Amazing Cranberry Pecan Cream Cheese Dip {Sweet or Spicy}

Festive and pretty, this cranberry pecan cream cheese dip is crazy delicious! You can use a sweet fruit jam in the recipe or change it up with jalapeno jelly…either way, this is a must-make!

Cranberry pecan cream cheese dip in white bowl.

Ok, inquiring minds want to know: do you do the whole appetizer spread before a big holiday meal (like Thanksgiving)? Or not? 

Apparently I had been living under a rock for the first several decades of my life, because it wasn’t until I was in my mid-20’s that I learned some people live in this alternate world where an enormous array of appetizers is set out an hour or so leading up to the huge meal. 

I couldn’t believe it! I had never experienced this high class experience before. I’m not going to lie, there was part of me that loved every single minute (and bite), and the other part of me was like: “what is going on here? this feels wrong! why are we ruining our much anticipated Thanksgiving dinner with shrimp cocktail and french onion dip??” 

And while I have a feeling this topic may inspire some strong, passionate feelings, I really do want to know if you partake in such a custom. Enlighten me, please.

Cranberry pecan cream cheese dip on ritz cracker.

Over the years, I’ve started laying out a few snacky type foods mid-morning-ish on Thanksgiving to tide the masses over until the meal is served at the arbitrary hour of 2:30 p.m. Don’t ask me why we don’t eat Thanksgiving dinner at a normal meal hour like either noon or 6 p.m. – it’s always been 2:30 p.m. and I have a feeling it will always be that way. (Anyone else start automatically belting out Tradition ala Fiddler on the Roof?) 

It’s usually just one or two little appetizers (quite honestly, we’re talking cheese and crackers in most cases). Personally, I haven’t summoned the mental fortitude to make 15 appetizers when turkey and pies are already calling my name. But this year, I’m adding this cranberry pecan cream cheese dip to the small spread. 

It is incredible! AND, it can and should be made ahead of time. It reminds me a little of this popular cranberry-jalapeno dip…just more jammy and less salsa-y. 

I told you I wasn’t finished with fresh cranberries yet, and I wasn’t kidding. For this cranberry pecan cream cheese dip, those fresh cranberries simmer in a little sugar until they pop and get super juicy. At this point, it’s your choice to decide which path to follow.

Sweet and tart? Go ahead and stir in some apricot or peach jam. Sweet and spicy? Go straight for the jalapeno or hot pepper jelly or jam. 

Cranberry pecan cream cheese dip in white bowl.

And while you may be anti-nuts like I am sometimes, the toasted pecans are delicious (and dare I say, essential) to the amazingness of this dip. They add just the right touch of nutty crunch without overpowering the tart sweetness. 

The first time I made this, I used a homemade apricot jam lingering on my pantry shelves. It was splendid! I put the dip out during a football game and my 9-year old nephew almost ate the whole thing. But I couldn’t get the idea of a cranberry-jalapeno version out of my mind, so I made it again with jalapeno jelly. 

And wow. Wow. Just wow. 

If you are looking for THE holiday appetizer to make you world famous (or maybe just neighborhood famous – ok, we’ll settle for alone in your kitchen famous), this cranberry pecan cream cheese dip is the one! I have a feeling I’ll be making this all December long.

One Year Ago: Turkey {or Chicken} and Brown Rice Soup {Instant Pot or Stovetop}
Two Years Ago: Buttery Fluffy Cornmeal Dinner Rolls
Three Years Ago: Holiday Pomegranate Guacamole
Four Years Ago: Perfect Pumpkin Pancakes
Five Years Ago: Apple Dapple Cake with Warm Vanilla Cream Sauce

Cranberry Pecan Cream Cheese Dip {Sweet or Spicy}

Yield: 6-8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 12 hours
Total Time: 12 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) fresh cranberries
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup apricot jam, peach jam, or jalapeno/hot pepper jelly (for a subtly spicy version)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) chopped, toasted pecans (see note)
  • 8 to 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • Crackers, for serving

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, add the cranberries, sugar and water. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often, and cook until the cranberries pop and soften a bit, about 10 minutes.
  2. Off the heat, stir in the jam and pecans (see note). Let the dip cool; refrigerate 8-12 hours so the flavors develop and blend (I'm sure you can serve it sooner than that, but it'll be yummier if you can wait).
  3. Spread softened cream cheese in a shallow dish or plate. Top with the cranberry dip mixture. Serve with crackers.

Notes

The amount of sugar you choose to use is dependent on how tart you want the overall cranberry dip to be and also the brand/type of jam you are using. If the jam you use is already quite sweet or you like a more sweet/tart contrast, you may want to add the lower amount of sugar.

This dip easily doubles (but it makes a lot!). A doubled batch would easily spread over 2-3 packages of cream cheese. A lot depends on the cream cheese to cranberry dip ratio you want.

Final note, I stir the pecans in before refrigerating, but if you want a bit more crunch in the dip (the pecans soften just slightly if stirred in to the hot mixture), you might try stirring the toasted pecans in right before serving. Also, here's an easy tutorial on toasting nuts in the microwave.

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Recipe Source: inspired by this recipe on allrecipes after an old friend of Brian’s emailed me about it (thanks, Celena!)