Thanksgiving Recipes: Cranberry Appetizers

Check out these great-tasting appetizers for Thanksgiving dinner.

Every red-bloodied American knows that when it comes to Thanksgiving, cranberries are American as apple pie. Contrary to popular belief, cranberries didn’t come over on the Mayflower, but were a staple of Native Americans long before the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621. They’re one of only three native North American fruits—Concord grapes and blueberries are the others—and before the Pilgrims dubbed them “crane berry” (because the shape of the fruit’s blossoms resembled the heads of cranes), Native Americans called them by names like ibimi, atoqua, and sassamanesh.

Cranberry sauce—smooth, whole berry, chopped into chutney, or molded with other fruits—is a “must” with Thanksgiving turkey, but the little berry has proven to be far more versatile as an ingredient in everything from colorful Cosmopolitans and Cranberry Martinis to cranberry muffins and not-so-classic shortbreads that will leave you begging for more.

Here, we've collected recipes for a sweet cranberry chutney, a cranberry-walnut chutney from cookbook author Margaret Johnson and cranberry brie appetizer bites from Johnson.

Johnson is the author of six cookbooks and her latest cookbook, Flavors of Ireland, was released on Amazon on Feb. 23.

Cranberry Chutney
Makes 12 servings. 

  • 3 apples, chopped
  • 2 1/4 pounds (three 12-ounce bags) cranberries
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dark raisins


Add cranberries to a colander and rinse. Place all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes until the berries burst and the mixture thickens. Serve at room temperature.

This chutney goes well with poultry, lamb and pork. It also makes a scrumptious sandwich spread, or serve it with softened cream cheese and crackers for a delicious appetizer. 

Cranberry-Walnut Chutney
Makes 2 cups


  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped dates
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup finely diced apple
  • 1 tablespoon crystalized ginger
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts


In a large, nonreactive saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the walnuts. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. Stir occasionally. Let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Serve at room temperature.

Cranberry Brie Appetizer Bites
Makes 30 appetizers


  • 2 packages (30) mini fillo shells, such as Athens brand
  • 3/4 cup whole berry cranberry sauce or Cranberry-Walnut Chutney
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • One 8-ounce round of Brie


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the fillo cups on a baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine the cranberry sauce or Cranberry-Walnut Chutney, lemon juice, and peel.

2. Cut the cheese into 30 ½-inch cubes and place 1 in each cup. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese is soft. Remove from oven and just before serving top each with about 1 teaspoon of the cranberry mixture.

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