberry rounds. With so many ways to add heat, how will you incorporate spice to canned cranberries?