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Layered Cranberry Salad Recipe With Cream Cheese Topping

To be honest, this cranberry salad recipe, with its sweet & tangy cream cheese topping, is probably more of a dessert, but we serve it as a side dish at all of our holiday dinners… SO good, a MUST TRY recipe!

cranberry salad for thanksgiving or christmas

Cranberry Salad For Thanksgiving

I honestly don’t remember when this cranberry salad recipe first started making an appearance at our family’s Thanksgiving dinner table. Somewhere along the way, a lovely little slice made its way to a separate plate at my place setting, and from then on it was a yearly tradition — right alongside my Grandma’s cream corn casserole. It wouldn’t feel like Thanksgiving without these two dishes!

Oh wait… You caught that separate plate thing, huh?! Have I mentioned that I absolutely cannot stand to have my food touch? Can’t. Stand. It. So if you’re planning to invite me to a large dinner at your house, plan on having extra plates available for this mama!

Anyhow, back to the cranberry jello “salad” — if that’s what you really want to call it. It’s one of those retro recipes that teenagers have a tendency to turn up their noses at. I know I sure did…

I mean, it was made with cranberries, eeewwwww! At that age, cranberries ran a close second to asparagus. In my mind they were sour, slightly tough, and generally to be avoided at all costs. And Jell-o?!? Um, no thanks — pass me those creamy mashed potatoes, please.


cranberry jello salad with pineapple and walnuts or pecans

Cranberry Jello Salad With Cream Cheese

But then I took my obligatory bite… and my world was forever changed. Seriously.

There are so many flavors and textures going on in this cranberry jello salad. Layers of ingredients that I never would have thought about pairing, but somehow they JUST WORK. And the results will rock your world!

The pineapple and Jell-o add just enough sweetness to counter the tartness of the cranberries and the cream cheese/sour cream topping. I mean, really — how can you go wrong with that combination?

Top the whole thing off with plenty of toasted walnuts or pecans for a bit of crunch and extra flavor, and you’ve got a to-die-for salad/side/dessert whatever-you-want-to-call-it.

cranberry jello salad recipe with cream cheese topping

Easy Cranberry Salad Recipe: Dessert or Side?

Truthfully, this easy cranberry salad is more of a dessert. But if you’re coming to my house for Thanksgiving, you’ll find it served as a side with the turkey and all of the trimmings. And who’s counting anyhow?!? Especially on Thanksgiving…

I should note that I don’t JUST serve cranberry salad at Thanksgiving. It’s also ideal for Christmas dinner, Easter dinner, really any time. My kids request it often throughout the year, and I’m always happy to make it!

And why not? It’s so darn easy to make! The cranberry jello layer is simply a mixture of raspberry Jell-o, whole cranberry sauce, crushed pineapple, cranberry juice, and toasted walnuts or pecans.

Layer number two is simply a mixture of softened cream cheese, sour cream, and granulated sugar. I could just eat this stuff with a spoon! And I’m warning you now, the whole family will fight over who gets to lick the beaters — so make it after they’re in bed. Then they’re all yours. ;)

cranberry salad with cream cheese in a pyrex baking dish

Tips For How To Make Cranberry Salad

Just a few quick things to note and then I’ll drop the recipe:

1| I’ve forgotten to buy the cranberry juice before, and if that happens, you can just substitute an equal amount of water. The end result is slightly less tart, but if your family won’t drink the rest of the juice, you may want to just skip it and avoid the waste.

2| DO NOT use fresh pineapple in this recipe. Fresh pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which will prevent the gelatin from solidifying. Use canned crushed pineapple, as the bromelain is destroyed during the canning process.

3| DO NOT microwave the cream cheese to soften it. It’s just way too easy to take it too far, and you will end up with a runny, goopy topping. Be patient and allow it to soften at room temperate, and be sure to cream together the cream cheese and sugar first to help eliminate lumps.

Now go make this cranberry salad recipe ASAP!


cranberry salad recipe with walnuts or pecans

Layered Cranberry Salad Recipe

Yield: 16 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes

To be honest, this easy cranberry salad recipe, with its sweet & tangy cream cheese topping, is probably more of a dessert, but we serve it as a side dish at all of our holiday dinners... SO good, a MUST TRY recipe!


