Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip with Candied Pecans is the perfect appetizer recipe for all your fall gatherings. It takes just ten minutes to prep and makes enough to feed a crowd. If your family loves having cranberry sauce on the Thanksgiving table, double the cranberry part and voila!–you’re doing double duty!
[November 2019 update: New pictures! Better, right?? This post was originally published on October 19, 2015.]
Let’s move cranberry sauce to the appetizer table, friends.
I don’t know about your Thanksgiving spread, but in my family, the cranberry is always the last to disappear. And it’s not as if Mom opens a can and lets the cylinder plop out. She makes a cranberry mold from scratch with all these nuts in it and she serves it with this oh-so-good sweet cream cheese sauce. And I swear, if the ratio of cranberry mold to sauce was 1:2, then I would lick my plate.
But the ratio is not 1:2 and, beyond that, it’s hard enough deciding whether to dip your turkey in gravy or to dip it in mashed potatoes. Throw cranberry into the mix and it’s overwhelming. You need three times as much turkey for that. (Okay, some of you are getting salty. I can tell. If you must dip your turkey in cranberry too, make this recipe, divide the cranberry sauce in two, and serve half of it with your turkey.]
Because of the aforementioned reasons, I hereby make a motion to move cranberry sauce off the dinner table and onto the appetizer table. Everyone needs a little sumpin’ sumpin’ to snack on while they cook (or watch football, or nap). In my house, we try to starve until dinner is served at 4 pm, which always backfires and there are heads in the refrigerator and hands in the pantry, sneaking little snackies throughout the day. Let’s instead just plan the snack. Enter Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip with Candied Pecans.
This incredibly easy dip has so many flavors. You’ll go back for a second cracker, a third, a fourth, trying to perfect your ratio of cream cheese to whole, tart cranberry, to runny sauce, to crunchy pecan. And then you’ll get an absolutely perfect bite. And you’ll have to have another, because man, that was good. The only downside of Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip is that you’re at risk of overeating before you even sit at the dinner table.
Prep time is only ten minutes, which is a touchdown (ode to Thanksgiving day football) when you’ve got plenty of other food to prepare. There’s enough of it to serve a crowd, so keep your holiday guests coming. And make sure you print extra recipes for all your friends who are gonna ask how to make it.
Side story: I’m writing this from Camino Bakery, my favorite place. I want to own this place–or something like it–some day. There are gorgeous pastries, beautiful loaves of bread. The smell of coffee. The clink of wine glasses. Couple dates and friend dates and study groups. This place is my haven.
The couple next to me is on a first date and I’m trying not to eavesdrop (but obviously not trying too hard). I can’t stop smiling at how awkward first dates are and I’m typing so as to keep from laughing. It’s so much fun to be on the outside looking in.
After her date, the girl stuck around (she obviously noticed me noticing them) and we started talking about how awkward online dating is. From two tables over, another couple join our conversation. From three tables over, yet another girl starts to giggle and enters the conversation. Oh, the laughter and the horror stories, and the success stories too! Another reason I love Camino. Spontaneous little connections and commiserations like these make my heart smile.
Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip with Candied Pecans
Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip with Candied Pecans is the perfect appetizer recipe for all your fall gatherings. It takes just 10 minutes to prep and makes enough to feed a crowd. If your family loves having cranberry sauce on the Thanksgiving table, double the cranberry part and voila!–you're doing double duty!
For the pecans:
- 1/2 tablespoon packed brown sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon water
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup pecan halves
For the dip
- 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries about 2.5 cups
- 2 serrano peppers seeded and finely chopped
- zest of 1 lime divided
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 cup water
- 16 ounces 1/3 less fat cream cheese
To prepare the pecans
In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, water, vanilla, and cinnamon and set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, toast pecans about 3 minutes or until they give off a nutty aroma. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Pour the sugar mixture over the pecans, stirring constantly for about 15 seconds, until the pecans are thoroughly coated. Immediately remove from the heat and spread on wax paper to cool. Once cooled, you can break the nuts apart, if needed. The pecans will be slightly sticky at first, but the coating hardens further within a few hours. You may use immediately or prepare in advance.
To prepare the cranberry sauce
In a medium saucepan over medium-high eat, combine all the ingredients for the dip except for 1/2 the lime zest and the cream cheese. Bring to a boil then simmer about 10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened, stirring often.
To assemble, spread the cream cheese evenly on a serving dish, top with warm cranberry sauce. Arrange pecans in single layer on top and garnish with remaining lime zest. Serve with crackers.