Dried cranberries are one of my kids’ favorite mix-ins for homemade trail mix.
But the stuff at the store is just sugar overload.
Fortunately, it’s really easy to make dried cranberries at home – and you can use many different appliances to do it!
Ok, first things first…
How to Prep Fresh Cranberries for Dehydrating
There are two different ways you can prepare your fresh cranberries before dehydrating:
- Flash boil them for few minutes
- Let them soak in a closed container containing very hot water
If you decide to use the first method, a little heads up – you need to keep a close eye on it as it’s easy to overheat and accidently turn them into cranberry sauce.
The goal is to just let them split open.
The second method, on the other hand, is safer and more popular. Just pour boiling water over the cranberries and let them soak (covered) for about 10 minutes. This should pop open most of the cranberries.
If there are a few that didn’t pop, just pierce and slice them with a knife.
After popping the cranberries, you can soak them in a sweetener like honey and keep them in the fridge overnight. This will help offset their natural acidity.
If you want to lengthen their shelf-life, you can add a bit of lemon juice to the mix.
How to Dry Cranberries in a Dehydrator
Drying cranberries in a dehydrator usually takes somewhere between 8 to 14 hours.
Before placing them in a dehydrator, make sure to drain the cranberries well, getting rid of as much moisture as possible.
Once done, place them on the dehydrator trays, leaving about half an inch of space in between them for good air circulation.
Oh and learn from my mistake… place parchment paper in the bottom of the dehydrator to catch the inevitable drips (especially if you choose to coat them in a sweetener first).
To dry the cranberries, set the dehydrator to 130 degrees Fahrenheit and let dry up to 8 hours.
Once eight hours have passed, you can start checking whether the cranberries have dried completely. Note though that you need to wait for them to cool off to effectively determine their level of doneness.
To check, slice open a berry and squeeze gently. Look for any visible moisture. If you’re able to squeeze out a droplet of water/juice, put them back in the dehydrator for 2-3 hours more.
How to Make Dried Cranberries in the Oven (No Sugar Added)
Dried cranberries are a versatile ingredient for desserts, salads and even savory proteins.
But most prepackaged ones sold in grocery stores contain way too much sugar.
This unsweetened dried cranberry recipe is a fantastic alternative. It’s perfect for those who are strictly counting calories or anyone cutting back on sugar intake.
- 12 oz cranberries
- 1/3 cup water
- ½ cup sugar-free sweetener (like luo han guo – aka monk fruit or stevia)
- ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1 tbsp avocado oil or coconut oil
Prep the cranberries for drying by removing as much moisture as possible.
Preheat the oven to around 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Put a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.
Once you’ve coated the cranberries with sugar-free syrup (see recipe below), spread them out on the baking sheet, leaving about half an inch in between them.
Leave it in the oven for around three to four hours. At that point, start checking for doneness. You’re looking for them to shrivel and dry – until you get about the same texture as you see in store-bought dried cranberries.
No worries if you need to let them cook further. Some particularly humid climates may even need to “cook” up to 10 hours.
For the Sugar-Free Syrup
(skip this altogether if you want completely unsweetened dried cranberries)
- Stir the powdered sugar-free sweetener into water. Bring to a boil.
- Once the mixture is boiling, reduce heat to low and let it simmer for around 5 minutes or until the sweetener is completely dissolved.
- Transfer the mixture into a blender or food processor. Then, sprinkle in the xanthan gum. Blend until all ingredients are combined. Let it thicken until you achieve a syrupy texture.
- Add in the avocado oil and blend until smooth.
- Coat the cranberries with the syrup.
How to Dry Cranberries in an Air Fryer
Yep…the healthier version of perfectly crispy french fries isn’t the only thing you can cook in an air fryer!
You can also use this handy kitchen tool for processing dried cranberries.
To start, preheat your air fryer at around 170 degrees.
Place the cranberries on the air fryer racks, leaving around ½ inch of space in between each of them to allow good air flow.
Drying cranberries in the air fryer should take around six to eight hours. Shake and rotate the racks every two hours to get rid of as much moisture as possible.
Can You Dry Cranberries in the Microwave?
It may be possible, but I don’t recommend it. You won’t get ideal results like you would in a dehydrator or oven, and you essentially nuke and denature all the nutrients.
