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When it comes to fruit, there are so many delicious options to choose from. Berries in particular offer a wide range of flavors, textures, colors and health benefits. One berry that has become quite popular is the cranberry. With its tart, tangy taste, cranberry has carved out a niche for itself and can be used in both sweet and savory applications.
But what other fruit is closest to the cranberry in terms of flavor, appearance and texture? That’s a great question! In this article, we’ll explore some different fruits that share similarities with the beloved cranberry and could potentially be used in place of cranberries for certain recipes or applications.
What is a Cranberry?
Before comparing cranberries to other fruits, let’s first look at what exactly a cranberry is.
Cranberries are a fruit native to North America and come from low, trailing vines. They are considered a berry fruit. Some key facts about cranberries:
- There are two main species – the small cranberry and the large cranberry.
- They are normally harvested in the fall.
- When ripe, they are red in color with white mottling.
- They have a very tart, acidic and slightly bitter taste.
- They are often processed into juice, sauce or dried.
- They are rich in antioxidants and other nutrients such as vitamin C.
So in summary, cranberries are small, red, acidic berries that grow on vines and are harvested in the fall. Their defining characteristics are their bracing tartness and astringency. Any fruit that shares some of these properties could potentially substitute for fresh or processed cranberries in certain instances.
Appearance and Texture
When comparing fruits to find a cranberry lookalike or textural match, we want to consider fruits that are:
- Small in size
- Bright red in color
- Potentially have white mottling on the skin when ripe
- Smooth, glossy exterior
- Taut, crunchy flesh
- Tart or sour taste
- Leave an astringent, mouth-puckering feeling
Here are some fruits that share some textural and aesthetic properties with cranberries:
Pomegranate seeds, also known as arils, bear a striking resemblance to cranberries. They are small, round, bright red spheroids with a juicy, crunchy texture. When separated from their bitter membrane, they share the tart taste of cranberries. Their glistening, jewel-tone look is similar to cranberries too.
However, they do lack the white mottling of some cranberries. And their flavor is considerably less tart. But purely in terms of look and mouthfeel, pomegranate seeds could substitute for fresh cranberries in certain dishes like fruit salads.
Certain types of cherries check off many of the same textural and aesthetic boxes as cranberries. Varieties like Balaton cherries are a deep ruby red color. They are smaller in size like cranberries. When fresh, they have a smooth, glossy surface and an extremely crisp texture.
Their taste differs, as cherries run the gamut from tart to sweet. However, the meaty crunch and ripe cherry coloration definitely give off cranberry vibes. Dried cherries in particular have a similar chewy texture to dried cranberries.
Red currants are another small, red berry that mirrors cranberries’ appearance. They grow in bunches on shrubs. The individual berries are about the size of a cranberry, ranging from dark red to translucent crimson.
Their skin is smooth and shiny when ripe, with a tart, bracing flavor. Red currants contain seeds that give them a slight crunch when eaten fresh. Their jewel-like color makes them a visual stand-in for cranberries, though they tend to be less sour.
When it comes to flavor, cranberries have a distinctly tart, sharp, mouth-puckering taste. They provide a perfect balance of bitter andsour. Their astringency leaves a clean, cool aftertaste.
Here are some fruits with similar flavor profiles that could potentially stand in for cranberries:
Though smaller and darker than cranberries, ripe huckleberries share a similar mouthwatering tartness. They both contain organic acids like citric, malic and benzoic acids that give them their lip-smacking taste.
Huckleberries grow wild across North America and have an earthy, floral flavor with just the right amount of pucker. Their bitterness is less pronounced than cranberries, but the tartness is a close match.
Black currants offer a fruity flavor accompanied by moderate acidity and subtle bitterness. Their bracing tartness resembles that of cranberries, though they tend to be less astringent.
The darkest varieties of black currants come quite close to cranberries in terms of deep red-purple coloring as well. Their notes of black pepper and menthol align with cranberry’s occasional spicy nuances.
These small, globe-shaped berries range from green to red in color. But even when ripe and red, they have an extremely tart, mouthwatering taste that mimics cranberries.
Gooseberries contain up to 4-5% organic acids by weight, giving them an intense sourness and pucker-inducing astringency. Their flavor does tend more towards tropical than cranberries, with apricot-like notes. But the tartness factor is a near match.
There are certain tart cherry varieties that come remarkably close to matching the mouth-watering tartness of cranberries. Most sweet cherry varieties don’t fit the bill.
But sour pie cherries like Montmorency have enough acidity to rival cranberries. Though less bitter, their dry, astringent zing paired with a hint of cherry sweetness mirrors a cranberry’s flavor at a lower intensity. Dried sour cherries approximate this tart cranberry taste even more closely.
Unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar
Now this may seem like an odd choice, but hear me out. Tart, uncompromising and mouth-puckering, raw apple cider vinegar has some uncanny flavor resemblances to cranberry.
The acetic acid and vitamin C content in this vinegar recreate cranberry’s lip-smacking tartness. It stimulates saliva flow and leaves the mouth feeling squeaky clean. Its funky fruitiness even captures something of cranberry’s earthy essence.
So while an entirely different food category, a splash of the hard stuff can impart a cranberry-esque zing to recipes.
Cranberries have a stellar nutrition profile. They are positively packed with vitamin C, providing more of this antioxidant vitamin than most other fruits. One cup of raw cranberries contains:
- 21% DV vitamin C
- 3 grams fiber
- 87% water
- 46 calories
They are also high in manganese, copper, vitamin E, vitamin K1 and antioxidants like anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins. The polyphenol antioxidants give cranberries some of their tart taste and deep red color.
