What Is Cranberry Dressing?

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  • Written By: Angela Colley
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2019
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Cranberry dressing is a popular side dish served during the holiday season, although some people serve the dish year round. Also known as stuffing, cranberry dressing includes bread pieces, cranberries, vegetables, spices, and occasionally nuts or meats. The ingredients are combined into one dish and baked until the bread softens. While the dish is somewhat high in calories, cranberries have many health benefits, especially to the cardiovascular system.

The two main ingredients in cranberry dressing include cranberries and bread. Most recipes call for fresh cranberries, which are available during the fall, or frozen cranberries, which are available in bags year round. Some chefs substitute dried cranberries, which have a slightly sweeter flavor. Different recipes call for different types of bread, such as white, wheat, or rye, which is cut into bite-sized chunks.

Vegetables and spices are added to the main ingredients to give the dish more flavor. Celery and onions are the most common vegetable additions. Typically, the celery and onions are chopped and sautéed in butter before being added to the dressing. Different spices include sage, thyme, marjoram, fennel seed, and parsley.

Variations on the standard cranberry dressing recipe include adding meat or nuts. For example, many recipes add sausage to the dressing though Andouille sausage, bacon, and ham can also be used. When meat is added to the cranberry dressing, it must be cooked and prepared separately. Pecans are a popular addition, due to their sweetness, but almonds and walnuts are also good.


Once baked, the dressing has a soft and moist consistency with a crunchy top layer. Most recipes include chicken or vegetable broth or water. A few recipes use white cooking wine in place of the stock to give the dressing a different flavor. Adding a liquid helps mix the ingredients, and allows the bread to soften and stick to the other ingredients. During baking, the liquid prevents the bread from becoming overly dry.

While bread is generally higher in calories than other foods, cranberries have many health benefits. They are a good source of vitamin C, fiber, manganese, and vitamin K. Consuming cranberries can improve digestive health as well. The berries also improve cardiovascular function, and the bread contains fiber.

Adding meat to the dish increases the number of calories and the fat content, but meat is a good source of protein. Protein improves the muscular system. Using nuts in cranberry dressing will also add to the calorie count, but nuts are also a good source of healthy fats.


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