Kinda defeats the purpose…
But if you want to try it, start by giving the microwave’s rotating plate a thorough wash. Dry it thoroughly. Place cranberries directly on the rotating plate, leaving one or two inches between each berry for good air circulation.
Turn on the microwave’s defrost setting. Start checking for doneness at around 30 minutes.
How to Freeze Dry Cranberries
After prepping the cranberries, spread them out evenly on a baking sheet covered with a piece of parchment paper.
Put it in the freezer and leave it for a minimum of 4 hours.
If you go this route, I recommend vacuum sealing them in freezer-safe bags to avoid freezer burn.
Tips for Drying Cranberries Correctly Every Time
As mentioned above, flash boiling the cranberries can be quite tricky. You need to strictly watch the timing, or else, you’ll end up with a cranberry mush.
So pouring boiled water on the cranberries instead and letting them soak works better every time. The residual heat almost always gently pops the cranberries, which is what you want to happen.
Another tip is to make sure you don’t overcrowd the cranberries, and that’s true no matter which drying method you use. You want air to circulate around all sides of each and every berry.
How to Rehydrate Dried Cranberries
Fortunately, it’s super easy to rehydrate cranberries. Just put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them until everything is covered. Wait around 20 to 30 minutes then, drain them.
Note that every ¾ cup dried cranberries is equal to 1 cup rehydrated cranberries, so bear that in mind to prepare the exact amount as needed for your recipe.
How to Use Dried Cranberries (Ideas for Inspiration)
From breakfast to dinner, desserts to main course, there’s a ton of possibilities when it comes to incorporating dried cranberries. They’re great as the star ingredient or simply a nice addition to help balance out the other flavors.
A few of my favorite ways to use homemade dried cranberries include:
- Baked goods like breads, cookies, pies, cakes, and muffins. Of course, that’s no-brainer!
- Pancake toppings
- Salads. Toss them with some feta cheese and balsamic vinaigrette, or walnuts and bleu cheese.
- Oatmeal. We love to pair it with seeds like chia and flax.
Besides the fact that they taste amazing, I also love that it adds a punch of antioxidants and other nutrients to any dish. Dried cranberries actually have many benefits.
How to Dry Cranberries for Crafts or Potpourri
It’s amazing how versatile these dried berries are – not just for kitchen goodies but for DIY crafts as well.
You can make sweet-smelling potpourri to add fragrance to any corner of the room. You can also use it for home decor! Add them to wreaths, homemade fall crafts, etc.
The process is pretty straightforward—you can follow any of the above-mentioned drying methods (just don’t add the sugar or syrup!), and voila, you can use it as an ornament to add a festive pop of color to your crafts.
Don’t Forget to Condition Them Before Storing Long-Term!
It’s important to condition your dried cranberries before long-term storage.
To do this, transfer the dried and cooled cranberries into glass containers. But make sure the jars are not too full. Leave about 2 inches of space at the top.
Shake the jars several times daily for a week.
The previously mentioned space is there to allow the cranberries to move around when you shake the jar.
If you notice droplets of moisture forming on the inside of the container, it’s an indication you need to put the cranberries back in the oven or dehydrator a little longer.
After a week, if no moisture forms, you can safely store them in airtight jars in a dry, dark place.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long can you keep dried cranberries?
At normal room temperature they can last around 6 months. But after opening, move them to the refrigerator and enjoy within a few weeks.
Can you substitute dried cranberries for fresh cranberries?
Yes, absolutely. But as mentioned in one of the previous sections, they differ in measurement. One cup of fresh cranberries is equivalent to ¾ cup dried cranberries.
How do you revive old dried cranberries?
Simple – just pour boiling water over the cranberries, enough to cover them entirely. Wait 10 to 15 minutes, strain the cranberries, and use their plump, soft and juicy selves in your favorite recipes. Need inspiration for cooking? Here are 13 of the best dried cranberry recipes (in my humble opinion).
I’m a foodie that’s slightly obsessed with drying fruits, veggies, beans, and more – especially from my own garden! It started as a hobby but became a “must” when my family fell on hard times, and my dried food stash sustained us. Now I’m always experimenting with different techniques and recipes and sharing them here!