Here are some fruits with similar nutritional attributes as cranberries:
Like cranberries, blackberries are nutritional rockstars. They contain comparable amounts of vitamin C, fiber, water and calories in a one cup serving.
Specifically, one cup of raw blackberries has:
- 30% DV vitamin C
- Almost 8 grams fiber
- 84% water
- 62 calories
Blackberries also contain polyphenols like ellagitannins that contribute to their antioxidant capacity and tart flavor. Their anthocyanin content is responsible for their deep purple-red pigment, similar to cranberries.
Red and Black Raspberries
All raspberries boast a stellar nutrient profile on par with cranberries. Like blackberries, they are packed with vitamin C, manganese, fiber and polyphenols.
One cup of raw red raspberries contains:
- 54% DV vitamin C
- 8 grams fiber
- 85% water
- 64 calories
Black raspberries specifically contain some of the same anthocyanins as cranberries, including cyanidin-3-rutinoside. This gives them both their exceptionally dark red color.
Strawberries aren’t the closest match for cranberries nutrition-wise. But they still provide a solid dose of vitamin C and antioxidants.
One cup of sliced fresh strawberries has:
- 149% DV vitamin C
- 3 grams fiber
- 91% water
- 49 calories
The ellagic acid content of strawberries imbues them with antioxidant capacity somewhat similar to cranberries. So while not a nutritional twin, strawberries do share some cranberry-esque health benefits.
The fruit of the rose plant, rose hips boast sky-high vitamin C content surpassing that of cranberries. They also contain various carotenoids, flavonoids and polyphenols that contribute to their antioxidant prowess.
Some key nutrition facts for one cup of rose hip pulp:
- 617% DV vitamin C
- 38% DV vitamin E
- 44% DV vitamin K
- 28% DV manganese
So while not a dead ringer, rose hips handily beat even cranberries when it comes to vitamin C potency and antioxidant capacity.
Cranberries have a unique set of characteristics that make them a challenge to replicate perfectly with other fruits. However, the fruits detailed above can make serviceable substitutions in certain recipes and applications.
Here are some suggested cranberry subs for various uses:
For smoothies, strawberries and raspberries blend up nicely to replace cranberries. Blackberries also work to contribute color and tartness. Use about 1/2 to 1 cup fruit per 1 cup cranberries called for.
Sauces & Chutneys:
Cook up a sauce or chutney using tart apples, gooseberries, huckleberries or black currants in place of fresh cranberries. Simmer the subs with sugar and spices as you would cranberries.
In muffins, scones and other baked goods, try substituting an equal amount of chopped dried cherries, raisins or sour pie cherries for dried cranberries. For fresh cranberries, use an equal quantity of chopped rhubarb, granny smith apples or blackberries.
Salads & Fruit Bowls:
For fresh fruit combinations, pomegranate seeds, blackberries and sliced strawberries mimic cranberries’ appearance. For a tart kick, include red or black currants.
Juices & Beverages:
In lieu of cranberry juice, opt for unsweetened pomegranate or tart cherry juice. For a DIY approach, blend up black currants, sour cherries, concord grapes or red cabbage juice.
For savory dishes that typically pair cranberries with meat, substitute lingonberry, rose hips, brambleberry, red currant or rhubarb compotes or sauces.
|Cranberry Substitute||Equivalent amount||Best Uses|
|Dried sour cherries||Equal quantity (cup for cup)||Baked goods, trail mix|
|Pomegranate seeds||Equal quantity||Fruit bowls, garnish|
|Black currants||Slightly less (3/4 cup for every 1 cup cranberries)||Juices, jams, sauces|
|Concord grapes||Equal quantity||Juices, jellies|
|Rhubarb||Slightly less (3/4 cup chopped rhubarb per 1 cup cranberries)||Pies, chutneys, compotes|
|Rose hips||Half the quantity (1/2 cup rose hips for 1 cup cranberries)||Teas, syrups, sauces|
|Blackberries||Equal quantity||Smoothies, muffins, salads|
|Gooseberries||Slightly less (3/4 cup gooseberries for 1 cup cranberries)||Pies, jams, sauces|
|Montmorency cherries||Equal quantity||Juices, garnish|
While no other fruit perfectly replicates the unique blend of appearance, texture, tartness and nutrition found in cranberries, several make suitable stand-ins depending on the context.
Berries like black currants, gooseberries and blackberries mimic cranberries closely in certain recipes. Pomegranate seeds, sour cherries and rhubarb can replace their aesthetic appeal. And rosé hips, red raspberries and strawberries provide similar nutritional benefits.
But at the end of the day, cranberries reign supreme in their balance of color, taste and health perks. When that lip-puckering tartness and crimson hue are a must, it’s best to use cranberries themselves rather than an imposter. Their one-of-a-kind flavor and nutrition profile can’t truly be copied.
In summary, the fruits that come closest to resembling cranberries in terms of flavor, texture, appearance and nutrition are:
- Pomegranate seeds – look and mouthfeel
- Black currants – color, tartness
- Sour cherries – taste, versatility
- Blackberries – nutrition profile
- Rose hips – vitamin C content
- Gooseberries and huckleberries – intense tartness
Depending on the specific characteristics needed, these fruits can stand in for cranberries in recipes, juices, salads and other applications. But for true cranberry lovers, the distinctive zing of the cranberry itself is impossible to duplicate.