While fresh cranberries are often enjoyed during festive occasions, dried cranberries are a wonderful, year-round snack. Aside from being a healthy munchie, they’re also extensively used in salads, baked goods, and confectioneries.
Interested? Here is how to dry cranberries from the comfort of your home.
Unsweetened vs. Sweetened: Which One Is Better?
Cranberries contain very little sugar. This is the reason why they are so tart. To make them more palatable, commercial dried cranberries are usually mixed with sweeteners like sugars and sauces.
Drying also changes the proportions of your cranberries. After all of the water has evaporated, each cranberry becomes smaller. So, by volume, dried cranberries pack significantly more carbs and sugar than fresh.
All of the above can be an issue if you’re on a diet.
However, when you make your own dried cranberries, you get to control the amount of sugar that goes into the final product. You can even opt to dry them sugar-free. A word of warning, however, unsweetened cranberries are very sour. Make a small test batch first to make sure that you can deal with the taste before going all in.
Conversely, if you have a sweet tooth that you would like to appease, adding plenty of sugar or syrup is also an option!
How to Substitute Fresh Cranberries for Dried
You can definitely substitute fresh for dried in a baking recipe (especially sweetened dried cranberries). If you’re planning to make cranberry sauce, make sure to use only fresh or unsweetened dried cranberries.
However, as we mentioned earlier, because cranberries shrink once they’re dried, the ratio isn’t 1:1. There’s actually a ¼ difference in measurement.
For example, if the recipe said you need to add a cup of fresh cranberries, substitute it with ¾ of a cup of dried cranberries.
The Best Ways to Dry Cranberries
There are two common ways to make dried cranberries: in the oven or with a food dehydrator.
Needless to say, the first method is the most popular. Most people have an oven in their kitchen. When done correctly, the quality of oven-dried cranberries is comparable to that of the food dehydrator. The only issue is that the oven’s heat is typically far higher than a dehydrator. Therefore, you’re more likely to ‘overcook’ the cranberries.
That’s why, if you have a food dehydrator at home, we highly recommend you make use of it. Since the dehydrator is specially designed to dry foods, it’s less likely to burn your cranberries.
How to Dry Cranberries
1. How to Dry Cranberries in the Oven (Unsweetened)
Step 1: Skinning
Cranberries cannot be dried whole. Instead, you have to take off the tough, outer skin. If you try to dry them whole, the cranberries will sooner burn than dry fully.
There are two ways to ‘skin’ cranberries. If you have a small batch and some time to spare, simply take a sharp knife and slice each fruit in half.
However, this method isn’t very practical if you have a lot of cranberries to dry. A second way is to boil the cranberries.
First, put the cranberries in a large container (a bowl or a pot). Then, pour in boiling water.
Allow the cranberries to soak for at least 10 minutes. During this time, the heat will cause the fruits to burst open, exposing the inner flesh.
A couple of cranberries won’t burst. This is normal and can be resolved quickly. Just use your knife to manually cut them.
Once all of the cranberries are skinned, use a dry towel to wipe off all the excess moisture.
Step 2: Drying
Preheat your oven using the lowest heat setting available. Most ovens will range from 170°F to 200°F. Between 170°F and 180°F is just right for drying.
Nonetheless, don’t worry too much if your oven’s minimum setting is higher. The cranberries will still dry well, but you need to pay extra attention. The high heat may cause the fruits to burn if they’re left in the oven for too long.
As the oven heats up, arrange your cranberries on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Leave at least half an inch of space between each cranberry to maximize airflow. The better the airflow, the quicker the drying process. Do not layer the cranberries.
Dry for around 3 to 4 hours, then check on the cranberries to see if they are nicely dried. If they aren’t, dry in 1-hour bursts up until they are.
It’s quite difficult to tell when cranberries are fully dried (especially for first-timers). Visibly, the cranberries will have shriveled up and look dry. But the more important part is the texture. It should feel leather-like, but still a bit mellow.
They shouldn’t feel rock-hard while inside the oven. If they do, there’s a good chance that you have overcooked them.
Step 3: Cool Down
Take the cranberries out of the oven and allow them to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
As the cranberries cool down, they will harden up and gain the signature dry texture and consistency.
Once they’re sufficiently cooled, pick a random specimen and cut it in half. The inside shouldn’t feel moist.
Step 4: Conditioning and Storage
There’s no straightforward method to tell if you have completely dehydrated the cranberries or not. Instead, you will have to play the long game.
