What is a substitute for cranberry juice concentrate?


Cranberry juice concentrate is a tart, tasty way to add flavor and nutrition to drinks and recipes. However, it can be difficult to find at times. Thankfully, there are several suitable substitutes for cranberry juice concentrate. With some creative substitutions, you can still enjoy the delicious cranberry flavor in your favorite recipes and beverages.

What is Cranberry Juice Concentrate?

Cranberry juice concentrate is an concentrated, shelf-stable form of cranberry juice. To make it, cranberries are pressed to extract their juice. The juice is then boiled down into a thicker, concentrated syrup. This process removes excess water and allows the natural sugars in the cranberries to become concentrated.

Cranberry juice concentrate contains the characteristic bold, tart flavor of cranberries. It also provides a bright red color. In addition to flavor and color, cranberry juice concentrate delivers a range of nutrients and potential health benefits. Cranberries are high in vitamin C, manganese, fiber and antioxidants. Some research indicates cranberry juice may help promote urinary tract health and heart health.

Reasons to Substitute Cranberry Juice Concentrate

There are a few reasons you may need or want to use a substitute for cranberry juice concentrate:

– Cranberry juice concentrate can be difficult to find. Since it is a specialty item, it may not be stocked in all grocery stores.

– Cranberry juice concentrate is perishable. Once opened, it needs to be used within a certain timeframe before it spoils. You may run out before you can buy more.

– You want to avoid the added sugar in cranberry juice concentrate. Many brands contain added sugar to offset the natural tartness.

– You need a vegan or allergen-free option. Cranberry juice concentrate is not suitable for vegans or people with allergies as it may contain trace ingredients like sulfites.

– You want a lower-cost alternative. Cranberry juice concentrate can be expensive compared to other fruit juice concentrates or purees.

– You don’t like the tart cranberry flavor. Substitutes can provide a similar color without as much tartness.

Best Substitutes for Cranberry Juice Concentrate

Several ingredients can mimic the flavor, color, moisture and texture of cranberry juice concentrate. Here are some of the best options:

Pomegranate Juice Concentrate

Pomegranate juice concentrate is one of the closest matches for cranberry juice concentrate. Pomegranate juice has a similarly bold, tart flavor that provides that puckery “bite.” It also has a bright red color when concentrated. Replace cranberry juice concentrate with an equal amount of pomegranate juice concentrate. Use pomegranate concentrate in sauces, dressings, baked goods and smoothies.

Cherry Juice Concentrate

For a slightly sweeter, rounder flavor, cherry juice concentrate can be used in place of cranberry concentrate. It still has the red hue and tart taste. Cherry juice concentrate works especially well in applications where you want fruity sweetness along with tartness, like cookies, bars, muffins, breads and granola.

Red Currant Juice Concentrate

Red currant juice concentrate is another excellent option. Made from red currants, a small tart berry, this concentrate mimics the flavor profile and color of cranberry concentrate. Use it in vinaigrettes, marinades, chutneys and anywhere else you want some fruity tartness.

Raspberry Puree

Raspberry puree makes a great substitute for cranberry juice concentrate in applications where you don’t need an exact flavor match. The puree provides that familiar red color and some tart berry flavor. Raspberry puree works well in smoothies, ice pops, fruit sauces and fillings.

Hibiscus Concentrate

For a more exotic, floral substitute, try hibiscus concentrate. Made from the brightly colored hibiscus flower, it has a deep red hue similar to cranberry concentrate. Hibiscus has a tart, cranberry-like flavor but with slightly more sweetness. Use it in cocktails, dressings, sauces, jams, beverages and sorbet.

Red Wine Concentrate

In cooking applications, red wine concentrate can often be used instead of cranberry concentrate. The deep red wine color mimics the cranberry hue. Red wine also provides some acidity to replace the tart cranberry flavor. Try using red wine concentrate in braises, pan sauces, glazes and poaching liquids.

Lemon or Lime Juice

For a substitute that adds acidity without color, lemon or lime juice work nicely. The bright, tart citrus flavor can stand in for the tartness of cranberry. Try swapping in lemon or lime juice in recipes like vinaigrettes, marinades and cranberry chutneys. You’ll get acidity without the red hue.


Vinegar is another colorless substitute that mimics the tart flavor of cranberry juice concentrate. White wine vinegar, champagne vinegar and apple cider vinegar all have nice acidity. Replace cranberry concentrate with an equal amount of vinegar in sauces, dressings, relishes and glazes.

