Deck out your holiday table with this tangy, cold Cranberry Jello Salad! It’s bursting with fruit flavor and topped with a sweet and fluffy cream cheese layer to create a festive side dish!
A Vibrant and Refreshing Holiday Side Dish
Amid all the golden-roasted, sage-and-onion goodness of the holiday season, it’s nice to have something cold and refreshing, don’t you think? Homemade cranberry sauce often fits that bill, but I also think that a good jello salad makes a festive choice! Enter this perfect combination of both: a bold, ruby-red cranberry jello salad!
Perfect for Thanksgiving as well as Christmas, this easy jello salad can be served in a casserole dish or glass pan, a trifle dish, or even unmolded. That’s right, why not go totally retro and make a real jello mold? The colors in this elegant little recipe are dying to be shown off!
Love cranberries? Make sure and check out this amazing Apple Cranberry Sauce!
What You’ll Need
The extras in this recipe really make the difference! From pineapple to chopped nuts, it’s much more than just cranberries and jello! Let’s take a closer look:
For the Jello Salad
- Jello: You’ll need one package of your favorite red jello—strawberry, cherry, or raspberry are fine.
- Water: To dissolve the jello, you’ll need a little bit of boiling water. From there, you’ll add cold water to cool it down.
- Pineapple: Make sure to use canned pineapple; crushed or “tidbits” are fine. Do not drain.
- Mandarin Oranges: Canned mandarin orange segments add flavor and enrich the color of the jello salad.
- Apple: Wash and core, but don’t peel the apple, and dice it up.
- Whole Cranberry Sauce: Make sure you don’t get jellied cranberry sauce, use the kind with whole berries.
- Walnuts: You can substitute pecans for the walnuts, if you prefer.
For the Topping
- Cream Cheese: Use regular cream cheese, not low-fat, for the best flavor and texture.
- Powdered Sugar: Powdered sugar adds sweetness and fluffiness to the mixture.
- Cream: Make sure to have heavy whipping cream, not half and half.
How to Make Cranberry Jello Salad
This jello salad needs at least a couple of hours to set, and ideally overnight. If you’re planning to unmold it, you can gently lower the mold into a pan of hot water before inverting it over a plate. The hot water will “melt” the outside of the jello salad and help it release from the mold. I also recommend using a little bit of cooking spray in the mold or dish to keep the jello from sticking.
Prepare Your Dish or Mold. Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish, 2-quart casserole dish, or large jello mold with cooking spray, and set it aside while you make the jello mixture.
Make the Jello Mixture. In a large mixing bowl, combine the boiling water with the jello and stir it well to dissolve. This usually takes at least a couple of minutes. Once the jello is completely dissolved, stir in the cold water. Then add the pineapple, mandarin oranges, and cranberry sauce to the jello. Reserve two tablespoons of the chopped nuts, and add the rest to the jello mixture as well. Stir everything together, and then pour it into your prepared dish.
Chill the Jello Mixture. Cover the dish with plastic wrap, and chill it for at least two hours, or up to 24 hours, until the jello mixture is set.
Make the Topping. When you’re almost ready to serve, make the topping. Beat the heavy whipping cream until it is light and fluffy, gradually adding in the powdered sugar as you go. In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese until it’s soft and light. Gently fold the cream cheese into the sweetened whipped cream.
Top the Jello and Serve. Spread the whipped cream mixture over the jello salad, and sprinkle it with the remaining chopped nuts. Place back in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.
Tips for Success
What else should you know about this recipe? Glad you asked! I do happen to have a few helpful hints and tips to share:
- Serving Options: While there is no need to pour the jello into a mold, you can definitely do this if you want to! However, it’s just as gorgeous served in a clear glass baking dish, a cut glass bowl, or a plain casserole dish.
- Pineapple Problems: Make sure to use canned pineapple! Fresh pineapple will cause the jello not to set properly. You can substitute fresh mandarins if you like but the canned tend to be more tender, with less peel and pith. Plus they’re easy!
- Topping Optional: For a less-sweet, more cranberry-sauce style recipe, you can leave off the topping entirely! This may just be your favorite new fancy cranberry sauce recipe.
To serve this dish, I recommend making a traditional, Thanksgiving- or Christmas-style meal! Even if you make a scaled-down version with only a couple of sides, it’s guaranteed to be a wonderful menu. Here are some of my best holiday recipes for this festive season, or anytime!
- Turkey: Try my recipe for The Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey! It’s guaranteed to turn out juicy and flavorful, every time.
- Stuffing: I know a ton of people who love stuffing more than the turkey! And when it’s a cozy, down-home classic like this Best Homemade Stuffing recipe, it’s easy to see why.
- Corn Casserole: Those little blue boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix are a must-have during the holidays! The Best Jiffy Corn Casserole is a sweet and savory side dish everyone will love.
How to Store Cranberry Jello Salad
To store cranberry sauce, pack it into an airtight container, and place it in the fridge. It will keep for up to one week. I do not recommend freezing and thawing jello salad! The components may become watery and mushy after freezing and thawing.
Can I Make This Ahead?
Yes, you can! Make the jello layer up to 6 days in advance, and store it in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Make and add the whipped topping just before serving. Since you’ve already stored it beforehand, do not store leftovers.
Cranberry Jello Salad With Cream Cheese Topping
For the Jello Layer:
- 1 package, 6 oz raspberry jello
- 1 cup boiling water
- ½ cup cold water
- 1 can, 20 oz crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
- 1 can, 15 oz mandarin oranges, drained
- 1 cup diced apple
- 1 can, 14 oz whole cranberry sauce
- 1 cup chopped walnuts, divided (or pecans)
For the Cream Cheese Topping Layer:
- 1 package, 8 oz cream cheese
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish, or a 2-quart casserole dish, with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the boiling water with the jello and stir well to dissolve, 1 or 2 minutes. When the jello is completely dissolved, stir in the cold water.
- Add the pineapple, mandarin oranges, and cranberry sauce. Reserve two tablespoons of the chopped nuts, and add the rest to the jello mixture. Stir.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan or casserole dish, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least two hours, or up to 24 hours, until set.
- When ready to serve, make the topping. Beat the heavy whipping cream until fluffy, gradually adding the powdered sugar to make sweetened whipped cream.
- In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese until soft and light. Gently fold the cream cheese into the sweetened whipped cream.
- Spread the whipped cream mixture over the jello salad, and sprinkle with the remaining chopped nuts. Refrigerate until time to serve.
More Festive Holiday Sides
- Rustic Sausage-Stuffed Acorn Squash
- Holiday Shaved Brussel Sprouts Salad
- Instant Pot Mashed Maple Sweet Potatoes
- The Best Green Bean Casserole Recipe
- Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes
- Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- Sweet Potato Casserole
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