Put the just-dried cranberries into a glass jar. Over the course of a week, shake the jar four or five times a day. If by the end of the week, no moisture shows up on the inner walls of the jar, the cranberries have truly dried out.
But if moisture appears, it’s a sign that they aren’t fully dehydrated yet. In this case, put the cranberries into the oven for another heating session.
Once drying is complete, you can store the jar of dried cranberries in your pantry. Make sure to keep it away from direct sunlight at all times. You can keep them for 6 to 12 months.
What Else Can I Dry Using This Method?
The oven can be used to dry a wide variety of food from herbs and vegetables, to fruits.
2. In the Food Dehydrator (Unsweetened)
Step 1: Skinning
Similar to the oven method, you must skin the cranberries prior to heating. You can use both of the methods mentioned in the earlier segment.
Step 2: Drying
Arrange the cranberries on the dehydrator trays. Ensure proper spacing between each fruit (at least ½ inch).
Heat for 30 minutes in the dehydrator at 150°F.
After 30 minutes have elapsed, reduce the temperature down to 135°F. Cook for 8 hours. Check your cranberries’ appearance and texture to see if they’re finished (shrunken and mellow).
Step 3: Cool Down
Take the cranberries out of the dehydrator and let them cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Slice a random cranberry and check for moisture in the core.
Step 4: Conditioning and Storage
You can condition the dried cranberries as per the instructions in the earlier segment. Store in a glass jar in your pantry. Use within 6 to 12 months.
Since it is specially made for drying food, and as we mentioned earlier, you can dry just about anything with the dehydrator. In fact, a good majority of our drying guides feature this machine.
Needless to say, fruits aren’t an obstacle either. Besides cranberries, you can quite easily dry orange slices in it.
3. How to Sweeten Dried Cranberries
The instructions above are for making unsweetened dried cranberries. Making the sweetened variant is simple and doesn’t require many changes to the original process.
The first order of business is to make the sweetener. You will need three things: maple syrup, corn syrup, and sugar.
Measure out ¼ cup of each. Mix together.
Once you have the sweetener ready, add it to the cranberries during the skinning process. If you’re slicing your cranberries by hand, put the sliced cranberries into a large bowl and drizzle the sweetener on top. Mix together until the cranberries are coated in a thin layer of the sweetener.
Proceed to dry as normal.
If you’re boiling your cranberries, mix the sweetener in with the boiling water. As the cranberries boil and pop, they will suck in a lot of the sweetness, too.
From then on, you can dry the cranberries as instructed.
That’s everything you need to know about how to dry cranberries!
Besides keeping your dried cranberries as a delicious snack, you can add them to your breakfast oatmeal. Mix them up with other seeds, nuts, and fruits and you can have your own DIY trail mix. Of course, dried cranberries can also be easily incorporated into your baking or even smoothies.
Give it a try at home and see how it goes.
But in the meantime, if you’re interested in some further reading, here are some of our drying guides for you to check out!
- How to Dry Mint Leaves: Mint leaves are incredibly versatile. Loose leaves can be used to make herbal tea. Their minty flavor is also highly sought after for baking and making confectionery. This guide will show you how to dry fresh mint leaves. Compared to fresh leaves, dried mint is more shelf-stable and can last for much longer without losing too much quality.
- How to Dry Dill: Dill isn’t as popular a herb as basil or rosemary, but it has its uses. Dill pairs up particularly well with seafood. It can also be added to a variety of recipes as a flavoring. Our guide will show you how to dry dill at home, so you can keep it around for longer.
- Can You Dry Thyme? — Best Drying Methods: The earthy flavor of thyme is used extensively in Mediterranean dishes. Pizzas, pastas, salads, and soups, you name it! Unfortunately, fresh thyme leaves only last for around 2 weeks. If you want to store it long-term, you must dry it. Our guide will show you how.
- How to Dry Cilantro: Tangy and citrusy, cilantro is a popular culinary herb in many parts of the world. Cilantro is just as useful dried as it is fresh. The taste of dried cilantro is generally more potent, too. Our guide has all of the information you need.
Luna Regina is an accomplished writer and author who dedicates her career to empowering home cooks and making cooking effortless for everyone. She is the founder of HealthyKitchen101.com and HealthyRecipes101.com, where she works with her team to develop easy, nutritious recipes and help aspiring cooks choose the right kitchen appliances.