For the cranberry jello:

For the cream cheese topping:


  1. Dissolve the raspberry Jell-O in the boiling water.
  2. Remove from heat and dd the crushed pineapple (juice and all), whole berry cranberry sauce, cranberry juice, and your choice of nuts to the Jell-O mixture. Reserve a small amount of the nuts to sprinkle on top. Mix well.
  3. Pour into a 9x13" glass baking dish and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
  4. For a lump-free cream cheese topping, first cream together the cream cheese and sugar using a hand mixer. Then add the sour cream and whip until smooth.
  5. When the cranberry jello mixture is firm, spread the cream cheese topping over the top. Garnish with additional chopped toasted walnuts or pecans. Refrigerate for about an hour to allow the topping to firm up.



  • DO NOT use fresh pineapple in this recipe. Fresh pineapple contains an enzyme that will prevent the gelatin from setting up.
  • DO NOT soften the cream cheese in the microwave. It may change the consistency and result in the cream cheese topping not setting up properly.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1 square
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 258Total Fat: 12.9gSaturated Fat: 5.1gCholesterol: 21.8mgSodium: 94.2mgCarbohydrates: 34.5gFiber: 1.2gSugar: 31gProtein: 3.9g

How much did you LOVE this recipe?

Please leave a comment below or share a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #unsophisticook!

easy cranberry salad for thanksgiving or christmas

Cranberry Jello Salad With Cream Cheese Topping

I’ve head from SO many of you that you hate to cover up the beautiful cranberry jello layer, and I totally get it. This is one reason why I prefer to serve it in a 9×13″ Pyrex glass baking dish — so you can see that gorgeous ruby red color through the side.

But you can totally offer your guests the best of both worlds. Simply prepare the cream cheese topping as directed in the recipe, and refrigerate it in a separate bowl. Then you can just top each slice off with a dollop when serving. Either way, don’t forget to save some extra toasted walnuts or pecans for the garnish!

I’d love to see how your cranberry salad turns out… Tag me @Unsophisticook on Instagram or use the hashtag #Unsophisticook so I can check it out. Enjoy!

How do you prefer your cranberry jello salad, with or without the cream cheese topping?


Thursday 9th of September 2021

I love this deasert it so good my mum loved it so much. Thank you for your best ingridents

Tara Kuczykowski

Friday 10th of September 2021

So happy you loved it, Olivia!


Thursday 24th of December 2020

I only have regular canned jellied cranberry sauce Can I use this instead of the whole cranberry sauce?

Tara Kuczykowski

Thursday 24th of December 2020

Hi Beth! I've honestly never tried it, but I don't see why it wouldn't work. You just won't have quite as much texture without the little chunks of cranberry, but it shouldn't be very noticeable because of the pineapple.


Wednesday 23rd of December 2020

Have made this 2 times there was 6 of us. Well it was gone in about 5 minutes and everyone thought it was delicious. Thank you for great recipe.Rebecca

Tara Kuczykowski

Wednesday 23rd of December 2020

Love this so much, Rebecca -- so glad you guys love it, too! We're making it for Christmas Day.


Thursday 17th of December 2020

I want to use fresh cranberries. Should I cook them some first

Tara Kuczykowski

Thursday 17th of December 2020

Hi Melissa! I'm not clear on if you're just wanting to add fresh cranberries to the recipe as is or if you're wanting to use them instead of the canned whole cranberry sauce. If you're just looking to add them to the jello layer, you don't need to cook them. I would just chop them finely and add them. If you want to use them instead of the whole cranberry sauce, you'd probably need to make some other adjustments, such as adding sugar.

ELaine Levron

Tuesday 17th of November 2020

Made this quite similar to recipe I lost 30 years ago only difference the cream cheese topping was more solid but this very delicious and family devoured it Thankyou very much

Tara Kuczykowski

Tuesday 17th of November 2020

Yay, I'm so happy you found it again, Elaine!

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