Substitution Quantity Guidelines

When substituting for cranberry juice concentrate, use the following general quantity guidelines:

– Purees: Replace cranberry juice concentrate 1:1 with raspberry puree or other fruit purees.

– Juice concentrates: Replace cranberry juice concentrate 1:1 with pomegranate, cherry or red currant concentrate.

– Lemon/lime juice: Replace cranberry juice concentrate with an equal amount of fresh lemon or lime juice. Start with a little less and add more acidity to taste.

– Vinegar: Replace cranberry juice concentrate with an equal amount of vinegar. White wine, champagne and cider vinegars work best.

– Red wine concentrate: Replace cranberry concentrate with an equal amount of red wine concentrate.

– Hibiscus concentrate: Replace cranberry concentrate 1:1 with an equal amount of hibiscus concentrate.

– Water: If necessary, add a small amount of water to thin out thicker substitutes like purees or concentrates.

Substitution Considerations

Keep the following tips in mind when substituting for cranberry juice concentrate:

– If possible, use a red-hued substitute like pomegranate or cherry for the best color match. However, flavor is more important than color.

– Add a dash of lemon or lime juice to brighten the flavor of sweeter substitutes like raspberry puree.

– Look for unsweetened juice concentrates or purees. Sweetened versions may alter the flavor profile.

– If the substitute is thinner than cranberry concentrate, remove some liquid from the recipe to account for the difference.

– For cooked sauces or glazes, you can add a teaspoon of cornstarch with substitutes like lemon juice to help mimic the slight thickness of cranberry concentrate.

– Consider the tartness level of the substitute compared to cranberry. You may need to adjust other flavor elements like spices or sweeteners.

– Make the substitution in a small test batch before altering your full recipe. Taste and adjust as needed.

Recipes Using Cranberry Juice Concentrate Substitutes

Here are some recipe ideas that use substitutes in place of cranberry juice concentrate:

Pomegranate Vinaigrette

– 3⁄4 cup pomegranate juice concentrate
– 1⁄4 cup white wine vinegar
– 1⁄4 cup olive oil
– 1 shallot, minced
– 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
– 1 tsp honey
– Salt and pepper to taste

1. Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
2. Drizzle over greens, grains or chicken.

Hibiscus Cranberry Mocktail

– 1⁄2 cup hibiscus concentrate
– 1⁄4 cup orange juice
– 1 tbsp lime juice
– 1⁄4 tsp allspice
– 3 cups sparkling water
– Orange slices for garnish

1. Stir together hibiscus concentrate, orange juice, lime juice and allspice.
2. Divide between 4 glasses.
3. Top with sparkling water.
4. Add ice and garnish with orange slices.

Cherry Balsamic Glazed Chicken

– 1⁄4 cup cherry juice concentrate
– 1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
– 2 tbsp brown sugar
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 4 boneless chicken breasts

1. Whisk together cherry juice concentrate, vinegar, brown sugar and olive oil.
2. Pour half the glaze into a skillet. Add chicken and cook 3-4 minutes per side until browned.
3. Pour remaining glaze over chicken. Cook 10-15 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Substitute Amount Uses
Pomegranate juice concentrate Equal amount Dressings, marinades, baked goods
Cherry juice concentrate Equal amount Cookies, muffins, granola
Red currant juice concentrate Equal amount Vinaigrettes, chutneys
Raspberry puree Equal amount Smoothies, ice pops, fillings

Tips for Using Cranberry Juice Concentrate

When you have cranberry juice concentrate on hand, here are some tips for using it:

– Add a spoonful to smoothies for a nutrition boost. Combine with leafy greens and other fruit.

– Mix with mustard and vinegar for a quick salad dressing base. Season to taste.

– Stir a few tablespoons into pancake or muffin batters in place of some liquid.

– Use in place of water when making oatmeal or overnight oats.

– Mix with olive oil, garlic and spices to marinate chicken, turkey or pork.

– Add to the braising liquid for pot roasts or brisket to infuse tart flavor.

– Swirl into plain Greek yogurt with honey for a quick dip or sandwich spread.

– Incorporate into sweet glazes and sauces for meats like ham or duck.

– Use instead of water when making homemade granola bars, energy bites or fruit snacks.


With a combination of juicy purees, tart juice concentrates, bright citrus and fragrant vinegars, you can find a suitable stand-in for cranberry juice concentrate. Consider the color, texture and acidity level needed for your particular recipe. With some experimenting, you can create flavorful drinks, sauces, condiments and desserts even when cranberry concentrate is unavailable. Any of these substitutes can allow you to enjoy the delicious taste and nutrition of cranberries.

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